I lost my effing ipod last week. Curses! I've become basically dependent on it, and it seems strange to walk around without my own personal soundtrack constantly running. Without this constant distraction, however, I'm hearing lots of things I've forgotten about. The sound of a train car full of strangers, for example, all shuffling feet and throat clearing, everybody trying to discreetly surveille everyone else. The muffled roar of far away cars racing while I pace unlit streetscapes late at night. The sound of my own breath when I run. It's like people who work in a machine shop gradually tune out the sound of the machines: what have I tuned out?
That being said, I just bought another ipod today. It's nice to be reminded of all these processes I'm wont to forget about, but certain experiences can augmented (or even overpowered!) by music. It also helps for those times you don't want to be left alone with your thoughts, right?
Things keeping me from becoming unglued: Absu S/T, The Wrestler (brilliant!), Arckanum Antikosmos, Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale, Pilsener Urquelle and the Luis Felip Edwards Malbec I'd been cellaring for three years.
We are forgetful people. I think our feelings of rage at the creator and impotence in the face of what we feel to be massive injustice can largely be attributed to collectively letting our guard down. We forget. Marx called it alienation, and attributed it to the loss of creativity and identity through the processes of industrial capitalism. He was pretty close, I think, but I also believe it goes a little deeper.
We forget that on all sides, at all times, we are beset by forces, neither benign nor malign, that propel us towards unexpected and sometimes grievous misfortune. At best, it's what Camus referred to as the "gentle indifference of nature"; at worst, if we are to believe Werner Herzog, the unifying elements of the universe are chaos, hostility and murder. I try to believe the former more than the latter, although sometimes I'm not so convinced.
In a sense Marx was right; we all feel alienated, but to attribute this simply to the faceless toil of industrial capitalism is a little naive (this doesn't mean, however, that this system is totally off the hook). I think the feeling of impotence and futility against amorphous and implacable tragedy is fundamental to our existence. At all times are we being hastened towards our own ultimate misfortune, our own death, which is often without meaning and without poetry. And when we are smote by the heavy hand of disease, physical injury or personal loss, we feel this futility at its most potent. We glimpse the world for what it actually is for one cruel instant, and feel the strain of struggling against the current for the totality of our existence. We remember.
Of course, it's easier to forget. It's easier to invent a narrative that will make these things feel meaningful. But isn't that lying? It seems a bit much like setting ourselves up for dissapointment. I'm not saying we need to all turn into depressive nihilists, but I don't think we can stumble through our lives in the darkness of this forgetfulness. As much as possible, I think we need to saturate ourselves in the terrible knowledge of our fragility. It makes times like these a little more tolerable, but not completely so.