Recalling My First (And Only) Novel

“One of these days”, I keep telling myself, “I’m gonna finish writing that novel”

But I don’t have patience for that shit. Or the attention span.

Yet after nearly two years of finishing an impressive first draft, I believe it would be interesting to revisit. I initially completed it and deliberately waited awhile until I would begin revisions. It was written over the course of two to three months in a fury of inspiration. I needed some time away from it. I needed to discover what it meant to me. Now, a couple of years removed from it, it almost slipped my mind.

But who the fuck am I kidding? I ain’t ever going to finish that thing. Nevertheless, looking it over for the first time in awhile, it reveals a lot about who I was.

The story is simple: a loser and drug abuser, Rod Townshend, in his early 20s gets caught up with an older woman and eventually ruins her son (and his girlfriend’s) life. Meanwhile, Rod also gets mixed up drunken and legendary local writer and messes around with some white trash crack whores.

In my mind, I was trying to create a Charles Bukowski-like adventure on the plains of east Oklahoma. I was trying to think of the shittiest place to put a novel, and that’s what I came up with.

The story itself doesn’t sound elaborate, but it explored the existential themes of escaping (or denying) the self that lies underneath…the problems we inherit…and the inescapable doom of becoming who we are. Rod Townshend was comfortable with his fate, until the antagonist…infamous writer Jack Schilling….pushes him to the brink. Rod temporarily escapes his self-imposed doom, only to later discover that Jack was right…he’s never going to change.

The paragraph above is better than anything that I wrote in that novel.

But there were two films that inspired this story, and neither of them should come as a surprise to anyone: The Last Temptation of Christ and Casino Royale. These films are (somewhat) thematically related.

Hear me out.

In The Last Temptation of Christ, we see Jesus struggle with his mission. He wants to serve God, yet he yearns to live a human life. Finally, when it comes time to sacrifice on the Cross, he is informed that he’s not the Messiah and is free to live his life. So Jesus lives on to old age, only to find out that it was HE that betrayed Judas by NOT dying on the Cross and his whole life after the Crucifixion was a lie. In a state of shock, Jesus repents then finds himself back on the cross where he blissfully shouts “It is accomplished!”.

In Casino Royale, James Bond doesn’t necessarily have the same internal struggle. Yet when he meets Vesper Lynd, he becomes willing to put aside his ass-kicking, boozing, and womanizing ways to be with her. After being brutally tortured, Vesper helps nurture Bond back to health and he later resigns from the Secret Service to travel around the world with his love. Later, he finds out it was all a betrayal. Finally, Bond shoots down the man who set him up, where he looks into the camera and says “My name is Bond, James Bond.”

Both films have a strange detour in the last act. After coming off the cross, Jesus is seen marrying Mary Magdalene, having children, and growing to old age. Meanwhile, Bond is seen in a sickly manner and later admits to loving a woman…which was something that wasn’t seen since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. These scenes feel out of place in both films, and perhaps deliberately so. Both characters are living a life that they’ve imagined for themselves, only to find out that it’s all a lie.

In the end, however, order is restored. Jesus fulfills His mission to become Savior for all humanity, and Bond becomes the classic character that we all know and love. Nothing changes for the audience…their hero still saves the day. But such heroics come at a deep personal cost….no matter what, Jesus Christ HAS to be the Savior, and James Bond HAS to be an alcoholic, womanizing secret agent. They can’t escape who they are.

Rod Townshend is presented with the same dilemma.

He’s a boozing, lazy, piece of shit. He brings out the worst in people. Perhaps Rod doesn’t intentionally mean to be this way, he just IS. And none of this is lost on Jack Schilling who, like Rod, has the same self-destructive tendencies. But unlike Rod, Jack is happy with this role. He THRIVES in it.

After a series of unfortunate events, Rod escapes Jack and the destruction he left behind…only to discover the life he THOUGHT he wanted. Yet in the end, people are doomed to be who they are, and it all becomes a lie. Jack was right about Rod the whole time…he’s a wrecking ball on other’s emotions.

My life was somewhat coming up by the seams at this time. I believe my first go-around with AA occurred shortly after completing the draft. Things were still normal however…I completed my graduate degree a few months earlier and I was steadily climbing the ladder. But I knew I had a drinking problem.

Did I believe that I was Rod Townshend?

I might’ve been able to check all the marks of a normal person…an education, a marriage, a career….but was all that not real? Am I really just a lazy alcoholic living a false life?

It all came crumbling down a few months ago. I was exposed for who I was…but not in the way you might think. I was exposed as an alcoholic, but I also found out what was important to me. The bars, the booze…that was the façade. Rod Townshend was the false life I was living.

I don’t know if that makes sense.

But I’m glad that I rediscovered “Untitled4” or whatever it was called. I probably won’t ever finish the book, but it does leave me curious….is that end of Rod Townshend?

 

 

Dirty 30: A Chance to Do Things Different

If you’ve been missing my daily posts (which you haven’t), then my apologies. I needed a break.

I’ve been writing a breakneck pace for a little over a year. Once when the dog days of summer hit, I had nothing left in the tank.

It’s been refreshing actually. For awhile, not a day went by where I had to worry about what I was going to write. I had to see philosophy in everything. Do you know what a pain in the ass that is?

So I’ve been letting my mind just…wonder. About anything, really. Philosophy has no longer become a burden; or a chore that required me to stretch the limits of my intellect.

Honestly, I don’t even know how I became interested in it to begin with. A year and a half ago, I couldn’t tell you shit about Kant’s Transcendental Idealism or Marxist Dialectical Materialism, or Hobbes’ state of nature….nothing. Mind you, I still know nothing, but somehow I know a lot more than I did. And no one told me to learn any of it. It just sort of happened.

And now I’m burned out.

But I spent a ridiculous amount of time just thinking about how to live rather than just LIVING. So much energy was dedicated to learning about being a human that I completely forgot that I was a human! And I’ve said more than once: “forget about the pursuit of happiness, and just be happy!”

Seems simple enough, yet I never followed that advice. I was searching for happiness within my writing…within the words of philosophers of old. I learned a lot. Yet I still came up empty.

What could have caused such a void to begin with? And why was there such an urgency with my writing?

I have avoided answering those questions. But the truth is a familiar one: I was dreading turning 30.

Now I promised myself that I wouldn’t write about my upcoming 30th birthday. It’s all horseshit and no one cares anyway. It happens to everyone that lives for thirty years or more. Yet here I am.

And it’s horseshit because it’s meaningless. In theory, at least. We give so much weight to youth that we forget that it’s all a lie. Just admit it to yourself….being 20 sucked. You were poor, you couldn’t get laid, and you were probably an asshole (at least I was). Not that this experience is universal, but for the vast majority of us, being in our teens and twenties was not a pleasant experience…that is if you’re honest with yourself.

Were there some perks? Of course. I can’t think of any because I’m much more athletic, better looking, wealthier, smarter, and I get laid regularly (because I’m married). But for one reason or another, many people feel that those were the best years of their lives.

And it’s killing them.

Even if it were true, why continue to believe that your best days are behind you? Seems like that would be a pretty shitty way to live your life. I believe that it was the great Charles Bukowski (who didn’t find success in life in his late forties) that said “I’m only getting better.” Where he said that, I don’t know. And he might not have even said that, but it doesn’t matter….it was true of him and that’s the right attitude we should adopt.

Yet, the older we get, there becomes a greater sense of loss. But loss of what? Of youth?

So what?

But our youth becomes the measuring stick for how we live the rest our lives. We live within the shadow of our former selves. Obviously this is a (mostly nonsensical) problem.

If you’ve been following this blog at all, then you’ve probably come across the term static identity. Or where we conceive ourselves as being the same person until our deaths. We don’t think of ourselves as changing beings. Therefore, the older we get, we feel ourselves moving farther away from our “prime”…where we physically deteriorate, become set in our ways, and our personalities and general outlook become unmovable. Rather than seeing the self as water within a stream, it becomes more like stale bread that grows harder with each passing year.

This is why there’s a sense of loss the older we get. We don’t feel fresh. We’re less malleable. We’re no longer easily impressed upon. We are no longer in our “prime”.

I find it a mistake to keep living our lives the same way we’ve always lived it. People live in the same towns. Have the same friends. Read the same books. Watch the same shows. And give absolutely no thought to living in any other way.

Perhaps it’s out of fear. Fear of how others might think if we suddenly changed. Or perhaps it’s just laziness. The way that we have lived works for us, and can’t envision any other way.

I don’t know.

One of my biggest fears is doing the same shit I was doing when I was 20. Or attempting to recapture the “glory days”. I remember being 20. There were no glory days. There’s nothing to “recapture”.

I don’t know how many days I have in front of me, but I know how many are behind me. And I don’t want those days to be my best. I’d rather keep searching for better.

I took a break from writing because I needed a new voice. For the time being, I feel that I have taken the typical “academic” approach to philosophy as far as I can take it. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said by better philosophers.

In other words, I can’t keep writing about the same things I have always written about. It’s time to move on.

Don’t get me wrong though….I still plan on discussing philosophy. I mean, shit, this is a philosophy blog after all.

But I can’t be confined to what OTHER philosophers and thinkers said. This isn’t fucking college. I can write about whatever I want. But I need to view the world in a different light. No one gives a shit if certain views don’t conform to my “neo-Kantian” perspective. That’s old news.

I don’t fear turning 30. I no longer see it as a “loss of being in my 20s”. Fuck that. But it’s a chance to turn into something different. 

The End of Philosophy

I haven’t written anything in a week. And truthfully, there hasn’t been much to say.

I know that there are studies out there that discuss pornography’s ill-effect on the human mind (not that I have anything against pornography, by the way). But I wonder if there’s a study that discusses frequent reading/watching of cheap political punditry. Wouldn’t that have some damaging effect on reasoning and creativity? To me, that shit is just as toxic as pornography.

And I went on a bender, where I was listening to politically-charged podcasts ranging from Chapo Trap House to the Glenn Beck Program. And it ended up zapping away any sort of creative or critical thinking. In my opinion, cheap punditry is worse than pornography, and even DRUGS. It causes us to view the world in a narrow light, and instead of getting a better insight into the issues, we become LESS informed. So the next time a friend asks if you read or watch Breitbart, Huffington Post, Salon, Fox News, etc. JUST SAY NO.

It makes me sad really….that the way most of us become informed about events in the world is through cheap outlets. I know that it’s difficult to construct a thorough and unbiased piece about an event. After all, the media has to keep the people’s attention somehow. But you know what? I don’t give a shit. That’s just a lazy excuse. We should be more concerned with the TRUTH rather than reading any sort of agenda-conforming puff piece. Have higher standards for yourself!

But anyways, as I’ve discussed before, this shit literally makes me ill. Mentally and physically. So after that bender, I needed to clear my mind.

And honestly, as stupid as this sounds, at one point I though that I said everything that needed to be said about philosophy. Between My Life With Kant and this blog, I believed, shit you not, that I laid out my philosophical framework and that there was nothing more that I could deliver. So we might as well pack up our bags and close up shop because there is nothing left for philosophy to do….like I was Ludwig fucking Wittgenstein.

Clearly I ran into a wall. I believed that philosophy would reveal something to me….unlock a hidden side of myself and this universe…help me come to peace with the order of nature….SOMETHING….ANYTHING.

Instead it revealed the nothing that lies behind everything. Even myself. Behind the exterior, past my personality, all the way down into the darkest corners of my psyche….there lies nothing. All the things you see are facades, because the reality of nothing is far too terrifying to face.

Which brings us to a tragic question….is this the end of philosophy?

If not here, then where? When?

Now clearly this is just me being dramatic. Yet if we accept nothing, like it’s the gold at the end of the rainbow, what then are we chasing?

Perhaps this is a better description of what I’m going through: burn-out. I stated before that I’ve been attempting to write a post about Edmund Husserl for weeks now, but what’s the fucking point? There’s an academic sterility to many philosophers, particularly those in the 20th Century, I find. And this dryness nearly kills my interest.

Personally, I think philosophy should be struggled with. It’s best when it’s an art. Which is why it’s unfortunately true…the best artists and thinkers are CRAZY. And we just don’t have that sort of thing in modern times. There’s a few standouts, Slavoj Zizek being one, but has society progressed to the point where it’s too…..SAFE!

Now you might think that I’m a terrible person, but I include myself as one the people that I’m bitching about….so it’s okay….because I’m medicated for severe chronic depression. And many people that suffer this problem are medicated as well, particularly in our safe first-world society. We have access to therapy, doctors, support groups, and all kinds of shit that help us deal with these problems. And that’s great! Life has certainly gotten a lot better for those suffering mental ailments…..

…but it wasn’t always that way.

Nietzsche, Hemingway, and my personal favorite Charles Bukowski, all had demons that they wrestled with. If they have lived today, with all the advancements in medicine, would they have produced the same great works? Would they have traded in those demons for a shot at the ‘normal life’? I don’t know. But we have their works today, and it all came at a great price.

And our safe society too is coming at a price….at the cost of individual and artistic genius. Few, and even fewer in academia, are willing to rock the boat. No one wants to be labeled a ‘contrarian’. So we take to social media, because we want to conform to our friends, and become accepted into the mainstream…because it’s OTHER PEOPLE that determine our worth. So we don’t explore our own ideas, we just regurgitate what great thinkers before us said, never engaging with our own genius.

There are few independent thinkers left.

Philosophy has been a casualty in this new group-think. The social sciences are no longer discovering. The act of engaging philosophy has been relegated to arguing about how Kant, Plato, and others might argue about certain topics. Philosophy now only plays second-fiddle to other areas of study, no longer the behemoth it once was.

So we have seemingly ventured into a new era. An era where we must ask ourselves: “what more can philosophy present to us?”

Clearly I have a flair for the dramatics, as I really didn’t intend on discussing “the end of philosophy”. But as of recently, I have found it unsatisfying or incapable of engaging my imagination.

Perhaps I just don’t care about logic, or phenomenology, or epistemology, or “things-in-themselves” anymore. Yet I still ponder the…unponderable? Is that a word? Am I making sense?

Of course, if it were “ponderable” it wouldn’t be “unponderable”, but my intention is to stretch the limits of the mind. And I’m increasingly finding it difficult to explore that within typical philosophical literature.

I guess that would explain the “new theology” that I was writing about. In order to find this so-called “unponderable”, I have to reach into theology and religion. Not that I would call myself a “religious” person, I still consider myself a hardcore agnostic. BUT the only place I can find inspiration LATELY is through Gnosticism, Judaism, and early Christianity in general.

Why?

I haven’t figured that out yet.

But this nothing that I feel predicatbly leaves a void. I didn’t know where else to go with it. Perhaps this spiritual path will lead nowhere, but that’s where I’ll be going anyway.