How Are you? You OK? You Alright?

If there’s one thing to be said about British Culture, it would be our faux-but-necessary exchange of greetings displayed as surface-level optimism masquerading the real pervading feelings of pessimism bubbling on the underside.

There are various ways to communicate different senses of faux-optimism and each different relative to the ‘true’ pessimism of each person. Yet nonetheless, every greetings exchange – once inspected – looks and feels like an inner repressive struggle to properly convey ones own ‘true’ sense of self.

One of course doesn’t really desire the answer to the question How Are you? in full except just an acknowledgement of the question posed in the first place. And usually, the acknowledgement takes the form of a mirror, reiterating the question posed onto us back to the questioner. Whats more, depending on the person, instead of ending the exchange with the acknowledgment of the question by way of saying I’m Fine, the original questioner might proceed to actually answer in full, what usually is never answered, to the How Are You?, effectively using his fellow people as a springboard or mirror to his own advantage.

Although asking How Are You? is a vague question with little intent on knowing the answer in full, and so usually means How Are You At This Very Moment In Time, the questioner acts as analyst in practice with hopes of better understand who they themselves are reflected in the eyes of others. No wonder such a question is consistently posed through out ones life as it takes quite literally ones entire life to figure out just how one is really, truly feeling. And it is this inability, acknowledged by all, that confines any answer to one of I’m Fine, OK, and Good etc. (Note: any or all answers are frequently positive masking true negative feelings that one realizes one is unable to fully expand in the conversation alone. Even extreme positive answers such as Great!, Amazing, I’m so Happy, are also not conveyed as any chance to fully expand on them are limited). Because of this inability to truly speaks ones mind in light of civility, customs and time, a paradox emerges whereby even expressing feelings of negative or extreme positive emotion are to be met negatively by others. As if either negativity or excessive positivity is a very un-British thing to display and ought to be repressed and hidden from view away from others in fear of catching it like a cold or becoming bitter and resentful of ones own inability to accurately express ones own positive feelings. Britishness, then, by these standards is a very grey, moderate, pragmatic and neutral disposition or attitude. Contrasted with America where having a shrink/therapist is commonplace, allowing for the ability to speak openly about ones emotions, in Britain it is virtually unheard of – it is what presumably family and friends and even strangers are for. The British people act as a communal therapy group.

Even if How Are You? allows for the flexibility of an answer, how might one respond to You OK?. What are the degrees of OK-ness that one can accurately convey? Similar to the inability of being able to adequately answer the complex How Are You? in any decent way we end up resorting to a simple I’m Fine, Thanks. You?. You OK? doesn’t allow for complexity nor for any chance of feelings of negativity – it is exclusively an exchange for people who are already feeling quite OK and therefore redundant as a question in the first place. Yet, as mentioned before, no answer is to really be met except for the acknowledgment of the exchanges of communication itself. In fact, You OK? has the subversive undertones of already presupposition that the other person is in fact not OK – Just as how you see a friend fall off a Bicycle and ask Are You OK? knowing full well that your friend has just literally fallen off a Bicycle and is anything but OK. Which is to say that the gesture of Are You OK? is really, “you are going to be OK”, “you will get through this momentary bad phase and come out of it triumphant”. Its the additional spirit of British Culture that everything in the end will all be alright. No wonder the British public took Bob Marley on board so well as “every little thing is gonna be alright!” is – like all great things British – an appropriated motto for our own country taken from another culture. And so, when you converge in the exchanges of OK’s, its not only a civil acknowledgement of each others existence, but that the acknowledgement is the consoling factor of letting yourself and others know that despite your repressive pessimism for life, everything is OK, we will all get through this together.

 

Thinking Horrifically – A Vicintiy of Horror

I think a lot about the horror and suffering of the world, from the minute and seemingly trivial up to the all-encompassing and overwhelming — Ironically, it is these two extreme ends on a horrific spectrum that we lost sight of. Too small and we disregard or deem unworthy of being named, such as losing money, falling over, being disorganized etc, and/or too big it seems to resist such a naming, such as ecological disaster, political corruption and even ones own future self.

The inability of seeing beyond the confines of a median horror out towards the periphery of inner-self and outer-life, what we name as the experience of horror is that which is – quite literally – in our very local vicinity. For instance, depending on the severity of injury, we regard and thus associate horror based on the length of impact such an injury has on our future – how it effects our ‘local’ foreseeable future self. Or, of being aware that we are in close proximity to an outside horror, such as stabbings in your neighborhood. Its because of this short-sightedness that it becomes much easier to care for these local horrors than it is too acknowledge the wars going on in other countries, the emotional anguish of strangers, or the deep depths of our own unconscious or future self (e.g. smoking), and finally the ultimate horror that will effect us all yet seemingly none is ecological disaster – a too grand of an object to contemplate and thus tackle oneself let alone think about. It is a horror so sever that it breaches its own boundaries as to escape the very confines of what can be considered terrifying.

This post is not about the horrors of the world as such, as it it a personal rumination on horror and how effectual thinking horrifically – that is, in terms of locality (a nearness to us) – can be useful to the way we think and act in this world.

                                                                   —————

As it ought to be known, I don’t like watching horror films – or more precisely, I find myself too easily susceptible to strong feelings of sadness that I reduce all interactions to a minimum. Nor any material that readily presents itself as content uneasy for light viewing, such as the bite-sized clips naughtily posted on obscure facebook pages of tortured animals, fights between people on derelict streets, the terror that overcomes individual people of all ages – unnecessary cries of toddlers, children that are lost, adults losing someone, old people forgetting themselves. Or even watching the news or listening to talks told reminiscently. Of course, one should be aware of the suffering of others as to allow empathy to flow, responsibility to take place and care to take action, but it is not that by not watching these videos I attempt at avoiding responsibility and effectively caring for, and building relations with, others. Or relieve myself of guilty feelings by pretending pain doesn’t exist.

But it is paradoxically the nature of ‘enjoying’ the experience of emerging oneself in horror (films) that nonetheless separates us from a real horror to contemplate and explore and tackle or live alongside. It is this that one invariably loses sight of the horror that occurs on base level, at the very local vicinity of day to day, moment to moment micro-actions that have and leads to much larger longer lasting consequences. All Horror is necessarily mediated through imagery, with each level of mediation taking us further and further away, presenting to us a caricature, ideal, type, etc., from the acute reality of horror one needs to not only take seriously, but acknowledge such contemplation of micro-horrors are worth taking seriously.

Horror is reassuring.

It seems oxymoronic to suggest Horror is reassuring. That it soothes us and prevents our being fearful and scared, consoling and comforting us by presenting to us that which we might most be fearful of, mediated through imagery/films/books. But it is this mediation between us and them, our reality and that reality, that allows us to displace or defer the sense of fear we feel by transcribing it onto a different reality altogether. Wherein, I’m not so much as scared by my reality as I am of/for yours. Intuitively, this suggests an added ability to empathize for a reality that is not our own, except, as I have previously remarked, this mediation or displacement between realities is what disables us from every actually coming to experience the true horrors of an others experience. Reassurance to me means a reminder of what goes on and what could go on. It sets itself up as a marker of terror, providing us the tools of how to feel and when to feel it like a big brother – a quality with which does exist in art.

Again, Horror is always necessarily mediated through some artistic medium with the goal of allowing us to acknowledge such horrors in the first place. But my problem is that mediation is only the beginning, what it misses or what we miss from it is the awareness to an all too true unseen reality of horror that are dismissed, ignored or unworthy based on the grandiloquence of Horror that mediates in the first place. Not unseen as undocumented, but as not worthy of contemplation because it doesn’t conform to any horrific ideals. If Ecological disaster strays from our imagination as not being horrific, so too does the other end of the spectrum with the minute and seemingly trivial. The exaggeration of Horror paradoxically only cares for the means in-between the two ends of sizable horrors – from the tiny to large. This is to say that another task for Horror is to really bring it back down to reality, not focus solely on the very local and instantaneous horror that can happen but on the slow undulating unsexy horror that exists from mental health to climate change.

Like the somewhat insincere attempt to console your friend in hopes of getting them to stop crying, avoiding any attempt to help aid the cause of the crying, conversely then, horror is the insincere friend who wants for you to only cry about the subjects for which horror deems worthy of contemplation – the very local, effectual, visceral and instantaneous and filmic horrors –  and not the real underlying and overlying problems.

When speaking about believing, Zizek says it is not that we don’t believe – when for instance we say “I Love You” –  but that we believe too much. It is not that we don’t believe in the effects of saying I Love You that by not saying it we save ourselves any quarrel or burden, but that we in fact believe in it too much and its effect. We believe “absolutely” in the power of saying I Love You that any deferral or reluctance for saying it doesn’t risk the inevitable consequences of doing so. And this in some ways, about belief, is what we do when we watch a horror film. One could happily say to themselves that what they are watching is not real, that the character of the killer clown or groups of zombies isn’t real, that we don’t believe in it. But, apart from believing literally in killer clowns and zombies themselves, we do in fact believe in a kind of ‘monster’, and as such, because we believe so absolutely, we reside ourselves to the comfort of watching these imagined monsters mediated via the screens of horror films as to not allow ourselves to fall trap to the real horror of our everyday reality. That horror films literally provide a caricature and face of a monster so deeply disturbing we would rather go outright an watch it, full frontal, – as if we were the ones in control of our own sense of being scared – than be witness and victim to the true horror of the faceless unknown that is not meditated but totally real and in out periphery. We believe in monsters so much as to only confront them on our own terms. We create superstitions as to make them real, relieving us of the doubt that we don’t know of what were most afraid of (Yet how can we be scared of that which we don’t know we’re scared of?). One could say that, calling mummy or daddy to check underneath your bed at night, or in the wardrobe, is a way of creating for yourself an image of an monster that which you don’t actually believe, but nonetheless are still frightened of as the feeling of being scared itself has to be pointed towards something, yet this something is always in a local vicinity to one self as that which is outside our own reality can be quite easily dismissed. The parent then is the mediation between the child and the monster, for when the parent says nothing’s there, you continue to sleep, except that its not being there is really not a sign of its non-existence as it is more a process of being scared through something (the parent), of confronting through someone, as to alleviate any feeling of personal horror. As such, a mediation could thereby be seen as a horror for a spectacle that is quite literally dispelled and dissipated, dispersing and diluting the power of horror over its audience. Paradoxically, the child wants to prove its own disbelief. By getting its parent to check what the child already doesn’t believe is to confirm for the child that which doesn’t already exist. A parent confirms what you already believe, or not believe in. The imagination of the monster is as real for the child (and us) as the monster itself.

“Scratching an itch that doesn’t exist – thereby bringing it into existence” — Timothy Morton

This is what I mean when I say horror is reassuring. Media provides us with the scapegoat of reality, as we all know, as to not confront it head on. Of course one could say that horror films are a horrific reality in and of themselves, but I’m not talking about the realness of horror as I am the impracticality of mediation when it comes to understanding what is also really horrific – our everyday micro-actions and those action within – and contributing to – a far larger macro-horror (world). Taking cue from art, we need to quite literally give a face to the faceless monster, bring about its existence in out imagination as to dispel with it. In order to overcome the fear of Horror, what one needs is to think Horrifically.

Unkempt Thoughts — Act I

Among the few truly influential and attitude re-adjusting books I have read, E.M. Cioran’s debut book On The Heights of Despair (Written at age 22, similar to when I first read it, aged 21), is certainly one of them. Although this will not be a review of either the book or pessimism in general (although those will certainly feature in the near future), but a presentation of the unedited and unrefined notes scribbled within the empty spaces of the pages themselves – and in this way, such a direct and affected response to Cioran via these notes can be taken as a review itself, except not from any post-reading contemplation but an immediate reaction. Also, not every note made was necessarily a direct response to the text but an additional rumination using the framework with which I had indulged myself in through reading such a text.

On a side note, because I made just as many notes as did Cioran, I will make a few separate publications that allow for ease of digestion.


 

— I would hate to think that I am perfect, and I would hate to think that others think I think I am perfect. But one of the troubles of Being is that we cannot know whether we are deluding ourselves or not. Like anybody, I’d like to think I’m not deluding myself, and if I’m not, well then I’m pretty damn perfect if you ask me.

— If there are possible absolutes, we are not one of them. On the spectrum of all possible worlds, all possible words have failed because of us. We are the cause for their failure, a median on the spectrum of non-existence. How can you know of anything if living a reality is just being alive in a world of either absolute good or evil? Such lack of conscious comes from a world where you don’t know you are not. We are the truly pessimistic world because we know of a world wholly better than ours. A world that doesn’t exist and yet can never cease from existing. An impossible. The paradox of the worst kind of suffering is not enduring absolute suffering, the worst pain imaginable, even though such suffering goes unthought as one can never know of anything except pain, and thus wouldn’t know themselves to be enduring anything but living a life as if nothing else was known, but, with the taste of hope this world offers coupled with the sense of freedom from pain.

— This world can be described as: Life is the emergency we must attend to

— What’s more cynical, sadomasochistic, and ironic than trying to make something out of living knowing such horror?

— All great and revelatory ideas bore from pessimism, its the only reason we do anything. Become radical, think differently. Because we ignore, refuse and rebel against ourselves and the normalities of the world. We fight it. But all radicality must soon come to an end with its own inevitable collapse. Until we regress once more, indefinitely! A fight for and against ourselves!

— Life lived is nothing but contradictions, opposites and partial truths all places along a spectrum.

— How torturous sleep would be if the night went over in a blink of an eye. The nights begun and I’m already beginning to feel the pain.

— Teaching others to suffer is on the spectrum of criminality, facing its counterpart of the gruesomely and torturous knife crime. Slicing at the flesh exposing the innards. Stabbing, one would hope, by anything other than the rusty blunt blade, skewering, fragmenting, severing each vital organ as it jaggedly punctures through. Wishful thinking is hoping the blade remains inside us as to not reveal our absence and bleed out. To allow the metal in becoming as much apart of us as any other ligament. Its metal re-filling the gaps where flesh and self once was, only to be removed again leaving us with a physical and emotional hole, an emptiness in need of filling with life. We cannot teach suffering no more than we can teach knife crime or even suicide. We can only teach through the history of suffering, through acts and recitals. Suffering need not be voluntarily shown as it makes itself present anyhow. Teaching through noticing, of oneself and others. Connecting, relieving selfishness.

— What does one do when given money in a way that one is unable to return, to then find themselves having to return or owe the so called gift-giver in investments of small sums that may or may not equal the gift received for the rest of ones life? Just as how we are gifted life, forced into a world. Life gives us life. But unlike that of anything outside ourselves, we cannot return it. We cannot return to a place once before, to be unborn from life. And to commit suicide is to do oneself an injustice! We are thus left to live in obedience, sometimes slavery, towards nature giving back that which we never asked for.

— Should we care for the unborn? The wish to be born to fight the necessity of ever having been born! If only one had the option to be born. I don’t wish to be unborn, just unborn.

— I suffer at a greater intensity so others don’t have to. I feel it too, but it is the greatest of selfish acts one can do in feeling comfort knowing other feel a similar, if not greater, or even worse, suffering than our own. But it is through such selflessness that we wish to recreate what we have experienced, to also suffer at a greater intensity so others don’t have to, and so on, indefinitely, until we are all equally suffering and suffering equally.

— The sad paradox of anti-natalism is the hope that those who make the decision not to reproduce, ought to be the ones reproducing.

— Just look how disgustingly privileged I am, alive but never living. How selfish must I be to have a life others die for. I am deeply sorry. I feel a duty of care to live and carry on living the lives of all those who lost theirs.

— I don’t feel this emptiness so many others proclaim to feel. It is, in fact, a feeling of fullness, of nothing else being able to quench my first, feed my hunger, pleasure my appetites. It is in this sense that I am in fact empty of all things to come, all that I long for. I don’t wish to dine on what I once had, provisional pleasures. I have a fetish for the new, not the long lasting beauty but the ephemeral pretty. A longing to be able to turn myself back on and repeat a pleasure, forever fresh. For otherwise they turn sour and bitter, regurgitated.

— There’s no surprise the sad man sleeps throughout the day becoming restless at night. Sleep being a quasi-suicide, a trial of death. We cannot know of such people because they are no where to be seen. Away during the day in a dreamt up coma.