nolongerinbetween

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After she died, for a month or two, I couldn’t look at her pictures. Every time I got a glimpse of her image, from the corner of my eye, it was so painful I thought my chest would explode. Then gradually that pain faded away and I was able to browse through the vast collection of pictures I took of her. I would look at her pictures and videos every night before going to bed with a sort of religious zeal. Now again, in the last weeks, I find myself incapable of looking at her. The pain of seeing her photos is for some strange reasons once again unbearable. It exceeds the threshold of safety so if I get to see a photo of her somehow I instantly feel the urge to protect myself. Not that I can escape her image entirely. If I close my eyes, she is always there, in front of my eyes, like painted on my inner eyelids.

*

The thought that there’s nothing left of her, that I will never see her again and that I will never be reunited with her fills me with despair. What’s the point of everything if we cannot secure the most important thing in life? Yes, I am capable of moving on and, in spite of suffering for her loss, of still enjoying life. I can carry on living a good life like I did so far. I can carry on with my interests. I can even buy into the idea that we are here to better ourselves, to learn, to experience and fulfill our potential. I can even try to achieve things people are usually proud of – I could write books, I could set up a movement within the evangelical faith, I could start finding a way to activate the political animal in me and fight our deplorable governments etc. But what’s the point of all that if the only thing that matters is beyond our reach or given to us only for a short while?  We need immortality to validate our struggle. We need immortality to gain relevance. We need immortality to save anything we do from pettiness, no matter how great it is. I cannot do it like most people, in complete blindness, building castles in the air. What’s the point to take life seriously if our love cannot be saved? What’s the point of loving in the first place if I cannot take that love with me in eternity? What’s the point of being saved if I am separated from the ones I love? What’s the point of doing anything if our loved ones are doomed to destruction and nothingness?

*

Magical thinking comes in many shapes and forms. One way is the irrational belief that if you think of something bad it won’t happen. The fact of thinking of it in itself, of considering that terrible outcome will prevent it from happening. Usually when something bad happens to us we are saying “I never thought this could happen to me”. The hardship comes as a total surprise. So if I had thought it could happen to me maybe I would have been spared. The trick then is to anticipate and consider the hardship and so to keep it away. All this magical thinking takes place on a subconscious level. It runs under your conscious radar. You know it’s silly and irrational but that won’t stop you from hoping to alter the course of an event by mere thinking. As if it’s enough to expose and uncover a plot to soften the blow of surprise and spoil its power. As if since you think of it first the gods can no longer throw it at you.

It goes without saying that it doesn’t work. I was always scared that she would develop a cancer of some sort. My fears, my anticipation, my constant thinking of such a terrible outcome didn’t do the trick. It happened regardless. You would think that the ordeal of living in fear of something would be enough. That you won’t have to go through the real thing. But life rejects clear patterns.

By the same token, you might think that once cancer screwed your life one time it won’t happen again. You might think that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. That it would be highly unlikely, let alone cruel, to come across the C-word again in your life. But like I said, life doesn’t follow patterns consistently. Every time you think you discovered a pattern and a rule, life will break free and betray them. Magical thinking falls short again. Lightning does strike twice in the same spot. If you don’t believe me ask CS Lewis. His life was shattered to pieces when his mum died of cancer when he was nine years old. You would think that the trauma of losing the person you love the most at such an early age due to cancer won’t strike again in the same way. Think again. Fifty years later cancer will shatter his life once more, taking away again the person he loved most, his wife this time. The dice our gods use must be loaded and tampered with. No wonder it was only then when his faith got on the brink of erosion. When something hits you hard you are not shielded from a second blow or another blow of a different sort. You would think that if you are already down you would be given a respite. But there’s no safe place from the cruelty of life, gods and people. When you are down and wounded expect nothing from mortals and immortals altogether. I should know better.

*

I feel like talking about her all the time. It’s as if the love for her is so overwhelming that it needs an outlet. This is one of the reasons I share my ramblings. I’m like an overflowing well that cannot be contained. I feel like stopping people on the street and tell them how beautiful she was and how blessed I was to have her in my life. I feel like cutting any discussion I have short and start talking about her instead. To hell with everything else. But I know it’s an impulse I need to control and that I cannot impose on people with personal things that cannot be easily passed on. In grief you go off to a solitary place that cannot be shared with everybody.

*

BoardingPass_MyNameOnMars2020 Tori

Today her name took off into outer space. Her name was written on a plate that will be carried hundreds of millions kilometres away from Earth. A seven month journey to Mars. I hope she will smile from beyond the stars seeing her name landed on the red planet. Maybe we are mere mortals, maybe we are just a speck of dust suspended in a sunbeam for a short while, maybe Keats is right and we are just “names written in the water“. If that is the case, her name on that plate on Mars will survive my death for a few hundred years as a mark in time, as a token of my endless love for her.

*

Even when I was close to God I have to admit that I never got to love Him more than I loved His creatures. Once in a while I came pretty close but never really went to the end with it. If jealousy would be one of His traits He would have all the reasons to strike me down. But I’m sure it’s not the case and He is pleased that at least I got to lose myself completely in the love for them. Maybe one day I will take the big leap. Half the journey is already done.

*

I was always pleased to learn that I share with CS Lewis this fascination with animals. When he was a kid he would spend most of his time in the Animal Land or Boxen, imaginary worlds he created with his brother, inhabited and run by adventurous odd creatures and fantastic talking animals. Since he was a kid until he died he was known as Jack. He hardly used his given name ever. Probably not too many would know or realize that he adopted the name of his dog Jacksie. When he was four years old his dog was killed by a car. He then took the name of his dog Jacksie and he would stubbornly answer to no other name. For the rest of his life. Talk about faithfulness.

*

When it comes to animals, mankind is split in two and is as polarized as ever. Half of humanity doesn’t understand the other half. Half of mankind would tell me bluntly “it’s just a cat” and that my grief is borderline pathological. Even on my side of humanity, the one that is into animals, some people see them as mere companions. They offer them shelter, food, protection and love. But they don’t see them as more than animals. It’s not that the bond they develop with them is somehow weaker. Not necessarily. It can be as strong as possible. But it matters though how you look at them. Taxonomy is important. I’m in a funny position since as a believer (albeit a terrible one) I had to reconcile evolutionism with creation so I ended up having a foot in both camps. I always had a sense of solidarity and brotherhood with them but in the last years it got deeper. To the point I can find humanity guilty of Specism. I do think we are a more evolved species as part of God’s plan but not that this entails we can rule over the other creatures. In this respect my belief and the Christian faith part ways. I could be accused of anthropomorphism, of attributing them humans traits and that I see in them more than I should. But I’m not sure that the criticism would hold. I don’t see them as people. It’s just that I could never ever escape the irrepressible thought, every time she looked at me, that there was SOMEONE in there. That behind those big eyes was not just a mere physical mechanism or a hollow shell. If we call that a person is open to debate. But that there’s somebody in there, in the same way my self is trapped in my body, I’m almost certain.

medeea-iancu

Poem de deschidere a cărții despre evaluarea vieții fetițelor și femeilor care trăiesc pe teritoriul României

Medeea Iancu

“Poem în care memorez toate modalitățile pentru a rămîne în / Viață; poem în care memorez spațiul în care sînt dusă cu/ Forța; poem în care memorez imaginea ierbii, în care memorez copacii/ Distorsionați de viteza mașinii; poem în care memorez forța brațelor care mă tîrăsc/ Pînă la/ Mașină; poem în care memorez numărul de înmatriculare al/ Mașinii; poem în care memorez mirosul din interiorul/ Mașinii; poem în care memorez mirosul bărbaților care mă/ Pipăie; poem în care memorez lumina înserării;/ poem în care memorez/ Indiferența trecătorilor; poem în care memorez lanul de/ Porumb; poem în care memorez plăcuțele de/ Circulație, poem în care memorez textura hainelor,/ Poem în care memorez zgomotul fermoarului deschis,/ Poem în care memorez duhoarea din corpul și gura/ Bărbaților; poem în care memorez unduirea verzui-cenușie a/ Frunzelor; poem în care memorez gesturile bărbatului care mă/ Apucă de/ Ceafă și-mi flutură hainele; poem în care memorez gestul în care dorește să mă/ Dea cu capul de/ Mașină; poem în care memorez țiuitul greierilor, poem în care memorez/ Pragul casei joase, poem în care memorez clinchetul țoiului de/ Țuică, poem în care memorez lumina pală a casei, poem în care caut orice modalitate de a rămîne în/ Viață;/ Poem în care memorez pașii polițiștilor; poem în care memorez vorbele/ Polițiștilor; poem în care buzele îmi/ Tremură; poem în care corpul nu mi se mișcă, poem în care respir,/ Respir, respir, respir,/ Respir, respir,/ Respir,/ Poem în care bătăile inimii mele acoperă țipătul meu;/ Poem în care memorez hărțuirea poliției; poem în care memorez amenințările/ Poliției; poem în care Dumitru Coarnă spune că „polițiștii din/ Caracal și-au făcut treaba ca la carte și/ au desfășurat activități/ corecte.”/ Poem în care toate viețile contează, dar mai ales ale bărbaților./ Poem în care bărbații se/ dezlănțuie;/ Poem în care bărbații sînt vizibili afectați;/ În care bărbații sînt nevoiți să-și dea demisia;/ În care bărbații sînt nevoiți să fie prezenți la locul faptei;/ În care bărbații se tem; în care bărbații se simt amenințați; în care bărbații sînt/ Revoltați;/ Poem în care viața fetițelor &/ Femeilor este importantă doar dacă ajunge știre de/ Ziar; în care moartea fetelor este importantă dacă poate fi folosită/ Politic. Poem în care am fost pe cale să fiu/ Alexandra. Poem în care am/ Fost la un pas de a deveni oase &/ Bijuterii. Poem în care am fost/ Nu putem localiza / Apelul, am/ Fost cum adică v-au/ Răpit? Vă/ Credeți/ În/ Filme?/ Dar/ Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor,/ Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că mă/ Prefac. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că mă/ Laud. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că/ Exagerez. Am scris ajutor și am țipat/ ajutor, dar mărturia bărbatului a fost/ Credibilă, nu a/ Mea. Am/ Scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar despre bărbat s-a spus că era om/ Cumsecade; am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar despre bărbat s-a spus că era/ Respectuos; am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar despre bărbat s-a spus că era/ Muncitor: am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar despre bărbat s-a spus că era familist/ Convins. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar despre bărbat s-a spus că i-am distrus/ Tinerețea. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar despre bărbat s-a spus că i-am distrus/ Reputația. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar despre bărbat s-a spus că a avut o/ Mică/ Scăpare. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar despre bărbat s-a spus că l-am/ Provocat. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar despre bărbat s-a spus că s-a/ Temut. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar despre bărbat s-a spus că era/ Respectabil. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că sînt/ Vulgară. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că nu este/ Creștinește. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că eu sînt de/ Vină. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că sînt exihibiționistă. Am/ Scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că mint./ Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că n-au mandat. Am scris ajutor și am/ Țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că nu au toate informațiile necesare. Am scris ajutor și am/ Țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că locul femeii este acasă. Am/ Scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că importantă este protecția/ Proprietății bărbatului. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus/ Gîndește-te la familia lui! Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că/ Mi-a plăcut să fiu penetrată. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că/ Mi-a plăcut să fiu bătută, am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că/ Merit să fiu/ Violată. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar preotul a spus că mi-a plăcut./ Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că toate viețile contează, dar/ Mai ales/ Ale/ Bărbaților. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus să mă gîndesc la confortul/ Bărbatului. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că violența făcută/ Asupra femeilor nu/ Există. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că fetițele și femeile nu/ Sînt violate, ci/ Consimt. Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar mi s-a spus că voi fi amendată./ Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar Poliția Romînă mi-a/ Spus că viața mea este/ „Caterincă.”/ Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar Poliția Română mi-a/ Spus că sînt curvă./ Am scris ajutor și am/ tipat ajutor, dar Poliția Română mi-a/ Spus că am lezat bărbații./ Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor,/ dar Poliția Română mi-a/ Spus că aveam timp să fug./ Am scris ajutor și am țipat ajutor, dar Poliția Română mi-a/ Spus că nu poate veni dacă nu am dovezi concrete./ Durata de lectură a acestui poem este de 45 de/ Secunde./ Durata de lectură a acestui poem este de un minut și 38 de/ Secunde./ Durata de lectură a acestui poem este de două minute și 20 de secunde./ Durata de lectură a acestui poem este de trei minute și 23 de/ Secunde. Durata de lectură a acestui poem este de patru minute și 23 de/ Secunde./ Milioane de femei ucise,/ Violate, tranșate de/ Bărbați./ Milioane de frigidere umplute de corpuri de/ Femei./ Milioane de fetițe și femei umplute de/ Sînge și vînătăi./ Întregul meu corp este împotriva violenței./ Întregul meu corp este împotriva atingerii nepermise./ Întregul meu corp este împotriva incompetenței Poliției./ Întregul meu corp este împotriva complicilor violenței./ Întregul meu corp este împotriva acceptării abuzului./ Întregul meu corp cere drepturile care i se cuvin,/ Întregul meu corp îți spune/ Oprește-te! / Oprește-te!/ Oprește-te!/ Întregul meu corp cere justiție./ Întregul meu corp este un manifest./ Coșmarurile mele sînt împotriva violenței./ Țipătul meu este împotriva violenței./ Titlul acestui poem este împotriva violenței./ Mîinile mele tastînd sînt împotriva violenței./ Furia mea este împotriva incompetenței Poliției./ Furia mea este împotriva ignoranței Poliției./ Poezia mea este împotriva violenței./ Toate metaforele mele sînt împotriva violenței./ Majusculele mele sînt împotriva violenței./ Poezia mea și corpul meu și sexul meu și sîngele meu sînt împotriva violenței.”

(Medeea Iancu – Delacroix este tabu: Amendamentele lirice,  Ed. frACTalia, 2019)

 

 

 

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“At the risk of being tediously pedantic, let’s consider one or two possible disanalogies between a fistfight and a political debate. To start with, the purpose of a debate is, presumably, to convince someone somewhere of something. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Of course, in a great many contexts your opponent won’t change his mind. Even in the context of casual arguments among friends, it’s rare for anyone to change his mind “in the room.” It’s very difficult in practice for most people to disentangle their egos from the positions they’re defending during a conversation, even a relatively calm one. (As anyone who’s ever been around philosophy professors and graduate students knows, even professional training in weighing the virtues of arguments doesn’t do all that much to cut down on this problem. The best you can usually hope for there is a grudging, “That’s an interesting point. I’ll have to think about it.”) It’s easy to draw extreme conclusions from this observation. I’ve heard many people who clearly thought they were being insightful saying that no one ever changes their mind because of an argument. This view is as silly and psychologically shallow as the mistake you’d be making by expecting an opponent to change their mind in the room. People do change their minds all the time, and arguments can and do play a role in this process, sometimes because they gradually gnaw at the back of your mind and sometimes because after enough time has passed that your ego isn’t bound up in some previously held position, you just realize to your own surprise that you now accept the contrary position for the very reasons that you dismissed when you first heard them.

(…) A conversion in the other direction would be just as unlikely for all the same psychologically obvious reasons. When you’re arguing with someone whose personal and professional worlds would be thrown into crisis if they came around to your point of view, or even just with your racist uncle who’s deeply emotionally invested in what he’s saying about immigration, convincing that person isn’t going to be a realistic goal. If there’s a worthwhile purpose to be served by engaging with them—and in the uncle case, there may not be—it’s to convince persuadable observers.

One way of doing this, if the observers are gullible enough to fall for it, is to just rattle off superficially plausible-sounding points so quickly that no one has time to stop and think about them. If this is your strategy, then the analogy between a point made in a debate as a punch thrown in a fistfight makes perfect sense. If an opponent has their guard down … you should keep hitting them. Otherwise, they might recover their equilibrium and hit you back! Again, this is the opposite of how you should act if you actually want to make sure that your argument is a good one and your conclusion is true. If you want that, you need to slow the hell down and think through possible objections.”

(Ben Burgis – Give them an argument. Logic for the left)

(Chapter II – Facts don’t care about your feelings: Ben Shapiro vs. David Hume)

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7ji8CWR

I don’t believe in reincarnation. But I wish I did and that she would come back as a bird to roam the sky freely and make up for the loss of her legs and for the misery of her end. To see her confined to a fixed place for months and to witness her transition from a playful being to a helpless paralytic was torture and painful beyond words. From the moment she realized she could no longer walk an expression of unmistakable desperation landed on her face that still haunts me to this very day. I hope she is running free now, roaming wild on hills covered in grass and meadows of flowers, exploring new skies and horizons. Heaven may be just a big delusion but one that for now keeps my sanity in check after the nightmare she went through. Run free my poor baby, run free…

*

In some cases of sexual assault the aftermath of a rape is more excruciating than the actual rape. It’s not that the rape in itself is not as worse as it gets it’s just that when rape happens you go numb to some extent, your psyche freezes, your mind shuts down so that you can cope with the horror and the indignity that your loss of freedom represents. But when your senses come back to life, when you reboot and your mental operating system is fully restored then the second lot of horror begins. You start to realize the full extent of what happened. The terrifying ordeal is replayed over and over in your head. Even though is a thing of the past rape is never over. Now you relive the rape at full alertness and the horror of it is presented to your mind in its whole significance.

The two-step process of dealing with a traumatic event is not unique. I find some similarities in the way some people process death and the loss of their loved ones. In many cases when someone close to you dies you go numb, you cannot grasp the extent of what has just happened as if things are not real and you switch to autopilot mode. And then after a while it hits you. You wake up. You get sober. No more sleepwalking. No more inertia. No more oblivion. No more anaesthetic rendered by your defensive psyche. The aftermath of someone’s death can be worse than their actual death impact. When someone has just died you cannot quite feel their absence. Their presence is so overwhelming after all. How can you accept they have disappeared when they are so still there? Your heart and your mind and the place where they lived is so full of them. But then after a couple of weeks their absence gains some weight and it hits you hard. You start to relive their agony and their death at full alertness. The numbness and the mild sedation that the shock rendered when their death took place are no longer there. Now the mourning begins.

While she was dying I didn’t have time to be angry and I didn’t allow myself to be perceptive about my own suffering. Her painful condition was my focus and the only thing that mattered to me. I was there to serve, to nurse her and ease her pain. Now that she has gone I can revisit her suffering and take it all in. Now I can be angry. Now I can rage about not being able to prevent that tumour from growing inside her and ultimately killing her. I can rage about not being able to protect her. I can rage about her final degradation. If at the time of her death everything seemed foggy and surreal to me, as if I was in a heavy dream and my pain somehow muddled, now in the aftermath of her death I am fully awake and alert. The rape of her agony and death can be carried out in my head with no anaesthetic.

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I’m not a morbid person despite my obsession over death. For decades I even couldn’t look at a dead body and I dreaded the thought of needing to attend a funeral. I don’t find death attractive. I am not drawn to death, to its mystery. I have no goth propensity. But the idea that we are mortal and that we are all actually DYING with every second that passes, fully ignoring the fact, was a constant obsession since I was a teenager. We live our life based on a psychological delusion, that we carry on forever, oblivious to death and the disconcerting truth that we are mortal creatures. There’s a defensive mechanism right in the center of our conscience that makes us fully ignore this unbearable truth so we can carry on living. As far as I am concerned this layer of protection never existed. The veil is torn and broken. The big elephant in the room exposed. I don’t understand how people go about their lives without thinking of death and living their life AS IF they are immortal. I am at a loss when I see their ruthless ambition, walking over dead bodies, as if those things matter in the least and they will be everlasting. The fact that thinking of death and our mortal condition is a pointless exercise since it doesn’t get you anywhere and doesn’t’ provide answers has some validity but is neither here nor there. At least it gives a better perspective of our life and of what’s really important.

*

When someone you don’t really know that well or who is not that close to you dies you think of their death as something terrible that happened to them. But when someone you love dies this simple perspective changes. You feel that their death happens to you. They are such a big part of your life that it’s something terrible that happens to you. You need to make an effort to overcome your solipsism and think of their death as something independent of you. Whenever I think of her death it takes a bit of effort to adjust my perspective and see it as her tragedy not mine, to feel outraged for her disaster not mine.

*

I don’t believe in a transactional God. The idea that I have to please God, to bribe Him with my deeds and with my acts of kindness as if He is a merchant or a clerk is preposterous to me. One of the reasons why I am a Christian (albeit an unworthy and unorthodox one) is because the concept of Grace breaks the transactional design that sits at the core of any religion. The eternal quid pro quo. In Grace you give and don’t expect anything in return. If you get something back, like gratitude, is great but it’s not necessarily part of the deal. I’m not saying that Christianity is not a transactional religion at all nor that because we are transactional creatures by nature we are evil. I’m saying that Christianity in Grace manages to transcend it. And that’s beautiful.

But if there’s any truth in the traditional imagery of religion with one balance pan gathering the good deeds and the other balance pan the wicked ones I know that, as unworthy as I am, I have at least one thing that I can put there when time will come, without being ashamed: my love for her. I might not have succeeded to love the people I came across the right way (even though I could dispute that) but I surely loved her the right way. I can’t boast about any achievements in my life for I always lacked social ambition  and I couldn’t care less about climbing the social ladder. But if we are in this life to experience love and learn how to love then I have at least one solid achievement: I love her more than I love myself. And that’s something. You might be surprised that some people have even less. If it’s not enough to be granted eternal redemption I hope at least that I can qualify for the Purgatory.

 

 

 

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Most people got the short end of the stick in the current lockdown. All of a sudden their world has been turned upside down and they are at a loss to figure out what to do with themselves. After a week or so the boredom is killing them and they fidget around like lunatics in an asylum. Like a fish out of water. I, on the other hand, am in the minority that got the better part of the bargain. Happily secluded from the follies and vanities of the beau monde I never get bored. What’s not to like? If you are an avid reader like me you thrive on solitude. Time for some classics I kept putting off for years. Huntington. Fukuyama. Mearsheimer. If you are an enthusiastic gamer then again seclusion is pure bliss. Nier Automata. Super Meat Boy. Nioh. Dark Souls. If you are a keen cinephile quarantine could be the best thing that happened to you. It’s high time you visited the complete collections you never got round to watching. Pasolini. Farhadi. Joon Ho. Almodovar. Coen. Dolan. You name it. So how not to love a lockdown? Less people on the streets, less ozone depletion in the skies and more time for you to get lost in the feudal Japan of Nioh. Let alone that as a smart-ass I have been already practising social distancing since I was a child so I am more than used to it. But at the same time I realize that being self-contained as much as is one of the most enviable traits in humans it’s also a bit scary. Only God is supposed to be genuinely self-sufficient. So I wonder if you can trespass on his territory without being punished. There’s a sense of paradoxical selfishness in not needing other people. “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Gen. 2:18) is a basic tenet of our faith after all. So while I don’t mind being an urban hermit who doesn’t get bored by himself, turning into a borderline sociopath is a different matter altogether. A balance needs to be struck. But until I find a solution I’ll put my mask and shield on and go kill some more monsters in the Yokai realm of Japan. Sayonara. Keep safe.

 

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( “Foreskin’s Lament” – Shalom Auslander – 2009, Picador )

When I was a child, my parents and teachers told me about a man in the sky who was very strong. They told me He could destroy the whole world. They told me He could lift mountains. They told me He could part the sea. It was important to keep the man happy. When we obeyed what the man had commanded, the man liked us. He liked us so much that He killed anyone who didn’t like us. But when we didn’t obey what He had commanded, He didn’t like us. He hated us. Some days He hated us so much, He killed us; other days, He let other people kill us. We call these days “holidays”. On Purim, we remembered how the Persians tried to kill us. On Passover, we remembered how the Egyptians tried to kill us. On Chanukah, we remembered how the Greeks tried to kill us.

As bad as these punishments could be, they were nothing compared to the punishments meted out to us by the man himself. Then there would be famines. Then there would be floods. Then there would be furious vengeance. Hitler might have killed the Jews, but this man drowned the world.

*

I wonder sometimes if we suffer from a metaphysical form of Stockholm syndrome. Held captive by this Man for thousands of years, we now praise Him, defend Him, excuse Him, sometimes kill for Him, an army of Squeaky Frommes swearing allegiance to their Charlie in the sky. My relationship with God has been an endless cycle not of the celebrated “faith followed by doubt,” but of appeasement followed by revolt; placation followed by indifference; please, please, please, followed by fuck it, fuck it, fuck it. I do not keep Sabbath or pray three times a day or wait six hours between eating meat and milk. The people who raised me will say that I am not religious. They are mistaken. What I am not is observant. But I am painfully, cripplingly incurably, miserably religious, and I have watched lately, dumbfounded and distraught, as around the world, more and more people seem to be finding Gods, each one more hateful and bloodthirsty than the next, as I’m doing my best to lose Him. I’m failing miserably.

The teachers from my youth are gone, the parents old and mostly estranged. The man they told me about, though — He’s still around. I can’t shake Him. I read Spinoza. I read Nietzsche. I read the sacrilegious National Lampoon magazine. Nothing helps. I live with Him every day, and behold, He is still angry, still vengeful, still—eternally—pissed off.

I believe in a personal God; everything I do, He takes personally. Things don’t just happen.

I believe in God.

It’s been a real problem for me.

*

Running from God felt as if, under cover of night, I’d daringly escaped from Auschwitz, gotten past the guards, evaded the dogs, run for the woods, and clambered onto a passing train that two hours later pulled straight into Treblinka.

*

I thought of Moses, and of the bassinet in which he was discovered, floating among the reeds by the side of the Nile, and of the lifelong journey he made to a Promised Land, a land of God, a land he never quite reached. My Promised Land, the one I had been stumbling around looking for these past thirty years, would be one with no God, at least not with the God I knew, and I realized then that, like Moses, I would probably never get there, either.

*

I thought again about Moses, and I realized what had troubled me about that whole damn story; it wasn’t simply that God had crushed his life dream because of one lousy sin, though granted that would be sick enough—it was that He knew. God knew He’d never let Moses into the Promised Land, just as He knew that one day Sarah would laugh, but He still let him wander around the desert like a schmuck for forty years searching for it. Warmer, warmer, you’re getting warmer, you’re dead. God loves that joke.

*

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—I don’t understand, I say. You’d think I was sexually abused.

—You were theologically abused, says Orli. That’s much worse.

Theological abuse. It involves adults, known or unknown to the underage victim, telling them that an all-powerful man in the sky runs the world, that He’s spying on them, that He’s waiting for them to break a rule.

God is here,

God is there,

God is truly

everywhere!

So watch it, kid.

*

The stories I had been working on were about my life under the thumb of an abusive, belligerent god, a god who awoke millennia ago on the wrong side of the firmament and still hasn’t cheered up. Working title: God Walks Beside Me with a .45 Gun in My Ribs.

…We kissed, we hugged, we wept some more, and as soon as my wife had gone, I sat down at my computer, sighed, and dragged all 350 pages of my stories into the computer’s trash.

Are you sure, the computer asked me, you want to remove the items in the Trash permanently? You cannot undo this action.

I was sure.

Take my chances? Was I crazy? With this God? With Mr. Vengeance? Mr. Flood the Earth? Mr. Holocaust?

There was no need to provoke Him. In God’s casino, the house always wins—ask Moses, ask Job, ask Sarah. I’ve been on God’s chessboard long enough to know that every move forward, every bit of good news—Success! Marriage! Child!—is just another Godly gambit, a feign, a fake, a setup; it seems as if I’m making my way across the board, but soon enough God calls check, and the company that hired me goes under, the wife dies, the baby chokes to death. That would be so God. God’s pick-and-roll. The Rope-a-Lordy-Dope. God was here, God was there, God was everywhere.

I’m telling you, Mouse A says, that fucking cheese is wired.

Would you stop? whines Mouse B. You’re such a pessi-zzzzap.

*

I can’t help noticing that every time I begin to make some progress on my impious stories about God, attacks in Israel increase, and I feel guilty and stop. Am I causing these attacks?

*

When I was young, they told me that when I died and went to Heaven, the angels would take me into a vast museum full of paintings I had never before seen, paintings that would have been created by all the artistic sperms I had wasted in my life. Then the angels would take me into a huge library full of books I had never read, books that would have been written by all the prolific sperms I had wasted in my life. Then the angels would take me to a huge house of worship, filled with hundreds of thousands of Jews, praying and studying, Jews that would have been born if I hadn’t killed them, wasted them, mopped them up with a dirty sock during the hideous failure of my despicable life (there are roughly 50 million sperms in every ejaculate; that’s about nine Holocausts in every wank. I was just hitting puberty when they told me this, or puberty was just hitting me, and I was committing genocide, on average, three or four times a day). They told me that when I died and went to Heaven, all the souls of every sperm I wasted during my life would chase me for eternity through the firmament.

*

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I have very little sympathy for veal. According to the website NoVeal.org, Young calves are taken from their mothers and chained by the neck in crates measuring just two feet wide. They cannot turn around, stretch their limbs, or even lie down comfortably. Like a yeshiva or a madrasa or a Catholic school. Except for the “taken from their mother” bit, the lucky little calves; my mother put me in the box at the synagogue and made it very clear that her love was conditional upon my remaining in the box. To make matters better, nobody is standing outside the veal’s crate telling him that there is a some sort of Cow Almighty in the sky, and that Cow Almighty commands the veal to stay in that box, and that, moreover, the constraining box he finds himself in is a gift—a gift from Cow Almighty because veal are Cow’s chosen cattle, and if veal even thinks about leaving the box, or questioning the box, or even complaining about the box, well, Cow help him.

*

Exam in school. Jewish-law tests were the easiest—you simply picked the strictest answer:

  1. forgiveness
  2. pay a fine
  3. pray
  4. stoning

Whatever the question is, the answer is D.

*

My rabbis taught me that it was wrong to say God caused the Holocaust; that He had simply, in 1938, turned His head. He looked away.

-What? Huh? Geno . . . really? Shit, I was in the bathroom

 *

That’s the problem, I answered. You have to not want something for God to give it to you. I pressed the argument by pointing out that it made perfect sense—people wanting babies not having them, people not wanting them having them without even trying, people wanting boys having girls, people wanting girls having boys, people wanting one having twins, people wanting twins having triplets—if that wasn’t proof of the existence of a non-benevolent God, I didn’t know what was.

*

— If He really wanted to fuck with you, Craig asked, why doesn’t He just kill you?

I scoffed and shook my head.

—Killing gets boring, I said. A couple of floods and you’re over it. Why kill when you can slowly torture?

—I hadn’t thought of that.

—That’s why He’s so into this endless bullshit preputial sniping.

*

My relationship with God had begun to change. I was tired of the endless spiritual scorecard manipulation, and I imagined God was tired of it, too, tired of the tedious, disingenuous algebra of penance and sin. Maybe it was all those years of shame and fear. Maybe it was Rabbi Goldfinger telling me so long ago that I was like a forefather heading out on a dangerous journey. Hadn’t Abraham haggled with God? Hadn’t Jacob wrestled with him—kicked His ass, in fact? Hadn’t Moses, called upon by God to lead the exodus, told God to find somebody else? They argued, debated, questioned. I scowled, I called Him names, I uttered profanities. My sentiments may have been a bit more disgruntled and a bit less reverent than those of my forefathers, but they still seemed more respectful to me than the groveling adjuration of the believers around me; at least I was giving Him credit for being able to deal with a little criticism now and then. After all, wouldn’t part of being All-Mighty include being All-Self-Examining? All-Open-to-Criticism? All-Honestly-Self-Evaluating? Surrounded as God was by a universe of sycophantic yes-men, perhaps He would appreciate a little honest interaction.

*

So now we’re blaming God, is that it? You can’t get off and somehow it’s God’s fault?

– Yes.

*

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How do you strike a balance between conformity and rebellion, between the need for structure and the need for freedom? Where do you draw the line between the two? I was always the odd one out, always struggling to fit in but never was I ready to compromise, to trade off my beliefs against the comfort of acceptance and blending in. Asserting myself and my individuality, being authentic and true to myself came always at a high price but that never stopped me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not tapping here into the modern trope of uniqueness. That is a cliché. I am not unique. I was not born to stand out from the crowd and I am not exceptional nor am I special. This is not the reason why I always speak out and why I don’t go with the flow. It’s just that I am unable to conform to any orthodoxy that would alienate me. Always an outcast going against the tide whether it’s about religion or sexuality or any social mores I find oppressive. Always a rebel speaking my mind and resisting peer pressure and pointless conformity. Always at odds with collective cohesiveness and groupthink. I wouldn’t have survived in Lord of the Flies for more than a day.

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I perfectly well understand we are social creatures and we crave company, acceptance and validation. A sense of belonging. I had friends and boyfriends who tried to strike a deal with the Gods of In-group and lost their soul in the process. So I know that being liked by our peers and fitting in is a big deal. It’s just that being true to my inner self is my first commandment and more important than anything, more important than my need to be liked and accepted. There’s not a single bone in me for cultish behaviour and for the new in-group religion where you alienate for the sake of acceptance and benevolence. So obviously I favour individuality over conformity. I despise the tyranny of the Other, the tyranny of their prying look and meddling in other people’s life. I’m unorthodox to the core so there’s no surprise I was in awe with Esty’s haunting story. But at the same time I have to admit that we need structure, we need roots, we need solid ground, we need social cohesion, we need rules to function, we need social norms, we need people in our lives and all these imply conforming and complying to others than ourselves. So where do you draw the line then? Where is the point where orthodoxy becomes oppressive and turns to a prison?

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Cel mai odios lucru cand ai grija de cineva bolnav de cancer in faza terminala este ca suferinta si degradarea acestuia ajung atat de cumplite incat esti impins pana in punctul grotesc de a-i accepta si dori moartea. Nu ti-o doresti pentru tine, excedat de grija pe care i-o porti sau de oboseala acumulata, ci i-o doresti lui pentru binele lui. Iar sa iti doresti ca cineva iubit sa moara este o contradictie in termeni, este total impotriva naturii tale, o contorsionare psihologica cumplita, un viol sufletesc la care esti supus si din care nu poti iesi decat schilodit. Disonanta cognitiva te impinge in bratele schizofreniei. Sa te rogi pentru moartea copilului tau, a parintelui, a sotului, este dement, stramb, injust, pervers, obscen, degradant, absurd, autodistructiv. Nimeni nu ar trebui sa fie impins pana acolo. Zile la rand dupa moartea ei am fost nu atat suferind cat furios pentru efectul asta pervers. Ca am fost nevoit sa ii accept moartea si sa ma rog lui Dumnezeu sa se indure de ea si sa o ia dintre noi. How fucked up is that? Her death came as a relief  since it ended her misery but I felt sick to my stomach, cheated, led on, tricked. How can you link death to relief? Cum sa ajungi sa accepti inacceptabilul? Cum sa ajungi sa accepti moartea celui iubit? In preajma mortii ar trebui sa simtim indignare, suferinta, furie, manie sfanta nu impacare si usurare pentru moartea celui suferind. Moartea ar trebui sa fie limita, ar trebui sa fie cel mai odios lucru care i se poate intampla cuiva. Privelistea agoniei unui muribund insa te invata altceva, ca moartea e preferabila agoniei. Esti vaduvit nu numai de copilul iubit ci si de scandalul mortii lui. De furia in fata mortii. Rasufli usurat si impacat. In sfarsit, a murit. Aleluia. Praise the Lord. How sick is that?

***

Cancer is something of a red-herring, a decoy, a smokescreen, a huge diversion meant to make us focus on suffering and looking after our loved ones and overlook the main thing – death.

***

Cosmar azi noapte. Ca de obicei urlu in somn ca un lunatic. Se face ca sunt prin casa si ori de cate ori trec pe langa o oglinda surprind in spatele meu o miscare, o umbra intunecata si imi dau seama ca este ea, desi stiu bine ca a murit. Ma intorc si evident nu este acolo. Lipsa de coerenta a oglinzii ma inspaimanta. She’s trapped beyond the mirror. I start screaming unable to reach her.

***

Descoperit o editura interesanta PushMePress care publica studii de filozofie a religiei. Citesc cu nesat “God and Evil” by Tristan Stone. Ajung inevitabil, ca in orice teodicee care se respecta, la nefericitul Iov. Nu pricep povestea acestuia. Ni se spune mereu ca este o poveste dramatica cu happy end. Ca dupa ce i se ia totul – proprietati, sanatate, sotie, copii – odata ce a trecut cu brio testul credintei, viata lui este restaurata cu asupra de masura – bogatie dublata, sanatate si reputatie refacuta, familia upgradata v.2.0. Doar ca morala invatata la cateheza nu da socoteala de unicitatea persoanei. Cum Dumnezeu este restaurata viata lui dupa ce i-ai omorat copiii? Nu inlocuiesti un copil mort cu un altul la schimb. Inlocuiesti o casa, un plug, o caruta, nu un prunc care nu se mai repeta. Poate la Euclid plusul cu minusul face zero, in psihologie insa plusul cu minusul da intotdeauna minus. In viata nu vindeci o rana cu o bucurie, nu vindeci un viol cu o binecuvantare asa cum iubirile impartasite nu le vindeca pe cele neintoarse. Plusurile nu anuleaza minusurile. Zece copii in plus nu o sa te vindece de copilul pierdut. Principiul compensatiei e pentru lucruri nu pentru oameni. Ori imi scapa mie vreun element de exegeza biblica sofisticata ori sunt mai ager decat carturarii teodicisti.

***

Cand cineva drag moare brusc si pe neasteptate socul pe care il ai e mult mai aproape de reactia normala in fata mortii care este oroarea. You are understandably overwhelmed. Cand cineva insa moare incet, in urma unei boli cronice si dupa saptamani sau luni de agonie elementul surpriza nu mai exista. When death eventually happens you feel oddly underwhelmed. Death didn’t just happen. You’ve been grieving over their death already for months.

***

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***

Trebuie uneori sa imi amintesc faptul elementar ca moartea ei nu e despre mine. Ca e despre ea. Ca moartea ei este ceva teribil care i s-a intamplat ei. Nu inseamna ca suferinta mea nu este legitima, este normal sa fiu coplesit de agonia prin care a trecut in ultimul an si de moartea ei, dar exista intotdeauna riscul sa fac un shift spre mine, sa ma victimizez si sa ma balacesc intr-o mila de sine dezolanta. Sa ma ratacesc in drama mea accesorie, pierzand focalizarea de pe ceea ce i s-a intamplat ei si numai ei.

***

Cand moare cineva si trebuie sa strangi sau arunci (huh) din lucrurile acestuia cum poti sa scapi de senzatia cumplita ca faci ceva ofensator? Inca sunt inconjurat de recuzita sfarsitului ei, de siringi, pampersi, medicamente, prosoape etc, litiera e in acelasi loc, desi din cauza paraliziei nu a mai fost folosita oricum in ultimele luni, farfurioarele pentru apa si mancare sunt in acelasi loc. N-am de gand sa transform her whereabouts intr-un mausoleu, nu o sa incremenesc precum nevasta lui Lot intr-un imobilism in care sa las toate lucrurile astea intacte, insa nu stiu cum le poti arunca fara sa ai impresia ca faci ceva nelalocul lui celui care nu mai este. Probabil ca raspunsul e la indemana: cat timp simti asta inseamna ca nu esti inca ready. Mi s-a parut intotdeauna creepy sa intri intr-o casa si sa vezi pantofii celui care a murit de ceva vreme la usa, hainele acestuia inca atarnate prin cuiere, ca si cum nu s-a intamplat nimic, insa nu stiu daca ideea cealalta de a sterge igienic urmele trecerii cuiva prin lume e mai putin dezolanta.

***

Is she gone? Is she gone? Is she gone? Will I ever be able to forget that heartbreaking question in the morning she died?

***

Sunt zile cand sunt coplesit de puritatea bond-ului pe care l-am avut cu ea, cand, prin contrast, gandindu-ma la calitatea persoanelor perindate prin viata mea, doliul se transforma in mizantropie. Ma uit in jurul meu, printre vecini, printre cunoscuti, pe strada, prin magazine, institutii, biserici, autoritati, tv, social media etc si ma crucesc. Imbecili, egoisti, meschini, impostori, arivisti, lacomi, violenti, tate hraparete, lingai ipocriti, narcisisti, iresponsabili, mincinosi, abuzivi, invidiosi, inculti, duplicitari, oportunisti, infumurati, fiinte pocite, tarate, slutite de absenta oricarui dram de spirit in ei. Ma gandesc la toti ipochimenii pe care i-am lasat sa se apropie de mine in viata asta doar pentru a ma trezi scarbit la capatul insotirii noastre. Am senzatia ca m-am trezit brusc intr-o pictura de Hieronymus Bosch. Ma gandesc la Hristos si nu inteleg cum a putut sa iubeasca asa o sleahta de depravati fara valoare in care chipul lui Dumnezeu de-abia se mai vede. Sa vada tot ce vad eu si totusi sa nu o rupa la fuga mancand pamantul. In momentele astea de mizantropie furibunda ma gandesc la ea si la faptul ca nu m-a dezamagit niciodata. Si visez la o lume in care oamenii nu mai exista, rasi de pe fata pamantului de nu stiu ce virus ucigas si in care sa fiu inconjurat doar de animale. Un animal e egal cu sine si nu dezamageste niciodata, pentru ca e incapabil de tradare. Daca te ucide o face pentru ca este in ADN-ul lui de creatura, nu pentru ca esueaza in impostura. Omul este singurul animal care si-a compromis designul, singurul animal care si-a lasat sufletul sa fie cuprins de coruptie. Prefer oricand compania animalelor decat a depravatilor humanoizi.

***

Diminetile sunt cele mai grele. Cincisprezece ani de coregrafie matinala in care ai fost centrul universului ei nu pot fi sterse doar pentru ca se intampla sa nu mai fie acolo si nu iti mai cauta privirea. It’s hardwired in your soul for good.

***

Mi se spune ca dupa o vreme o sa fie mai bine, ca durerea se va estompa si ca o sa imi treaca. Toate astea mi se spun cu sensul de consolare si imbarbatare in timp ce efectul lor scontat este exact pe dos – sunt realmente ingrozit! Tocmai pentru ca TRECE – imi vine sa strig din toti rarunchii. Tocmai asta ma inspaimanta, ca nu pot opri vindecarea, ca ea deja a inceput. Cum sa gasesc consolare ca o sa ma vindec de ea vreodata? Cum sa ma imbarbateze gandul ca dorul cumplit de ea o sa imi treaca? Problema noastra nu e ca suferim ci ca nu suferim indeajuns, ca nu putem opri tavalugul timpului, ca nu putem opri alinarea pe care o aduce trecerea lui. Nu de suferinta mi-e mie frica ci de nesuferinta, de vindecare. Avem prea multa imunitate si prea putin virus.

***

 

 

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exista primate carora le lipseste total conceptul de moarte. de sfarsit ireversibil. cand le moare un prunc isi continua existenta ca si cum nu s-a intamplat nimic. ii poarta in continuare dupa ei, inerti, fara suflare, ii curata de paraziti, incearca sa ii alapteze, sa ii trezeasca din somn. omul e singurul animal in care constiinta mortii se instaleaza deplin. singurul animal capabil de un negot cu propria finitudine. si totusi masura in care o face este de cele mai multe ori rizibila. insignifianta. suntem protejati de un mecanism de autoconservare care impinge moartea din centrul constiintei in marginea ei. suntem incapabili sa o internalizam cu adevarat. moartea cuiva drag ar trebui sa ne paralizeze, sa ne inghete mecanismele de functionare dar nu reuseste decat sa le incetineasca, sa le gripeze, sa puna un strat de rugina care ingreuneaza temporar mersul lor mecanic, automat. de trei luni de cand a murit traiesc intr-un fel de perplexitate muta. dau tarcoale mortii ei fara incetare si nu pot sa-i cuprind grozavia. mintea mea inca asteapta sa i se explice scandalul absentei. cum e posibila nefiinta. in putinele dati cand inteleg ca a murit, cand inteleg cu adevarat ce inseamna asta mi se taie respiratia, incep sa ma sufoc si hiperventilez ca-ntr-un atac subit de panica. insa de cele mai multe ori ma simt protejat de o forma insidioasa de negare. inca astept sa mi se spuna ca este o farsa si sa o vad sarind dupa coltul unui fotoliu ca in jocurile noastre de-a v-ati ascunselea. inca astept sa-mi intoarca privirea din orice spatiu al casei pe care l-a umplut pana la satietate. ma culc cu ea in gand. ma trezesc cu ea in gand. nu exista celula pe care sa o sectionezi din trupul meu si in care sa nu o regasesti. mintea mea nu reuseste sa cuprinda necuprinsul mortii si se comporta ca si cum nu s-a intamplat nimic. faptul ca reusim sa supravietuim celor pe care ii iubim, ca nu murim o data cu ei, de durerea pierderii lor, ca nu incremenim in absurdul disparitiei lor mi se pare indecent si grotesc. suntem incapabili sa privim in fata adevarul brutal al mortii: nu existam. la scara timpului, a vesniciei, mai mult nu suntem decat suntem. specie deplorabila, zeii au stiut ca trebuie sa ne protejeze de trauma adevarului crud punand o pacla pe constiinta noastra. mistificam. inventam povesti care sa ne anestezieze durerea. ingerasi. stelute pe cer de unde cei plecati ne privesc cu seninatate. raiuri convenabile. nu suntem departe de primatele de care vorbeam. ne purtam mortii in continuare dupa noi ca si cum nu s-a intamplat nimic. daca ne-am ridica cu adevarat la inaltimea chemarii noastre si am intelege absurdul pe care il aduce moartea am cadea la pamant trazniti, pe loc.

 

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The most effective way to get over somebody is radical disappointment. To some extent we are all bound to let down the very people we love and be let down by them. Disappointment cannot be avoided as part of our everyday life and it comes in different strands. Most of them are trivial and benign and can be absorbed with ease by our relationships. But there are a couple of disappointments that are so gross and shockingly malign that changes our overview completely. You suddenly realize the person you love is not who you thought he was or who pretended to be. You are forced to adjust his image to the point it no longer resembles the original you fell for. The law of identity comes into force. What you thought is an A is a B. Whoever he pretended to be he is not. The person you love does not exist. There’s nobody to get over after all. In fairness, you may still experience a sense of loss and confusion since your love has lost its object but it’s more like a phantom pain and far from the agony of a heartbreak. Your past history is revised and your narrative rewritten.

Radical disappointment is to love what is chemotherapy to cancer. Radical disappointment cures love but it’s not without any shortcomings or nasty side effects. It causes nausea and you feel grossed out. You are left with a sense of repulsion at the sickening thought that you were close to that person. You know that sense of dread and repugnance you entertain when you see a cockroach or a snake in your proximity. The idea of being close or touched by them makes your stomach cringe or vomit. It’s a strong reaction to complete alterity and otherness, embedded deeply in our DNA. You realize you were on intimate terms with someone worlds apart that you strongly deplore. It’s like an upside down version of the fairy tale where you kiss the prince and he turns into a frog. Yuck. Radical disappointment is liberating. It doesn’t come cheap since it sets you free at the price of puking your guts out but it’s definitely worth your while. It’s a good trade-off even though costly. It replaces your love with repulsion. It replaces your lover with a stranger you despise. It replaces the heartache with a headache which is admittedly a nuisance but much easier to shake off. Thank God the mask eventually fell off and the charade is over. Truth is a beautiful thing. Hell to the liars.

 

 

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literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.

literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.