Monday, August 23, 2010

The Zeitgeist

I've been straddling both worlds, infancy and senility -- try to tell the difference between those two infirmities, the one facing life, the other death -- for fifty-some-odd years, precariously upended in my opposition to the Zeitgeist. What an ugly word. Time is time, spirit is spirit. When you run out of one, you cling to the other, hoping against hope that all those fairytales you heard in Sunday school come true. That love will outlast death and that someone is gonna come along and roll away the stone from the tomb, allowing your ghost to crawl out and haunt heaven. Fat chance -- there is no heaven save this one, poot.

When I was a toothless brat, I did what I was asked, I followed instructions. I learned how to eat and wipe my arse. I learned to speak, read, and write. I acquired a conscious awareness of my surroundings and began to describe what I saw, what I felt. Other people came into view. At first, I thought they were like me. Soon I learned that they were different, but somehow equal. You want a confession? I couldn't understand what went on inside their heads: some of them were Republicans, some were Hindus, some were drunk and suicidal, some were too good to be true. I tried to cultivate my empathic nature so I could suss out the truth of their lives, but that proved to be a project with too high an emotional cost. So I laid down my sword and shield and settled for the middle class American life, acquiring experiences and material goods with equal anxiety, trying to keep up with my generation, swimming with the Zeitgeist. Oy, there's that effin word again.

That didn't work: I had no talent for acquisition. Since I couldn't change myself, and I hated living with disappointment, I decided to step out of time and take the Zeitgeist for what it is: a shite-pile masquerading as culture. No more keeping up with the Joneses, instead I started reading books, ass that I am. Hume, Kierkegaard, James, Camus, Emerson, Unamuno, Ortega y Gasset. Shall we say I acquired a tragic sense of life? And yet -- here's the paradox -- the more I read and pondered, the funnier things seemed to me, the more comedic. Politics -- a joke. Religion -- same thing. The mad strivings of puffed-up capitalists, the ravings of navel-gazing academics. Sex. Art. Even literature, supposedly serious literature, had its funny side. Everything around me that looked to be important turned out to be quite silly if looked at in a certain way. All I had to do was cock my head like a quizzical dog at the foot of a crackpot master. I began to detest seriousness in all its hypocritical guises.

Family was effin hilarious, marriage a Shakespearean case of mistaken identity. Children were funny animals who turned into little fascists on the playground. And there they were funnier still, trying to adapt to a crazy adult world. Sure, you want to see the best for them, so you have to believe the best is yet to come. But what if it isn't? What if all that's yet to come is the same soul-killing trudge toward oblivion that you're facing today, only the road signs changed? And the only thing you have to take comfort in is this ridiculous Zeitgeist, this malarkey that everyone else around you implicitly believes? It's a bit of a predicament, no? To behave with honor is to stand in opposition to the Zeitgeist. Yes, that's what I've been telling myself. But, of course, in so doing, one is most assuredly allowing one's self to be caught in its web. Either way -- gotcha!

So here I sit, captive of the Zeitgeist no matter how I plead, watching heavy rains pelt New Jersey after two months of drought. I have no complaints. The food is good. I get plenty of exercise. I sleep well. No one's gonna come to let me out. I suppose I should plan to go on like this for a while.


  1. I guess this is heaven.

    I once heard a comedian muse -

    " So what is heaven? My minister told me in heaven I would spend eternity with my relatives. That didn't sound like heaven to me!"

  2. Marc:
    Funny! But I prefer David Byrne's formulation: "Heaven is a place where nothing, nothing ever happens..."
    Thanks for the comments, always dig them enormously.