Expressions of disgust

Life would become endurable only among a humanity which would no longer have any illusions in reserve, a humanity completely disabused and delighted to be so. — Emile Cioran

So goes the deceptively straightforward guidepost for the following expressions of disgust. I constrain myself to none of them, and deliberately betray myself.

*

There comes a time in a man’s life when he tires of apologizing for his impassioned and cruel outbursts. In my case, this coincides with increasing disappointment in my compatriots and the need to be rid of the conviviality that my encounters with them encourage. It coincides with a rising sense of urgency to speak out and the emptying of the object of that urgency. The feeling of fatality and futility coincide: it’s not worth taking anything back when, in fact, whatever you’d take back falls on deaf ears anyhow. But what has come to sicken me most is any notion of consolation or reassurance (only in such contexts does an apology serve any function). This sickness will inevitably ugly my formerly kind and measured words. Comforting discourse has reached its end. I would rather send you away revolted by me. I would rather expose them to their own abandonment, and so I must abandon them. Unapologetically. It seems to me that nothing demands more courage — and in the end, nothing could be more kind. 

*

There can be no “right answer” any longer. There can be no “lightness.” And yet I concede nothing to the darkness, I say nothing wrong whatsoever. We need a severe grace made up entirely of hatred, if only to disabuse ourselves of the illusions of philanthropy and “laudable intentions.”

*

The thinker is wooed by one of two illusions. Both stem from his feeling of his own powerlessness, his own cursory status in relation to the “job creators.” One can easily be wooed into martyrdom by this, thinking that in the end, from the perspective of the last man, my discourse will be justified, my thought will make sense, and my effort will not have been a waste. It will be worth more than the joy I experienced when creating it. It will be “consecrated” to all those minds who choose to bask in its warmth, in the light of its truth, which, coming at the end of times, redeems every injustice of the past, as well as every omission. This is what we call “hope.” The second illusion is called “active nihilism,” whereby one sobers up and, to cut straight to the point, no longer dialectizes ones own ineffectuality (powerlessness) as the negative moment in a temporal process of effectuation (such that powerlessness would prove to be the most powerful), such that what was pointless would, at a later time, prove to be an integral aspect in the realization of Ultimate Meaning. This refusal turns the whole of ones existence into an Interminable Torment — but also a Living Farce. If I privilege the second illusion, it is because it gives me the best chance to view soberly the emptiness of my own experience.

*

Of all the moral prejudices which we have yet to wean ourselves off of, the most sickly and clever is that prejudice which says, “I ought to do something good for the world, for someone, or at the very least, for myself.” What confused trajectories and guffaws this causes us! What precious, self-serving memories! But doing good for someone always means doing evil to another. Intimacy is exclusion. It is preference that we have to do away with, and we have to do so totally. In this sense I advocate a ruthless inhumanity. I ought to regard nothing so highly that I wouldn’t trade it in for ball of snow. Ouch! But this is the only principle of fairness that has a fighting chance in the battle against the maniac drive for the “center,” for the prejudices of the “important,” and moreover, against the many privileges accorded to the imaginary center in potentia before it is even found (it cannot be found), against the bias toward the important before situating the context of that importance (it cannot be situated). And a good conscience is the worst of all its imagined privileges: in its gesture, it accomplishes no less than the banishment of what’s actually important.

*

Upon closer inspection, the favoritism that we display towards ourselves and our kin is totally without function in the world considered globally. This favoritism is founded or modeled on a principle of war that, pushed to its logical extreme, means the annihilation of each and all, except perhaps for the last one (or family, country, whatever) standing. Even if our criteria for favoring is, say, an inclination toward Truth, or Art, it does not follow that we club everyone who does not show this inclination. But then again, short of death, the outcome is much worse, if only because then we exist in a network of virtual and veiled biases, rather than simply having done with them at once. We then tolerate an atmosphere of uselessness parading as social utility, insisting that everything be viewed from the standpoint of the “present.” But public shaming is a fate much worse than public execution, and “office politics” are just as bad as internment camps. The humiliation of the drunkard at night, while disguised beneath a fake courage, is much worse than his embarrassment the next day because he had no chance of becoming aware of his own foolishness. At a beheading there is at least an outlet, an end to the frustrations, perhaps even an opportunity for laughter, ecstasy. As we chuck bloodied rocks against the dumb foreheads of those we’ve refused to tolerate any longer, at least the insanity of favoritism has a chance of revealing itself. In the office, there is just its infinite stupidity and its covert avatar: human preference.

*

Who could persuade someone convinced of the futility of “humanity” that there was, in fact, a reason for his own existence? Who could tell them that his own ordeal was actually “working toward something”? I have tarried with this option, internally, too often. Not only have I rationalized my own behavior (as an isolated writer) from a global context of dialog, counter-point, and intervention; not only have I told myself that I was undergoing this “ordeal” for the sake of something (if not “me,” then my “work” or the “world”); but I have gone so far, in the past, as to imagine that “humanity” would be an unfinished product without my contribution; that somehow it required me; that ultimately I undergo my individual drama only to get closer to the universal problems at hand. Amazing, the audacity of this! But when this paradigm of “hope” is spelled out so clearly, what can a person do but laugh and discard it? Let us annihilate every notion of help, consecration to humanity, and salvation. The idea of a “cure” for civilization is as dreamy as the idea of civilization itself — as dreamy as the idea of “me.”

*

There is no consecrating purpose. There is no redemption forthcoming. There is no God, no guarantee, no future happiness. From here on out, you would to better to forget me, to cease listening, if you want to uphold your self-consistency and your sacred pursuits, if you want to remain “upstanding.” I immediately see through your games and laugh at your disgusting vanity. For I preach the pointlessness of life, of intervention, of progress, of change. From here on out, I preach the Devil, I preach Inexistence, not by choice, but because I myself am dead, a useless excess, a cancer on all life and all faith. Perhaps no one living can read this or understand what I have to say, but either way, I don’t care any longer. Have at me, or put me away. Either way, it’s no use. You’re caught in the mesh of your own impossibility, and whether you choose to accede to it or not, it is undoing you. From this abyss, this nonsense, in the end there is no reprieve. And yet this alone — all this — is what we cannot live with — or without.

*

What differentiates the hatred I’m calling for from the hatred inspired by favoritism is the element of indifference — to the past and the future, to one or the other, but above all to reward, dividend, accolade, good standing, “favors,” etc. In a word, where favoritism is motivated towards some end, my hatred is pure, easy, and above all, unmotivated. I spare myself, my life and my plans, least of all. And since I have no good reason to cast aspersions on my own life, my hatred for it can be total. I can laugh forever in a prison of my own making, once I’ve decided once and for all to throw away the key, to drown in self-defeating contradictions and absurdities. What is this, then, if not freedom? No, perhaps it is much worse: no one can stop the absolutely indifferent.

*

We have to become aware of one thing: humanity does not improve. If anything, humanity bears the sign of a general devolution, if only because it heaps up more and more evidence of its own unconsciousness, its own incredulity. Perhaps “humanity” is also the sign of a more general disease in the cosmos. Perhaps future civilizations will put our history to good use, but up to now, our behavior as a whole gives us no reason to believe that society is getting “better” over time. Nothing good has come of humanity but the proliferation of ever more questions and impasses. At any rate, nothing like a good will has ever surfaced. With this in mind, we can be sure that humanity will continue to crusade in the name of the good unto eternity — and its effects will be that of a general desensitization to what might really be meant by the word “good.” The reason to emphasize all this is simple: the truly creative act is destructive, and the only thing worth destroying is oneself. Don’t look to humanity for the culprit. Look to yourself.

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2 Responses to Expressions of disgust

  1. Hoot says:

    I’ve heard it said that belief system is at its worst when it becomes a simple vehicle for comforting. Meaning, I suppose, that a belief system is best when it forces us into constant battle, turmoil, each wrestling and defeating our own gods. What if that belief system finds its origin in non-belief? Suddenly the gods-to-be-defeated are nowhere at every moment and one has to do nothing to defeat them, but to remain actively disengaged “Such that powerlessness would prove to be the most powerful.” That kind of groundlessness is frightening to say the least – and its that fear that drives me to return, to believe in something so that I know what I’m fighting. Not as of late, and no more (if i can catch myself resorting to old modes).

    Also – relax a bit man. You’re gonna bust a vein with all the high blood pressure in that post.

  2. fragilekeys says:

    “A belief system that finds its origin in non-belief” is no better or worse off than one that finds it origin in belief. Again, you have to ask what kind of belief you’re talking about. The idea of belief as a “belief in propositions x, y, and z,” i.e., belief in doctrine, is really a phenomenon that’s only a few hundred years old. Before that, it was ‘belief’ (or faith, pistis) in the second and first person: belief in friends, spouse, etc. It’s hard for us to imagine, but believing in doctrines is kind of a recent phenomena. Sure, the medieval theologians obsessed over systematic theology; but from what I understand, to understand faith as an adherence to ‘3rd person truth-statements’ was largely absent. Faith meant faith in SOMEONE. These days, it seems like even those who express faith in Christ are expressing faith in the proposition “Christ is my lord and savior” more than the person Christ. But a blanket statement like that is probably a bit crude…

    In truth, I think that all of these words, especially words like “belief,” are too abstract to even admit. What I’m interested in these days is charged fields of activation, fields of constellated terms that manifest certain energies. I’m less concerned with being correct or incorrect than I am with correctly managing or channeling the energy. The “semantics” or ‘meaning” of a word don’t matter one bit to me; only their placement is relevant. In the end, there will come the tough work of “arranging” these passages (in other, non-internet works), but at this stage, I’m content to leave behind ruins that, once reactivated by the gaze or ear, reactivate energies, emotions, or ideas — not to rest content with them, but to make them erupt, to “strange” them ad infinitum. Of course, there is still a propositional content (it’s unavoidable: everything intends); but most of it goes on at the level of composition and spacing and eruption and play. Thus, the high blood pressure implied in this post, which I admit is easy to read into it, hides the Hannibal-like calm I wrote it with. And I assure you it was surgery, not slaughter. Then again, it’s true, my heart was warm

    As for the power of the powerless, I didn’t discuss it at enough length. The idea comes from Baudrillard, who differentiates the “symbolic” from the “political,” where the latter is the sphere of power and the former… the sphere of death. Death is a challenge to all power, and makes a farce of it. Death is “powerless” insofar as, obviously, it takes the dead one outside of the realm of politics and “activity” in general. But the symbolic work BEGINS as a play between presence and absence. I can write “I am alive,” and this makes symbolic sense whether I am actually alive or not. This is the powerless power of the signifier, so to speak. We would like to believe that the day-to-day, or even decade-to-decade political sphere is the sphere of “action.” But inevitably we realize that folks like Heraclitus, Augustine, St. Paul, O’Connor, Philip K. Dick (I’m picking at random obviously) ultimately ‘rule’, precisely because, in writing, they wield the non-power of death and thus pose a challenge to any and all “constituted” power. They keep the throne empty, as Blanchot commands: “Keep watch over absent meaning.”

    In my eyes, the “symbol” of Christ is basically insurmountable in this sense: in the metaphor or reality of the resurrection from the dead, we can see how the socio-political power of Rome, while killing Jesus, could do nothing to stop his Word and Life. Rome itself utterly collapsed; but through the early Christian communities and, most importantly, their speech, Christ “lived in them” or “as them.” We have to be careful, when trying to discard the mythic aspects of resurrection, not to forget the magical aspects that connect this resurrection with the signifier itself. And by magical aspects of the word, I simply refer to the fact that, in the sign, preceding any actual presence or absence, the play of life and death is already at work, and in fact makes possible any “actual” presence or absence. We can then surmise that anyone believing wholeheartedly in the solidity of some kind of Being or Presence is thoroughly politicized, consumed with power, and so ignorant of the symbolic, the play (or “differance,” as Derrida says) which precedes and makes something like Being as self-presence or self-consciousness possible in the first place. All of this, obviously, deserves more attention. Perhaps one could even see how the “faith in SOMEONE” is nevertheless made possible in by the sign; and that our ‘belief in proposition x, y, z’ is linked to our ignorance to this primordial dimension of the sign.

    And so this question of the symbolic is linked to the “ineffectuality” or “non-productivity” or “in-operativity” or, more simply, the useless character of literature, art, and philosophy in general. They don’t come up on the radar precisely because their “power” is powerless, i.e., under the radar. In this post, I seem to suggest that to “dialectize” this ineffectuality as a kind of ultimate and inevitable effectuality is just to lie to oneself; at the same time, without such a hope, how could I continue doing what I’m doing, or even say all that I’ve just said? Quite simply, I couldn’t. I think this indicates a radical heterogeneity of realms (call it the symbolic vs. the political, or the powerless vs. the powerful, or the heavenly vs. the worldly). And so, render unto God what is God’s and what is Caesar’s unto Caesar. We live in both: they touch at every point like vertical and horizontal.

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