… nothing but forms becoming and crumbling into the fragments of a new becoming, without love or hate or any intelligible principle of change… nothing but commotion and the pure forms of commotion… not free, but a mote in the dark of absolute freedom. He did not move, he was a point in the ceaseless unconditioned generalization and passing away of line. Matrix of surds.
— Samuel Beckett, Murphy
I have variously described myself on these pages as a joyful pessimist, as the world’s most blessed agnostic, and as someone who is lost, scared and bewildered, adrift in a sea of irreconcilable cognitive dissonance. And I know, and sometimes sense, that there is no “me”, even though the compelling illusion that there is one continues to plague me.
I’ve also come to believe that no one is to blame for anything: that our apparent actions are entirely a product of our embodied and cultural conditioning.
None of this makes me particularly useful to others in this insane world, either in my actions, which are few and inadequate to make any difference to anything, or in my ideas and my writing, which must come across to readers as at best schizophrenic — hardly the lucid chronicle of civilization’s collapse that this blog’s masthead promises.
But then the apparent character Dave is just acting out his conditioning as well; he has no choice or control over what he apparently does, only over how he rationalizes his actions, and inactions, afterwards. Including these strange blog posts where that rationalization is most on display. And the ‘me’, the self behind that character is, as I’ve described it before, just an illusion, a dog barking in the stands at all the actors on stage playing their parts, distressed at the seeming inhumanity being played out and wondering why the others in the stands aren’t rushing the stage to correct the iniquities.
Theatre of the absurd. “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
Of course I am concerned, in the short run, about the attempt of nostalgic and fearful conservatives to seize power against the clear will of the majority, in many nations but especially the ‘exceptional’ one beyond my nation’s CoVid-closed southern border. And of course I am concerned, in the longer run, about ecological and economic and hence social and political and cultural — civilizational — collapse on a global scale.
Yet my seemingly growing equanimity in the face of these outrages and atrocities is not defeatist, or evidence of learned helplessness. Rather it seems to reflect a shift in point of view. I am in the stands of this play; I am not an actor, at least not beyond the act of showing up and watching it unfold. I’m told that in Shakespeare’s day it was common for the common folk to cheer and hiss as the play unfolded, where those with the more expensive seats and better breeding would be better behaved, watching quietly and more impassively, as they could afford to do. As my view of the stage seems to improve a bit with age, I am finding that I, too, am watching more comfortably, and more quietly.