Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UsOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not -iSSuE- ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what THiRTY-SiX tahw ro woh gniwonk to think. You are in 04/27/97 ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
Whoa boy. I almost got run off the road today when I was driving back to college. I was doing about seventy in the left lane, and there was a guy in the right lane who was tailgating someone going about sixty. I guess the guy wanted to go around, because he started to move over into the left lane. Unfortunately, I was there.
It didn't help that I was listening to a Leather Strip song about airplanes crashing and fiery wreckage.
I slammed on the brakes and got onto the shoulder. My hand punched the middle of my steering wheel, blaring my horn at the guy. He has the audacity to finish going around the guy with me on the shoulder, and then he gets in front of the guy and does about sixty-three.
What the fuck? Was almost killing me worth that lousy three-mile speed increase? I think not. I got back into my lane and drove up alongside him. He looked over at me, and I gave him a nasty look. His eyes shifted around a bit and he gave me the "I'm sorry for being an idiot" wave. I drove off.
People, listen up! It seems like every week when I'm in my car, I'm almost in a really bad collision at least once, and I'm just sitting there, being good driving boy. Please, if you're going to kill me, make it worth my while, not because you wanted to go a tad bit faster on the highway.
It seems to me that people are in too much of a hurry these days, and so we're trying to slow you down giving you something to read. It's a big issue, sure, but it's a good way to kill some time. And maybe if I can get the drivers who seem to be attracted to my car as regular readers, then I'll be a tad bit safer on the road.
Besides, dying in a car crash is just so unfitting for a man of my stature. I think being bludgeoned with a crowbar by an angry gorilla would suit me better. Dontcha think?
I'm in a hurry, so I'll make this short. The zine rocks as usual. More new people are on board, and we've even got the return of the beloved Dr. Graves.
Now that I've just lost about half of my readers due to the good Doctor's reappearance, I'd like to make a request to those of you submitting pieces. If you'd would be so kind as to include quotes for your articles or fiction pieces, I'd appreciate it.
Man, I think I'm running out of steam tonight. Better get this thing out before I'm declared obsolete.
From: Joyce To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: subscribe to mailing list Kilgore - State of unBeing is a killer zine and I love the articles. I recently stumbled across it and decided I can't live without it. Please add me to your list! **JAB** p.s. are you single?
[we're happy that you like the zine and can't live without it. we suggested to the people who made up the food pyramid (ie. the illuminati) that our zine be made the foundation of every child's balanced diet. we really don't care about the well-being of children -- we just wanted those damn lion king characters for advertising. i mean, think of how cool it would be to get james earl jones to say, "state of unbeing." wow. p.s. i am not single, thankyouverymuch. but, since you are the first person in the history of the zine to ask about my availability, we are proud to dub thee "SoB groupie." tell all your friends, and carry the title with honor.]
From: Blind and Lost To: email@example.com Subject: Mailing List I think you should add me to your mailing list because I am the smartest person in the world and I'd like to know what all the other idiots that share this planet with me are thinking. Irritatingly yours, Blind and Lost
[ahh, so you're the smartest person in the world, are you? well, how come you're lost? i'd think that the smartest person in the whole wide world would know where he's going. of course, we idiots like to pretend we're smart, and most of the time we seem more convincing than you do. enjoy.]
From: Mathew Bussler To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: pleaseputmeonthemailinglistforyourzine Hiya, Kilgore! Could you please put me on the State of Unbeing mailing list? Why should you? You mean, why other than the fact that I asked nicely? Well, one of my top priorities in life is the intake of information, and your zine has very, very, interesting information that my input slots would love to get there greasy little eyeballs on. As for info exchange in the other direction, someday I'll get off my duff and send in something that I've written. In the meantime, I'll ingest your zine and enjoy the gas that it gives me. -Mathew Bussler P.S. How's your son, Leon? (I think that's his name. If not, I must seem pretty stupid.)
[well, i think you're the first person to imply that our zine causes gastrointestinal problems. part of me thinks that's kinda cool. the other part of me wonders if you're reading the zine or eating it. oooh, my son leon, huh? heh. doesn't the faq cover that? i'll refer you to that. i can do that now, since we finally released a new version. "i'll refer you to the faq." man, that sounds cool. and it's easier than actually answering questions. "i'm sorry, the faq discusses that. go look it up." hey, i'm liking this gig more and more. "what? the faq doesn't cover it? wait for the next edition." heh.]
From: Crazy Taralee To: email@example.com Subject: Mailing List, Ay? As it happened to be made of cool grey brick, Mine stroked the roughened face of the fireplace in sweet anticipation. He had been taken to spending quite a bit of time at Inverness during the past few weeks; the great shadows and burgundy-with-gold-fringe carpets pleased him most cozily. With soft, tiny, sweaty hands, he clutched the patterned matchbox carefully...perfectly aware that they were there. He displayed a bit of trouble sliding the matchbox open, and the sticks scattered to the cold floor when it finally opened with a stubborn jerk. "Fuck!" Mine muttered absentmindedly, as he crouched low and began to play pick-up-sticks with the disseminated matches. Say, I'd like to be on your mailing list, o~tay? If you'll have me, that is. Thank you.. Taralee
[i had the sudden urge to go buy underwear at k-mart after i read that.]
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Nemo est Sanctus
The Super Realist
Once upon a time, I believed in freedom, the inevitable rise of the proletariat, and the People's Revolution. I believed in might for right, not might is right, and that the right would come to be.
Then came Oklahoma City, and I was disgusted.
I was disgusted in the American people, whom I now had to accept to be emasculated slaves, willing to docilely jump through any hoop the government held out for them like trained poodles, without even once asking, "Was the bombing justified?" (Which is, of course, different from, "Was it right?") Today, the people in general seem to have already condemned McVeigh in their hearts, and are screaming for his blood in some perverse reliving of a savage blood sin offering. If recent history has any lesson for us, it is this: The United States government cannot be trusted any further than it can be collectively thrown, yet the people have accepted this appointed scapegoat and forgotten to use their minds and souls.
What ought to have been a wake-up call -- overblown or not -- was quickly silenced, and I was disgusted, and chose to be silenced.
Today, almost exactly two years later, I am disgusted again, disgusted enough to break my political silence. This time it is the action of the dictatorial client-state in Peru that has disgusted me, and made me realize that, in my heart of hearts, however much I may have lost my faith in the inevitability of the People's Revolution, I still believe it is right.
Fujimori is a tyrant. The world and his wife know that. He uses his military to intimidate voters in his "free" elections. He parades captured political opponents in cages through Lima. His prisons are hellish. It is right to oppose tyranny.
Does this justify terrorism? I suppose that depends on what one calls "terrorism". In the case of the recent MRTA (Tupac Amarau) action, the "terrorists" were simply those on the side without political and military power. The truly murderous and terror-wielding force works for Fujimori.
The Japanese embassy was a legitimate target. The MRTA did not attack small business owners or innocent civilians. The Edgar Sanchez Commando, under the command of Commidante Nestor Cerpa, seized economic and political leaders: Ambassadors, generals, reportedly six to eight CIA agents. This raid did not target innocent people.
The commando took good care of the hostages by any standard, and to an incredible degree when compared with the prisoners of war held by the Fujimori state. Once those without military or political roles had been identified, they were freed. Many more were freed over time. Medical care was provided. (Anyone considering buying Fujimori's story the decrease in medical visits precipitated the raid would be advised to consult the story released two days before the raid, about how his popularity had begun to plummet.) Food was provided. Even musical instruments for entertainment were provided.
In all the time of the siege, only one hostage died -- in the final assault. This final raid took forty five minutes. By that point, the question of usefulness of the hostages was past. If the MRTA considered the hostages as expendable as Fujimori considers his opponents, forty five minutes would have been more than enough time to execute them. One hostage even reported that an MRTA soldier reached where the hostages were held, and chose not to fire at them. The goal of the MRTA was not to slaughter the prisoners. The fact is, the MRTA protected the hostages. The corpse shows the rebels cared more for the lives of the hostages than Fujimori.
But, of course, the guerrilla is a dead man from the time he dons the mask. Or woman. Yes, at least two of the guerrillas were teen-aged girls, younger than me, which one Peruvian paper reported as holding their hands over their heads and saying, "We surrender" -- as Fujimori's headsmen murdered them. Preliminary reports -- supported by more than one hostage -- indicate many of the commando, including their commander, were murdered after the raid, murdered in cold blood to fulfill Fujimori's inhuman word that none of those "terrorists" -- some mere children, though with more love for the people than Fujimori has ever shown -- would be permitted to walk away. They may have been tortured, explaining the Fujimori government's decision not to allow the press to see the bodies, as of this writing.
Was this raid right? I don't know. I believe it was not wrong. It was not an arbitrary attack to cause terror in the people. It was a careful raid to strike terror in the true terrorists -- Fujimori and his cronies. Do I support the MRTA? I don't know. I don't know their ideology or the Peruvian situation enough to judge. But I respect them, I admire them, I pray for them.
And I love them.
Yes, I love them, and every other person with the moral courage to put their lives on the line out of love for the people. I love those children willing to fight and die and show they will not bow to a dictator, even if he can call on British and American paramilitary support to prop up his regime of terror, even if he seems to have a carte blanche to murder those with the courage to oppose him.
Have a good May Day, everyone. Remember, May first is International Workers' Day. Take a minute out of your busy schedule to remember the martyrs. If it's your way, send them up a prayer. Remember there are mere children willing to stake all, to fight and die to make their nations and their peoples a little more free; teenaged girls tortured and murdered by oppressive states, for the courage to disagree.
And what did you do today?
"Mrs. Smith? Will this be on the test?" Every day, all across the United States, school children recite this very phrase, much to the dismay of their teachers. It is expressions like this that illustrate one of America's most pressing problems -- the obvious lacking of our educational system. Any study will show you that Americans fall far behind the world's other countries in reading, math, and science. America's students aren't making the grade, and that could have some serious repercussions in the future. Yet, our government still sees fit to clutch onto the outmoded way of teaching used in public schools.
We will examine the various causal factors prohibiting our nation's youth from getting the education they deserve, both in the actual curriculum and outside influences. In addition, I will suggest a solution to avert America's brush with disaster.
First and foremost, the cause of America's educational decline is the lack of real-world applications to what students are taught. Teachers are sometimes trained to use critical thinking skills, but often times due to time constraints and administrative pressure, they have to resort back to rote memorization and text book assignments. Unfortunately, this method, seen by many as having been effective, has some serious drawbacks. The first is that doling out knowledge without putting it in context mitigates most learning. John R. Anderson, in Educational Researcher, said that "Practicing in isolation would not prepare a student to play with an orchestra."
Similarly, working off of worksheets won't prepare a student for the real world. Consider little Johnny, in the third grade. His teacher, Mrs. Smith, is teaching him about plate tectonics right now. She talks for a little while, then hands out a worksheet. When she does this, she is implicitly saying, "Here. This is all you need to know to pass a test." Johnny will do the worksheet and a few others over the course of several days. Then, he will take a test and do fairly well. Within a few weeks, though, Johnny will see no other purpose for this information, and his brain will naturally discard it in favor of something more interesting. Dale Parnell, in the Vocational Education Journal, calls this the "freezer approach." This means that when Mrs. Smith hands out the worksheet, she is in effect saying, "Put this in your mental freezer, and thaw it out later for a test." Parnell goes on to say that the brain needs to be able to put information into context, otherwise it's as good as useless. The second way the freezer approach dilutes learning is that it gives the student very little motivation for going to school. Johnny thinks that learning about plate tectonics is good only until the test because he hasn't been taught to do anything else with that knowledge. This kind of learning is called extrinsic learning, or learning for an external reward. Johnny wants to pass tests, but that won't teach him to learn on his own. This kind of extrinsic learning stunts his intellectual growth, and makes him dependent on his teacher for everything.
The next problem imposed on schoolchildren by our current pedagogy, or way of teaching, is the lack of critical thinking skills our kids have. "Critical thinking" has recently become a buzzword that educators and the media have been using to describe a process of reasoning where the students are taught to solve problems. In the April 19, 1995 edition of Education Week, Hugh. B. Price says that these skills have been perceived by many as being vital to the job market, yet so few students possess them, and are instead still in school memorizing facts. Let's go back to little Johnny and his worksheet. In a job, Johnny probably wouldn't sit and do worksheets all day, he would have to solve problems. Problem solving skills are not taught by answering vocabulary questions on worksheets. Patricia Hinchey, a college professor and writer for Education Week magazine has found that many high school students who have made it through twelve years of schooling by memorizing are failing college classes that require critical thinking skills. So possibly, Mrs. Smith will try to implement critical thinking in her class, and she will tell her class to invent a few of their own questions. Unfortunately, though, little Johnny won't be able to do that, because he has only been extrinsically motivated so far. So, you see how these problems relate to one another.
Still, one more dilemma plagues our schools. Dale Parnell has said that teachers are under incredible pressure to maintain the current pedagogy. Patricia Hinchey has encountered much opposition from parents for changing her curriculum to more real-world, because many kids fail her class. Teachers are definitely smart enough to see that the way things are isn't good enough for little Johnny, yet many are powerless to do anything about it due to administrative pressure. Mrs. Smith would like to create a new lesson plan that incorporates plate tectonics into the real-world, but such a radical form of teaching is frowned on by her colleagues, the school board, and maybe the community. Now under pressure to keep her job, Mrs. Smith retains her current methods, and little Johnny knows no more than he did. A conservative educational system won't get America out of the rut that it's in. We need drastic change to get us back on track.
Lately, there has been a big movement to implement a version of critical thinking. Critical thinking is a very good thing for Johnny, but implementing it under the same system we have been using won't teach Johnny any more. According to E.D. Hirsch, Jr., author of The Schools We Need And Why We Don't Have Them, "stressing critical thinking while deemphasizing knowledge reduces a student's ability to think critically." Teaching Johnny a little bit about critical thinking by using more worksheets doesn't solve the problem. If Johnny learns some critical thinking for a month in third grade, his overall patterns of thinking and learning aren't changed.
So what is the solution? The freezer approach has left many chilled, but there is a solution. What is needed is a multilayered approach to change our educational system. First, we need to initiate a complete paradigm shift from extrinsic to intrinsic learning. Intrinsic learning, in this case, would be learning for its own sake, instead of external reward. Programs like interdisciplinary learning, where subjects are combined, rather than separated, could accomplish this. What is really needed to make it a reality, though, is that knowledge simply has to be put into context for Johnny. This would teach him to run out to the library because he wants to learn, not just because he has to. The next thing to do would be to change the curriculum completely to incorporate real meaning into Mrs. Smith's lesson plans. If knowledge gained in school could be tailored to be applicable to a certain job, and purely school-born materials such as worksheets could be eliminated, much could be accomplished. The end result of this would be that Johnny retains more knowledge, and tries to use it for more than just passing a test. Critical thinking programs should be started everywhere, to teach students to extrapolate and solve problems on their own. This will increase performance on standardized tests, and open up America's job market. This could have far reaching economic and political benefits.
Finally, we need to pry open people's minds, and show them the benefits of these programs. That way, Mrs. Smith will be free to use what she knows to do good teaching. These reforms won't happen overnight, and complete paradigm shifts aren't cheap, but the future gains will be far greater than anything the present system has to offer. These problems are trivial when compared to all the good that will be done with these programs. Education is worth any monetary sacrifice, because, in the future, it will be money in the bank. In the end, little Johnny won't have to ask Mrs. Smith what's going to be on the test, because as Thomas Jefferson once said, he will have "gone to school to learn how to learn."
These solutions are only meant to solve some of the more concrete problems our system is facing. The problem of The Entrenchment Of Assumptions is probably not going to be cured by these. Once both of these scourges are eliminated, we can all find something else to whine about. It's a start, anyway.
bodhisattva (bo,-dee-sat'-vah), n. [Sanskrit] I. One on the path to enlightenment. II. A wannabe sage.Like many teenagers, I went through the classical "rebellious" stage, which for me was associated with a general destruction of all sorts of preconceptions about reality as well. The ideals of an anarchic state and revolutions and radical individualism were the goals that fueled this iconoclastic period. Fuck the system! Hell yeah! were the rallying cries.
Like many teenagers, the rebellious stage grew out of a sudden series of disillusionments -- realizing the graduation from high school was nothing better than the graduation from middle school, the same shackles binding my mind and movements extant from day one to day none. The work changed from year to year, for sure, getting more complicated and requiring more of my time, but I still felt like one cork among many floating in the water being driven through a narrow canal by force -- the work was staying afloat.
Likewise, the infuriating realization that under such restrictive regulations as no talking-no walking-no thinking, the idealistic preschool lessons about individual merit and worth were being narrowed into the strictly defined channels of memorized tests and essays about bullshit led me to wonder, "Why am I here?" I protested, "I know all this already!" Maybe not the specifics, but the general broad outlines were clear all along. Why the memorization? Why not application?
Stepping outwards into the realm of the "real world" surrounding our tiny school, I wondered, what's different here? Same fake authority figures, same binding rules, same meritocracy of mediocrity. The lowest common denominator defined and reinforced through opinion polls, power plays gained through defamation and skilled avoidance of issues, laws passed to combat rare occurrences but used broadly to criminalize common accidents.
Didn't I repeat it again here -- fuck the system! Hell yeah! -- the rallying battlecry of the true patriot, deciding to take action against the mumbling rumbling self-contradictory jackass elephant of government, through elections if possible, through armed confrontation if necessary! Don't the citizens deserve more from their governors -- some consistency, some fairness, at least some respect? No one deserves to be led off the cliff by the idiotic premises of these republicratic hoodwinking schemes. Isn't the candidate for president obvious here? The rational economics of a Perot or the common sense ethics of a Natural Law or Libertarian parties are what the people demand and want -- the Constitution didn't define "red tape" because it never thought it would exist!
Again and again, the questions come up: "Why can't this be simpler? Why the endless legislation when common sense is enough? No one designed the government with this kind of crap in mind, did they?" And the reluctant answers spring up from the depths: "Is it just greed? Do the cretins running the system care more for themselves than for the people they're serving? Do they make these laws to justify their lifetime-career presence? Do they really think we're stupid?"
In this stage, I have to concede to pragmatism, the answers which I couldn't fathom in high school due to the blinders of radical idealism and limited scope. Perhaps people are stupid. Or perhaps only the stupid people vote; us smart ones stay home to protest. But this protest defeats its own purpose, because the conniving scoundrels remain in the upper echelons and proudly feast upon those who elected them. Do the stupid live in mutual parasitism, the citizens devoting themselves to the politicians who greedily digest their tax dollars? Is apathy really all an intelligent person can do? God forbid I enter the fray himself and become one of them....
Upon reflection, the inevitable corresponding truth emerges -- even if we overthrew the government, a selfsame entity would replace it, with all the inherent corruption and demagoguery. How did our own government evolve? No, but if we're really rigid about it, if we really hold fast to the original principles, our new government will be perfect.... Ah, back in the grip of the self-replicating fractal of the body of law -- start off with simple law declaring equality and outlawing murder, and this will eventually be contested and redefined and adjusted into mandatory sentencing laws and the three-strikes-and-you're-dead penalty.
How do I escape from this infinite loop of continual rebuilding and redestruction paralleling my own sanity? The answer is obvious -- I must either do something, or do nothing. But, by doing something, I could do the wrong thing... and by doing nothing, wrong things would continue.... Activist or passivist? Each is meaningful, is it not? "Getting something done" is only a materialist prejudice, right? It's the meaning of the action that matters. Being intensely activist says something, no matter what results. Being intensely passivist, the thundering NO! is likewise effective, if people hear. But isn't that action still, albeit in a different way?
Suddenly, after many years, the breakthrough does arrive. What has been eating me up this whole time? Nothing more than shades of meaning. Why does a greedy politician offend me? Because it goes against the ideals of fairness and equality I've been taught. Why does apathy offend me? It also goes against the ideal of a participatory representative government. In the larger scope of things, does any of this really matter? If the prediction of an endless string of corrupt, unfair, and violent governments is true, then how is today's different from that of King George? Likewise, how is this year's president different from the one eight years back? Nothing -- they look different, but they're all the same.
So, if I give up the concept of meaning, then whatever happens won't bother me. I'm not upset about what I don't think about, right? Whatever atrocity happened this afternoon against a small girl in the neighboring city can't bother me if I firstly don't learn of it and if I secondly don't think about it if I do. Shit happens, right?
So once again I cry -- fuck the system! Hell yeah! I'm not going to be dragged into your intricate webs of meaning, binary opposites, side-taking, arguments, debates, screaming and thrashing, ulcers and heartbreaks. Fuck you! Get off my brain! Perhaps all this indoctrination about radical individualism and freedom really does work -- I'm responsible for myself, including my actions and my views.
Responsibility! Is that the key to all this? Is this why the legions of liars and legislators trample over us so much, because we don't take responsibility to begin with? After all, the students in high school who intimately knew their reason for being educated wouldn't have reason to rebel or immaturely break rules, right? Nor would their teachers subject them to ritualized routine memorization if they took responsibility for teaching!
The citizens in a society who knew their roles and purposes in a society of equals wouldn't commit crimes against each other if they took responsibility for their actions, and even better, thought before acting. Laws could be mutually comprehended and carefully followed, undercutting the need for a turnstile justice system. A government of corruption wouldn't exist if the officeholders were responsible for themselves and the citizens; and the citizens wouldn't allow a corrupt government to exist if they took responsibility for throwing out the scum and researching the candidates they elected.
It all seems so obvious! Why don't we teach responsibility to people? From early ages, hold people fast to their responsibility to be responsible, with swift punishment if this is forgotten. For students, strict guidelines to measure one's responsibility for learning, and yes, and a system of checks in the government to punish those who for a moment forget why they are in office. Er.... shit! That's just the way it's supposed to be now!
Lest I be driven into a whirling mess of a person pondering this huge joke we play on ourselves, I realize finally what's really going on: it's all a game! Systems of interlocking and conflicting games, for sure, but they're all just games, right?
Put in your fifty cents, hammer on the buttons, jerk the joystick around, give it all you've got, then GAME OVER -- shot dead by strange aliens who I don't really understand but know I despise, defeated finally, lying on the ground surveying the action continuing on around me. That health just went down too quickly, along with that ammo... didn't watch myself! But perhaps I made a high score that other players will see after I leave. And no matter what, I learned something, right?
Isn't that it? The realization that anything I do is just voluntarily tossing myself into a game, from which I'm free to leave at any time? My only responsibility to learn? It certainly makes it easier to exist with that in mind.
But my meddling mind sounds warning bells: you can't run a society that way! You've said that taking it too seriously is a problem, but the problem of not taking it seriously at all can also be disastrous. Would you prefer an airline pilot who acts like he's in a combat situation, thinking it's just a game? The same kind of corruption of government can result from having this mindset as well!
I almost reel from the rejoinder, but remember -- responsibility. A government official freely breaking the law and screwing the taxpayer may feel guiltless because "it's all a game," but she's still breaking the rules. Does my sense of "responsibility" imply something else here? It does. Why is the official breaking the rules in this case? For personal gain. From the viewpoint of the game of politics, personal gain may be a fringe benefit, but ideally, it's not the purpose. Just as in chess, the purpose isn't to blindly steal all the opponent's pieces, or even keep yours, since this strategy will not guarantee a victory. Anyone playing a game must remember he's playing a game and try hard to play well.
But it's so easy to get lost in the game, isn't it? If you extend the metaphor to life itself being a game, then it appears that most everyone has forgotten the point, arguing technicalities instead of playing. And what does responsibility mean on this level? Devotion to being an excellent player? Devotion to the inventor of the game? Or devotion to the rules?
Perhaps one cannot know what to be responsible for. This is where responsibility is so important but so difficult as well. Without a sure understanding of one's responsibility, one can go astray, chasing after the pleasurable, the easy, or the popular. If we willingly enter into a game, whether it be politics, a job, or life, we must be able to see it as a game to be played seriously. We ourselves must take responsibility for our performance the whole way through. And this takes work, a lot of hard work. This doesn't mean it's unpleasant, though. It's all shades of meaning when you get down to it. Is this the lesson? To simply work at it?
I continue to ponder.
I've finally faced up to the fact: I'm bitter. I'm a bitter, young man. I don't know why... well, I do, but I don't know why this time is any different than before.
I loved her like no one else. I know it's cliched, but true. I would do anything I could for her, but I guess it wasn't enough. I walked three fucking miles next to manure-strewn corn fields in the middle of winter to call her over Christmas... I was visiting my grandparents and they only have rotary phones... no good for calling cards, so I walked to the nearest pay phone.
She was everything... intelligent, a debater like myself, fun to be with, affectionate, not to mention unbelievably cute. It was an instant attraction, though we realized the problems... she lived in Arkansas, I am still here in Dallas. Still, things were working out.
It's amazing what you can do over email nowadays. She was flying home for Christmas and had a layover at D/FW. I don't have a car and had made previous plans for the day, already... in retrospect I should have continued with my plans.
I managed to find a ride there and back... my friend and I waited for over an hour at the terminal. Her plane had been delayed considerably, and an earlier flight from Little Rock had arrived about the same time hers was supposed to. My heart nearly broke, scanning the faces coming in off of the bus from the commuter planes. I even started asking the people coming off the plane if they had seen her.... then, the next bus arrived. She came forward, clutching a box filled with debate evidence.... We ran (well, she stumbled, I guess) to each other.... That damn box landed on my foot, but I didn't care, because she was in my arms -- softness and warmth, hair cascading in honeyed waves over my arm.... It was everything romance was supposed to be, like in the movies. My friend, Drew, just stood there timing us.
The afternoon we spent together went by far too quickly, and then we were literally running through DFW so that she made her flight to Kansas. As I left the airport, I could still catch a whiff of her perfume in my flannel shirt.
"I used to watch her sleep, an angel on vacation" *
We talked over the phone while we were apart, learning more about each other, discovering everything we shared, everything that made us unique. She planned on driving back to school, and Dallas was on the way. So, she spent what was only supposed to be a weekend with me... that weekend stretched out until almost a week. It would have been better if she left when she was supposed to.
Her parents are real assholes, and they fucked with her life again. A good friend of mine walked into my apartment after she was done talking to them. They'd met earlier in the day, for a few minutes... no big deal. But when I was trying to comfort her, he sat down beside her and she threw her arms around HIM... amazingly enough, I didn't mind, since he seemed to be helping. Silly me.
"I fell in love so deep, far too far to mention" *
They went outside and talked. She whispered to me, "Don't worry... he's a good friend, nothing will happen." Those words are almost as scary as, "We need to talk."
When they came back, I could almost know for certain she had fallen for him. I tried to deny it, and she did also. He wasn't interested in her, though she still claims that he is. Life's funny that way. Didn't matter... she's not good with emotions... she reads Ayn Rand, not the Principia Discordia. She got confused, scared... she ran rather than deal with those feelings. We broke up, in an awkward sort of way.
But we never said goodbye... we talked on the phone again. And again, and again. I had tickets to the Star Wars premiere, so I invited her. She got in late, got lost. Like I said, terrible with directions. Almost a metaphor: she didn't know where her life was going, and still doesn't.
"Angels sometimes kiss you" *
It was a great couple of days... somehow. She met some of my friends; we got her hooked into Japanese animation. She even adopted a name: Nuku-Nuku (the All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl). It was cute, we thought. She spent a long time talking to one of my friends about his relationship... for some reason she never saw the parallels between his and ours.
That night, at his place, while watching a movie, she said those damn words again. "Don't worry, he's a good friend." Those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it and all that....
"But angels never call" *
We broke up two days later. She still hadn't dealt with that other guy, blamed me for not giving the two of them a chance. For some reason, the incongruence of the belief that I, the current boyfriend, should set her up with a friend of mine seemed to completely bypass her. I couldn't take it any more... we were at a nice little coffee shop here in Dallas, called Cafe Brazil -- nice place, $2.00 for a bottomless cup, about 8 different varieties to choose from. I asked the dumbest question: "What do you see in him?" When I found out, I knew that she had no clue what she was looking for. My friend and I are the two sides to a coin, similar in many regards, completely opposite in emotions and logic. She wanted the strong, silent type. I wasn't it. We broke up. We talked, we made love, we had sex, we talked some more. It seemed things had settled down.
"But everything I know is gone" *
We still talked over the phone... long, meandering conversations, literature discussions, philosophies, life experiences. But I'd gotten to see both sides of her. The face she projected to me, and the one she kept hidden. It hurt, realizing that she'd hidden herself like that. One week after, and she tells me about some guy she's interested in seeing. Not much of a recovery time, I guess I'd put more into it than she did. That was alright. Two weeks after that, and I'm about to check my email. Then the second friend, with the relationship crisis, tells me that the two have been conversing over email and they were interested in going out. Ouch. What do I do? Tell him "don't" and try to avoid coming off as the jealous ex, or ignore my conscience and ignore them? I do the harder thing and warn him. I know I probably came off as an asshole to him, but I, at least, can live with myself. If something does happen between them, I won't say, "told you so." I just want my own life back.
"We are the Hollow Men"
Return from spring break: she's there. When I saw her in that apartment, with my friends, my heart stopped. But I knew I wasn't going to let her fuck with my life any more. I made a show of normalcy. I brought up some coffee filters and we watched MST3K tapes (hell, we're college students, right?) and stayed up all night. I thought she and I were friends. She and I talked quietly, a little reminiscing. I held her hand, tried to show that I cared, that I understood, squeezed it once, let go. My previous g/f before her and I are still good friends -- we're affectionate. I didn't notice any problem. Oh, well... that got taken the wrong way. Later, I tried joking with her, showing that I was over her, that I could have a laugh about the whole thing. That got taken the wrong way. I brought some stuff up to help with dinner, a group cooking activity. When I walked in, she verbally pounced on me. Being tired, I snapped back. Even THAT got taken the wrong way, and the new b/f thinks I'm flirting with her.
"The twisted men, headpiece filled with straw Alas!"
Then came the blowout. The day before, they'd come down to my apartment. She'd asked for her nice, framed photo back. I obliged, and then she presented it to him in my OWN BEDROOM. I didn't mind the making out in my apartment, in front of me, as much as the photo. He said, "Thank you"... to her. We have a mannequin head in our apartment, on a short pole, like a broom handle. The head's name is Sarah. She starts making perverse jokes about Sarah, the kind which got me yelled at for. I just sit there, silently. She starts talking to another friend about his relationship with his ex. Once again, the parallels between us and my friend are completely lost on her. She's not the most perceptive person in the world, I guess.
"Our dried voices, when they come together, are quiet and meaningless"
Anyways, I got back from class the next day, late. The two of them are sitting in my 'dining room' area, waiting for me. They say they want to talk. Silly me, I'm blindsided. We go outside, and they start yelling. The accusations started flying: I didn't respect them (not true), I didn't respect the new b/f (not true), I didn't respect the old crush (not true), I didn't love her (not true), I just wanted sex from her (not true), I forced myself on her (not true), I yelled at her (true), I attacked her (not true), I bruised her (not, most certainly not, true). I didn't bother defending myself. He was angry, wouldn't have listened. I thought he'd calmed down at one point, tried to talk to him. She starts yelling. It's funny. Everything is calm, rational, when it's a one-on-one with him or her. But put the two of them together and it all gets blown to hell. Situation Normal: All Fucked Up.
"like wind through dry grass or little mouse feet over broken glass in the cellar"
She starts yelling. I get fed up, yell at her to be quiet, step towards her. He plays valiant fool, jumping in front and spouting corny movie lines. "You'll have to go through me first!" It's all so ridiculous that I almost start laughing. He's usually the calm, cool type. She told me about all the stuff she'd been telling my friends, my roommates, the people in my life. For a couple of days, I honestly believed those people had turned against me. Paranoia isn't a delusion, it's a way of life. He said I wasn't welcome at his apartment, and I returned the favor. Silly me, they kept coming around. That talk about respect seemed awfully hollow at that point.
The day after the fight, they walk into my apartment, don't even knock. He just looks at me sitting on the coach. Asks ME, "Can I help you?" I'm not mad at him. He feels betrayed by me. He's been hurt before, badly. He's a bit sensitive... usually he's pretty cool about things. I'm still his friend, even if he doesn't want my friendship.
"Those who remember us, if at all"
Day after that, the two are there again. He wants to talk to me, and so once again I go outside. The attack begins anew. This time, I start to see how this started. Certain flaws in his arguments, his assaults, show through. He confuses dates, times, events, locations, words. Stuff he would only have any clue about if I told him or she told him. For someone who wanted me to keep everything between us private, she became real eager to tell him her side of the story without telling me. I walk back in, saying this discussion was finished. They actually follow me in, and I don't care any more.
Actually, I think I might have actually planned to do that. Made fools out of them in front of my roommates and the usual gang of suspects who hang out in my place. He calms down a little, and I go outside just with him to talk. He tells me everything that's been bugging him. I try to interrupt when he says something wrong, misinterprets something which happened. He just asks me to be quiet and let him finish. I ask if he will listen to my side objectively when he's down. He promises to do so. Things get intense for a while. My friend, the first crush, walks outside with Sarah to break the mood. It's so surreal that he and I just start laughing. She comes outside when I start to talk. Says it's only to smoke a cigarette. She stays. I start to talk, trying to talk only to him. She interrupts, saying that I'd better not say anything bad about her first crush. She goes on, while I try to keep talking. She says that I must treat my mother badly, because I treated her badly (funny... I always thought that my mother and I got along fairly well), and says that there's a special place in hell for me. This time I do laugh, because she knows I'm an atheist. If I'm going to be condemned, it would be for that first, not because I wasn't able to read her mind and treat her the way she wanted to be cheated. Things get tense. I confront her about something she told the new b/f, catching her in a lie. I get slapped for my trouble. I tell him that his whole premise is wrong, that if anything, she raped me, always demanding, always complaining when I didn't satisfy her. Believe me, if you start getting a blister on your penis from the friction trying to keep up with her demands, you don't have the energy to try and force yourself on her (nor do you have to)
"remember us not as lost, violent souls"
She slaps me when I catch her in her lie. I walk inside, this time locking the door behind me. As far as I am concerned, she could go to hell. My roommates and I talk, declare her persona non gratia. Roommates' girlfriends both suggest several bloody ends to her reign of terror in my life. The next day she walks in, wants to talk to me. She tries to order me outside. I refuse. Roommate (Tai Kwon Do brown belt and instructor) gets ready to throw her out. I calmly leave, try to go into my bedroom. She follows me in. There's an incredible feeling of power you get when you stay calm in tense situations. A sense of rightness, maybe even justice. Maybe it's just satisfaction knowing that I can be coolly arrogant towards her and she's still wrapped up in emotions. It was almost like entering a Zen state of awareness. I ignore her now. She's still here. I feel no need to protect her. Her parents, who she tries to hide from, know where she is. She's upset with me about that. She's upset that she can't provoke a reaction anymore. Had a few beers with friends late Saturday night. She showed up somehow. She left before I did.
Victory. The people in the apartment she's staying at want her gone. Victory. No one believes her except the b/f. Victory. So why do I feel so empty?
"but as the Hollow Men, the Twisted Men"
It's funny. When b/f and I had our one-on-one, he said that my words were designed to do damage, to hurt, to twist. He said he could buy that my words were wrong, except for the fact that I was a debater, that I use words as my art form as surely as he drew with his pen and ink, and that my words intentionally hurt. He said he couldn't believe me, because I was a debater. He forgot something fundamental that night: she is a debater also.
* with thanks to Ansat for "Angels Never Call 'Till Tuesday"
and T.S. Elliot for "The Hollow Men"
On Lethal Injection, we are talking of rape. I didn't bring it up. We were talking of martyrdom, or of the Church, or of some such thing. Silverpoint, I think it was, brought up rape. I tried to see the guilt. In the rapist, in the victim, in the very society in which we live. I tried to see it like a scientist. Detached. It touched close to home for Windstar. Apparently, her sister was raped, and she took offense to my seeing guilt in all parties. We are all guilty! Victim and victimizer alike.
I told her I was not as naive as I seemed. I, too, know what rape does to people. I told her about the girl, when I was in fourth grade, who was raped in the bunkers where I used to play. A memory I found just a few weeks ago, and have been playing with, trying to see how it fits into the puzzle of my psyche. I told her about Ca., raped, and blamed by her parents. How she slipped into promiscuity and drugs because her parents' rejection made her feel worthless.
And then C.
I mentioned what had happened, how I held her as she cried, and told me she had been raped, and then she covered for the guy. I told her how she was probably protecting me as much as she was protecting him. I tried to sell my soul to demons for the chance to kill him; I certainly was capable. But then, she went back to being friends with him. I can't just blame the rapist. She could do no wrong in my eyes when I found this out. And then, it seemed to me a betrayal.
I had told her it was a bad bunch she was hanging out with. And she had agreed. She agreed! But she still did it. Out drinking with gang members, until she was too drunk to stand. Sober enough to say no, but not sober enough to enforce the edict.
I didn't realize until I started talking on Lethal just how much guilt and shame I still carry from that. I can't just blame the rapist, because I was betrayed by the victim. She, truly, had brought it upon herself, at least in part. But she was a victim of more than that; she was also a victim of the very society in which she grew up. We are all victims of the world in which we live. I search for the good and the happiness in life. I thought I was happy Sunday and Monday, and now I wonder how anyone can be happy in this world.
I quoted from "Simon of Cyrene", by the Pope. "Justice calls for rebellion. But rebellion against whom?" And: "No, I don't want merely to be just." Hard statements. But true.
I must have said too much, and not enough, but then, don't I always?
I went outside and smoked, and kicked my car for a while, but when I cry, I cry alone. No one else has the right. No one else has the fucking right to share my tears. My pain is my pain, and mine alone. No one else deserves the burden, or the twisted honor. I bear it alone.
I wonder what the response will be. Will I still be a child, who has had a few experiences but still thinks he knows more than he really knows? Probably true, but I do know the pain of rape, and I know it in ways Windstar cannot.
There were more I could have told. L., Ch.'s sister. He is like a brother to me. By all rights I should have killed that person, too. But I let A. talk me out of it, and I know in a way I wanted her to do so. Or that virgin A. told me about. Or A.'s cousin, B. I have come to believe that there is not a girl alive who can make it to her teenaged years without being raped or sexually abused in some way. I suppose that is all. I don't know. If we count statutory rape -- the fault of society I suppose -- and molestation, we have to include probably every girl I have ever known. Can anyone not know the pain of rape in this world? I have come to doubt it.
Five years later, and still so much rage, so much pain, so much guilt, and so much shame. I wonder how much this has shaped my life.
I wonder how anyone can go on.
Well, I made a fool of myself. I went back on Lethal Injection, even though I knew I was emotionally worked up, and I tried to justify myself. Naive garbage about how I would like to make a difference, to ease the pain of just one person. I opened myself up too much. I let them see who I am, and I have no right to do that. No right! If I can't deal with my pain, I have no one to blame but myself, and now I have made myself vulnerable, confessing in public.
And then I sat on the curb, curled up into a ball, and sobbed. And smoked until I made myself sick.
I can remember myself a child of ten. This is one of the few vivid memories I have carried with myself my whole life. I am walking down my block, by one of the alleys where the trash cans were stored. We used to play there, and catch bugs. Maybe I was in the alley. I see myself in the alley, but I can't think why. I fear that may be elder ansat inserting editorial comments on my past. In any case, I was reviewing myself. I knew I could deal with being physically weak. The worst they could do was kill me. I could deal with being intellectually weak, and even so it wasn't much of an issue at the time. What I could not permit -- can not permit -- is being emotionally weak. If you allow yourself to be emotionally weak, you become vulnerable. You can be hurt. They may be sad thoughts for a child, and I can't even recall why I would feel that way, but that was the decision I made. Since at least then I have been keeping myself under control. I am my own master! No one else has the right to see me weak. I am a hard man. I don't need to allow myself to break down like that.
When I cry, I cry alone.
There is no shame in crying, there is no shame in being weak, the shame only comes in when one allows oneself to be weak among others. That is inexcusable.
And that is exactly what I allowed to happen tonight.
I can't understand it. Is this really about C.? Can I just be reawakening buried guilt and shame, feelings of impotence both metaphoric and literal, that I have just had the sense to keep buried until someone found my own emotional hot button? Can it be that easy? If it is, I have really fucked up. If this is a trigger for me, it is conceivable that others could use it against me.
(And who are these others, wise guy? Who are "they"? Who is out to get you? Who really fucking cares enough to want to destroy you? Huh? Or are you just trying to make yourself feel self important, puff up your little chest and feel like you matter.)
My God, can it be that simple?
At least, I know it now. And the trigger was because I allowed myself to drop my guard. I spoke from the heart, and that allowed feelings out that should rightfully be left unspoken. I can stop others from using that against me, because accessing these cues needs my cooperation.
But can it really be this simple?
Why C.? If I look for that kind of girl now, if I look for the masochist, the bright girl to whom society has dealt a poor hand, because I am trying to make up for that -- Like I can ever make it up, huh dumbass? It is past. You fucked up. You can never undo that. -- then why did I pick C. in the first place? But, of course, that is stupid. God picked her out, just as God picked out S. and A., and the only person He did not pick out was St., and I fucked that up, too.
Or, the part of my fragmented psyche I call "voice of God". Don't think like that, ansat. I have a hard enough time keeping you together without you taking down the one vertical force in your pathetic fucking psyche.
Oh God, I am losing it. Is this an anxiety attack? The physical symptoms are not there. I am not sweating. My heartbeat is accelerated, but only as should be expected after smoking until I almost vomit and going through a crying jag. What else signifies an anxiety attack? Stomach pains? I have them all the fucking time. NOT a useful symptom. What, then? Am I having another emotional breakdown? Or is this just the fair payment for what I thought was happiness, Sunday and Monday. What right do I have to feel happy, me, who cannot even define the word? I am not valuable enough to deserve happiness, even if it did exist in this world. It is only just that I pay a sharp price for it.
But, God! it is so hard, so hard.
I took a bath, I took out some garbage, I had another cigarette -- I must be up to a half a pack or a pack a day since the weekend; too much; too much stress -- and gathered some control of my emotions. I can still feel the pain, but it is further down, further in. I have the pain; the pain does not have me.
God! How can I be so weak? How can I live with myself, being so weak?
But it is my cross. I have to bear it. I have no right to die, and I have no right to expect this to be lifted from off my shoulders.
But, Oh! how I want to die! If only I could have that red crown. I hope and I pray that if I ever get the chance, I will not flinch. I certainly don't deserve it.
But I can't entertain these thoughts. I am being eaten up inside, but if I can force it further down and further in, it won't destroy me. I still have some strength left. I am not yet empty.
He who would save his life will lose it. To conquer death, you only have to die.
I am too young to be so old, but then is there any youth in the world today? Any innocence? When was the last time I looked at anyone and saw innocent eyes?
Or are the eyes the mirror of my soul, and not theirs.
But why did I open my diary again? Because it is here for a reason. I have to recount today, and get it done, and get to bed.
Today I had my French oral exam. I got a C. I am happy with my C. I only want to get out of that class without having to repeat it. I want to get out of my classes, get out of the University, get out of the state.
I want to get out of the world.
I want to get out of ansat.
I do not want to die; I want never to have been.
(But do I really? Have I really lived without pleasure? That cannot be true. Even logically, there must be points higher than others. It would not be too hypocritical to call those relative highs "happiness", and restrict the term "misery" for the relative lows. And didn't I think I was happy, just a couple of dozen hours ago? How can my life seem so long ahead, and still seem so long behind?)
I had my other classes, too. I don't like my Literary Criticism class teacher's interpretation of Deconstructionism. Linguistics was all right, and in American Literature I pretty much became convinced I need to read Schopenhauer.
I read two stories in the copy of Prime Evil Moonlight loaned me: "Food" and "The Great God Pan". Not Machen's. The latter was better than the former. I also read some more of Peoplemaking. I found myself with only that book, and time to read.
After school, I ran into Kilgore. He was working on a story, but I interrupted him. He says he has about eighty something k of material for the new State of unBeing, and plans to have it out on Monday. It could happen, too.
(Dammit. Stomach pains getting almost intolerable. I know they are not intolerable. It is my body. I can tolerate anything it can throw at me. I might concede, though, and have a snack before bed. I can feel my teeth rotting. Sometimes, just tea will make pains in one or two in particular. But it can't destroy me.)
Other than that, not much happened. I have to still make that tape for S. Or did I even mention it? She asked me -- she told me, rather -- to make her a copy of my Diamonda Galas cassette. I have to see her again. God would not have singled her out like that if I was not to. Maybe the kiss didn't please her, maybe I went too far when I touched her breast, maybe I did not go far enough. God, it is so hard. Do I move too slow and lose her, like C., or do I move too fast and turn her off? It is not as if she was acting demure on the subject herself. Writing "FUCK ME" in flaming letters, singing to "light her fire", and she did ask for the kiss. But then A. says she felt nothing the first time we kissed. We had a relationship first, though, so I had more chances to redeem myself. But S. did emphasize that she wanted to see me again. I drove through her neighborhood tonight, after ten o'clock, just to see that I did indeed know it. I forgot her address, though. K. and somebody came to see me when I was out, and I expect I can run into B. in the neighborhood. But I am babbling. I hate that. I HATE MYSELF.
I hate everything.
I hate. That is all. I hate.
That is not true at all. I want to hate, because the fact I cannot causes me so much pain. But even this confession causes me pain. I must get off these topics, the pain, the feelings. I must stop feeling. Constantly revisiting the text of my mind merely reinforces these negative feelings.
If only God would let me suicide...
What else? Nothing else. The rest is silence. I am left with the agony that I might have misread S., the agony that I might pain A., the agony that I failed C., the agony that is me, and I must sleep, or eat, or both. I must kill the pain.
I dropped two ginseng today. One around eleven, to get up my courage for the French oral, and one about nineteen hundred, when coming down got to be too much. It is about comedown time again. Maybe I can attribute all this to that. I could drop another to go to sleep, but then I would just be coming down again when I had to get up. I can't let myself get caught in that cycle again.
And yet I can almost feel myself doing just that already. Do I really think I will resist the bottle on my way past my school bag as I head to my bedroom?
This is gibberish. It is meaningless. It reflects my soul: meaningless. There is nothing more to say, and yet I keep trying to say it. That, I suppose, means there is more to say. And that, I suppose, means I don't want to know it.
It is not so much that the rest is silence as that we cannot bear to hear it. Sanity is willful deafness, sightlessness, senselessness. The catatonic are the only truly sane ones in this world of pain.
Looking back, I think those times for the ginseng are all wrong. I think I dropped the first -- when? -- it was later than eleven. Eleven was when I met Jessica to practice. She lectured me about how I shouldn't be doing anything with S. She told me she is a girl, a child. She was speaking in French, though, but that was what she said. I think I took it between Linguistics and Literary Criticism, maybe. That would be about fourteen hundred. I took the second just after getting home. About nineteen hundred, I guess. I must have miscalculated. I was not coming down when I popped the second. I was depressed and tired, but still had the pill in my system, I believe. One is barely a mood booster. Two can make me happy. I am coming down now, or I am down, but I think I can resist. My feelings are realigning. The cages are going down. Everything is back in the box, and Pandora has been justly chastened. And so, I go to bed.
One can always tell when ansat has a new story in the works. He beams from ear to ear and tells everyone who will listen, "I've found a new way to ridicule my readers." He does seem to do this in "Greece" [State of unBeing #31, November 1996]. Sex is mentioned, but hardly dwelt on. A vulnerable nude is not portrayed as welcoming, but as a disturbing, blood-covered child. (One can almost see ansat grinning over his keyboard, thinking about the mind games of blood-covered breasts.) A nude girl plays in the water, but when the reader expects a description, ansat describes her discarded clothes.
But, unlike some of his writings, "Greece" is not intended predominantly to ridicule his readers through playing with their imaging faculties. There is nothing gratuitous about the sex or the blood and the misdirection serves the purpose of telling the stories, or rather of telling the story three times.
Characteristic of ansat's writing, as that of the Decadent school he admires and imagines in which he can write, is a dualistic perception of reality. Life is conflict. "Greece" tells three times the story of the conflict between the natural, subconscious world -- typified by the Grecian girl and the unbeatable, unconscious "necessity" of the relationship -- and the rational, conscious world, where he and his nameless girlfriend live.
Why Greece? It would be a more fair question if ansat had not told us repeatedly that he does not know. But one cannot confuse the narrator with the author, or even the fictional character that thinks of itself as the author with the existential reality of "ansat" (whatever that may be). This would defeat the whole purpose of fiction, and ansat knows full well how much trouble one can cause if one does not distance oneself enough from one's work.
An excellent way to see ansat's full range of emotion -- flattery, thoughtfulness, patience, irritation, finally anger -- is to start every conversation with, "Why Greece?" I ended with a range of answers. It just happened to pop into his head, was one. He always wanted to write about Greece. He was inspired by The Magus (by Fowles, not Barrett).
(Having seen the manuscript, and that where now the narrator has a vague "editing" and "notes" he once had the trappings not of a writer but of an editor, one may be tempted to see a connection to the editor and unhappy relationships of Nabokov's Translucent Things. But the European scenes in Nabokov's book were Swiss, and anyway this is a discarded variation, and not fair game for inquiry. Whatever echoes in tone or scenery, for the question "Why Greece?" we must dismiss this as a dead end.)
One may be tempted to drop this line of inquiry entirely here, to assume it just happened. He tells us he only picked Greece more or less at random. Why was it titled thus? It was a convenient name, a working title that homesteaded. So he says. This author does not believe anything in literature "just happens", and certainly does not believe ansat in any of his claims. Even when one knows ansat is telling the truth, one is well advised to assume he is lying, just to be on the safe side, or at least that he is infinitely ignorant.
A clue to "Why Greece?" may be found in the character of the shepherdess. She, as previously noted, typifies the natural world, the base reality ansat struggles against. Does she also typify Greece, or does Greece embody her?
The center of his Greece is a pool, water given shape, and birth, by earth. The pool is, of course, a very feminine symbol, and typifies the material world. The water within the pool typifies the spirit in the material, and so in the Narcissus segment of the allegorical Romance of the Rose leads to the seeing of God, and the all. The Pan within, to import a native archetype.
His Greece-as-girl -- his naiad -- descends into the center of the spirit, hidden in the earth, and emerges in a baptism. She typifies all ansat struggles against -- and desires. He can only observe from the edge, a self-exiled observer. He observes that she may be just what he needs, but misunderstands her as "simple-minded" due to his inability to reconcile within himself the transcendent with the immanent. He will see only the material, and so of course the girl appears -- in his deficient reality-tunnel -- as "simple-minded", as two dimensional. He is looking at her with but one eye.
Greece is the home of the materialists, and the inspiration of the humanists. From Greece came Aristotle, with his conception that knowledge can only be obtained by extrapolating from the material, observed world. Sappho's lyrics and Ovid's Ars amortica come from Greece, with their idolatry of the body and carnality.
And with all this in mind, we can turn to the very first section of the story. We see him raise the question of "Why Greece?" and then immediately turn to the motive of the trip as a whole. Herein lies the key. The narrator -- and, one suspects, ansat as well -- is ignorant of his motive. The reader, able to see the archetypes embodied in all parts of the tale with a simultaneity and a detachment impossible to anyone immersed in a life, can see what they -- the narrator, the girlfriend, and ansat -- wanted to reclaim, and even why they cannot see it.
The narrator and the narrator's girlfriend are involved in a struggle between each other. This is the first story. They are involved in a battle against their feelings. This is the second story. He is engaged in a battle against his desire for the Grecian shepherdess. This is the third story.
All these stories are one, and all the opponents are one. The narrator battles with the ideal against the real.
The shepherdess remains the kernel (there is, incidentally, a theological pun in that metaphor, which may not be clear before the last paragraph of this section), typifying the entire story in herself, like a fractured part of a hologram or a quantum nonlocal particle. She is Greece, as Greece the material. Her body attracts him, and repulses him. The erotic description of her stripped body ends on a corpse's pallor, and he leaves her laying on a shroud. He sees the material -- in both senses, when he gets to the shepherdess's dress --, and so sees the corruptibility of life, of death. In Greece, in the Grecian girl, he sees the materialism that he desires, and that he loathes. This battle is the one played out all through the tale, viz. the attempt to divorce the transcendent from the material, and to preserve a tenuous hatred of the latter.
Within this same Greece, though, we also have the high pagans, Plato, the Greek Fathers, and much of the early Church -- from the Corinthians to the Thessalonians. From what we have seen above, Greece appears to be a reversal of the use in the Gnostic reading of the New Testament. One can forgive ansat knowing his theological ignorance, but is this really necessary? We first look at the narrator's perspective, and then see where the author's true sympathies lie.
One remembers, of course, why Lorris coupled his pool with Narcissus, in a conscious echo back to Ovid's Metamorphoses: The pool can lead to enlightenment, but only if one sees through the pool -- the material, the feminine -- to the upper sephiroth. Ovid's telling presented only the flaw. This, of course, because Ovid was a pagan. In "Greece", the narrator is aware only of the danger, it would seem, and turns away. He turns away from her, desirable as she may be, and to the stars -- an unusual appearance of the sky in one of ansat's works -- the archetypical symbol of hopes, if unrealizable. This longing is the omnipresent subtext; this struggle is, again, the story told three times in the text, a thrice-told tale.
Ovid told of the dangers of seeing oneself reflected in the pool, this being the fall not only of Narcissus, but of Lucifer and of Adam. Lorris told of the benefits of seeing through the pool. In "Greece", ansat tells of a third way -- the unfortunate aversion to the pool itself. Why? "A little learning is a dangerous thing; / Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring..." For fear of the fate of Narcissus, the narrator fails to even try for illumination.
There is one thing the narrator fails to see, or rather, perhaps, fails to accept, this being the spirit within the material. Within Greece is the water of the pool, which he does not enter, though one suspects this is the reason he came to Greece. One recalls he leaves into the night, listening to the stream, which he then proceeds to follow. Within his relationship with his girlfriend is the transcendent "fate" against which he has no chance. He rebels against the material in a losing battle, because within the material of their relationship is the transcendent of their love. Finally, within the Grecian girl is the essence of the spirit.
If this story can be said to be "about" anything -- and most stories are "about" a great many things, depending on the creativity of the co-author we conventionally term the "reader" -- this writer would say it is about the realization of a former Gnostic of the goodness in reality that is the hallmark of the Catholic faith. Catholicism is a very material religion, because it knows the material points to the spiritual. Icons, statues, symbols, all point to God. God became flesh, showing us that one is not corrupted by the flesh. This relationship between the material and the spiritual is a hard one, and one that many religions -- iconoclastic, crypto-gnostic, Arian -- fail to grasp. It is central to the Catholic faith, though, as central as the Cross and the Mass. (Those who know ansat know he recently converted to Catholicism from a form of Valentinan Gnosticism.)
Knowing this theological "explanation", many of the symbols in the text become transparent things. It is not the purpose of this brief essay to bring to light every allusion, play on words, or symbol of the story. This would take a paper much longer than the story, instead of this paper, which is merely rather longer. A couple of the more major motifs, though, will be briefly touched upon.
An important motif in such somewhat-Gnostic texts as the Gospel of Thomas is that of clothing. "Greece" is no different. And, as with the Gnostic texts, the clothes represent the flesh. It is no coincidence, no mere misdirection, and no sexual prudery that leads to the description of the shepherdess's clothing after she sheds them. It is, rather, to draw attention to this motif. Two facets are of particular interest. For one, this brings to obvious light the battle of wills, as ansat describes it. He tries to make her "earthy scent" smell unpleasant, and the stitching tries to appear beautiful. The subjective nature of this description amplifies the fact that the narrator is not seeing what "is", but rather he tries to see what he wants to see, with dubious success. The other facet is just how the clothes are described. Knowing what the story is "about", reflection on the description should make clear each noun and adjective.
The shepherdess sheds her clothes easily, to bathe in the waters of the spirit. She also comes easily back to her clothes, and is undisturbed to find someone at them -- that is to say, she is not bothered by someone physically close to her. She does not merely shed her clothing. This cannot be stressed enough. She has no shame in coming back to them. The narrator sees her clothes as "ghostly", as "a shroud". He continues his subjective manner of seeing only death in the material. She, however, can take on or shed the flesh as she desires. She is liberated in a way he cannot understand, for she is not a slave to the flesh either by unduly loving it or hating it.
Contrast this liberation to the other girl in the story, the girlfriend. She has the most violent battle in the tale, and she attempts to deal with the flesh by cutting it. We see in her a violent hatred of the material world, which is, of course, a form of slavery. She fights a duel to first blood, which tries to save honor but cannot solve the problem.
So much for the clothing motif. As this paper already grows long, I will simply point towards the baptismal motif -- which the shepherdess accepts, though she does not need it, and he can merely observe, and which also brings to mind such related motifs as Easter and Beowolf -- and to the Christ motif. He is the Good Shepherd, she is the shepherdess. He goes down within the earth, and rises again. Within Greece is Sophia, and within ansat is yet a Gnostic, if only in his symbolism. This Savior had to be sought out, and is fittingly female.
Having looked at what is, so to speak, there, the logical next question is: Where did it come from? How much is real? One of ansat's maxims for authors, his proverbs of authorship, is: Always write what you know. There is, of course, nothing particularly novel about this. He always follows it, however, with: Never write the truth. He means: Never write the real. By this apparent contradiction, he means to say take what has been experienced, but don't simply vomit it upon the page. There is nothing beautiful in nature, and art should be entirely beautiful. Take what is experienced and transform it in the crucible of the artistic soul, purifying it into art.
Knowing this, it is a more than idle pursuit to seek the "truth" -- the reality -- from which came the facts and figures, so to speak, in this and any other story by ansat. The historic truth makes up the canvas upon which he paints artistic truth. There is another witticism, a maxim for authors, ansat likes to say that relates to this topic, viz.: "If they find out who your characters are after you're dead, it is literary criticism. If they find out before you're dead, it's libel." I flatter myself by saying this is literary criticism, but, as ansat is still -- as of this writing -- alive, we may expect little help on his part. It is fortunate, then, that ansat likes to talk about himself and his writing, and frequently fails to think before he speaks. What follows cannot be sworn as truth. It is a mixture of what ansat wants his reader to know, what he doesn't mind his reader to know, and what I have been able to determine on my own merits.
The characters are, as is typical of ansat, transparent as to their avatars. The narrator is more or less autobiographical. This is something ansat only bothers to deny when one of his character's opinions has gotten him into trouble with a friend or lover; ansat likes to say: "All fiction is autobiographical." (He likes to use "all" and "always" a lot more than he believes it. I suspect he thinks it makes him sound authoritative, and smarter than he can ever hope to be in reality. I will spare him in his ignorance, and I hope the reader will be equally kind.) This narrator, while he does not share ansat's experiences, seems to share his reactions. (And ansat is under no illusion that he is less dense or bumbling than the nameless narrator.)
It would not be honest to say the nameless girlfriend "is" ansat's real "kind of former but not really over" girlfriend, to use his typically awkward words. The girlfriend in "Greece" is a mutilation of this real person. The real one is not a self-mutilator, so far as ansat knows, and likes the grandmother slash surrogate mother a fair amount more than ansat does. She is an orphan, and ansat is pathetically, naively baffled by the intensity of their feelings for -- and often against -- each other.
There may be a prototype for the Grecian child. All I can say is ansat denies it.
As for the events, they are easier dismissed. None of them ever happened. He has never been to Greece, and neither has the girl. As of this writing, she indeed has only visited ansat once, but he was not nearly as eloquent as he imagined. The graveyard story happened in the graveyard from the story of that name, not a geographic location. Ironically, the only scene that happened as it happened in the story did not happen in the story. The conversation about the teasing is historical, in some fashion. The rest, ansat tells me, is fiction.
One is tempted to doubt every word.
Knowing what is there, and from whence it came, we can discuss the final, easiest question: How much does ansat know? The answer is, thankfully, not much. He writes in archetypes. He gives little or no thought to what it "means" or what it "is". He is concerned merely with what "should be", and that is enough "is" for him.
The reader may benefit here from an examination of how ansat writes. He is generally as baffled by what "happens" as anyone else, even though he generally knows the ending before he begins. The writing of a story is, for him, less an artistic creation than an archetypical dialogue between him and his subconscious.
Every writing is written by at least six people: The author, who the author thinks he is, who the author wants others to think he is, the hypothetical reader, who the author thinks the hypothetical reader thinks he is, and who the author thinks the hypothetical reader wants others to think he is. Different pieces of writing amplify one of another of the different co-authors, but all are there to some extent.
When ansat writes, an idea comes from the "author", his subconscious. Who the author thinks he is, the "conscious", imagines he thought of it himself, and ansat gets a little pride. The other four co-authors are generally present in ansat's consideration of certain words and jokes -- frequently at the reader's expense, though sometimes only because ansat imagines the author won't see his allusions -- but the first two primarily write the story. The subconscious feeds the conscious scenes and concepts, which the conscious tampers with to make elegant and presentable, as well as translating into human language. With every rereading, ansat discovers more about his subconscious, as well as his conscious, just as one does on every rereading of any piece of literature.
As with any bureaucracy, most information gets lost in the shuffle. One suspects this is how ansat insulates himself from the fact the pain he writes of is his own.
I could go one, but I have already exceeded the length of the story. "Greece" is not childish realism. Details are not present for the sake of details. In some cases, ansat did not become aware of the meaning of details before he wrote them, but all have their purpose in the final draft.
In his writing, ansat frequently gets amusement from his belief that most of his readers won't have a clue what he is "really" saying. It is a somewhat hollow laughter, as he comes to learn what he is "really" saying by picking apart what he says after he has said it, reworking it, and then saying it as elegantly as he can manage for the reader. Perhaps this essay will help the reader catch some of these subtle jokes.
One of my favorite running anecdotes is what I refer to as "my black-hole notebook." I found the pocket notebook two years ago in a sack of textbooks as a free gift. Most of those last two years, I carried it around with me to write down ideas for stories that come to me when I'm hanging around with friends. Ironically, though, nearly everything I wrote down has died in the notebook. None of the phrases or ideas seem to work, and I haven't used any of them in my writing. Hence the term, black-hole notebook. Anything attracted to it never escapes.
I'm surprised I stuck with it so long. Stubbornness, I guess. The black-hole notebook was my companion most weekends of the two years I used it. Whenever someone said something particularly interesting or humorous, I'd whip out the notebook and jot down what had been said. This would inevitably cause the last speaker to pause self-consciously and reflect upon his words. Whenever new people hung out with us, I'd make them nervous doing this. "Is he a detective?" was one of the more frightened remarks, said with a lighthearted air I always knew was fake. They had something to hide, I knew it.
Among others, the omnipresence of the black-hole notebook inspired an insatiable curiosity to know what I'd just written down. I never revealed what I'd written down. I have this bad habit of privatizing my ideas, superstitiously aware that revealing my thoughts would maim my writing. So I would usually lie to explain away the anxiety. "Oh, of course I'm not writing about you, and certainly nothing about any theory I'm developing concerning your pathological character."
Back at home, I'd invariably find something was different about the ideas I had written down. They had seemed to have lost something.  Perhaps the plainest reason for this is the lack of context. Being at home poring over blurry pencilled writing sorta lacked the fun of being in Austin with a group of giddy friends. I wasn't meticulous enough to copy down entire conversations, either, so oftentimes I was perplexed at the origin, intent, and meaning of a phrase I re-read.
So, for months, Kilgore would bug me for submissions, and after slapping him upside the head, I would lament, "I thought I wrote down ideas in my notebook, but they're gone!" The lament eventually developed into the all-explaining "black-hole notebook." It really wasn't at all funny, but he always laughed. I learned to as well.
Thinking back, I can say with some confidence that I should have been more selective in what I wrote down. Without context, timestamps, or pictures, the ideas and phrases all melded together into a general picture of incomprehensibility, nothing relating to its antecedent, no clue why I would think this interesting, or how I would use it -- much like Kilgore's sister's term papers.
No matter how lightly I take it now, I really was pained by the loss of so many cool ideas. Rather than explain this with a whiney philosophical essay , I will fight back, and reclaim my power to maim good ideas by writing them out, not merely by jotting them down.
To perform this herculean task, I present, for the first time, a world-premiere of my black-hole notebook. Here I will heavily censor some examples of things I wrote down, for your pleasure. So sit back, unzip your fly, and have fun. Reading, that is.
I think this fits a planned genre of writing I called "stupid kid stories." I was sure this kind of anecdote would generate the stupidest. I think some kid actually did this in a school bathroom.
A quote for the unsatisfied 90's male.
He also said this. There's so much laughter in this sentence that it could make you go silly to analyze it.
Just ask Ethan.
Ummm... not sure why I wrote this down, but coincidentally enough, two years later I got to hear a thirty-minute audio-tape version of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" in Kilgore's car.
I didn't write about this but I at least live by it.
I still get kidded about this. I was in a rebellious phase two years ago and I was being a tough guy by sneering at taxis. I thought they were police cars, though.
More paradoxes to amuse and later confuse. This sentence upsets me because I'm not sure if I just miswrote "People want too much stability." Whatever. This will greatly hinder my "world view" piechart.
??? Don't blame me, I didn't do it.
Don't tell sis!
When I sat down to rewrite the article this time, strangely enough, I couldn't find the notebook anywhere. At all. IT'S GONE.   That's a lie. I found it later. But footnote  was funny so I kept it.Should I have warned people that this would descend into philosophy again? Is it worthwhile to point out that I actually planned it this way this time? Should I diffuse the tension by revealing that I wrote the idea for this whole essay in the black-hole notebook?
"The poets? They stink. They write badly. They're idiots you see, because the strong people don't write poetry.... They become hitmen for the Mafia. The good people do the serious jobs."
by The Super Realist
GREEN BERETS CAN'T STEP HERE
by Blissful Silence
AGE OLD QUESTiON OF MADNESS II
[to part I]
by The Super Realist
A MiDSLUMMER'S NiGHT'S DREAM
by The Super Realist
by Blissful Silence
by Water Damage
by I Wish My Name Were Nathan
DR. GRAVES AND THE AULD LANG SYNE DiNNER PARTY
by John Smith
State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 1997 by Kilgore Trout and
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