It is difficult for me to read philosophy. It is either pages upon pages of technical detail and nuance that amounts to some system which either makes sense or does not based on one’s aesthetic preferences, or it is one beautiful line which strikes me so powerfully that I must stand and absorb it. Reading and reading and reading is the greatest punishment for the restless soul. The restless soul, immature as it may be, must act upon its inspiration. The inspiration speaks for itself. It is real, despite its foundations.
Only the Christian incarnates absolute death and finds in it absolute meaning. Where is there hope in the world where someone’s skull can be bashed in? There is hope in the world where God Himself has his skull bashed in, his flesh crucified. This is the God who knows what it is to suffer. This is the God who without, reality would not be complete.
Life, I guess, is about moving on. An impossibility, as everything is infinitely rich and can be probed for infinite meaning or infinite illusions of meaning, but nevertheless it’s about moving on. Onto the next thing. That’s the character of reality that makes the least sense. How can we move on? To the next thing? To the beyond? Habit clings to us hard. Oh well. Even within habit, if we can find new ways to innovate, we’ve done our job. Big breaks are for those of immeasurable strength or no eye for nostalgia.
Who am I? I am a digger. I am the one who digs open the path, for others to follow. That’s all I am and all I’ll ever be. Maybe someday, I’ll have the courage to pick up a drill myself. (Gurren Lagann is the ur-myth of human exceptionalism, transcendence, and the will busting open the way to the stars) Not even the vault of Heaven, least of all the vault of Truth, should hold me back.
The brilliance of the moral themes of The Sopranos emerges most clearly in the scene where Tony Soprano murders Ralph Cifaretto. He believes Ralph killed a horse, a crime he never committed. A man who beat a stripper to death was finally put down for killing an animal. Tony Soprano loves ducks and horses, and will avenge them with moral furor, but the pain and suffering of human beings means little to him. He is a hypocrite, but the genius of the show is that any individual’s morality is about more than just that one character being a scumbag. Ralph Cifaretto was just an exaggeration of who everyone in Tony’s crew was, just like Tony’s crew is an exaggeration of what America is. Is there any more apt a portrait of modern America than death and moral hypocrisy right alongside breakfast and family values, with only cognitive dissonance preventing everyone from seeing themselves as moral frauds? Ralph kills a stripper but the only problem anyone sees with it is his disrespect for the club he killed her behind. No one sheds a tear over the loss of life. This is the genius of The Sopranos; its portrait of moral fraud in a specific context that is written and acted so well it becomes a universal story of power itself. It is that connection to the universal that makes it a legendary myth rather than just a show. It’s about a man who is evil and yet lovable, who no matter how many chances he gets cannot break his own cycle of fear, aggression, depression and destruction. And on it goes, this thing of ours…
I think, closest to the truth, is the analogy of the pirate (ISIS) and the emperor (the US). Yes, the pirate is despicable, but he is hanged for the same crimes that the emperor is hailed for. The pirate beheads, the emperor rains death from the sky. The emperor has more power, and has ravaged far more countries, and yet everyone only has moral indignation toward the pirate. The world is run by people who do not think, who have walled off their own actions from themselves and instead point only at the actions of others. ISIS operates this way, but so few Americans also think that their own country operates that way, even when only a few of its most murderous actions (the war in Iraq, in Vietnam and Cambodia, various coups) have created body counts that ISIS could only dream of creating. ISIS is a glimpse into the void, but so is the empire that cannot look at itself. I mean, what is ‘shock and awe’ but ISIS’ goal in creating terror? We are who we hate.
Continue reading This Time, I Speak Some Words About ISIS
The brilliance of The Sopranos always strikes me in waves. It’s a story that cannot be underestimated. Think of Vito Sapatafore, killed by all his closest friends for being gay. All along he was alone. The same is true for Christopher Moltisanti, who shortly after breaking his sobriety with a person he feels safe with, is mocked and belittled publicly by that person in front of all their laughing ‘friends’. Christ takes his wrath out on a TV writer he knows, shooting him in the head to let off steam, much in the same way he pummels his fiancee Adrianna. He beats her, cheats on her, and then when he thinks she has cheated on him he goes ape-shit, pummels her again and nearly kills Tony himself. Everyone in this show pretends to be so tough but they’re more sensitive than the PC crowd. A joke is nearly enough to start a mob war. A joke about a man’s sexuality is enough to get a glass smashed in his face. A woman belittling a capo’s manhood is enough for him to beat that woman to death. All these men are cowards with a massive chip on their shoulder. All of them are insecure children who use violence to cover up their profound feeling of being undermined. Those who live only for power become paranoid and insane. Meanwhile, side characters like Adrianna la Cerva swallow domestic abuse and lie after life after lie about everyone who gets whacked ending up in ‘witness protection’. She actually believes it all, and like the sounds of a train that permeate the inevitable tragedies of the series, she ends up murdered by a man who once talked on the gossip vine about her apparently giving Tony a blowjob. Everyone is disposable. Pussy dies, Jackie dies, Christopher dies, Silvio dies, Bobby dies, and what? There is no end. it keeps on rolling, ‘this thing of ours’. No matter who gets killed, no matter what lie has to be swallowed, power pushes itself toward its own ends.
Continue reading Tony Soprano ate my Lunch (Spoilers)
The genius of The Sopranos (I know, again) is its deeply psychological writing. The quality of its portrayal of each characters’ psyche is the one thing that puts it above all other shows. It shows both the aggressive, violent destroyer and the screaming, terrified baby inside us all, and it shows that both these personas come from the same root. The racism and the anxiety of Tony Soprano, for example, are intrinsically linked. Immediately after telling one of Meadow’s black friends to ‘stay with his own’, Tony eats some turkey slices and has a panic attack. He acts like an invulnerable man in control, and then he loses grip on his own consciousness. The violence is an act to hide from the fear. His aggression and prejudices are all just things he has made to distract him from himself. Tony is petrified of losing his power, his muscles, his respect, everything, and the only way he avoids paralysis is by violently lashing out and asserting his power. This is also illustrated when he ends up in a bout of paranoia over post-9/11 terror threats, and resolves his fear by pummeling Georgie with a phone. Again, it is illustrated after he gets out of his coma, and fearing that he has lost some of his stature, pummels his driver unprovoked in front of everybody. Then he goes and throws up in the bathroom. It’s like on some level he knows what he is, and he can’t handle it, but he always manages to avoid that relentless truth. Hence the full lyrics of the opening song: “Last night you was flying but today you’re so low” and “Don’t you wish you didn’t function/Don’t you wish you didn’t think/Beyond the next paycheck and the next little drink”. It’s this kind of complete portrayal of a self-hating lizard brain that makes the series a masterpiece.
One other Sopranos thing – they’re all gossip queens. Ralph almost dies over a joke but the entire crew had made jokes far worse on the same subject all throughout the series. It’s all about what you can get away with. There really are no rules. Just as with all systems of power.
I am a creature of habit, and it is novelty, above all, that this universe seeks to produce.
The Fullmetal Alchemist movie has a mature stroke of genius, where in an alternate universe a beloved character from the series is actually a Nazi. He is a great father, beloved friend, a wonderful man, but he serves in the army of the Third Reich, a fan favorite. He’s a loyal soldier – it was just the wrong place and time for his loyalty. Gurren Lagann also has a moment like this, where at the end of the series a scene acknowledging all who died along the way also includes the villains. The villains were teachers, in the end, necessary forces who helped the protagonist to grow. They could have been stomped out and dismissed as the fascists they were, but instead, they were acknowledged as one more turn in the evolution of the drill. This is another great stroke of maturity and genius.
Continue reading Several Days’ Disparate Inspirations
It would be amusing to see conventionally-minded people, these New York Times kind of people, explain what is ethically wrong with the mafia. What is wrong with what they are doing? They are acting in the service of their own interests, regardless of who gets killed along the way. Is this not the credo of all civilization? To pursue the interests of the state for the benefit of the powerful people within that state? So what’s wrong with the mafia?
‘They break the law!’ by doing the same exact thing that the government is praised for. Calculating interests, then doing whatever needs to be done. Is there something intrinsically moral about when the state does it?
Either way, the mafia just does what we do. We should praise their victories and condemn their errors. Vietnams, Iraqs, those kinds of ‘failures’ that result in the deaths of millions of people and yet are nothing more than failures of strategy, not morality. Then we go cry about how immoral Vladimir Putin is.
In the mafia, we can condemn a botched murder job and praise a successful one.
When power serves us, it’s good. When it doesn’t, it’s bad. When we win, it was justified. When we lose, the problem is that we lost. The strategy of cold calculation, of evil, and of victory!
Time is the elusive nature of the world, the thing that makes it possible for something to both be and not be. The tree bears fruit, and it is dead. The ground is covered in snow, and it is covered in shimmering grass. Both can be true, but time decides which is true at the moment. What is a moment? The elusive nature of the world.
Continue reading “Time”
Our prisons are filled with people who committed no violent crime. Drugs. Addiction. We punish the indulgence of these patterns. We jail everyone. A prison state, a police state. But where is prosecution for those who kill thousands under the angelic wing of the state? God is immune from crime. God can commit no crime. God’s murder is infallible, man’s murder warrants Hell. The self-righteous accusers, the archangels with swords raised – when will their reckoning come?
Continue reading “Law”
Why do we fear reality? Because reality, for the vast majority of people on this planet, is suffering. There is no armada of good, no army of heroes dedicated to righting the world or making it safe from fire and death. Good, where it does exist, is often punished and marginalized. This is a world where heroes die miserable and anonymous, and a truly villainous ethic, justified murder and justified poverty, operates the levers of power. Who could face such a thing? Surely, no one can internalize it. The world is not as it should be, and it is this tension that creates stress, fear, depression, nihilism and finally the energy that is born in darkness to transcend it all.
Continue reading “Reality”