Absurdism and Me

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So, here goes nothing. I haven’t been sleeping, which means early mornings reading the same pages slowly and repetitively. In the spirit of slow evolution, I’m compressing my reading into my own understanding of a miniscule portion of existentialist thought. I’m writing it because maybe it’ll give me a little perspective as sleeplessness leaves my inhibition inoperable during the day.  Without further ado, Abrsurdism from a crippled mind.

Our senses and our reason are the only way we experience this world. However, the universe is something that neither our senses nor our reason can ever fully explain. The distance between our questions and our definitive understanding of the universe is Camus’s notion of the Absurd. In the Absurd are the explanations and experiments we pose to bridge this gap—however all of them fall short of an answer.

Given our limited ability to interact with the world around us, the questions of purpose, meaning, and the finalities of life will go unanswered. Realizing this, we experience our existential crisis—questioning our existence and its place in this world. This leaves us with the choices to lose ourselves in the Absurd, finitely or infinitely,  and embracing our life of absurdity.

Puzzled by our existence, we can choose to become lost in the finite. We can enter our existential crisis, armed only with our mind, and dissect all the information we have on our life. In that dissection, we can find and assign value to the joys and heartbreaks from these desiccated experiences. They will be devoid of the complexities of context and subjectivity, but we can create a system that fools us into believing we have found meaning and purpose.

This most commonly looks like the person who toils through the experiences of their life and finds patterns at the moments they deem important—and they develop superstitions. They examine practices before good and bad events and from them design a code of conduct that create a system they can allow to supersede true decision and a confrontation with the world. The person then shrinks from the world, comforted by this finite vision of the universe. Camus would call this, a philosophical suicide–finding an ideology that allowed you to escape acknowledging the nonsensical world.

In the absurdity of our existence, we can choose to become lost in the infinite. We can succumb to the myriad of choices in a universe where anything is allowed. Faced with absolute freedom, we can freeze that moment of crisis, stretching it across our entire existence—never picking a direction.

This is the quintessential college graduate who rots in their parent’s basement, jobless and without aspiration, as they wax poetic about all the things they will accomplish—someday.

An existential crisis is a moment, not a state of being. It is meant to be something we come to and make our decision—knowing certainty is never going to be absolute. This is where Kierkegaard’s leap of faith comes in. In our crisis, where “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom” we weigh all the options and we make a choice, regaining our control over our existence, but freely and of our own volition.

However, our certainty is in our senses and our reason. Our own sense and reason. We can argue over the validity of senses, where they derive from, and what they detect. We can argue over our mind, abnormal psychology, and the way they may deceive. But, we can think and we can sense in one way or another—these are our certainties. With these we can accept the inability of the world to explain itself and accept what we enjoy. The sensory pleasure, the things that bring our mind peace, those unexplained joys become our solace in the face of Absurdity.

This all boils down to a thought for me: the purpose of life is to place yourself in the world where the product of your work feels like a reflection of how you see yourself.

 

Insomniac Notes, 1

What comes first? Sleeplessness or the process? Do I think to the point I’m deprived of sleep? Or am I deprived because I can’t shut off the endless circus of bullshit that is parading trumpeting monkeys 2 by 2 between my ears?

Nobody believes in insomnia until one of two things happen: they need something from the sleepless or they become one themselves. Even then, it’s a fleeting glimpse into the world of the chronically awake. You can’t quite understand the fear of not sleeping until it’s real. 52 hours real (my personal record, I know others may have put this to shame).

My personal theory is that my creativity is a coping mechanism for too many hours awake. It takes the place of dreams I’m not having and it adds color to the world when being tired drains it.

The lucky part is that it’s cyclic. So really, it’s like weathering out a shitty date–it can’t possibly go on forever. Once you pay the bill, the choice is yours.

The shitty part is that it’s cyclic. It’s going to happen again.

But, just like Camus said, Sisyphus doesn’t have to be miserable pushing his boulder. It’s a chore, not being able to sleep without medication…getting used to the medication…taking stock in chamomile tea…but it can be a game. You can use it to your advantage.

For example: my son thinks he can’t get away with anything because dad is always awake–so he confesses household crimes I’d never have discovered.

My wife thinks I always need sleep, so when I cycle out of Insomnia I still can use it as an excuse for naps.

It’s only evil if it’s not funny.

Or I get caught–but then it’s a motive.

 

Method Acting

I don’t like to speak directly when I write. I don’t really like speaking directly when I speak. For me, communication is something I’ve perfected through years and profession into a chain of impromptu artworks that I basically sell on commission–tailored to the buyer and their requests.

This leaves me in a state of anonymity where I’m allowed my space to create. It’s been wonderful.

I’ve found this ability waning as I age and I’m at a loss for explanation. My characters fade into the scenery and I’m naked on the stage–acting like the jackass I’ve always seen myself as.

“Are you alright?” or “Is there anything going on at home?” usually kick off the conversations about the appropriate methods of discussion allowed in the workplace. Or appropriate jokes.

****

“You realize you have a family right?” wife asks me.

“I forget that.”

She rolls her eyes.

“You’re a saboteur John. You’re only happy if you’re breaking or bending what people want left alone. It’s just you.”

“That doesn’t help. It doesn’t explain–“

“Because people get used to it! I did.” she told me, standing up, “Now you just have to think of a new character to be to get you by.”

“Why can’t I just be me?”

“Because you’re a writer,” wife tells me, “none of you even know who you are.”

Growl, Bark, Bite (Speak)

“There’s too many wolves in the forest!” The article screams for a cull in bold typeface. 

Gods forbid a forest act like a forest. Save us from a world where nature is more than a hobby. Protect us from a life unspayed, breeding more life triumphantly fighting for its own place.

Damn these lives with their own claws, their own teeth, and their own reasons to run in different packs.

“John, it’s pretty simple.” An assigned Alpha sighs at me, “You can’t rock the boat, right or wrong, if you want to go anywhere. At some point you have to just get along.”

Quiet. Roll onto your stomach. Pant and wag. Wolves are pretty, wolves sing, when they start being wolves they need to be culled.

“You don’t want to be culled do you?” They toss treats on the ground in front of me.

I bare my teeth too much. I try not to, but my nature slips out. Able or not, I’m unwilling (as unwilling as we all should be) not to bark when I see a threat. I’m unwilling not to run with the pack I was born with. I’m unwilling to let my forests be someone’s playground populated by puppies. In our woods, you earn your time.

In anyone’s woods, you respect the things that live there. You listen to the singing in the boughs and the breathing in the wind and figure out how to approach. That’s learning, that’s appreciating, that’s cooperating.

“There’s too many wolves in the forest!”

Then get the hell out.

Michaelangelo and the Crayon.

Did Michaelangelo ever get marble block? Block, not the plural form.

I stare at the pictures of the Pieta and wonder what rough drafts look like for something that big and that precise. The time is one thing, but to be so sure and so persistent that you worked a stone into an image so iconic your name rippled through the pond generations later.

Isn’t that the dream? To look at nothing and see the artwork? To know where you’re ending even though the path is formless and the destination is only something you can see?

My wife catches me watching our son in his room. She creeps up quietly, returning my smile, and wraps her arm around my waist as she looks in.

He’s painting dinosaurs with her nail polish on the wall. Starting at one corner he’s filled half of the wall under the window, empty glass bottles discarded underneath him, as he works diligently.

She turns to me, appalled.

“How long have you been watching?”

“Half an hour.”

“Why?!”

“I’m respecting the process”

The Wordsmith Pantheon

As a writer I find myself struggling between my three states of being: scholar, romantic, and subversive. When I wake up in the morning, it’s a three way tie between what my voice is that day as I draft reports for work or tinker with my projects. Do I want to be seen as wisdom incarnate, deftly nudging thoughts and ideas into the realm of enlightenment? Do I want to be the beauty connoisseur, in love with the idea of infatuation as I encourage everyone to chase their own passions? Or am I just the scaly little bastard pissing in everyone’s coffee.

Generally, it’s the latter. Thankfully, not literally.

In my Wordsmith Pantheon, I have three figures manipulating how I engage the world. At the foot of the throne is the Professor and Aphrodite. In the big seat is a three horned little prick giggling over the Professor’s pleads for prudence and Aphrodite’s begging compassion.

My god of wordsmithing is an evil little shit. He’s the muse behind various vulgar renditions of Christmas carols. He’s the reason my wife pinches me at parties when someone asks me what they should do with their lives. He’s the evil shit that doesn’t have the attention span to deal with something that doesn’t make him laugh.

My god of wordsmithing is a seven year-old bastard.

The more I talk to other artists and other writers, the more I realize we’re all fighting the same fight. Where the goblin holds the throne in my world, I know others who can’t help but write science fiction that is half NASA lecture and others still who have to fall in love with everything they make. All the while I settle with drawing a picture or penning a story that makes me feel angry in a certain direction.

I sat drinking beer with my best friend, explaining why I haven’t been able to finish the edits on my novel.

“Everytime I try to work on themes and characterization, I think of a funnier scene I need to add in.”

“Drinking makes you less funny.”

“Maybe,” I shrugged, “but there has to be a balance when I’m sober. Some way of checking myself, forcing myself to balance the other two gods.”

“No,” he leans over the poker table, ” you’re not funny when you drink, so give me back my damned chips.”

You can’t choose your gods.

 

Einstein’s Theory of Creativity

Sanity is a luxury of the rested and content. The rest of us are content in our loss of sanity. It’s what gives us that je ne sais quoi that makes us, or our hatchlings, something to look at or ponder.

Conformity was target practice after I left home and began to build my voice, my look, my method, my scripts. The rejections came as thick as the ideas and the references at the end of the letters always pointed me to authors I should look at to refine myself. 

I’d scoff. What does cummings know about me? What could Huxley understand about this brave new world I’ve thrown myself into. Why read someone else to see how to be myself?

 Conformist, spat the angry youth. 

I read; years after I’d left academia, tragically entering the world in the middle age of my twenties to resign to a cookie cutter job. I read the suggestions on the bottom of the rejection slips.

Orwell was a cop. Hemingway drove an ambulance. Artists live. Ideas are neat, art is experience and message and life. Ideas are a bubble. Live, read, learn, give it another go.

I was the same stupid kid. We all are and will be, but sanity has to be at the end. If we just try to do this same thing over and over and over again.