Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Meaning(lessness) of Life



"As a behavioral scientist who studies basic psychological needs, including the need for meaning, I am convinced that our nation’s suicide crisis is in part a crisis of meaninglessness."
 This comes from an opinion piece in the NY Times: "Suicides Have Increased: Is This An Existential Crisis?"  We used to have God and family, he opines.  Now. . . well, we have a PoMo society in which all meaning and value is contingent.  Unshackled from certainty. . . etc.

I have intertwined his thoughts and mine.  But at least he understood the meaning of an Existential crisis.  The Existentialist is charged with making meaning in an uncaring, meaningless universe.  Camus' "The Stranger" is an example.  Mersault, an anti-hero, comes to terms with his imprisonment both in a literal and figurative sense and accepts his death sentence.

Hemingway's characters find other ways to deal with the Existential dilemma, mostly through partaking of the pleasures of the physical world.  They decide that they won't die until they have to.

Anthony Bourdain is the unlikely spark that has brought focus to these discussions.  I am reading "Kitchen Confidential" right now.  Don't know why I didn't read it before.  It is pretty good.  He, like Hem, fights meaninglessness through the senses.  There are pleasures to be had.

I don't have any answers.  I watched Burt Reynolds in "The Last Movie Star" with my mother last night.  Fortunately, she fell asleep early on.  It is an uncomfortable movie unless you are in your twenties.  If you are older than that but not old, it is just a silly, campy movie.  Reynold's character is nostalgically arguing with the meaning of life.  He comes to some jejune realization and gets a puppy.  Family, I guess, and meds.  The movie, as bad as it was, made me deeply unhappy.

My mother woke up at the end and we watched an episode of "Goliath."  That series is not all that uplifting, either.

Finding meaning is a difficult task.  It is easier to just assume it, to get it from a text or a preacher, to accept a higher power, etc.


There are people who adhere to "traditional" values.  They're homogeneous and of a certain type.  They stick together.  It is comforting.  They are not the only ones.  They just have the microphone right now.  No Existential crisis for them.

The photographs I have been taking of objects in my neighborhood are strange to me and unnerving.  They are soulless objects, just a physical presence.  They leave me hollow and empty, though I find them intriguing.  When you see them all together, you can feel the purpose, understand the meaning. Perhaps I am fooling myself, but that is what I think.  But I may have to stop it.  They are spooky and freaking me out the way a Pynchon novel might.  You know?  The are more disturbing than other projects I have done that some might object to.  We'll see.  Maybe these photos are just projections of my inner state right now.  Jesus, though, that would be awful.  I'll leave it to the psychoanalysts, I guess, both amateur and professional.

I'll get back to reading Bourdain now.  I want to see how it ends.  But wait. . . I already know that.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Objects in the Age of Selfies



There are more cameras and more photographs than ever, but it is now almost forbidden to photograph people.  We have become too image-conscious and are our own publicists now.  I've made the mistake of trying to photograph in the streets of my own hometown and have suffered for it.  Unless you just want to be the town weirdo, I suggest that you don't even try it.  But I shouldn't judge.  Maybe it is just me.  I can walk through a crowd where half the people have cameras slung over their shoulders or in hand, but I will be scowled at and viewed with suspicion.  I don't get it.  I really don't.

So. . . in the Age of Selfies, I've decided to photograph objects.  I noticed that on almost every third lawn in my neighborhood, there is some sort of electrical box or water pipe or something I haven't a name for.  These are things I don't normally "see," things that are just invisible in some way.  Once I began noticing them though, I couldn't quit seeing them.  The other day, I took my camera and my scooter and would stop and photograph them ever few blocks.

Oh--and people looked at me with suspicion.  Yup.  It seems no matter what I photograph. . . .


This box sits in the lawn of a house worth well over a million dollars.  Probably two.  It is a beautiful house on a gorgeous brick street just across from a lake.  The box is shabby and sun-beat, bent, crooked and ugly.  Maybe ugly.  As I began my project, the boxes and pipes began to take on their own personalities.  As I photographed, I began to move closer and to use a more wide-angle perspective, filling the frame with the object while placing them in the environment at the same time. "This," I thought, "has legs."

Metaphorically, of course.

You'll see more in time.  At least until I get the chutzpah to photograph people again.

I've been living at my mother's for five weeks now.  The girl is gone, so there is little but reading and watching television after dinner with my mother.  And early bed.  It is a monkish life, really.  Yesterday, I went to the doctor to get the results of my lab tests.  This is my first doctor and my first "let's sit down and talk about your health" session ever.  I have not lived a careful life, so I was very, very anxious.  I had made up my mind that if the news was bad, as it most certainly would have to be, I would walk out of the office and never go to another one again.  Seems, however, that I am pretty healthy.  Very, actually, at least according to the data points.  So, if I am so healthy, why do I feel so bad?

I've been trying to reward myself.  Of course.  I made a deal to buy someone's Leica M10 for a good price.  But payment became an issue.  I sent money by PayPal, but he didn't like the fees.  I tried Zelle, but it wouldn't let me send that much money at one time.  Then, last night, he decided to keep the camera.  I was relieved in some ways as I was going to have to sell a lot of things to make up the money.  After the relief, however, came the disappointment.  I really wanted that camera.  Financially, of course, I am better off.  So why do I feel so bad?

It is a sunny Saturday morning, but it won't last long.  The light is calling me, and if I can move, I should respond.  I haven't gotten the lab results back on my psyche, so I don't know if I have a healthy noggin or not.  What I know, though, is that I must do something.  There is still a life in here and there is still a world out there.  Let's mix 'em up and see what happens.

Friday, June 22, 2018

It Shall Be Writ



This is what the first day of summer looked like here, a gray and rainy day without much promise.  I left work early and went to a celebration at a new Mexican restaurant that serves over 100 different brands of tequila.  Being, however, that I had to get home to take care of my mother, I was very judicious.  Still, having put the crack in the dam, I had a couple drinks with and after dinner.  I woke in the night with a dry mouth and a headache.  There in the darkness, I was forced to think about things in that desperate way that comes sometimes--or maybe more often.

The conclusions of the night do not always seem as sage come daylight.

You may wonder what brings me back to the writing table.  As do I.  But it is simple, really.  I might tell you sometime, indirectly, of course, without explanation.  In truth, though, I figure what the hell.  I have killed the site and a blog like this will never be found again let alone read.  It is a record, a port for hidden revelations.  To me, I mean.  The author.

Here is one revelation that came to me late in life.  People can't really help what they do.  The whole free will thing is an illusion, I think.  One is predestined toward certain behaviors.  There are things people do that they can't help but do no matter what.  To expect them to decide otherwise is ludicrous.  The concept of free will is a sham.

There will be more on this, too, in the coming days.

That, I guess, was last night's Solstice of the Soul.  No dancing virgins nor any fertility rites.  Just a dry mouth and a headache and some sleepless nighttime soul searching in a lumpy, backbreaking bed in my mother's house.

Still, I am planning on a glorious life.  It shall be writ with all the carelessness I can muster.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Solstice



I haven't posted in so long, I have forgotten how.  Took me awhile to remember how to put a picture here.

It is the first day of summer.  Seems like I've been right all along about its purpose (link).  O.K.  I've actually been saying that about spring and fall, the "Carnal Equinoxes."  But, as they used to say in the old sunny south, "When it's hot and sultry, it's time for adultery."  They did.  I'm not making that up.

My mind is torn about writing here.  I want to tell things, but I am not sure if I want to reveal.  I just read that the state with the highest longevity for humans is Minnesota.  Average age--70.3 years.  That's the HIGHEST but for Hawaii which is considerably higher.  And you can buy some volcanic acreage there right now for a bargain price, I believe.  It is a terrible tragedy, of course, but as my monied friends often say, where there is pain, there is opportunity.  I don't like the saying, but I can't really argue.

So. . . as I take steps closer to the seventy year mark, I worry.  Much has changed in my life since I last appeared here on these "pages."  My old life is gone, and I wonder what the next one will be.  I am living with my 86 year old mother now.  "Why?" you ask.  She fell and broke her shoulder and needs the care of her only child.  It is not bad.  We have fun.  But I haven't been in my house for over a few hours in seven weeks.  I haven't been out, either.  Once in a while, after work, if I cut out before I am supposed to, I ride my scooter to the Cafe Strange and get a tea or a beer and write in my journal.  "Tea?"  Yes, that is another thing.  I barely drink now.  Lost ten pounds because of it, but I tore a muscle in my back, too, and has given me a 9 out of 10 on the pain scale when I try to sleep.  Went to the E.R. at midnight one Saturday night.  Don't do that.  It is not a good idea.  As a matter of fact, medical care in general is not a good idea.  I have had blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays and CT scans.  Everything was good, but I am nothing but a set of data points now.  I had more test run by the first family physician I have had since I was in high school.  I get the results of the additional tests she ran on Friday.  Some days, I think I won't go back.  I am stressed to death worrying about the results.  It hardly seems worth it.

I've watched a lot of "Gunsmoke" with my mother this month.  I'm surprised how good the show actually is.  Miss Kitty, for God's sake, running a whore house and dating the marshal.  But the old doc, now that's what we need.  No data points.  Just takes a look, feels around, and gives you a 50/50 chance.  Just like the weatherman, he is never wrong.

I am drained of life right now and don't feel like myself.  I have work and mom's therapy and cooking and cleaning and watching television and work.  All my summer plans and any trips I planned are gone.  And if I ever do get to go anywhere, I will be, once again, traveling alone.  I am afraid that I have forgotten how to be a flaneur.  My limbs are not attached any more.  I feel hollow.  I am one of them now, one of Eliot's "Hollow Men" (link) (link).

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

"Mr. Kurtz, he dead."

As always, that is not what I intended to write, but it is there and it is something.  I must go now and help with my mother's therapy so that I can get ready for work.  I've revealed more than intended, but I've suggested something, too.  

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Bourdain



Anthony Bourdain hung himself on the day I got my first physical by my first physician.  I was surprised to find that he was younger than I.  I have never had a doctor though I have been to them in cases of emergency.  They scare me.  They seem an indictment, of sorts, a recrimination for the life I've lived.  I have problems that I'd rather not hear about.

Bourdain's t.v. shows were excruciatingly enjoyable.  I liked the idea of them.  I disliked his on-air personality, bearish and predictable.  His narrator's voice was decidedly strained.  But I would return to those shows after long absences, watching after dinner with a drink.

What I enjoyed most about him was his life/death wish.  He reminded me of some of my favorite flawed characters.  Jim Harrison.  Ernest Hemingway.  They ate and drank fearlessly.  Or so they seemed.  But we know that in the lonely midnight of doubt, fear and regret were dangerous companions.

I do not mind suicides.  People say that it is a selfish act, but I can't see it that way myself.  What is the rational alternative?  To get better?  There is certainly a point when you know there is no "getting better."  To my mind, it is selfish of people to want to deny the right to not continue down a road you no longer want to travel.  There is no compassion there.  We weep in fear, I guess, for ourselves.

The doctor and her young, pretty P.A. apprentice poked and prodded me every which way.  The P.A. told me that the doctor would get me naked.

"When I first starting working here, I was like, 'Oh, my!'"

She did.  She played with my nuts and stuck her finger about four knuckles deep into my butt, among other things.  They took blood and urine and did an E.K.G.  I have to wait two weeks for the bad news.

But the Bourdain thing lifted me in a weird way.  One can cheat life out of its vicious fun.  One needn't play its morbid game on its terms.  Bourdain decided to opt out, just to quit.  In "Kitchen Confidential," he called life, among other things, "unsatisfying."

I guess, in the end, he was deeply disappointed.

I haven't been around for awhile.  I haven't done anything worthy of report.  I just felt like writing this today.  Don't expect anything else.  Maybe, but not certainly.  Not tomorrow.  Not often.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Curator



I went to this show with Q sometime around the turn of the century.  I took this photo with my old Voigtlander rangefinder.  I think I will quit posting my own photographs here and use the photographs by others from now on.  I am disappointed about everything at the moment.  I am not getting good feedback on my creative life and think it might be better done in secret to be revealed only after my death.  I'm tired of the world and tired of expecting anything good to come from it.  I'll be a curator here.  I will reveal a wonderful world to you without any cost to my own psyche.  I'm tired of arguing my case.  It costs me too much.

I took this picture, though, somewhere back in time.  Now I'll go and begin my collection, though my choices will probably get me into trouble, too.