Friday, November 5, 2021

preface to a triviality

Paul Klee, The Beginnings of a Smile (1921)

"Authenticity," if the expression is to have any meaning at all, is experienced by love and sexual intoxication, in irony and laughter, creativity and responsibility, meditation and ecstasy.
     —Peter Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason (1983)

I wanted to write something, something that would amuse me to read back to myself later on, something lightweight, something that wouldn't make me grind my teeth with exertion or require much abstract speculation. So I did another writeup about another comic book. I'll post it soon.

In the last post I said a few words about cultural schizophrenia: the discordant relationship between what we claim to value and what our habits show to be truly important to us. And here I am: pondering the perverse Skinner Box society of mass culture on one day, and writing uncritically about my favorite pieces of commercial ephemera the next.

Is this something I ought to be ashamed of? Am I a hypocrite?

After all, I live in the world given over to me by a history over which I had no control. I am a product of a confused and unstable culture riven with contradictions. Naturally, I contradict myself. Obviously I shouldn't be expected to live like an ascetic in a proverbial city built on pleasure and distraction.

In my self-recriminating moods, this sounds to me like a load of excuses. And excuses are like assholes, you know...

Proceeding through a gradual conversion from a pop culture addict and enthusiast to somebody who's skeptical (if not baldly distrusting) of the culture industry and its contribution toward making the world insane at best and unlivable at worst, while yet continuing to blithely watch cartoons and YouTube crack, read clickbait, keep up with Twitter, browsing Magic: The Gathering spoilers, falling into Wikia rabbit holes, buying the new X-Men comics every Wednesday, and occasionally bingeing on video games—it's like a vocal opponent of factory farming and animal cruelty continuing to swallow meat every day of the week. She and I each have our beliefs, we talk about what people ought to do and how things ought to be, but somehow our speech fails to interfere with our own settled habits—for which we are secretly grateful, if we have the honesty to acknowledge the facts.

As I get older, I seem to care less and less about being in the loop, about being able to converse about those shows or movies that each launch a thousand thinkpieces, about playing the latest candidate for Game of the Year or Game of the Decade, about how many retweets I get, about knowing what the fuck the kids are talking about when they talk about pop culture. I know these things are not Life. They are too often a redirection from Life—the "authentic" life at which Sloterdijk hints above—and yet I'm seldom unhappy to follow the detour onto the cul-de-sac of the death drive.

Maybe unplugging wouldn't necessarily entail that I am or must become a grim and joyless canker who has no patience for what isn't Very Serious. I know people who have pushed the gibberish out of their lives—though all of them have been religious, which gives them an advantage over a godless wanderer in ambiguity like myself concerning efforts at discovering freedom through prohibitions—and they still crack me up whenever we trade emails or occasionally meet up for coffee or beer. None of them are what the young people would consider savvy, but they're very sharp. Knowledgeable in what is important to them, and they suffer little animosity between their reason and their habits. They seem to lead good lives.

I feel like Saint Augustine: "Lord, make me chaste—but not yet."

Lord, give me the resolve to stop spending too many idle hours of my days soaking up schlock and then committing myself to adding another superfluous pebble to the evanescent mountain of internet content about content—but not yet.

I don't know. Maybe I'm overthinking this. November can make me morose and introspective in the worst kind of way.

Anyway, in a couple of days we'll be looking at a forgotten (and with good reason) comic book from the early 1990s. It will be more fun than this.


  1. You'll never stop. This is an addiction. Just look back at the cyclical nature of what you write and do. You get a hit feel satisfied, decide you'll stop, go through withdrawals, and repeat.

    I get it though, I really do. Its your world, your identity. When step away from this online creative world you get the feeling like every day youre gone, this world is progressing and you're being left behind.

    But its all in your head. None of tiis matters. Its all overflow created from the decadence of a modern technological society. Its like youtube, or twitch. They contribute nothing essential to the continuation of life and if they disappeared tomorrow, nothing would be effected. But imagine that all farming, mining, and electrical power generation were to stop tomorrow. The death toll would be astronimical within a year.

    To truly break free youd have to leave this behind, stop spending your time on trivial things like this. But can you do it?

    I know ive tried many times and each time i whittle away a bit more. First it was drugs, then it was playing videogames, lastly it was excessive time in the gym obsessing over my physique. Soon i hope to give up reading about videogames and anime and childish things.

    The things themselves are not the problem. Theyre physical manifesttaions of the psyche. Vidogames, anime, comics, etc. represent a retraction from reality, videogames being the worst. Just flashing lights on a screen which mean nothing in reality. The mind that cares about these things; how can that mind ever look out to reality?

    The online world is an illusion of importance. A sinkhole pulling in the minds of our "advanced" world. A place where every person can create their own fifedom of closed thought, allowing in only those who support their already existomg views and strike down anyone who opposes. An example; i went into a random twitch videogame streamer the other day just to see what would happen if i offered a differing point of view. Not even opposing, but simply asking a question.

    The streamer was saying something about hoe a certain game protagonist should have been gender queer, not straight, and that the game company had a responsibility to be "inclusive". Now, all I said was that the company probably just made a product for its widest market and pointed out that less than 5 percent of the population identifies as something other than male or female (drastically less in most countries). This made him visibly upset, and he said that they should have been more inclusive. To which I then asked, why should a company in a country of freedom be forced to cater to any one or amything? At thia point I was permanently banned, much to the delight of his 20 or so viewers who then chatted aboy how white people are bad (bear in mind that the steamer, and most likely his viewers too, is white). The secons his viewpoint was questioned I was banished from the kingdom.

    Can you imagine this person having to function in a workplace? Can you ever picture someone with this mentality ever creating anything of use to society? How could this guy ever work on a team designing medical equipment, or a new process for mining copper? Impossible. This is the quinticense of the tech world. Infinite digital fifedoms all at war.

    You can leave this trash behind, absolutely, as long as you can be xomfortable with not being lart of its evolution.

    Please forgive my spelling and grammar; im terrible at typing on a phone without autocorrect engaged.

  2. Do what you feel is best for you.

    I'm still in my late 20s, but i hope i will not start to feel this way as i get older. I don't think that spending some your free time on entertainment is necessarily bad. You can still share your experiences and opinions with others. Having a personal hobby (like reading comics or playing video games) is not something to be ashamed of. Unless it's addiction like the other commenter said, of course. The problem isn't the thing itself, it's how you engage with it.

    I personally like reading obscure webnovels on occasion and engaging with the communities. I know it's a trivial thing, but i don't feel like i'm wasting my time.