Legion. An amalgamated journal.

In suburban basements

A disjointed series of rebuttals

(The following was previously written as a response to a friend’s letter describing life as principally important in view of its intense, discrete, and small pleasures and displeasures. It is, in this regard, somewhat apropos to Mel’s post below.)

I once stumbled upon a thought that appealed to me very much. It is this: life is a great swath of ugliness patched at the seams by chinks of unlimited beauty. Like a pack-rat, I took this one away to a den and became very attached to it, entranced by its luster.

I have since disposed of it.

There is a great effort underway by all people everywhere to order their experiences from best to worst, to adorn their life with an apex of nice things to mute out the base of unpleasant things on which it is built. The insufferable nature of routine is tolerable only with the promise—even the fictitious promise—of some chance occurrence of enchantment. The glom of life, interminable and exhausting, must be consistently opposed by its self-made interruptions. By ‘precious specks of time’.

This seems to me to be a desperate attempt at quarantine where dilution is the more appropriate mitigation. I have spent the last few hours of my life in a suburban basement, taking laundry out of the washing-machine and putting it in the dryer, listening to idiocies dribble out of the television set, and feeling generally claustrophobic. The dullness of the operation is considerable, and I would much rather be down some untraversed back road. But I hesitate to discount the value of monotony. I do not look away from it as I wait for the next ‘moment of depth’. Instead, the quality of life which I am after is distilled into every possible moment, even those which are decidedly unpleasant. Rather than hold my breath for a quick inhalation sometime later, I am constantly breathing. Sometimes the air is foul, sometimes fresh. But it is all valuable in the same measure.

If I were to nominate the most unfairly-maligned character in literature, it would be Pangloss. What evidence against this world as the best of all possible ones? Many artists would include sharp pain as high-class an emotion as sharp love. I would extend the category to include even the dull senses. There is no need to forcibly hitch on to only the ‘pleasant and disturbing noises’. The ‘mundane and orderly’ are just as crucial to what makes the world at-large.

It is this at-large sense which is crucial to interpreting this integrated sense of the world. I find it best to treat all of experience as one indestructible whole. It does not consist of subunits but of a constant, uninterrupted stream of things to take in. In merging together experience like this (merging is not the correct word, as it was only falsely broken up to begin with), it so happens that the better ‘parts’ expand to fill the entire thing. The average of experience is nonzero.

A final thought: when I choose to wear my safety-belt, and the inveterate yahoo chooses not to wear his, who is it that gives the greater assault to his network of social control?

Garrett Dash Nelson

February 16th, 2008 at 3:03 pm

But perhaps you disagree

No responses so far

The room is, as yet, filled with smoke and apprehension.