Lindner's Monster

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It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts.  It breathes, it eats, it eats.  It shits and fucks.  What a mistake to have ever said the id.  Everywhere it is machines – real ones, not figurative ones: machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections.

– Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
Anti-Œdipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia 

A painting or a print may have so many meanings, but we all know that even the most realist of art forms are flights of fancy and products of an active imagination.  The depressing thing with the surreal is that it is often far more real than we can imagine; they evoke in us feelings that, all too often, we do not want to feel at all.

Awhile ago, I was looking at Richard Lindner’s “Boy With Machine,” and somehow the weight of a lot of things I worry about fell on me.  They call it “hand-wringing,” and that idea led me to think of washing machines; like the wires and levers and pulleys that surround Lindner’s boy conceal – or highlight – the fact that the boy himself is a machine, connected to many others.  I let out a depressed huff just looking at it.

I think that it was the seventh proposition in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus that sums a lot of things up: “Where one does not know, one should not speak.”  I tend to add a corollary to that: where one does know, one should speak.  Lots of things revolve around explaining and resolving problems, and silence or apathy towards a problem really doesn’t solve anything.  Lately, though, the thought of shutting up in favor of not acknowledging a problem crossed my mind:

If I shut up, I wouldn’t have a problem.  Perfect!  I’ll no longer be depressed, I’ll be able to look after myself more carefully, and I would look at events and news with the same indifference as other people.  No blog, no problem.  Then again, I’m conflicted.  Fucked up, even.  All I ever really wanted to do is to live up to what others expect of me, and that’s to have what it takes to change the world, or take those itty-bitty baby steps that will turn things around.

The other day, a friend at the office mentioned something about how self-destructive and self-contradictory I can get.  All this anger, all this rage pent up inside of me, are emotions pretty much wasted.  These days, I think of a lot of things I do in terms of “outlets,” no different from the electrical ones.  There’s vice, for one, where I play quiet games of imagined chess with bottles of alcohol.  There’s blogging, for two, where I write streams from the inner recesses of my conscience.  Then there are those weekends where I commute to heaven-knows-where.

I’m not suffering from an existential crisis or anything.  I don’t even know why I make problems of things I’m not supposed to worry about just because I feel too guilty about being helpless.  It’s just the idea of the truth that bugs me: while my idealistic side wants to destroy everything that makes this world a horrible and depressing place to live in, the practical side of things makes me a contributor to everything that makes this world horrible and depressing.  For people like me who see too much of the world in terms of right and wrong and black and white, it’s a matter of resistance and struggle.  To rise above… and in the process, sow the seeds of your own destruction.

I’m not a superhero, and it’s not my job to save the world.  Many writers, bloggers, commentators, and people out there are in a better position than I am to take up the problems of the world upon their shoulders.  If I had a messianic complex at one point in my life, it died with the realization that blogs and notebooks and Word documents don’t change the world one bit.  God’s in His heaven, and all is right with the world; it may be the end of the world as we know it, and heck, we all feel fine.  There really is nothing to change in the world if much about it works to your advantage.

I’m not doing pag-iinarte, or succumbing to the inner emo I always seem to deny in public.  All I do is scream into my paper cup and somehow, half a dozen people find inspiration.  Still, the world doesn’t change.  We’re all bound to things we are not in control of; machines that build us, and at the same time, we help build.  My body, like yours, is a complex system of levers and fulcrums and wedges and planes that are connected to many other levers and fulcrums and wedges and planes that make up everything in the world.  I guess that if you’re in a position to scream, you’re also in a position to shut up.

Then again, I realized that I’m just being selfish and cowardly if I stick to the stupidity of the reasoning I had earlier.  OK, I’m bound by the system.  Yet somehow, despite all of the limitations of the system, despite the fact that I do contradict myself every now and then to the point of those actions burning an impression to many people, I’m still in a position to be depressed enough not to be a self-serving scum-bucket who doesn’t give a hoot.  It makes a lot more sense to live that way, to empathize enough, to acknowledge that there are things bigger than you are.  That you can take a small thing, turn it into a big thing, and realizing that much of your own survival rests on things that are not in your hands.

That the way to break the machines that surround you is to use them to your advantage.  It’s called emancipation.

So I guess I’ll still be sticking around.  Not because I have no choice, but because I made the choice years back to stand up for something bigger than myself.  The choice that there are many things around here that can affect me enough to bemoan them, to wail about them, to wake up crying at night, or to do my best to the point of overcompensation.  I guess you never do know your limits.  It’s not about being a superhero, but being the kind of human being you always wanted to be, to live up to the better part of you, to know that the expectations of others are the same things you expect of yourself.

I guess I can live up to those things.  Or at the very least, throw away a few cigarettes, start sipping my alcohol instead of guzzling it, and join my friends at the office for a proper breakfast more often.  I could try to smile a lot more often, cut back on the anger and vitriol in my writing… but I’ll draw the line on the haircut.  Not now, for the moment.

And depress people less, perhaps.  More happy entries. 

Like my favorite machine always says, “I think I can I think I can I think I can…”

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