Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Nietzche on the Beach

"Given that external reality is a fiction, the writer's role is almost superfluous. He does not need to invent the fiction because it is already there."
J. G. Ballard

Recently, life was becoming metafictional again. It was bound to happen given the pile of read and reread novels steadily growing on my bedroom floor.

During the afternoons, I had taken to drinking steadily increasing amounts of coffee. I would be light-headed and slightly delirious by three o'clock in a state that I would imagine schizophrenics would suffer in the first day off of their medication. It was in this state that I would either reread novels that I had read ten years ago, or read new ones written by authors whose work I had read in twenty years ago in high school. This literary nostalgia was an attempt to break the ennui to which I had succumbed, which hampered any attempt at creativity recently.

I had begun reading one of the only novels by J. G. Ballard I found in Borders. The first time I had read his work was in high school. At that time, I had only read either cannons of literature assigned by an English teacher who blanched as my mention that "nunnery" in Hamlet was also a slang for whorehouse or straightforward genre fiction leaning toward space operas. I had not experienced life or literature enough to be able to explain why Ballard's works hit me so. Only later in life would I be able to explain the confluence of his simple, sharp language that served an unnerving view of modern society.

Two-thirds into the current novel, the protagonist had just been beaten by a group of men he recognized from the business park in which resided. "Entombed all day in their glass palaces, they relished the chance to break the heads of a few pimps and transvestites and impose the rule of the new corporate puritanism." Shortly thereafter, he witnessed the same men commit a violent breaking and entering in another neighborhood.

There is a fissure between the protagonist, who by no means is a saint, and the behavior he witnesses as he attempts to investigate the mass murder that had been committed by the previous resident of his home. A debauchery underneath the glittering modern houses of Cannes.

This is not to say that I have been ensconsed in any neighborhood intrigues, thrill assaults, or therapeutic sociopathy. Instead, I have begun to realize that there is a fissure between who I am and the daily wants of others. As I step back and examine my own motivations, I realized that much of tension in my own life springs from forcing myself to observe the debauchery of others, or perhaps more accurately, the underlying nihilism behind it. And yet, without these actions, life simply becomes the act empty act of killing second after second.

Monday, January 15, 2007

There There (Boney King of Nowhere)

"[O]xytocin is closely related to endorphins -- opiate-like brain chemicals -- and the agitation typically felt by lovers when they are separated from ones they adore may in part be due to their desire to push up their oxytocin level. Countless psychological studies have shown that people in the throes of this hormonal storm are more than usually divorced from reality[.] They are famously blind to the other's faults and often wildly over-optomistic about the future of the relationship. Looked at coldly, romantic love is a chemically induced form of madness[.]" Rita Carter, Mapping the Mind (76).

"Just 'cuz you feel it doesn't mean it's there." Radiohead, "There There (Boney King of Nowhere)

"It's all just fookin' chemicals." Begbie, Trainspotting

At the risk of sounding really L.A., I'll start out with a question my therapist has posed to me several times: What exactly is unrequited love?

Now, having been truly in love just once, I can replace "love" with "infatuation," "crush," "lust," or any other variant of affection/attraction, and it'll still be a valid question given that rejection sucks in any form. (And from my own perspective, it seems like a lot of people conflate those above concepts with love, but let's save that for another entry.)

At first, the question seems like a tautology--unrequited love is love that isn't requited. Duh. But if the question were so easily answered, there wouldn't be all those songs and books about lovelorn, and the amount of bloggers would probably drop by 80%. Why do humans sit there and pine away after folks who have, in no uncertain terms, say, "fuck off, I'm not interested"? Why do we inflict upon ourselves and others that wailing and gnashing, the self-pity, the crappy emo songs?

In any event, after being put in the spectator's seat for a while, and after getting some distance from the "Green-Eyed Debacle," I think I've come up with an answer. What is unrequited love? It's a neurosis.

One clinical definition of neurosis is the "poor ability to adapt to one's environment, an inability to change one's life patterns." Bit on the nose, isn't it? I mean, all that effort that goes into chasing and crying and sleepness nights even after you've been told "it ain't gonna happen" sure sounds like an inability to adapt to one's environment.

After being in the spectator's seat, and my dad's clumsy attempts to set me up on blind dates, I've come to see that unless there is some reciprocity, that search for attachment is like stapling your thumb, painful and rather pointless.

I know, this might be a long-winded way of saying, "There's more fish in the sea." But obviously, those cliches aren't that effective--you have to be rational for those cliches to work, and as oxytocin makes you anything but rational, cliches aren't of much use.

But when you realize that unrequited love comes down to a chemical imbalance, and when you're not the person currently experiencing it, you can put things in perspective. Well, at least I can, for now.

Call it passion, intense, or being just plain bugfuck, but I used to wear my emotions like a badge of honor. "Look at me, I'm a deep guy with deep emotions and something to say! Oh if they could only know the depth of my feelings, if only the universe were governed by the laws of desire!" Which is all fine and good if you're trying to write a drama, but kinda sucks in terms of living one.

Even when I knew the potential neurophsyiological underpinnings, I used to excuse it by the facile analogy to an alcoholic surgeon--he knows through his medical training that the alcohol has its effects by being able to cross the blood brain barrier, knows the damage it does to his liver, his mind, and yet it still doesn't stop him from shaking as he holds the scalpel or wanting another drink. It's a compulsion. And so, I knew all about the flood of oxytocin, the decrease in serotonin when it all went sour, and still I told myself if had meaning just to get me to the next bad choice.

But that analogy, other than being forced, is still flawed--that surgeon could get help and fucking stay away from the alcohol. And as for myself, I've come to realize that unrequited emotions have gotten me fuck all. With that realization, I cut those emotions--that skip in the heartbeat, that warm feeling from small things--as simply irrelevant if they aren't returned. That urge when looking in her eyes to lean in and believe that everything will be all right shall be severed and discarded unless she leans in too. It's all fookin' chemicals.

This isn't meant to be a bummer of a realization. Seriously, it's a step forward.

Anyway, if we're gonna run with at alcoholic surgeon analogy, I gotta go into detox, get my wits about me, and cleanse the system. This isn't a white flag, just a break. No looking unless looked at. No chasing unless chased. Ain't looking for anything more than friendship for now.

"There's always a siren
Singing you to shipwreck
(Don't reach out, don't reach out
Don't reach out, don't reach out)

Steer away from these rocks
We'd be a walking disaster
(Don't reach out, don't reach out
Don't reach out, don't reach out)"
--Radiohead, "There There (Boney King of Nowhere)"