Apartment 303

The investigator asked me questions into the evening, trying to dismantle my story. He leaned in over the table between us. We were almost friends. Friendship is all about time.

It was supposed to be a simple bank robbery, I said again.

*

Sunlight smothered the city. People convened, they shopped, they walked and ran. It was normal. Vehicles cruised past with music blaring, impatient. This was before the pandemic. Children played, fountains splashed.

It was the perfect morning to rob a bank.

My partner and I walked in waving pistols and shouting for everyone to get on the ground. We both wore masks, back before it was common.

A woman screamed, then another. The three customers in the place raised their arms above their heads. They were all senior citizens. Four workers stood frozen behind the counter, all of them like spooked deer, watching me.

It should have been an easy job.

My partner hopped the counter and grabbed the bank manager by his hair, pulling hard.

Open the vault, he said, and bullied the man downstairs to the vault. I cursed and waved the gun around and shouted for everyone to shut up and lay flat. They complied.

This will be over soon, I said, pacing, spacing out my words.

Think of your families.

No one gets hurt.

It was the only time of week the bank had no armed guard on site. Still, we had to assume an alarm was tripped. Every job you do, that’s the understanding. Two minutes and the cops are there.

I waved the gun aggressively but it wasn’t necessary.

A guy tried to enter the bank entrance but saw me with the mask and gun and ran back out the door, stumbling.

I clicked off seconds in my head. Pop music played from speakers somewhere. I should have already heard a shout of some kind from my partner downstairs.

I counted five cameras in the room.

Two of the customers had walking canes lying next to them. The place smelled of wet carpet and bleach, as if the floors had been cleaned overnight. I breathed deeply from my abdomen, forcing air upward and out through the mask.

My partner took too long downstairs and I activated Plan B. You have to plan for contingencies. You can’t overthink. You’ve got to act quickly.

All right! I shouted through the mask. Everybody out! Everybody out now!

The employees and customers rose to their feet slow and uncertain, confused, afraid. But people move when you point a gun at them.

Out! I shouted, cursing. Move it! Out! Out!

I waved the pistol and shouted until they were gone, then I flipped the deadbolt on the entrance door and sprinted downstairs to uneven concrete beneath my feet and old brick to each side of a long hallway. A single bulb hung from a string, swinging softly. I heard no music — no sound at all.

Hurry up! I shouted into the darkness. What’s taking so long?

My voice echoed. I waved my gun like a fool and stepped beneath the bulb further into the shadows.

Hello? I said.

Hello, said a man nearby.

The bulb above flashed and burned out. I stood in complete darkness.

Hello? I said again.

I put the gun up and staggered, one palm on the brick wall at my side. Silence and darkness overwhelmed the hall. The damp air thickened and I moved through it gasping with arms out before me, each step a step into oblivion.

How is this happening? I thought.

I stopped walking, feeling the pulse race beneath my skin. My head floated off my shoulders — a balloon in the void. I kneeled to the ground to keep from losing balance and falling over. I blinked but couldn’t tell if my eyes were open.

I stood and stepped slowly to feel with my palms out but met another wall. My breaths quickened, drumming from me. I counted them: thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three. I heard breathing nearby.

Hello? I said.

I reached to my right, disoriented.

Hello? I said again, whispering, eyes wide. The pistol trembled in my hand.

The wall to my left met a right angle of brick in front of me. I reached out and touched brick to the right of, then behind me.

I shouted and fired a round into the ground and saw in a flash of light that I was surrounded by brick, entombed. The bullet ricocheted into my left calf and I cried out, slinking to the ground with my back against the brick.

I cursed, shouting into the tiny space. My echo stretched to an impossible distance. I reached up to feel brick just above my head. Sweat poured from my face.

How long until I suffocated? Am I hallucinating?

The bulb sparked back to life, swinging above my head. I blinked at the brilliance of it. The familiar brick wall appeared before me with shadowed hallway disappearing away to my right and my left. I pushed myself up onto one leg, gasping painfully.

Hello? I said, my voice absorbing echoless into the air. I shouted again and heard nothing, deafened. The ground beneath vibrated.

What’s happening to me? I thought.

*

I began limping down the dark hall. I didn’t know from which direction I’d come. It didn’t matter — I had to get out. The cops were probably upstairs looking for me. I took 20 paces from the bulb that became 30 paces as I staggered deeper into the shadows. I stopped and turned around, walking back to the swinging bulb, a small wavering point of light in the absence. I hobbled past it another 80 paces before stopping again. It was pointless. The hallway stretched infinitely into shadow in both directions.

Hello? I shouted, my voice ricocheting like a bullet and repeating into the distance.

I shouldn’t have taken this job, I muttered to myself, cursing. I should have trusted my instincts. I knew it was bad.

I realized I still had my mask on and I pulled it off. Suddenly I could breathe easier. I heard a scream through the brick, as if from a nearby room. It was a man.

He actually wasn’t my partner at all. He was just a guy on a bank job. I didn’t know him.

He screamed again and I shouted his name.

HELP! he shouted. HELP ME!

I heard a crack, then silence. He stopped screaming. It sounded like the crack of a club or baseball bat smashing into bone.

I muttered to myself, trembling.

Another crack echoed through the brick and another and another and another until there were no bones left to crack. Then I only heard the precise rhythm of blunt instrument smashing into inert cadaver, blasting and blasting but also increasing tempo, crushing and echoing in the hall, building feverishly to satisfy some alien murderousness.

*

Wow, said the investigator. Descriptive.

He stood and paced behind his metal chair, then around the table. His shoes clicked on the concrete. I watched him and glanced at the two-way mirror. I counted two cameras in the room.

He had no hair on his head. No eyebrows, no facial hair. He stopped pacing next to me and leaned into my ear and whispered, cursing: Liar.

*

My next decision is difficult to explain. I was afraid and not thinking clearly.

I just wanted it to be over, to be done, and I didn’t care how.

I took off running on my one good leg down the hall past the dangling light with the pistol in hand and I continued lurching forward, fearless of falling into the depths or smashing face-first into a wall in the darkness growing suddenly cold with my breath pluming crystallized before me, my arms pumping, good leg pumping, heart pumping. The hallway widened though I couldn’t see it to confirm. I felt that I’d entered a giant space but still indoors, sheltered from the sky. The grade increased and I struggled uphill, slipping on sand yet stable enough to hold my churning leg.

A faded line of horizontal light appeared over the summit and I climbed to it, struggling through deeper sand. The moonlight swelled and cleared with each upward step until it appeared in full, the glowing face of an ancient friend. I marched up with lightning snapping overhead, powering my way upward toward a sense of remoteness, alienness, as if in a sea, surrounded by water.

I reached the summit with my chest heaving and stood atop a giant dune beneath the pregnant moon with lightning attacking dangerously near —on a sand dune in an ocean of sand dunes.

Clouds like dirty snow sprinted overhead as if in time lapse. White veins lit up the alien landscape and I gazed over the endless rolling hills of sand with hot wind whipping my hair and clothes, a conqueror atop his endless spoil, absorbing the immensity and perilousness of his journey for the first time.

*

Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, said the bald investigator.

*

A sand crab rose to the ivory surface near me.

Black and slick in the moonlight it dashed toward me and I kicked it tumbling into the wind.

Dark imperfections began spreading across the sand in the distance and I smelled them on the breeze, acrid and menacing.

Soon all the desert was alive with them, each distant crest and valley rolling outward like waves began to flower in black and the ground below bubbled porous and chaotic with the crabs climbing up from the depths, surrounding me, shrieking with snapping mandibles when I confirmed with my eyes that they weren’t crabs, they were larger and faster, more aggressive. They weren’t anything I’d seen before.

Quickly they struck and seized my ankles, biting and clawing with hot pain like liquid up my spine. The monsters dug into the meat of my thighs and continued up to my torso, slashing at my clothes and skin, overtaking my arms as I tried to slap and peel them away. There were too many of them and I struggled against the sensation of falling. I shouted pleadingly at the moon, stone-faced and indifferent to my cries.

The creatures climbed to my neck and pierced the skin, bounding onto my face with tentacles searching and I tasted them as they pulled me down into the sand with their poison coursing my brain.

Soon my lower half melted beneath the sand and I screamed with sand filling my mouth and eyes.

Then the world disappeared.

*

The investigator paced the interrogation room with arms folded, nodding, a smile on his face.

*

I don’t know how much time elapsed. I woke atop a pile of sand in the middle of a blacktop intersection in the Chicago neighborhood where I grew up.

It was a moonless night and the whole place was empty of people. Orange streetlamps lit the sidewalks and I eased myself down from the sand pile to dust myself off. My bad leg had healed and both were good again.

I looked up to the façade of my childhood apartment building. My old bedroom window on the third floor was the only window lit.

In the light I recognized the silhouette of a figure, unmistakable and familiar. I shivered in a way I hadn’t since I was a kid.

Dreamlike I wavered toward the building feeling sand in every part of me, inside me.

Across the empty street I navigated the familiar brick, concrete and asphalt panorama of my youth and entered the building past the broken elevator to the stairs as if routine, as if blindfolded and half-conscious up the threadbare staircase to apartment 303.

My hand floated to the door. Slowly it creaked open, alighting the small cluttered landing area and bookshelf. I heard my mother’s voice — she sang while cooking and I smelled the emotional aroma of her inventions there in the third-floor hallway of our project housing complex. I pressed the door and it was no longer my childhood apartment door but the vault door in the basement of Community Street Bank in Philadelphia, a summer morning in the year 2020.

The bank manager lay dead in his cheap shirt, shot twice through the chest.

You’re late, said my partner, a duffel slung over his shoulder and his pistol trained on me.

I’m sorry, he said, meeting my eyes.

We both had masks on.

He pulled the trigger but his pistol jammed. He ran past me up the stairs to the bank lobby and I looked around, incredulous and panicked. The sound of pop music melted down the stairs like syrup. I saw the dead manager on the vault floor and scuff marks on the tile around him. The gun was molten steel in my hand.

I finally shook myself awake and ran upstairs just in time —

I paused and looked at the investigator.

Just in time to meet your … people. The cops swarmed in.

The other guy wasn’t my partner. Just a guy on a bank job.

He must have got away.

*

The investigator sighed and nodded his head.

So here we are, he said.

He scratched his chin and looked meaningfully into the two-way mirror. He smiled.

Here we are, I said.

He sighed and sat in the chair opposite me and leaned over the table, glaring at me. He smiled.

I did not smile but watched as his grin widened. His face melted up and back and his cheeks somehow made room for the hideous growing discolored teeth. His eyes bulged and his lips squeaked like plastic as they stretched, his mouth a giant lightless cavity from which a sand monster spilled onto the steel table, its insect legs flailing in the air before it righted itself and stood, watching me.

The investigator licked his lips like a salamander and winked one mad balloon eye at me. He leaned back in his chair and looked up to the fluorescent lights laughing, laughing.

post-pandemic perspectives

 

(in their own words)

Age 20 — marketing professional, part-time professional musician, black male, NY
50 — survivor of COVID-19, female, Mexican-American, retail worker, CA
61 — realtor, lost three family members to COVID-19, African-American male, NY
5 — loves animals and outer space, MI
28 — gave birth to triplets during pandemic, business student, multi-ethnic, VA
68 — white male, retired engineer, no known relation to COVID-19, KY
10 — female orphan, likes baseball, MI
58 — male, dead from COVID-19, postal worker, NJ
47 — cranberry and grape farmer, white male, father dead from COVID-19, WA
52 — chef, African-American male, poker genius, VA
12 — autistic girl, MO
71 — retired news reporter, white female, proud American, AK
8 — entrepreneur, female, Mexican-American, CA
50 — unemployed laborer, female, one uncle and two aunts dead from COVID-19, TN
16 — volleyball captain, African-American male, AL
49 — chief of police, African-American male, brother dead of COVID-19, AL
81 — retired salesperson, white female, husband dead of COVID-19, IN
75 — retired postal worker, Cuban-American, COVID-19-positive, FL
43 — human resources professional, Latina, OH
34 bartender, black female, part-time professional musician, LA
67 — animal rights activist, Mexican-American male, Scrabble champion, CA
72 — war veteran, grandfather, secret government agent, mother dead of COVID-19, WI
59 — litigation attorney, Japanese-American, female, COVID-19-positive, WA
13 — social influencer, female, NY
19 — thief, male, currently hospitalized with COVID-19, MA
38 — unemployed restaurant worker, aspiring fashion designer, white female, CO
91 no known relation to COVID-19, African-American female, MS
31 — unemployed retail worker, Phillipino-American, accomplished rapper, NY
44 — unemployed single parent, white female, blogger, KS
29 — restaurateur, trans-gender, NY
58 — electric transit vehicle operator, African-American female, CA
75 — production line specialist, Indian-American male, bookworm, MI
23 — unemployed restaurant worker, Mexican-American male, UT
61 — female, dead from COVID-19, retired dancer and entertainer, NV
90 — retired architect, white male, nephew dead from COVID-19, NY
66 — retired sales director, French citizen, Algerian, GA
84 — retired funeral home director, white female, daughter dead from COVID-19, FL
45 — unemployed construction worker, Mexican-American male, MT
78 — professional gambler, no known relation to COVID-19, black male, NJ
53 — elementary school principal, Mexican-American male, proud American, AZ
67 — retired police officer, white male, cancer survivor, dead from COVID-19, WY
76 — retired public servant, white male, positive with COVID-19, AK
37 — unemployed artist and dancer, Nepalese-American female, NY
59 — certified public accountant, white male, wife dead from COVID-19, MI
98 — retired CEO and philanthropist, two children dead from COVID-19, CA
14 — high-school student, wrestler, male, class clown, OR
43 — meat factory worker, Harley-Davidson collector, dead from COVID-19, NM
88 — retired nurse, no known relation to COVID-19, white female, HI
56 — retired colonel, African-American male, grandfather of 18, LA
26 — unemployed barista, actress, Latina, CA
61 — freelance IT consultant, greatest uncle ever, dead from COVID-19, NJ
82 — retired film studies instructor, white male, part-time chef, NE
22 — garbage disposal mechanical specialist, Colombian-American, Texan, TX
41 — police officer, positive with COVID-19, father of triplets, Chinese-American, MA
36 — retired professional athlete, entrepreneur, black male, DE
51 — professional caterer, white male, car salesman, father, lover, KY
16 — student, violinist, #gobucks, occasional eating champ, WI
48 — master carpenter, hot-rod enthusiast, white male, pet groomer, MT
47 — unemployed electrician, wine connoisseur, mestizo, NM
21 — volunteer, motivational speaker, paraplegic, white female, OH
77 — part-time poker player, retired sales manager, Native American, SD
31 — unemployed music DJ, gay, Brazilian-American, uncle dead from COVID-19, CA
18 — intern at book publisher, white male, video game enthusiast, TN
66 — retired firefighter, antique restorer, grandfather of eight, black male, LA
59 — part-time airline employee, crocheter, nanny, African-American female, IL
71 — retired real estate developer, speaker of five languages, dead from COVID-19, OR
74 — homemaker and seller of exotic fish, white female, dead from COVID-19, FL
37 — nurse, mother of four, Alaskan of the Haida people, positive for COVID-19, AK
86 — retired city services employee, positive for COVID-19, black male, WI
27 — casino employee, part-time dancer, Venezuelan-American, bad bitch, NV
40 — former collegiate athlete, unemployed chef, Black male, positive for COVID-19, TX
76 — retired Navy SEAL, avid bowler, father of three girls, Italian-American, PA
49 — investment manager, certified educator, defending fantasy football champion, MA
34 — unemployed baker, black female, VT
48 — grocer, investor, white, father dead from COVID-19, ND
53 — freelance proposal manager, Italian-American, Boston Celtics fan, AZ
91 — retired attorney and professor of law at BCU, white male, dead from COVID-19, MA
24 — unemployed business major, artist, musician, dead from COVID-19, AL
64 — delivery driver, proud black king, positive for COVID-19, OK
89 — retired real estate magnate, white male, no known relations to COVID-19, CO
6 — builder, Canadian superhero in training, NH
33 — data center professional, music lover, Indian-American male, WY
40 — writer, sun-poisoned, jaded, loved, not currently positive for COVID-19, CO
51 — unemployed golf course maintenance professional, part-time musician, IN
77 — retired, part-time volunteer, European immigrant, NE
56 — unemployed bus driver, positive for COVID-19, black female, AR
37 — United States Marine, brown man, Billings, MT
69 — retired veteran of military affairs, United States Army, positive for COVID-19, IL
83 — retired real estate professional, helicopter pilot, father of five, white male, PA
36 — retired adult actress, theater director, artist, FL
66 — convict, Colombian, born-again Christian, MO.
22 — pregnant, unemployed, mother of three, mixed-race female, GA
59 — medical practitioner, proud Iroquois, WI
32 — brewer, restauranteur, entrepreneur, coffee junkie, AL
29 — reporter for local TV news, positive for COVID-19, avid cyclist, spin captain, CA
84 — retired salon owner, white female, investor, MI
44 — entrepreneur, self-employed, Greek-American, father positive with COVID-19, NV
55 — unemployed bartender, Uber driver, sister dead from COVID-19, OH
20 — student researcher, poet, black female, no known relation to COVOD-19, NJ
63 – horse breeder, wine collector, doctor’s wife, white female, WY
80 — fly fisher, grandpa, gardener, white male, positive with COVID-19, WV
59 — unemployed journalist, Black American male, recent lottery winner, DE

coronavirus blues

Daydreaming in aisle five

toothpaste and shampoo

silent sparkling commerce

air conditioned

red arrows on scuffed white tile

a guide in the labyrinth

whole aisles are wastelands

handwritten signs: OUT OF STOCK

no one looks at me

not masked employees

shuffling

ignoring everyone

afraid

not shoppers

some unmasked

aggressive

center-of-the-universe

others kind, warm

smiling behind masks

at the absurdity

a blackbird loops above the bakery

scouting crumbs

I’ve been here too long

they don’t have what I need

 

back in the car I

sanitize

mask down

never dreamed I’d need

masks for my family

 

through deserted streets

atomic sunlight

paranoid and guilty

for what I might now carry

 

portrait of a mute

IMG_0942

There he was, pale faced and morose. Nobody like him anywhere. Beneath the white lamp glow, sullen there with his stack of blank papers, which would be creased or imperfect if only he didn’t fill them so quickly, if only the pages remained longer in his care, beneath his pen and his scrutiny.

What is the measure of a man? Is it in his handwriting? A person’s life displayed before the discerning reader, as if in a crystal ball. Wade’s short bursts of near-perfect proportionality were written hastily, without error, as if the author, given to spasmodic and obsessive episodes with the pen, always knew where his pen was headed. As if the pen cast a sweeping glance like headlights upon the fibers and terrain it was soon to illuminate. As if the driver of that pen, omniscient and aware of his fate, preferred to follow blindly rather than see his journey.

Galeano on Marx

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14 March : CAPITAL — In 1883 a crowd gathered for Karl Marx’s funeral in a London cemetery — a crowd of eleven, counting the undertaker.

The most famous of his sayings became his epitaph: ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.’

The prophet of global change spent his life fleeing the police and his creditors.

Regarding his masterwork, he said: ‘No one ever wrote so much about money while having so little.’ Capital will not even pay for the cigars I smoked while writing it.’

 

From Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History, trans. by Fried, Mark. Penguin Group, New York, 2013: 85.  

Dialogue with Nietzsche, c. 2020

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Nietzsche: For the New Year: I still live, I still think; I must still live, for I must still think.[1]

T: The new year will be one of intense thought paired with increased mental rest. The idea is to continue expanding the intellectual rigor—more study and writing—then periodically scram (more often). The last thing I want is to end up like you, looking up from a pile of horse shit.[2]

[laughter]

Changes in mind and body strike in real time, not arbitrarily. Waves of thought inundate my mental shoreline, but I must continue—how else to improve on yesterday? Then take pause to quiet the mind after high tide. Each day is a lesson in writing: reflective, creative, wasteful. Advance yesterday’s intent and record its progress. Every day for decades. A different page on the calendar does not change it.

Nietzsche: The best author will be he who is ashamed to become one.[3]

T: I’ll never be ashamed and I’ll never be the best. We’ve both written ridiculous nonsense in our lives, but all I’m ashamed of are the early works and their palpable infancy. Where is your shame, dear teacher?[4]

Nietzsche: The happiest fate is that of the author who, as an old man, is able to say that all there was in him of life-inspiring, strengthening, exalting, enlightening thoughts and feelings still lives on in his writings, and that he himself now only represents the gray ashes while the fire has been kept alive and spread out.[5]

T: We writers are ash before the creative process, a storm of fire in the midst of the work and ash once again when the work is complete. The energy used to create the work is powerful enough to spawn something immortal. For somehow, in creating an object of the intellect, as you wrote: “I am of today and before, but something is in me that is of tomorrow, and the day following, and time to come.”[6]

And yes, live! Today is an opportunity and tomorrow will be another, shall you find good fortune to arrive upon its shore.

Nietzsche: Be of good cheer; what does it matter! How much is still possible! Learn to laugh at yourselves as you ought to laugh![7]

T: Laughter is undoubtedly the skeleton key for this labyrinth. Reference your example of the Dionysian impulse within us: yearning for what makes us feel good and perform at our best.[8] Look to your student Foucault who embodied it as a life philosophy. Just as with you and extremes of the mind, Foucault surrendered to physical extremes. My (more) moderate perspective reminds me that laughter is responsible for the best memories of my brief life, and that if I were to chase an extreme, marry myself to it entirely without fear of residual repercussions or side effects (e.g., you: terrible death, Foucault: terrible death[9]), it would be a life of laughter. Laughter is death’s most formidable adversary.

Nietzsche: Living—that is to continually eliminate from ourselves what is about to die.[10]

T: The human experience is living in a house one block from train tracks upon which trains traverse a hundred times a day, sirens blaring at all hours, shaking the room and waking the sleeper just as she falls asleep, finally.[11]

Nietzsche: The thinker, as likewise the artist, who has put his best self into his works, feels an almost malicious joy when he sees how his mind and body are being slowly damaged and destroyed by time, as if from a dark corner he were spying a thief at his money chest, knowing all the time that it was empty and his treasures in safety.[12]

T: Many of my edges at age 40 are yet smoothed from genetics and (relative) youth but most are visibly chipped and cracking, some damaged. I’m not ashamed or prideful of my imperfections but have always been aware of my mortality. Close proximity to death as a child wired my brain to expect to die at any time, anywhere—especially in the home. It’s no wonder I isolate myself and carry a notebook to ponder mortality like a friend or adversary (selfsame).

Nietzsche: A person needs to learn much if he is to live, to fight his battle for survival…[13]

T: One survives by learning to adapt. If you don’t adapt, you don’t survive. But we always need more critical thinkers, people who yearn to continue learning as they age. These individuals feel responsible for examining the human condition and improving it. Perhaps it is their responsibility—who else will do it?

Nietzsche: There is much that is difficult for the spirit, the strong reverent spirit that would bear much: but its strength demands the difficult and the most difficult.[14]

T: You can’t set examples if you’re afraid of responsibility.

Nietzsche: Anyone and everyone wants to lie back in the shadow of the tree that the genius has planted, while avoiding the hard necessity of working for that genius, of making him possible.[15]

T: It’s about inspiration, willpower and ability. Do average people feel inspired into action? Do they have the willpower to act? Are they able to act? For as you once wrote: “One must speak to indolent and sleepy senses with thunder and heavenly fireworks.”[16]

I look to you and the other sages to help me understand the current state of global affairs. I want to know what motivates people and why. American politics are a mess and it’s the same just about everywhere. Perhaps the fissure between core ideals has become too large to traverse. It’s an era of intense bickering and stubbornness, of falsity and lies. It’s difficult for anyone to discern the truth. People have thus perpetuated the falseness and lies, which have evolved into something greater than the lie tellers.

Nietzsche: The greatest labor of human beings hitherto has been to agree with one another regarding a number of things, and to impose upon themselves a law of agreement, which is indifferent to whether these things are true or false. This is the discipline of the mind that has thus far preserved mankind, but the counter-impulses are still so powerful that one can truly speak of the future of mankind with little confidence.[17]

T: Confidence has lapsed with the destruction of institutions—it’s been a steady erosion. People have become comfortable with their supposed leaders behaving in opposition to established norms of decorum and respect, but also in opposition to fundamental principles. They have become accustomed to false representation. Their president in America lies and steals, he works backchannels and shouts and pushes buttons and has amassed a squadron of blind followers who believe the lies or at least tolerate them. It’s unclear how the fanaticism reached such elevated levels—do they actually believe the lies (are they duped), or do they hate the other ideals so much as to become responsible for their own blindness?

Nietzsche: Fanaticism is the sole volitional strength to which the weak and irresolute can be excited, as a sort of hypnotizing of the entire sensory-intellectual system, in favor of the over-abundant nutrition (hypertrophy) of a particular point of view and particular sentiment, which then dominates […] When a man arrives at the fundamental conviction that he requires to be commanded, he becomes a believer.[18]

T: You used believer there in the context of Christianity, but it applies to any fanatic belief (blindness).[19]

Nietzsche: Belief is always most desired, most pressingly needed where there is a lack of will: for the will […] is the distinguishing characteristic of sovereignty and power. That is to say, the less a person knows how to command, the more urgent is his desire for that which commands, and commands sternly—a god, a prince, a caste, a physician, a confessor, a dogma, a party conscience.[20]

T: I’d like to continue this discussion again once I’ve reread your later writings like The Will to Power, The Antichrist and Twilight of the Idols. Perhaps in the spring. Until then I’ll use your teaching and the teachings of others to navigate this terrain and find a pathway through. I can carry the light that you and the others kept aflame. Thank you as always.

_______________________________________

[1] Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Gay Science. Trans. by Common, Thomas. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 2008: 133.

[2] Nietzsche famously collapsed in Turin, Italy on January 3, 1889 after witnessing a horse flogging. He collapsed at the horse’s feet, beginning his descent (ascent?) into madness and subsequent death.

[3] Nietzsche, Friedrich. Human, All Too Human. Trans. by Zimmern, Helen. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 2008: 107.

[4] T: My teacher should be ashamed of his misogyny. It’s easy for me to critique the great thinker more than a century removed, but his view of women is misaligned, at best. One reason for this is undoubtedly his soured relationship with Lou Salomé, a female intellectual he admired and fell in love with. In 1882, Nietzsche, along with his friend, philosopher Paul Rée, assembled an intellectual trio with 21-year-old Salomé. Nietzsche fell for Salomé straight away and at least three times proposed marriage to her. Salomé rejected Nietzsche’s advances and ultimately began romantic relations with Rée, leaving Nietzsche alone, in anguish.

[5] Human, All Too Human: 113.

[6] Nietzsche, Friedrich, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Trans. by Martin, Clancy. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 2007: 112.

[7] Thus Spoke Zarathustra: 251.

[8] T: Nietzsche’s dialectic of Apollo and Dionysius in his book The Birth of Tragedy is basically this: Human life is a continual struggle between two internally competing instincts, or powers—Apollonian (rationality, lightness, structure, harmony, restraint) and Dionysian (madness, chaos, drunkenness, ecstasy, creativity).

[9] T: Nietzsche had at least two strokes following his collapse in Turin, and he died (aged 55) from pneumonia 19 months after falling at the horse’s feet. Michel Foucault, 20th-Century philosopher, died of complications from AIDS in 1984 (aged 57) after admitting to rampant unprotected sexual encounters with men in San Francisco and elsewhere in the early 1980s.

[10] The Gay Science: 41.

[11] T: In early winter 2019 I moved to such a spot. Now, after a few months next to the train tracks, I feel a Dionysian urge to destroy the trains and smother their hellish screams that cannot be escaped at any hour. Lying awake in the darkness I calculate the men or women responsible for the blaring horns and I design the most violent stratagems upon their very lives.

[12] Human, All Too Human: 113.

[13] Nietzsche, Friedrich, Anti-Education. Trans. by Searls, Damion. New York Review Books, New York, 2016: 54.

[14] Thus Spoke Zarathustra: 25.

[15] Anti-Education: 14.

[16] Thus Spoke Zarathustra: 82.

[17] The Gay Science: 65.

[18] The Gay Science: 182.

[19] fanatic: a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause. New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press, 2010.

[20] The Gay Science: 181.

Tim Parks on consciousness

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If the mind is marooned in the head, pulling levers and pushing buttons (alone or in a team) to tell the body what to do — then our knowledge of the outside world will always be suspect. How can I know a world if I’m not part of it, if I’m stuck in Plato’s cave unable to experience the reality without, if I’m seeing colors where there are no colors, smelling smells when, as Galileo would have it, there are no smells?[1]

  1. The popular and orthodox view [of consciousness]: It is produced by your brain and exists exclusively in your head. This is supported by almost all neuroscientists and many philosophers. Most textbooks give this view as proved.
  2. The minority enactivist view: Consciousness arises from our active engagement with the world and requires both subject and object to happen so that conscious experience is extended through the body and into the environment. This view is supported by some philosophers and a few neuroscientists.
  3. The minority Spread Mind view: Experience is made possible by the meeting of the perceptive system and the world, but actually located at the object perceived, identical with it even; in short, experience is the same thing as the object.[2]

The present orthodoxy is that there are black holes, but no smells. We are in the Platonic cave and need instruments of every kind to look at the higher reality outside, even though what we actually experience are only readings on instruments. We are trapped on one side of a Cartesian duality wondering what’s on the other, constructing a hypothetical ‘reality’ in figures, predictions and ideas.[3]

While the brain may be ‘responsible’ for the pain we feel in other parts of the body, it is apparently immune to pain itself. You don’t feel a scalpel cutting into it.[4]

Consciousness is all change, accumulation, dispersion, things that unexpectedly remain active, or repeat themselves, over years and years, a few words a teacher said at school, still very much in hearing range — things you thought had gone but suddenly come back — the smell of a certain red sauce they poured on ice cream in your infancy wafts by you fifty years later at a street corner [in a far different place] — and things you imaged would remain, must remain, they hurt so much or give so much pleasure, and yet are quite gone, or so it seems; in fact there must be many such things you don’t even know you’ve lost; you performed them once, then never again.[5]

[1] Parks, Tim. Out of My Head: On the Trail of Consciousness, New York Review of Books, New York, 2018: 32.

[2] Ibid, 129.

[3] Ibid, 156.

[4] Ibid, 207.

[5] Ibid, 267.