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GLINT


Ladies and germs, members of the bored:

I lounge before you this afternoon in a supreme effort to share a few simple thoughts with you. Doing so means that I must expose certain fundamental truths about myself. Feel free to expose something of yourselves as well while you read my words in the privacy of your own homes, offices, public libraries, etc.

It is said that Gustave Flaubert spent nearly two weeks crafting a single sentence that described a plume of smoke expelled by a passing steam train. I have spent almost half of a quarter of that amount of time formulating these words. Surely, the result will be as meaningful.

Consider this my own howl of confusion and wonder that, once formulated and uttered, is immediately swallowed by the void. No. Actually, consider this my mini-manifesto. It is a dainty finger sandwich set upon the groaning sideboard that already holds the biggie, super-sized offerings of greater minds.

Let me begin by posing a question: What, exactly, is the fucking problem here?

Do not be alarmed. Clearly, neither you nor I possess the answer to this purposefully vague query. And unless you know me, you cannot fathom the allusion underlying my high level of concern about the “problem.” However, the “problem” applies to you too. Trust me, it does. I speak with conviction when I assume this. And I don’t need to know anything at all about you, much less want to. You’ve got the problem and yours has something to do with one or more of the following: happiness or unhappiness. If I'm wrong, you're boring.

So. Let’s begin from a “biggie” point of view and consider the makeup of the universe as we know it according to Immanuel Kant. (As this is my own perversion of said biggie view, let’s think of what you are about to read as a “biggie smalls” point of view.) As we all know, Kant’s thoughts were pathetically honed to focus only on one stupid point—the Universal Law of Morality. Conveniently, he also provided a standard to apply whenever, however, to decide if something is moral—your friend, and mine, the Categorical Imperative. It has to be friends to both of us because, basically, it’s a really, really drawn out version of “The Golden Rule.” I like the impassivity of the Categorical Imp., really. It’s always held strong appeal for me. I do, though, find the morality portion of the plan highly suspect.

I was born as Tricky Dick slithered into posterity; I came of age in the “Me Generation.” Gen X saw the Berlin Wall fall and strange profits trickle down into the pockets of smarmy men who were heading up one of the most corrupt corporations around: the U.S. government. Ollie North; Anita Hill; Rodney King. O.J? American justice miscarried more in my formative years than…well, that’s a yucky image. Are we ever given moral example by people motivated by power? Regardless, just one more comment on the 80’s: I love how Clay in “Less than Zero” lies on his bed and stares at the Elvis Costello poster on his ceiling emblazoned with one word—trust. What a great image in an otherwise lackluster novel. Of course, you can interpret “trust” in a variety of ways in the context of the book. Poor Clay and his coke-addled friends couldn’t even trust their own eyes. I remember I somehow worked that scene into an essay along with a discussion of perception, sensuousness in literature, and “Pat the Bunny.” Overall, the latter work has been massively influential to me, perhaps instilling in me at too young an age the urge for instantaneous sensory gratification.

Oh, I’m sorry. Was I talking about myself? Of course I was. You may think I digress, but in fact, that is actually all that matters. The moral law can kiss my ass because it can. You see? Morals benefit some abstract notion of humanity, not the raison d’etre of the whole shebang, the epicenter of THIS universe. Ultimately, we act only to benefit ourselves, kids. And even if you are frittering away your after-school hours changing diapers at the old-folks home, you are looking out for Numero Uno. Because you get off on propping my grandma back up in front of the TV in dry sweat pants. See? This part is easy.

So, the moral imperative clearly needed a healthy dose of practicality. I’m hardly the first to say to Kant, “Now go and take off that fancy, lace dress before you go and play outside; you don’t want to get it dirty.” Lots of people, most of the thinkers and writers in the ensuing centuries, saw that people needed books to read that they could relate to more. Their ideas, much like their syntax, are a lot easier to take than Kant’s. To sum up, we are left with something more manageable that I like to call the Human Imperative. Here, the long and the short of it is that the individual generally acts in order to increase his/her own happiness while not stepping on too many toes. Sometimes, I like to take things a little further than that and really ignore any Buddhist temptations or Judeo-Christian trappings. When I’m in a naughty mood, my Human Imp. might resemble John Stuart Mill’s head atop Ayn Rand’s body. Hot stuff!

So, everyone tries to be happy. If only things were that simple. Enter the Human Condition, stage left, limping slightly, wringing hands and moaning. Throw some chains on him, but don’t confuse him with Jacob Marley. Happiness is simply not ours for the taking; it is the elusive free lunch. Some people dodge the unpleasantness of this fact by pretending that it is not completely out of reach and think if they try hard enough they might get a tiny bite. Other annoying people try to trick you into believing that they’ve already gotten their happy meal (p.s. the free toy was eternal salvation), you just missed out on yours, and they tell you to have a “Blessed Day,” when all you are trying to do is buy a pack of smokes at your neighborhood bodega. Some people accept that they’ll never get it, convince themselves they didn’t really want it anyway, and act like the universe owes them the big payback for being so shitty in the first place. Without these people, daytime talk shows would be garden parties and acts of hateful, seemingly random violence would drop precipitously. Most everybody else just plods along, taking the good with the bad, drinking their mammoth pitchers of disgusting Country Time pre-sweetened saccharine faux lemonade-mix and thinking they’ve done well by their troubles. We all know that if you make lemonade out of cheesewater, you’re still drinking cheesewater.

Which brings me to my next point. I would love to take Freddy Nietzsche and Philip K. Dick out for dinner one day. (Hell, if Zelda Fitzgerald can clear her schedule, we can double, and go for drinks and dancing after.) Although only one of these men was important enough to be beamed back by the mother ship, both had some interesting comments. Two of these comments happen to be germane to the topic at hand. We have just established that, even though we’d all be tickled to death to have it, happiness is a slippery fish. Furthermore, we spent a few precious moments wondering how people can be so moronic and blind to the truth. Just in case you think I’m unqualified to speak on these vast, perplexing topics I introduce two quotes from the aforementioned smart (and sort of scary) men to prove that everything I am presenting to you has already been thought of by someone more famous than me. See if you can match the man to his words! 1) “Reality is that which when you stop believing in it, does not go away.” 2) “Faith means not wanting to know what is true.” It doesn’t really matter who said what, or even if I just made those two sentences up. I just like these quotes because they reference escapism in ways that should stop and make you think. Stringent behavioral guidelines will not save you. Religion will not save you. Oops, redundancy alert. Ingesting horse tranquilizers will not save you.

Anyway, if neither Kant nor Dick pleases you, you’re screwed, right?

“Well, goddamn,” is probably what you are thinking at this point. Where does this leave us? Are we just to run our pathetic little lives down as if we were rats on the wheel? What Sisyphean kind of crap is this? Help arrives in the historically tarnished guise of Thomas Jefferson. This is the man who perfected systems of crop rotation while probably having nonconsensual sex with his slaves. He is a very confusing figure. Yet, he supposedly said something that has stuck with me for years: “The art of life is avoiding pain.” He did not say that the art of life is to find a lovely, sunny meadow and dance a jig with the field mice while birds nest in your weird Disney hairdo that always must involve a headband. [If you doubt me on this last point, please review the coiffeurs of all of the prominent Disney heroines prior to Ariel.] Along the same lines, he did not say that the art of life is finding a handsome/beautiful economically stable and emotionally nonvolatile mate and settling down. He did not say that the art of life is to starve yourself so that the hungry may eat, or that the art of life is never thinking bad thoughts even when things are bad.

I have mulled these words over and found little lacking in their pithy grace. The only problem is that it’s a tough little axiom to realistically implement. Please. I mean, who seeks out pain? Of course we are trying to avoid it. It seems, though, to present itself at inopportune moments and cause great inconvenience. Clearly, more is required if avoidance is actually going to occur. The trouble being that pain looks as if it is unavoidable.

But this does not mean Jefferson is all washed up. Jefferson wasn’t perfect. He was jazzed over inventing the folding ladder, for crying out loud. Improvement is possible. I say: where art cannot suffice, artifice will. Artifice is simply highbrow trickery, pure chicanery. Yes, it is possible to “fake out” the big, bad world and simply incorporate pain into your daily life.

I really think this is doable. This is what I am trying to do. People that have sorrier lots than I certainly have. This is not the same thing as pining for happy days and coming up with some crap version of “things could be worse" when things go wrong. This is ACCEPTING what is not so perfect and going with it. I know it’s not a new idea. I was too lazy to read texts like the "Tao of This Little Piggy" and the works of other fictitious stuffed animals who only talk when no one is around so I know my grasp on some of this stuff is a bit tenuous. But I really think I’m onto something.

But the question! Right, the question that started us all off: What, exactly, is the fucking problem here? I have no idea. I’m trying. I am still trying to figure that one out. As far as you’re concerned, you’re on your own.


reflect - reinvent ....rayclaire@gmail.com... what i used to think... what i hear... what i see... where i'd like to be...


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