Category: Feelings


A chat I had on the internet with a friend today prompted me to consider the implications of never being able to take a side.


 

ME: this is how i often feel re: politics
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XEyGhLVOXU

[Anthony Quinn as Auda in “Lawrence of Arabia” exclaiming that “I must find something honourable!”]

MY FRIEND: lol good luck

ME: it’s a hapless stumble. everywhere lies compromise and breeds conflict

and strangely enough, it keeps me naive

MY FRIEND: better than being a sullen curmudgeon I suppose

ME: and with clean hands, perhaps what I dislike about it most of all


By looking for the perfect route, I take none. By being afraid of mistakes, I take no chances. By accepting no one, I am not an exception; I walk a common path. Fear of being wrong leads to Being Wrong with Fear. Believing that there is some neat, perfect path to take saves me from taking any, hence I never become hardened to adversity or challenge, nor do I amass experiences that make me feel capable and strong. No, indecision is a complete lack of acceptance of material conditions; not of their existence or their rightness or wrongness (I know they exist and are extremely wrong), but of their urgency versus my ability to “handle” them. I let myself believe that I can take a lifetime to decide–about WHAT to do, WHOM to follow–when in reality no decision is being made, no moves, no changes, and the multitudes are suffering. I know the problems are immediate, but I act as though they are not. So I might as well believe they are not. That is the bourgeois practice of indecision, just as it is the practice of all forms of complicity: what is not resisted is assisted.

It has happened a few times, due to my desire to maintain a connection to the student activism movement. My statewide student association, New Jersey United Students, (and I still consider it mine, being one of the founding members) holds its monthly meeting at a different college each month, and this month it was held at Montclair State. I graduated in August 2013, and have found, in that almost-year, that all the old times come rushing back whenever I set foot, tire, or thought on that school. The amount of times I drove my Subaru Forester onto campus, music blasting (SRC, Floyd, or more recently, Excision), and paced about trying to decide whether to go to the gym or the radio station, where to find people I know or where to be alone, to do and to think extraordinary, earth-changing things….it feels like it must’ve numbered in the thousands.

Every calm sight, every building with that red Mexican roof and stucco walls, the smells in the hallways and elevators, the familiar faces of workers walking around, still doing their work, it coats my perspective with a dreamy glaze: remembrances of various Students for a Democratic Society meetings (and all the accompanying drama), Student Government meetings (and all the accompanying drama), other student organization meetings like MSA, NAACP, ICC…Board of Trustees meetings, meetings with professors, with friends, seeing fellow DJs at the radio station, doing my radio show, hanging out at Cafe Diem….events like rallies and candlelight vigils, the one or two times SDS held Tent State University, sitting at the literature tables, the times I stared at girls and once or twice got stared back at. Toting books around that had nothing to do with class, writing papers in the library at Umpteen in the morning, with a head so full of caffeine that it almost sprouted another brain. Running into friends walking or running around, working on their own myriad projects, doing the same urgent but cool things I was doing, seeing the same potential around them, the same fear disguised as hope disguised as fear.

If I stay on campus for too long these days, I tend to want to sit and stare out at what used to be my homeland, or my kingdom; at the very least, my world. I can feel it continuing to exist without me, continuing to spark young minds into action or submission, ideas built up and then destroyed, reinforced or countermanded, briefed or lectured. I can see the struggle in their eyes, only it is not yet the struggle for a world free from oppression; rather, it is just to get from one day to the next and to see a future unfolding within that step. It is just to see something of themselves in their actions, enough to be able to do them “for a living,” so they can avoid the terrible prospect of having to leave themselves behind and do something unpleasant for the rest of their lives.

When I stare, and see and feel what I lost through overcoming it, or completing it, there is a part of me that wants to be back immediately. Maybe I could take a graduate class or two, or try to get a job there. Then I would belong again, then I would be back where I belong. And then I think, “No, Mark, you’ve graduated, you’ve moved on, you’re doing other things, bigger things in the real world. There’s nothing wrong with staying in academia indefinitely, but you made a decision not to do that. You decided you wanted to be in ‘the real world.’ And now you have to live with that decision.” It’s sobering, but I am able to see the positive in it. I wanted to be a participant in reality, not an interlocutor to it, and that’s what I’m doing, slowly but surely.

We must “live with” every decision, whether to buy the winning lottery ticket, or to choose not to have children, or to leave college, or to marry the person we love. Some decisions are easy to live with, because they are so incontrovertible to us. They are almost non-decisions. If I buy that ticket and win a million bucks, or marry someone and am eternally happy, I am not likely to have difficulty with whether I made the right choice. But if I choose not to have children, and then find out later that I am no longer capable of having them, well…..That might be a harder decision to live with, to coexist with in a calm way, in a way that doesn’t bother me or keep me up at night, or compel me to try to find other decisions I could make that might help erase the poor outcomes of that one.

I somehow didn’t expect Montclair State to become this to me: a dreamy, out-of-time place so loaded with feelings, thoughts, and memories that it will never again be just a place to me. It is so filled with the remnants—wisps, traces—of what make me who I am today, just like the friends I made there. They met me as I was becoming the person I am, and grew with me. I guess that’s what makes college friends so special. When I talk to them of important things—things that revealed themselves to be important while I was in college—they understand. When I talk to them of history—which sometimes seems to extend only as far back as when I became a student there—they understand because they were there.

When I visit Montclair State nowadays, I’m right back there again, where I understood everything, and it makes my life as it is now harder to understand, makes it seem strange, foreign, frightening. That’s why I don’t think I should visit MSU too often; It makes me sad, like I want to be there all the time. One day, I might act on my impulse to go back there, and then all the versions of clarity, self-sufficiency, “adulthood” I’ve been working on would be replaced. With what? I don’t want to know. It’s too tempting. I must assume the past is over with, and behind me.

Watched some Bjork, Radiohead, Blur, Garbage, and some other goodies. They reminded me how life back then, for me, was so much simpler. I wasn’t thinking about Syria or Ukraine or South Sudan. Back then, thinking about Beck and how cool he was was enough. And I realized, watching it on a regular basis definitely fed into my later desires to be famous and cool too, whether with my various rock bands, or as a fiction author. I feel that I divested myself somewhat of those misguided motivations, that would have (had they succeeded) propelled me to a pillar-like position of support for a system I now know to be corrupt and wrong. If I had never studied ideology or feminism or anti-imperialism at Montclair State, or become disenchanted with the self-absorbed, honorless world of the publishing industry, I might still be grasping for some semblance of fame-as-itself, some outward recognition and validation, whether the labors for which I received that fame meant anything to me or not.

I continue down the hard path of wanting to do something that means something to me, that is important to me, fulfilling to me, that I “love,” and watching these old videos of old times, old dreams, obsolete and broken, when I drank the spoon-fed syrup of the outwardly disaffected but inwardly hopeful adolescent music fan, came swimming back towards me in a sad way. All I really want now is to do my job, not in the “do your job, earn your living, and the American Dream will come to you” kind of way, but I just want to do something well and help people by doing it. I have not done so in a long time, too long. I just want to be a good personal trainer, not to be a famous author or perform rock shows in bandshells in Denmark or at the Olympics. Or at least, I don’t have to do those things now.

The early 20s seem to be for having great, insane, self-forming times. The mid 20s seem to be for trying to recreate those early good times, and in some ways succeeding, in others failing. The late 20s and early 30s? It appears their purpose is to realize that the old times are gone. How does one react? By giving up and hanging the warmer moments of your life on well-placed pangs of nostalgia? “Make new memories,” say my instincts. How does one most often make new memories at age 31? Marriage, children, and then it’s over. But that’s not me. I don’t want to create another human being to contribute to the current meaning of my own life, nor do I feel it a great gift to create the conditions for reproducing these eventual doubts and fears in yet another maladjusted twit (myself being the first, of course). Bjork and Beck were raised by devil-may-care life-loving artists in the 60s and 70s, when things were “happening.” My children would be raised out of desperation in a time when everything sucks.

A downer attitude, I know, but it is mine to overcome. What kind of a world is it in which we bring people into existence BECAUSE that world is dark and sad? A world tailor-made for failure.

It is a tough thing, affecting some of us on the left and leading us to betrayal and “selling out”: whether to focus on the misery and discontent of the world—perhaps even extending to the question of whether life is truly worth living in such a world—or to ignore that “larger reality” picture and focus on our own, smaller, more manageable, more affectable world. In that smaller world, whatever is simpler, easier, whatever makes the means of living more accessible to us is what is right, or at least allows it to become that much more acceptable.

With a wide world view, one that focuses on all of the injustice and might even seek to correct it, and rejects all of its tools like patriarchy, gender binary, white privilege, rape culture, Islamophobia, and others, no amount of imperialism is acceptable: no sweatshop labor, no globalization, no corporatism, no finance capital, no collusion between elite classes for the enrichment of those classes to the financial detriment of everyone else. Also no imperialist war, no police state at home, no glamorization of international conflict or terrorism, no commoditization of rights of any kind (to be bought and sold), but the common ownership of such rights by the people.

But in what way is this struggle, save in the minds of its fighters who are few and far between? “A New World In Our Hearts,” is the name of one anarchist collective I have seen in New York. The idea of the struggle itself is invariably linked with ideology: communist, socialist, marxist, anarchist, whateverist. It is as though having a practical, pragmatic cause or quest in this world, that isn’t hugely dependent on complex and often old edifices, is dependent on accepting and indeed defending the status quo, and having no ideals that demand something fundamentally better. And to hold such ideas is to be “difficult.” To act on them can provoke all types of invective, not the last of which is “terrorist.”

Now let’s take a look at the smaller, more manageable, more “self-made” reality. All that matters is ahead of you, in theory, because society has been custom-made to produce those matters as life-goals: job, home, marriage, children, retirement.

All that you give up ideologically by focusing exclusively on the wide, pessimistic view is obversely included in this mode of living, the material and familial experiences that employment and marriage afford you: being a parent, having turkey-fueled holidays in the home, buying your first car, earning your first dollar, going to your first job interview, seeing your child go to her first job interview, an echo of seeing her off on her first day of school.

Does it make you a bad person to focus on this reality? This one is smaller, softer, more fulfilling (because the limits are tighter and more defined), “fitter, happier, more productive,” to quote Radiohead.

This reality is more conventional, and yet it feels self-manifested (“self-made”) because it seems so natural: raising biological children with a life-partner, raising them to be good and responsible citizens who contribute to society, to pass through the gates of society: preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, high school, college, employment, marriage, parenthood, promotion, retirement, death at a “ripe old age.” The always-present hope in any good parent: that the child will live better than I did, escaping, somehow, the raft of sacrifices I made, the ream of failures, of heartaches, of mistakes, and sail through life with 100% more boldness and success and ease.

“What’s wrong with wanting that?” anyone invested in this process, such as a parent or friend might say. There is a strange charm in it, to those of us who possess the privilege to witness it, let alone experience it. One such encounter:

I was sitting in Montclair, NJ, (where I lived from age 15 to age 26) eating falafel and drinking San Pellegrino in a churchyard where small children were playing, while church bells rang followed by a train whistle, and all of the myriad restaurants and cafe-type establishments were picking up that lunch buzz: the coffee was brewing, the french fries were sizzling, the air was hot, the sun was out. The little children waved to me and said hello before going back to their little children’s book on the green grass. lady stopped and asked me where she could get a good wrap. I replied, the little Greek place down the street. I sat fifteen minutes among the suburban bliss, and the church bells rang at the quarter of the hour.

Altogether, it was charming. And a little nauseating. These well-to-do people, drinking and eating and working and shopping at the Gap and voting Democrat, all while the CIA funds cannibal rebels in Syria and drones kill civilians in Yemen and Walmart sweatshops collapse in Bangladesh. And all of these people, including me, are benefiting from all of that, all of the benefits of imperialism and cultural hegemony and exploitation and murder.

It reminded me of how John Lennon was criticized for “quitting” activism and releasing “Double Fantasy” about obtaining domestic bliss. Other critics defended him, saying he’d done enough for the world and deserved his bit of happiness. I don’t know where I fall, but I understand both perspectives, I guess.

In the “small-reality” mode of living, where “family is everything,” the possibilities for material and familial experiences are almost endless: being a parent, having turkey-fueled holidays in the home, buying your first car, earning your first dollar, going to your first job interview. They may not seem like it, but all of these are largely bodily pleasures, since they are based on emotions. Nothing else is accomplished with them besides the event itself and the emotions that accompany it.

The small-reality view at least gives you a chance at these pleasures.Focusing on the wide, pessimistic view—where all you see is the negative and the misery and the injustice and try to fight it somehow—takes these chances away, and replaces them with the chance to see something positive done in your lifetime to affect the millions of oppressed people in the world. One legislative victory, for example, among the larger-reality type of person can mean the difference between eating and not eating for hundred, thousands, millions of people. Yet, there’s a good chance that you won’t see all that much, at least not what you REALLY want to see: revolution. The potentials of a smaller-reality viewpoint are a lot to give up when one considers that the means by which to accomplish them already seem to exist in reality, whereas fulfilling the larger-reality potentials require society to be nearly the exact opposite of what it is.

Plenty of left-leaning people celebrate Christmas, drink Coca-Cola, and have children. Even Che Guevara, and the singer from Agnostic Front, and Leon Trosky, and Joseph Stalin (for that matter). They all had kids. An anti-capitalist understanding tells us that having children is a means of perpetuating capitalism, because ultimately children are where labor comes from, and capitalism is based on a steady stream of cheap labor and needy consumers, and the more the merrier (which is why right-leaning types are against gay marriage, gayness in general, contraception/BC, et cetera, any sex that doesn’t produce children. They don’t know that’s why, but that’s why.)

I guess I don’t know. I have no plans to marry or have children. I may adopt. I just don’t want to bring another poor, frightened, doubtful, soul- and dream-crushed little white person into this world, one to whom I’ll pass all of my failings and fears and bodily defects. I’m no one special. My child won’t be anyone special. She or he won’t be “the greatest little guy/girl in the world,” or “an angel,” or any crap like that. She or he will just be a little starving zombie, raised again into an ideology of need and patriarchy. Blech. I say no.

But someday, what if I say yes? Will that make me a bad person? The average liberal on the street of Montclair might not be a bad person, because she or he doesn’t fully know better, hasn’t studied these things, never formed a “larger-reality” understanding (I assume; maybe they’re all sellouts too). But I have, and to turn on it and ignore it and forget it and lose it and “sell out”….that really would be inexcusable, and unforgivable.

Existence precedes essence. I have no escape. Self-affirmation must come in another form than the conventional. That’s all there is to it. I guess I’m a little scared. Of what? Failure, to fulfill an abstract, while the people around me have concrete goals, concrete purposes.

I guess I just need direction, and for a long time.

Hello Grandpa, this is your grandson Mark, aka Marco Polo. I hope you are feeling well; surgeries can’t keep us Sheedys down!

I’ve been a busy, yet productively self-absorbed young man the last several years. So many alternate ways of making a living attempted or at least semi-attempted: fiction author, musician, radio host, fashion model, voiceover artist, recording engineer, political activist. Each one bears some resemblance to the time I came down from my room in high school and told my family I would be very focused on buying model rockets for the next several years, possibly the rest of my life, never to look at or buy another model rocket after that day. Yet each interest stayed with me in part; I never quit, but moved on. Life is too full of options to quit or focus on any of them. Yet mastery of anything seems to deprive that thing of its luster. Perhaps that’s why I’ll never be a master of my own life, as much as I seem to want it, as much as society tells me it’s important. Were I to suddenly know what I was doing, why, how, and in what timeframe, and then suddenly to SUCCEED at that thing, and to continue on doing it and succeeding upon it and adding to it, my life would be deprived of its meaning, its freedom, its possibilities. So a multitude of ideas replaces the singular material reality, none worth more or less than another, any more than one aspect of my character is more important than another. They are all me. And when people ask me, “Who are you?” I can honestly reply, “The world, the great, wide, rich, world.” The Tolstoy, the Peirce, the Wollstonecraft, the Althusser, the bell hooks, the Orson Welles, the Lenny Bruce, the Kant, the Nietzsche, the Philip K. Dick, the Scorsese, the Marx, the Picasso, the Geoff Emerick, the Dworkin, the Frank Zane, the Baris Manco, the Huey Newton, the Plato, the Fanon, the Malcolm X, the Flaubert, the Rimbaud. All of these, and more.

And yet, who am I? An idea, or a human being? Society expects a person to “join the human race,” i.e. join “the world,” by relinquishing all of these non-realities and focusing on one thing. “Find your niche, get into it, do it for forty years, get to know the people involved in it, use it to get a salary to get what you want out of life, and be known to your peers as the person who did ‘that thing,’ who did it well, and who did it without fail.” I have a multitude of niches, I’ve gotten deep into all of them, I’ve done some of them for years now, I know many groups of people specific to each of them. But I’ve never made a salary for them. I’ve never gotten material things from them. I’m known to my peers as a passionate albeit scatterbrained character with not-great time management, yet one who passes easily for 24 despite being 30. I’ve ridden a long road leading nowhere, and I have only more ideas to show for it, more names to add to that list. No house, no wife, no money of my own, barely a sense of place or purpose, barely able to calm down.

But I would say that I would rather be cultivated than efficient, aged than light and fluffy. I would rather see the meaning of the words, of the events, of the times, than see only what they can get me. I have the great, great privilege of time to contemplate, to explore, to assess, and while the knowledge sometimes weighs me down and makes me feel inept and burdensome, I know deep inside that, with enough time and patience with myself, I can overcome that feeling of ineptitude and obtain balance, confidence and competence around MY LIFE ITSELF, not one or another trade, one or another niche, but around existence as it is. We are expected to know who we are too early, and unfulfilled passions lead to unfulfilled people. And the world is quite unfulfilled, and pissed off about it.

I hope you know that I attribute some of what I describe about myself and admire to you and to my mom’s side of the family. Society expects us to focus, and we Sheedys say, “NO.” Society expects us to move, and we stay put until we’re finished with our thought. Society expects us to seek “happiness,” when any rational analysis of life reveals that happiness is about as much life’s purpose as pollution is the purpose of air. It’s practically incidental, a much smaller part; extant, but hardly the totality. And I don’t think I like that kind of happiness, anyway.

Just so you know what I’ve been up to, in concrete terms, I’m graduating in August from Montclair State University with a Bachelor’s degree in English. I’ll either go into the field of personal fitness training, or, if things go the right way, paid student activism, which will involve agitating with student groups on campus for lower tuition. I’m a member of a socialist group called Socialist Action; leftist politics have made a huge impact on my way of thinking, both clarifying and complicating it, as any good doctrine should do. I’ll keep writing fiction, no matter which career path I enter; I aim to publish a novel in my lifetime.

I’m in a relationship with a young woman named Caitlin Rosen, who teaches at a Quaker private school for children with learning disabilities. She is a long-distance ocean swimmer; in June she’s competing in a swim comprised of two 8-mile “runs,” with no resting. She’s quite inspiring; Caitlin is a wonderful, sweet, talented, loving girl from a good family. We’ve been dating about 3 1/2 months now. I met her on OKCupid, which is an online dating website. Technology has its purposes.

Soon, I’ll be living with John and some of his friends. I also make hard rock music in a band called SYKA; I’ve now been playing drums for 22 years, which is somewhat incredible to me. I love to work out and lift weights (notice Frank Zane’s name above). I went vegetarian again in June or July last year for political and pro-animal reasons, having been a meat eater for the previous ten years.

This message is quite long so I’ll wrap it up here. I hope you’re feeling well and strong and that I manage to see you soon. I sincerely miss our Sheedy Christmases; my childhood was elevated by them. Even that one time I got totally shitfaced on wine at your Syosset house and made something of an ass of myself. Even that one. All the experiences, all the reflections…these are what life is. Not happiness. Fullness. And just enough to remain hungry.

Talk soon. With love, your grandson,
-Mark

Family of Oppressions

Do you feel satisfied with your life? Are you paying close enough attention? Do the things you have and hope to obtain in the future offer enough promise, or do you need more? Do you need to feel loved by someone who needs you, rather than waiting for appreciation from a world that couldn’t care less if you died?

Well then, do what we humans always do. Have children. How are you supposed to feel safe in this world of shitty healthcare and gutted Medicare if you know that no one else will be around to take care of you when you get old and gray? With your busy work schedule, how are you supposed to eat healthily, exercise, and stay off the couch? After a long day at work, nothing feels better than that bottle of Budweiser, that fresh new Jets game or hospital drama, and those old cushions stained with years of comfortable familiarity.

Yet when your spine bends inwards, your stomach grows ulcers, your liver turns into a piece of shoe leather, and your legs look like two broken sticks, who will be there to help you up? Help you to the bathroom? Help feed you bland food? After your busy work-day, that pays for the clothes on your back, the cable on your telly, the gas in your car, the lawn and chimney and rooms in your house or apartment, the Perdue Roaster in your fridge, you deserve a break, a time in your life to stop working, to stop thinking, feeling, fighting the inevitable collapse of your world around you, that forces you into a life of work for the purpose of things, items, stuff.

And what makes this break possible? The federal government? No. The obvious thing that, despite all these cyclically unfulfillable needs, will make sure that some aspect of your life has meaning, has resonance, and that all of your stuff and bodily functions will be duly taken care of, before and after you pass from this earth.

Children. The values of work, and possessions, will guide him or her or preferably them towards the wonderful places you have found yourself over the years: feelings of inadequacy, wanting more and not getting it, resentment towards your parents, all the betrayed intoxicating promises of “you can be whatever you want to be,” before the equivalently sobering mantra of “you won’t make any money with THAT major on your college degree” is shoved in your face like a deed on your future that someone else owns, not to mention respect for your elders, the same elders that told you the same things you’ll tell your own children in euphemism: “you were born to amuse me, for me to take care of, to add some meaning to my drab and unfulfilled life, to let me know what my children would look like and what kind of people they would be, to stand for some abstract promise of a future that I denied myself, and that will eventually be denied you, too, before I get old and need to be taken care of due to some stress-induced disease, the result of living a life where dreams rest safely in my youth, as yours will someday.”

Dreams, all of it, dreams. But children are real, solid things, with feelings and needs, and if you don’t tend to them, they will die. Not like the rest of the problems of this world: war, hunger, poverty, exploitation. These are but abstract issues, hardly real or solid, without inlet, without routes, without reconciliation to myself, for were I to address them, I would be forced to take responsibility for them. For these values—family, and possessions—these are the ways in which people like me ignore the suffering of the world, and focus our concerns on the “here and now,” the fulfillment of perceived needs, while the politicians and trillionaires create the conditions by which such misery and suffering are perpetuated. Yet I have no power, I have no voice except my vote….but my child will.

Ah-ha, not the power to confront, organize around, and defeat these conditions—that would take them away from me—but to be my way of feeling powerful, influential… he or she or preferably them will be shaped and molded by my “policies,” my “reforms,” to reproduce the same conditions that drove me rightly to act against my dreams and in my own material self-interest, which is a value that has never yet failed me. Perhaps one or two of my personal failings will be corrected, but in general, I will be important to this little tyke, loved, necessary, and not helpless or anonymous as this unaddressable world would have me be. He or she or them will be a mirror that can help me when I’m too weak to stand, too hungry to eat, too riddled with angst and unrest to even act civilly anymore, who will tend to me no matter what, and whose own dreams—needs, desires, impulses to address the world I know to be out of reach—can go by the wayside, while my house and car and things I’ve bought and held onto will all be dealt with, and “self-sacrifice” stands as the cardinal “family value,” while the real sacrifice is that of a world worth living in, where I don’t justify the starving and misery and death with my own sense of helplessness, where I don’t rise to the arrogance of a self-fulfilled prophecy, and wonder why those who suffer most hate me, and my child, and my definition of freedom.

Guilt

It’s impossible that a man with guilt can live up to his full potential. His life consists of so many aches, such persistent doubt, that each glimmer of his true purpose in life is undermined. He identifies himself with his guilt, diminishing the influence of his positive qualities over the direction of his thoughts. Every chance to judge himself as inadequate, untrustworthy, ill-equipped, is another chance for him to prove to himself that he is as bad as he knows he is.
Guilt darkens his decisions with the shadow of doubt; it confines his confidences to a Kantian lockbox, wherein the truth of the matter is sealed and beyond the scope of the knowable. He feels the only thing his concepts penetrate is himself, and that assessment is always the same: I know that I am bad. With that precept firmly implanted, he suspends all others and rejects creative evolution. What is there, he says, to know about me that I don’t know already?
Thus, guilt is a tyranny, crippling his sense of self-worth, of ability, for doing is not simply acting, engaging, or performing. To do is to invite occasions for more guilt, more condemnation and more disappointment from himself and others. And since he knows his kind is what’s wrong with the world, he can’t help but find within himself an ethical impulse to hinder his own movements, his own progress, for the sake of all mankind.
So, what man with guilt could truly fulfill his full potential? Any guilt at all, to any degree, hinders him to that degree. To the degree that he is hindered, society succeeds at advertising its myriad comforts—food, religion, family, alcohol, television, pharmaceuticals—to the same degree, for society knows that man’s own sense of inadequacy and inequity is the reason he needs anything.
Hence, guilt is necessary for society. Guilt—knowledge of failure—creates limits for success. A man is only limited by the degree to which he knows himself a failure, and to which he believes he could have a positive effect on the world. To him, life is a wafer made out of the unknown, whose eating combined with the mechanisms of his unfettered body guarantees the creation of something positive. The truly guiltless man eats hundreds of wafers a day.
Raw guilt is a spiritual famine. A starving spirit never reaches heaven, not even in death, for its tethered body is a weight, trudging on robotic legs through life only to collect dust, seeing its earthly tenure as a freak occurrence in the light of an otherwise perfect and benevolent Nature. His life consists of one prolonged failure and the neverending quest of self-escape.
Everything he does is based on the premise that he can’t succeed at anything because something bad in his past has predetermined his net effect on the world. With such implications come a dedication to the distinct categories of right and wrong, and an assumption of authority on them. On his own authority, he damns himself and condemns himself to a dissonant, detached existence that carries on like a prison sentence about which he can say nothing, and so he carries on in silence.
His dependence on his guilt for any semblance of certainty in his life is manifested most bluntly in the destruction of compassion. He takes to his comforts—food, religion, family, et cetera—and imbues into them all of the love he would have had for himself if he wasn’t completely self-hating, only to then destroy any solidarity between himself and the rest of the starving world. And all because he knows what’s right, and what’s wrong; he can’t let go of that knowledge. Because his life is series of nightmares, he sleeps well only after killing something else.
Meanwhile, the guiltless man sees himself as having been borne of his own will, and every action thusly thereafter.
The truly guiltless man moves across the earth like a bullet; he explodes, launches forward, and continues until he is met with a body whose mass exceeds his own. Nothing else can stop him. He ignores the power of societal strictures, moral and ethical implications; they have no bearing on his concept of success. Others of his kind are his peers but they are also nothing; friendship or enmity with them depend on whether they contribute to his zeal, detract from it, or have no effect.
People who have no effect are meaningless to him; he doesn’t even waste time with contempt. People who contribute to his zeal are potential friends but possible future adversaries, so he chooses wisely if at all. He remains most keenly aware of those people who detract from it, for they are the most important. If they also live without guilt, they live without scruples. The will to fulfill one’s full potential—the ultimate potential—must be unbound by any static moral code. Understanding that “the only constant is change,” is first prerequisite to true life without guilt (since guilt suggests a static moral principle). Hence, those who meet that prerequisite are the most, the only, danger to a guiltless man.
But in general he ignores all of them. His goals are self-defined and self-dependent; they have nothing to do with anyone else. He knows what he needs almost intuitively, or he obtains it through the necessary education. He uses connections, acquaintances, old friends, professors, and without guilt, his exploitation knows no bounds. The divestment of compassion is apparent in his case too, but it is, or it seems to be, borne of a lusty spirit, not an embitterment.
But is this man without guilt? Is he truly guiltless? Perhaps he swallowed the wafer, but only once. For the truly guiltless man ignores societal strictures; profit is not his measure of success, of fulfilled potential. Money is just another comfort, advertised to soothe the pain of guilt. What is the measure? Self-determination. The man himself knows, no one else.
Can a man live without guilt? Would an undisciplined child grow up to do great things? Perhaps, but he or she would possess an adversity, for guilt is also the spine of learning. Momentary, perhaps, but that guilt is not a spark; it is a scratch on the soul of a child. It keeps a boy from injuring another, or a girl from talking behind someone’s back. Guilt, then, is a taught (and taut) awareness of societal values.
Every lesson learned about what not to do is, in fact, a preserved and stored guilt. Like salted meat for the winter, salted guilt feeds one’s life in lieu of the other kind of food. The wafer feeds with purest life, life in the ideal, tasteless and hence encompassing all taste, sizelessly encompassing all appetites, an object of such pure self-awareness that the subject’s existence and essence precede neither one nor the other, but ARE one, for to exist without guilt is to self-define the essence indefinitely, not desultorily.
This presupposes that one desires such a level of self-determination. Fresh life may prove too rich. So the strips of guilt, sliced from the beast of Necessary Evil, salted, and hung to dry in the attic, suffice to feed the hungry soul that opts for directive over decision. One bite, and in any situation…suddenly, what to do becomes clear. What did mama tell you not to do? The opposite of that is the answer, recollected because you recollect the guilt you felt when she yelled at you, “No!”
Were it not for these necessary guilts, containing the gristle of social fiber, the souls who can’t stomach the wafer would starve, neither doing nor reacting, leading nor following. Perhaps it’s necessary, then, that we possess the guilt, for if all men lived up to their fullest potential, aside from an economic capacity—if all men had no fear, no pre-concern for societal norms and dictates—all men would be equal, or at least on equal footing, and in equality, how would we know who the winners are? How would we prevent anarchy and injury to innocent people? What would become of innocence in a world without guilt?
The answer? If we’re equal, you don’t have to worry.

Why do I do this to myself? I’m tempted to say, “Why do WE do this to OURSELVES,” but that would destroy the illusion that I’m the only person that has ever felt this way. I had a few great days, as though maybe she was out of there for a while, but it didn’t take long, didn’t take much to bring her back in. It’s a sad curiosity, and a dangerous one to heed: do I still miss her? Do I still yearn for her? Do I still ache? And the answer, being yes, sears and burns but is tempered with the ugly fact that “I knew that already,” just like I know it would hurt to look at the sun, to touch boiling water, to say something hurtful to someone I love. But it feels like fear to resist it, to dodge the breadth of its reach. Why fear a feeling? And yet, even though I knew that already, with each new hard-learned lesson, I never really retain the knowledge that I’m not facing a fear but rather embracing one: the fear of the truth. For until I can say, “She’s in my heart as an ache, and she’ll always be there,” I’ll always have this curiosity, nagging me to walk up once more to a hot stove, place my hand on it, and then pretend I didn’t know already that it was still hot.

I have anxiety

I’m having trouble knowing if I can take all of this. Life is just such a mess of conflicting views, ideas, possibilities, people. And the one person I want can’t be with me. I’m so undone by everything, I can’t even write well. People just seem to go about their lives, walking through, under a hot sun, the day passing steadily, and then the lights go out. And I’m stumbling by, daylight, daytime crumbling like the rest of the world, like my ability to handle it, to stand for it. Everything is a waste of time, my stomach and head feel like engines built for matter in mud. I want to lie down but my head rumbles, aches, and I sleep only to satisfy an ache. I can’t help it, I can’t handle it, I’m alone with my fears and irritations. I leave my band and lose my girl in the same instant, two times running, and again, everything is shown to be impermanent whether by my choosing or that of the world. I want something to be, and to remain being. I have nothing to go on, to build on, to leave or to return home to. My ears and eyes retreat rather than behold yet another sign that life is a troubled ass, waiting to be put down rather than move one more load of bullshit.