To do good, to do the right thing.
About a week ago I vomited literally all night—about once every 20 minutes. 36 hours later I was at Ann Arbor Urgent Care, dehydrated, with an IV in my arm, watching daytime court TV.
They finger-prick tested me for H. Pylori, & I had it. H. Pylori is some sort of bacteria in the lining of your stomach. I read about it online. The information I received was vague & hard to interpret. I don’t know how I got infected. Apparently you either get infected by oral-oral contact or fecal-oral contact.
Now I’m in my bedroom listening to Kanye West, typing this.
I should be healthy in a week.
While I was sick I watched a lot of South Park on my computer. Cartoons are medically useful like this. One episode of South Park makes fun of Kanye West for being arrogant.
I’m only 22 (almost 23) but I already feel like I’m growing out of South Park. The only time I can really watch it without becoming painfully frustrated at its specious sociopolitical commentary & cute toilet humor is when I’m deathly sick with stomach bacteria or heavily intoxicated.
But there’s an exception: there’s an episode of South Park titled “You’re Getting Old” that I hold in absolutely high regard.
In the episode Stan (the show’s protagonist) experiences everything as “shitty.” New movies sound unappealing to him. Food tastes & looks like shit.
Music, to Stan, begins to sound literally like flatulence. Etc. The fecal fun is of course partly simple toilet humor. But I suggest there’s a dark metaphor at work here as well.
I mean, I can really relate to Stan’s experiencing things as “shitty.” Taken seriously, experiencing everything as “shitty” is, to me, a very, very good metaphor for being a human who is alive—& particularly aware—in the new millennium.
To the point that I begin to suspect people who don’t express a baseline level of dis-dain & -gust at everything in the world to be, like, dumb. Or at least unobservant.
But perhaps I’m just mentally ill.
Stan’s friends distance themselves from him. They don’t invite him to the movies. They avoid him.
I don’t blame them. I hate being around overly negative people too.
But I agree with DFW (RIP), who said that cynicism & naivete aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, I find this to be one of the Great Truths of the 21st century: that disengagement with the world & lack of affect has doomed even the most bright-eyed of us to helplessness—despair. & to being assholes.
But I’ve unfortunately learned that there’s a hard-line difference between acknowledging a pessimistic zeitgeist & being down here in its dregs, struggling.
Recently I’ve paid to see Gravity in 3d, which was rated 97% on Rotten Tomatoes by critics & which ended up being incredibly dull & stupid, & have heard a friend of mine talk about a friend of hers who, when she was only 8, was kidnapped but escaped but in court later was read a list of objects in her abducter’s van, which included razors, duct tape, etc.—which, that whole story came up because at the time it was Halloween 2013 & we were watching a shitty teen-scream horror movie on Netflix called “Truth or Die” which received a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes.
This seems not particularly cohesive. But it’s at least “well thought out,” I promise—if by that I mean a cacophony of images & anecdotes more or less constantly flicker on & off in my head & it’s painful. I try to connect things with writing. Sometimes it feels like I’m forcing it, the connections.
Probably has something to do with “information overload,” “the internet,” “postmodernism” (does anyone still use this word?).
The structure of life has always seemed fractal to me, as opposed to linear. I try to communicate this in my writing—just one of the ways I try to stay thematic.
Try to stay anathematical.
"Truth or die" is a motto I could live by, coincidentally. Not just a Netflix teen-scream title.
Nonfiction makes a claim to its veracity & therefore seems more problematic than fiction—at least to me. I once saw a live Sasquatch in northern MI but was too embarrassed to tell anyone.
A lot of nonfiction seems shitty to me because it’s too “topical.” Most good essays are focused pieces with theses. (Note the [slant]rhyme.) E.g. My Experiences Abroad in Germany, Top 10 Foods You Should Avoid. I tend to prefer writing that has an air of the universal to it. I tend to prefer circularity & fracture to straightness & structure. Chaos to clarity. Plato: What good is the particular when there’s a universal?
I want an exhaustive list of everything that has ever mattered, not an index of high-sodium vegetables or beach fashion faux-pas. I want to see the roses growing in the manure. I want to number them & keep them in a .txt document on my desktop. I want to read this .txt file when I’m feeling hopeless.
In many ways the internet has been conducive to my writing style. No horn-tooting intended, but my blogs are relatively successful—even if I’ve had to do things to get them noticed, like edit myself into the “Alt Lit” Wikipedia article on more than one occasion.
In other ways the digital all can seem quite gimmicky & tenuous & there’s too much spam & too much porn & hate & attention-grabbing—& an ebook often seems a lot less sacred to me than a paperback Kafka.
& but here we are, & it’s mainly the potential to build an audience out of nothing that has drawn me (& others, I think) here. The auspices of microfame are surprisingly tantalizing. When I was a kid my mom was afraid of Myspace—which is the first really big social network I can remember—so I didn’t have a profile & got a late start in my digital development. I even resisted Facebook throughout almost all of high school because of some sort of halfhearted belief that the site was for phonies or something. (This was my Salinger phase.) So now that I’m here today 1,000+ Friends & 2,000+ Followers it feels like a sort of poetic justice—the ugly internet duckling finally spreads his wings.
Which isn’t the point but some bio info.
My brother was or maybe still is a moderator on 4chan & one of my most poignant memories is being introduced to /b/ when I was maybe in high school or middle school. We looked at a “you laugh you lose thread” & I didn’t laugh at anything & my brother & his friend did. They might have been drunk. I stayed sober back then. Was more clear headed back then. & I particularly remember an image of a giraffe with a mangled neck, & in the background was a landed airplane: apparently the airplane had hit the giraffe while landing. I did not laugh & I did not lose & I certainly did not win either.
Meanwhile the point to make with nonfiction & the internet, I think, is that if I want to send a message to the world—& want it to be a universal, true, very important message—doing so online is the best, most viable option. It’s a good plan of attack, as it were. There is between my screen & yours the potential to reach a sizeable chunk of the world’s population. That is insane to think about.
You get to thinking that you’re a sort of Messiah who has something important to say to the world, & you make it your mission to just utterly Communicate your Message to people. Bits fire across wire & satellites: 1010101010011101. On / Off. Yes / No.
To matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.
To spend it for something that will outlast it.
To end suffering.
To be emotionally sincere.
To have a pure soul and experience God.
Where was I.
Stomach bacteria, everything seems shitty, South Park…
One night I was delivery-driving some pizza pies around & on the radio comes an episode of Radio Lab regarding the stomach.
I was highly interested in this episode.
I am highly interested in the stomach.
We like to talk about the heart as the human’s center; we’ve chosen this organ as the premier metaphor for the soul. But what about the stomach? I mean, if we’re to go by location, isn’t the stomach more so the person’s center? What about having guts, versus having heart? What about being able to stomach the world, rather than being able to, like, heart pump…it…circulatory system…uh…
The metaphor breaks down. The metaphors always break down. The logic always breaks down, pushed far enough. Nobody pushes far enough. That is why we are all unaware that the logic breaks down. I think I have always been somewhat aware that the logic breaks down. One summer I read Kant & then I was even more aware-er that the logic breaks down; there was a historical precedent. A famous philosopher had explained the breaking down of it, the logic, in abstruse prose & “antimonies” of “reason” that I either understood or pretended to. The buck stopped. Or puck? I don’t know the idiom. I am not going to Google the idiom.
I think my friends see me as a sort of reticent but witty guy. I don’t know what I see myself as, but I don’t see myself as witty or funny. I think I am a very serious person. I think I am too serious sometimes. I think most people are not serious enough enough of the times. I think my instincts concerning syntax and mechanics are better than your own, with all due respect. But it transcends the mechanics. I’m not a machine. The soul is not a smithy. I have opinions. I could, if you’d let me, talk and talk.
If I’d let me.
I won’t let me.
Abraham Lincoln misquoted as saying, “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt.”
Kierkegaard quoted as saying, “True stubbornness is in talking, not in keeping quiet.” Or something. I couldn’t find the exact quote. But I know its meaning. No need to Google.
The episode of South Park where Stan sees everything as shit is not funny, to me. It is artfully sad. I think if you found yourself in a bath tub of literal feces, you would not laugh. I take shit seriously. Get it?
In the end of the South Park episode Stevie Knicks’s song “Landslide” plays, & I cry when I hear this song almost always. Stan’s parents express their discontentment with each other.
My parents fought, still fight. Almost got a divorce. Didn’t.
Centuries after Descartes’ Cogito hits the scene it more or less gets discredited. Logically fallicious. Even the simplest statements: I think, therefore…NOPE, WRONG.
Would like to hear a hardline scientist’s response to Hume, the problem of induction. Just once. Won’t. Like most problems, we’ve decided it’s best to ignore. Goes for global warming as well as Western philosophy, don’t it?
Would never, ever, like to discuss Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard with anyone with any degree of seriousness from fear of losing friends & being seen as insane.
Used to think it was likely I would end my own life at approximately age 35. No longer think this is likely. Once heard a friend tell a story off the cuff at an open mic about his life not being a “story.” Him not being a protagonist. Things not needing to have to happen. Beginnings being endings, endings being beginnings, neither being both or either. Neither being nor.
I thought there was a decent chance South Park would go off the air after the cynical episode. It seemed like a proper note to end on.
They were back next season with typical, light, funny episodes.
I am absolutely glad they returned with typical, light, funny episodes.
Life goes on, Robert Frost American poet quoted as saying he can sum up everything he knows about life with.
It goes on.
Like all things, it ends up being more about yourself & less about…
My stomach got better.
Occasionally I still browse 4chan. Occasionally I’ll laugh in a “you laugh you lose thread.” I am human.
Remember realizing most of my friends were atheists. Remember thinking agnosticism was the true atheism, & atheism was the new religion. Fancy myself a theological hipster.
Remember discerning Schoepenhaur’s misuse of Kant’s ontology, & feeling like I’m either too intelligent or not intelligent enough to be happy.
As if it was a matter of thinking your way out of it. Correction: as if it were. The subjunctive.
Literally couldn’t think yourself out of a paper bag. If you think about it. Which I do.
Remember reading a poem in Latin. Remember reading a poem not in but about Latin. Latin is when you stop running & realize there’s no way out, it said.
I can find you more men willing to die for something than I can find men who are willing to endure pain with patience.
Still don’t believe the revolution is coming.
More so believe life will go on.
Remember telling a friend who said I was smart that telling a person they are smart is one of the worst things you can tell them. Remember laughing about this with him.
Remember receiving Tumblr inbox messages: wow just wanted to say I read your thing & you’re so sweet etc., wish you all the best in life etc., you’re going to be famous. Remember learning what “et cetera” actually meant in Latin class in college. Remember realizing that Latin is an infinitely more beautiful language than English, & realizing I would never be fluent. Always replying with some sort of “Sweet, thanks” to the Tumblr messages.
Like having a cake but not being able to eat it too, only being able to get it in your stomach−& then you regurgitate it involuntarily.
Remember involuntarily regurgitating things & considering “the mind-body” problem. Remember feelings of chagrin & ill humor. How could your mind make you vomit if your body was healthy? How could your “mind” “make you” do anything? Wasn’t your mind you? In the first place? Or something.
Remember therapy sessions. Remember a particular counselor who in a way that seemed almost unprofessional made me, like, promise her I’d be OK if I stopped attending counseling. Remember a hug goodbye.
Remember trying to ween myself off antidepressants & having terrible, terrible withdrawals. Remember getting drunk & crying & cutting my wrists with a boxcutter & then later feeling ashamed about it in the least profound, most basic, emo-girlish way.
DON’T remember the particular impetus that started this essay, except for my perennial desire to have some sort of guidance or aim in life. & H. Pylori dehydration dreams.
Writing as a form of digestion: taking things in from the world, converting them in the stomach & intestines, out comes this shit(?)
If I have something to say to the world, I don’t know what it is yet. This essay ain’t it. My best advice is to not blow your load too early (sexual joke), take the good with the bad, exercise, eat right, avoid drugs & alcohol if you can & if you can’t get more intoxicated than you ought to. Be kind to others. Try. Don’t. Don’t just try, try hard. Live your life. Work. Eventually die. Be remembered, then forgotten eventually. Disregard everything irrelevant. Most things are irrelevant. But then nothing is.
Have a little faith.
"Don’t every tell anyone anything. You’ll wind up missing everybody"?
DO tell everyone everything, & DO wind up missing everybody.