Exegesis of Jonathan Lethem’s The Feral Detective at Conatus News: The Monster in the Mirror: Donald Trump and the Disease of Confidence
It’s been an exciting couple of weeks since completing the Dave Oshana podcast and talking to original cohort Cary McCoy (part two up now). Conversations with Jim Kunstler and Jonathan Lethem (the next two Liminalist podcasts) came about in an entirely spontaneous fashion and have consolidated a pleasing feeling of brotherhood and the corresponding solidification of validation.
To make this a little more than just the latest updates, here’s my piece from this month’s local newsletter The Seedling, expressing the tension between my two lives.
No fucking internet
—working my day shift without internet drives home how this job is like a sentence. What was my crime? Elitism? Keeping myself apart from the “common folk”? Avoiding the mundane, nitty-gritty of daily subsistence, survival, drudgery, because I could, because I chose even homelessness over the rat race?
Rat race? Where are the rats racing to? More like hamster wheel in a cage set up to provide just as much food and water as the hamster can generate, running inside that wheel. At first, maybe it even seems like fun?
Something has gone horribly wrong. Everyone knows it, but no one knows what it is. We can blame Trump or Brexit, the Christians or the atheists, Science or Religion, Capitalism, the power elite, Hollywood, the military, the government, the cops, drugs, sex, even biology. Or we can blame ourselves—since Some Thing went horribly wrong, it must be us that is at fault. Trauma victim mentality.
What that leaves is endless distractions and a string of vain attempts at solutions or “cures”—sometimes both in one. We divide our time between entertainments to make us forget that something has gone horribly wrong, and “disciplines” we dimly hope will FIX whatever it is that’s wrong. Money. Sex. Science. Religion. Power. Influence. Funny how the things that seem to be the problem are the things we look to to fix the problem.
Maybe there’s no good reason to write this besides that I don’t have internet at the store and it allows me to avoid just sitting here waiting to serve people. I don’t want to serve people, I want to write! Or do I want to serve people by writing?
Does humanity have a secret existence and if so, do words point to it or are they what keep us from noticing or real-izing it? Or are they a bit of both?
Who your audience is determines how you perform. If it’s a deaf customer and I have to shout to be heard, and even then it never really goes anywhere, chances are I end up ignoring him until he actually wants to buy something.
My problem with working in a thrift store is simple: everyone who comes in wants something from me. All I want is to be left in peace to write. If you are a customer reading this, don’t feel bad about it. It’s not your problem. It’s not even my problem. It’s just something to write about. I work at the store because I want to. I even enjoy disliking it. As Ruth Gordon said in Harold and Maude, “People—they’re my species!”
The only thing worse than having to interact with humans is not having to.
Jean-Paul Sartre said “Hell is other people”; but that’s only because they remind us constantly of the hell of (being) ourselves. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the monster that stalks us all?” Not Donald Trump. He’s just the pus-oozing boil that lets us know how toxic our system is. Don’t hate the messenger.
A writer is a receiver who looks outside to find inspiration. If he thinks he knows what he wants to write, he closes the doors to inspiration by imposing his interpretation onto the world. Why would anyone write? In order to change something? Even a note on a business door or an instruction manual aspires to being about change. Beautiful futility.
Words can be used to point to things we can’t experience, understand, or explain. God is a word, Satan, Soul, psyche, democracy, truth, love, meaning, purpose. Do words help us have an experience of them? Like people, it depends how we use them—or how we let them use us.
Words facilitate telepathy, teleportation, and time travel. They come to us from outside and enter into us. They occupy us, possess us but also issue from us and extend our consciousness into the consciousness of others. Imagine the history of the human species without words. What would have happened and how would we even know it if it had?
Is humanity a side effect of language, of history, or is it the other way around? Do bees have a bee-anity? Do rabbits or wolves or crows? If so, is it a secret?
These are questions that surface when we have time on our hands to wonder why we are here, when the internet is down, and the only words we have to entertain us are the words we summon from within.