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I was ten years old when Apollo 11 put men on the moon, and I was an excitable, astronomy-mad boy. My memories of the television footage are as hazy as that footage itself. We still only had a black and white set, so the lack of colour was immaterial. I remember tension. I remember jubilation. But mostly I remember how it seemed to be some sort of culmination of hope for the future. We were on our way. And now, a large portion of humanity doesn’t even believe it happened. We are, in both senses of the word, hopeless.
Every night I enter the underworld of my dreams and it is, and always was, a source of both wonder and torment. My dreams are often thoroughly bizarre: irrational stories playing out in fractured dreamscapes that usually bear at least some recognisable connection to my waking reality, but twisted into unreal or hyperreal forms in which odd mergings and strangely mutated laws obtain. I do not suffer from nightmares as often as I used to, but the dreams in which I experience the lost past of contentment and security are worse than nightmares. Or rather, the awakening from them is.
I drift through life achieving nothing of lasting value, squandering the little talent I have, and increasingly free from desire for anything beyond the means to survive and to numb myself with good quality alcohol. I was never ambitious, never had any great wish to do anything as a career, a hobby or an activity. No children, no dependents; just me and the basic activities necessary to get by. I used to think this attitude to life sprang from laziness. Now I realise it is more like a fundamental disengagement from the things that so motivate and energise "normal" people.
It's a tough time. That happens to us. And the older we get, the more likely it is to have happened. I am trying to focus on the fact that I have perhaps another fifteen to twenty years of existence, if I'm lucky and continue, on balance, to catch the breaks. And when I think about how the last twenty years have rattled by like a bone-shaking ride on The Cyclone I am also trying to come to terms with the fact that I really need to get a move on or give up. But I've said this before.
My family are not close, and have never been what you might call “warm”. As children we were not hugged, and the words “I love you” were never said. And we liked it that way. Such behaviour seemed inappropriate and sickly, and none of us wanted it. I call my mother once every couple of months now, and she always asks me how I am, and I always tell the truth. Then she says “We just have to keep taking it a day at a time.” We are both marking the days off as chalk lines on a cell wall.
I truly hate summer, and I don't understand why I seem almost alone in this. Why is hot, glaringly-bright weather so wonderful? It isn't. It is objectively unpleasant. I can't sleep because it gets dark too late and light too early. And my god, I sweat like a paedo in a playground. My armpits get wetter than Adele's chin when she passes a Gregg's. Why do you normals love this? Do you enjoy the sticky feeling of sweatiness? Do you find jock itch, fungal infections and rashes pleasant? Are you fucking lizard people or something? Is David Icke right?
The first time I heard Simon and Garfunkel's "I am a Rock" I was eleven, and Christian. A weird hippy "pastor" from America came to our church and alarmed us with his scoop-neck tie-dye T-shirt and wooden crucifix necklace. He played that song, and asked "What's the message here?" I gave the correct answer. But inside I was thinking "Sounds like a sensible way to deal with life, to me."
We are bombarded with lazy platitudes about life, love, and how best to manage these trials. The truth is that the truth is not designed to make us feel better.
I do not share the interests and concerns of most people I am aware of; certainly not of most men. I do not fear death. I find those who cleave to notions of deities, the mystical, the supernatural and an afterlife absurd, weak, cowardly, comical and contemptible. My father was a dull, decent man who was kind and gentle to me as a child, and when he died, I felt no sadness at all. When my last pet cat died I fought back tears and felt quite devastated. Perhaps I am a monster. Perhaps I am not a decent man.
I dislike opera for the same reason I dislike jazz: excessive contrivance. This terrible, stylised, ritualistic, utterly vicious vibrato vocalising. And jazz: initially lauded as rebellion, rule-breaking, liberty from music-by-numbers... yet it soon settled smugly into another cosy code of rules, cool, and designated posturing. I look at these two forms of music and I see attitude-striking, elitism, exceptionalism, cooler-than-thou-ism, and it strikes me that both jazz and opera, now at least, are most loved by the middle-class. I hear neither passion nor rebellion. I hear the sonic equivalent of a nice house in the suburbs.
I am drunk again, as usual, of course. I used to pretend that I was not an alcoholic, but I always, deep down, knew I was. What is an alcoholic? An alcoholic is someone who drinks not only because it is pleasant, but also because it helps him cope. It helps me cope. I love the taste of whisky, brandy, wine, beer. I sincerely love it. I love what those electric elixirs do to me. I love the feeling of being drunk. I am far too cowardly to kill myself, but thankfully I am brave enough to be an alcoholic.
We favour feelings over truth. I believe this is the root of many, if not all, of our current ills. It is the reason so many people are still able to express support for Trump and Brexit when any rational, balanced, informed assessment of those situations would plainly reveal such continued support to be delusional. It doesn’t matter to these people. They like the way Trump and Brexit make them feel. It’s true of any belief held in the face of reason. Facts don’t care about your feelings, but you have still managed to elevate your feelings into a problem.
The drunk on the tube is wearing a smart suit. He's full of booze and something that needs to come out. When I put my jacket on an adjacent seat and it falls off, that's his cue.
"It's all about balance. Shall I begin my speech about transcendentalism?"
I was in no mood.
"Do whatever you like, mate."
My death stare did the trick, and he moves, attempts to talk to a guy wearing headphones. No luck. Then it starts.
"Fuck you all! Fucking immigrants! Fuck the EU!"
Alcohol is an amplifier; it doesn't care what you play through it.
We hold these truths to be self-evident
. No, that is begging the question. What you do is hold these opinions to be self-evident, and you are wrong and foolish to do so.
All men are created equal
. Demonstrably untrue.
You can do anything if you put your mind to it
. Oh yeah? Put your mind to regrowing a severed limb, or levitating.
If I can do it, anyone can do it
. Not only untrue, but manages to be both disingenuously self-deprecating and also slyly arrogant.
All is fair in love and war
. Only said by a sadist or an imbecile.
But enough about me; let's talk about you. Are you happy? Are you content with your choices and their outcomes? Do you have children? How do you feel about that? Are they happy? Do you suspect they secretly despise you? Do you care? How's your love life? Is the sex still good? Was it ever? How are you going to get that weight off? Where do you want to go on holiday this year? What sort of music do you like? Can you sing? Do you sing? Do you ever think about suicide? How would you do it? How soon?
When I want to drink, I can drink. When I want to walk, I can walk. When I want to be mean, I can be mean. When I want to be nice, I can be nice. When I want to turn myself into a ripped motherfucker, I can turn myself into a ripped motherfucker. When I want to let that shit go and blob out again, I can let shit go and blob out again. When I want to do just about anything, I can. But when I want to sleep?
Damn you, sleep. You are the nemesis of agency.
If you attack, criticise or shame someone for something that is not their fault, they will bridle, and very likely react defensively. And for good reason. Attacking, criticising or shaming someone for something they cannot help is never, let me repeat that,
a good tactic if you wish to
, if you seek a widespread understanding and consciousness-raising. This is true no matter where they sit on your rubber ladder of privilege, and it is a pity that you, with your identity olympics and your gleeful intersectional sectioning, are too damned up your self-righteous selves to realise it.
Sunlight decks the dead moon and the stars wheel, or rather we do, it's all relative, and I wheel too, and you do, and we hit each other and spin off, pinballing, bouncing off bumpers, seeking bonuses and extra balls, and we wonder who is operating the flippers. And then we realise no one is. It's more like a bagatelle, but who pulled the spring thing? No one. An instant occurred, back when that meant nothing. And there we were, big bang and bright ball bearings materialised in the midst of it, pegs and pins and randomness. I love you.
The law of entropy, or the second law of thermodynamics, states that the total entropy of a system will increase over time except for ideal cases. Put crudely, entropy is a measure of the amount of disorder in a system. The law therefore states that things generally tend towards increased disorder.
Jack's law of emotional entropy states that the total level of unhappiness in an emotional system will tend to increase over time, except for ideal cases. It is a sign of uncharacteristic optimism on my part that I can even bring myself to include that qualification at the end.
I don't care about your career. I'm not interested in what you do. I don't care about your anxieties and allergies. I don't care about your average and wholly unnecessary children, or how adorable you think, wrongly, that they are. I don't care about your health program or your tired, unoriginal hobby, which, by the way, you suck at. I don't care about this witless shit you do just to avoid staring into the void. We're dying, and you're banging on about how to feel better. Try not feeling better. Try shutting the fuck up and getting on with it.
One of the problems with people who rabidly support Trump, Brexit and so on is that they are incapable of entertaining the notion that they might be wrong. They will never admit error, or even the slightest possibility of error. Intelligent people are always open to the reality that they can be wrong, that they can misjudge, jump to conclusions, screw up trivially or royally... or do bad, even terrible things, without being bad people.
I am quite intelligent, but not as much as I'd like to be. Because lately I've been feeling like the worst person in the world.
It is a profoundly saddening understanding that I have almost certainly caused more pain in the last eighteen months or so than in all the other months of my life put together. It does not help that the hurt was inflicted on people I love. It does not help that a fair share of the pain came to me. It does not help that none of it was borne of malice or unawareness. It does not help to know that confusion, miscommunication and foolish pride (is there another kind?) played their parts. I hope that help is on its way.
I am nostalgic because I spend so much of the present discontented or depressed, so I crave those moments when the curtains drew back, however briefly, and let the light in. I want to feel the warmth of that light in my present again, so if I cannot have it, I recall it with the fond yearning that is nostalgia. It’s why I love those old records, movies and books, even though I know them so well. I want to know them again, because I also know how they make me feel. Better than I did the first time.
The two biggest threats to our continued existence in civilised human societies are overpopulation and capitalism. Many of our ills, including climate change and pollution, are caused or vastly exacerbated by overpopulation. Capitalism is, in a sense, a form of economic “overpopulation”, or at least over-breeding. Capitalism is
(note the stress) benign if it exists in an environment where resources greatly exceed demands, and it is appropriately regulated. We are now so far beyond that situation it is a crisis, and capitalism operates like a cancer, caring for nothing beyond its own growth, even as it kills its host.
So what will it take to kill capitalism? How does one cure cancer? Preferably by catching it early. We are too late for that. We are at stage four capitalism. If there is to be any hope, the working classes must drive it, because they are the main victims. They must starve capitalism by recognising that it has them on a wheel of fear, fatigue and falsely consoling consumerism. They must step out of the wheel. Ditch the traps capitalism restrains them with. This will not happen because the working class have been made stupid. We will die of cancer.
It looks like I will be stuck for life with the tingling, crawling neuropathy that has afflicted me for over a year now. It came on literally overnight some time last July, initially just in the ends of the fingers of both hands. Since then it has spread across my entire body: feet, legs, arms, back, chest, face, neck, armpits, scrotum... everywhere. It waxes and wanes, but never entirely leaves me. Obvious nasties have been ruled out, but not MS (or something similar). Perhaps my time is short, now. I don’t want to waste it, but I fear I will.
I have never been homesick for a literal home. I have never really felt truly
in any merely physical location, although I have come close to the feeling in London and New York. My actual hometown was, and is, a miserable midden, and I will not be sorry if I never see it again. I have only felt
with people, and only truly
with one person. And I have only felt genuinely homesick when I left that person. I thought it was just the normal heartache of wrenching loss, but it was homesickness too.
We are the night gang. Saturday morning, 3:30, in our uniforms or cheap labouring clothes. Underpaid grafters, and a few luckier ones like me. We clean your offices, we drive you to work. You: the normal Monday-to-Fridayers, the nine-to-fivers, the regular Joes and Josephines. And at the weekend you rest, and party, and we sit quietly on the night bus, watching you drink and blabber that rote, rat-wheel misery out of yourselves. Until Monday. Blue Monday. Hump Day. Thank God it’s Friday. Repeat until retired or dead.
We are free. We are the night gang.
I greatly dislike all pop, soda, fizzy soft drinks... call them according to your local preference. Cola, in particular, tastes so medicinally foul to me that I have always been mystified by the ongoing popularity of atrocities like Coke and Pepsi. There is, however, one exception: Lucozade. Not any of those sickly variations; the regular orange stuff. As a kid Lucozade’s motto was “Lucozade aids recovery”. It was sold as a drink for sick people. I always drank it simply because I liked it, and people would ask me if I was sick. I wasn’t, but I’d say yes anyway.
They say that travel broadens the mind but it really depends on the mind. Some people see being in a foreign place as an opportunity to observe, to learn, to take pleasure and edification in new experiences, different foods, drinks, languages, customs. Such people blossom in unfamiliar soil. Other people see the unfamiliar as a worry, a source of irritation and inconvenience — or worse, as a thing to sneer at and mock. Those funny foreigners and their weird ways. Look how they drive! Why can’t they speak English? God, I could murder a McDonalds.
Yeah, and I could murder you.
And into the dream world I go, and there you are, torturing me with things only you and I know, but it isn't you, it's a mix of you, my ex-wife and my father, and it all seems completely normal. And you are attacking me, and that seems completely normal, because I'm back at school, where being attacked was completely normal, so there I am, thinking the decision: I could let this go, or I could put my weak but strong-enough hand around your throat and dig my small but strong-enough thumbs into your throat and kill you.
Death comes obliquely, for most of us, if we are not in a war zone or a poor zone, or beset by the ills of perilous birth. Death does not sit on our shoulder with his cartoon robe and comedy scythe; he skulks in the shadows cast by our bright, glowing, privileged western lives. He bides his time. He strokes his skeletal black cat like a comedy villain, and we laugh at him over our avocado toasts and our latest app. Death comes for us through strange curves and unearthly angles, and our only defence is the courage to laugh.
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