Allegorical Nonsense

An allegory. Nonsense. Put them together. Okay, not really.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

When I was young

When I was young, I sometimes had the funny feeling that the life that I was living was in fact the memory of myself in that moment before you die when your life flashes before your eyes. I was quite convinced that this could be the case, and I had really no way of refuting it. I guess I had these feelings at a time in my life when I felt very controlled, like my life and actions were predetermined. The great challenge which I made to this way of thinking started when I was maybe in Year 10 at school, and I called it "acts of free will". What I would do was, whenever I had that thought (particularly if there was nobody around), I would do a little thing which I would think would be so stupid, that noone would ever do such a thing. For instance, I would hop on one leg, or say "bleubalufalu", or something to convince myself that what I was doing what I was doing out of free will and not out of preordained following. Of course, the great challenge to the great challenge was that I never knew what it was that I was predestined to do - so I had no real proof that whatever I would do, however silly, was in fact contrary to the predetermined action at that time.

I remember thinking around the same time, being the time I was going through puberty and adolescence, that I was going through puberty and adolescence. This may not seem so strange (indeed, it may seem like a truism), but what I mean by the second "puberty and adolescence" was as follows. By the time I had reached that age, I had read books that told me how pubescent/adolescent people commonly feel. And when you think about it, being an inner individualist, I always wanted to feel that I was different from everyone else. So if pubscents/adolescents commonly feel a certain way, I wanted to feel another way. But suddenly I would realise that what I had read was coming true for me - that I was indeed feeling what the books had told me I should be feeling. This gave rise to two emotions. The first was irritation. Why should I feel like everyone else? It made me really quite angry. On the other hand, it was at the same time oddly comforting - there were other people (in fact, pretty much everyone) going through exactly what I was going through. It's in some ways a nice thought to be part of a group, even if the members of that group don't consciously acknowledge that fact of others' membership.

There was another thought I had when I was young that I was unable to shake, and that was the thought that you get to do life several times. It was particularly when I was suffering with things - like going to camp, which for me wasn't fun because it accentuated my feelings of not being in a group, since it felt like everyone else was in a group - or generally feeling self-conscious. Then there was a feeling of: "All you have to do is get through this" ("this" being not just the camp but in a broader sense life itself) "and you'll be able to do it again. And in the next one, you get to be the thin" (particularly thin - that is, not the fat kid) "attractive, popular one who integrates well in groups and is admired by his peers" (okay, maybe not to that extent, but at least not to be the fat outsider). And it was really quite depressing, in hindsight, that I would sometimes count the days until I could get through (in the sense of "survive") the thing, in the thought, which I knew intellectually was false, that I would get to do it again. I guess it was the contradiction between my intellect and my emotions on this point that made it so painful. And it was really the period in which I "realised" (i.e. aligned my intellect with my emotions) that I only get to live once - this is it - that I really changed my life. It was really at that point that my outlook changed, my lifestyle changed, and my attitude to myself changed. This is not to say that it was a product of pure free will and self-control - far from it. It coincided with a period where I was away from home, had begun to lose weight through being involved in more physical activity and eating a broader variety of food - and in a sense, the change in others' attitudes towards me and the change in my attitude toward myself fed into one another and led to a positive result. I didn't know this at the time, of course. I was scared shitless at the time. Change, I think, is always scary. But particularly that one. It was jumping into the unknown. In a sense, all I really had to direct where I fell was my subconscious and luck. But I've found that generally, relying on my subconscious is remarkably useful. I mean, we generally think of our subconsciouses as being some kind of unknown quantity - something which directs us to places in conflict with where we, with our will, want ourselves to be. But one thing which happened to me during this period (and particularly in the years since then) is that I have become friends with my subconscious, and we've developed a good level of trust between us. Another new friendship of that time was between my brain and my body - my intellectual self and my physical/emotional self. It's funny - for a lot of people, physical and emotional are quite separate, but for me - having had a lot of repressed feelings about my body growing up - getting in touch with my body again was getting in touch with my feelings again, and really being able to feel again. This, for me, was a real breakthrough, and I owe a lot of it to my beautiful fiancee, Hilla. Thanks, bun.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

For the fourth and last time ...

Dear reader,

Sometimes it can be easier to write as if you're writing a letter. This is because the writer and his or her audience have a somewhat tenuous though desparate relationship. On the one hand, the writer desperately wants to communicate with someone, and the more people the better. After all, she is choosing a written medium which is released to the masses, rather than just calling someone who cares (or doesn't). On the other hand, the reader is ambivalent. There is a great deal to be read, and it really is a buyer's market. So the reader can pick and choose as he sees fit. The author, on the other hand (that makes three hands) sometimes says things that she or he would in fact prefer that the random reader (read: potential serial killer) not read. These things include personal details of age and geographical location, as well as more sensitive details, such as the person's opinion on others and her own childhood. So we have an overall ambivalent relationship - the one desperate yet ambivalent, the other ambivalent and bored. As such, writing a letter reduces the potential risks. It fools both author and reader into the impression that there is a one-to-one conversation going on, without the downside of verbal communication that it leaves no trace for posterity (except of course with the secret government recording studios which record every telephone conversation which takes place across the world, especially those including the words "bomb" or "terrorism"). One day perhaps the CIA will release telephone conversations of the world under Freedom of Information, and Google will create a search engine which will sort results by profundity. Then all the conversations which we had and thought afterwards - bugger, I wish that one had been written down - will be restored, and those masters and mistresses of verbal unrecorded communication will truly receive the prestige they deserve - as artists, in the lasting sense.

Of course, we can break the letter format by signing off.

With love,


Right. Down to business. Note: this is not a post-script, and despite its proximity to a piece of writing in seemingly letter format, it bears no relation to it. Except that I just created a relation by referring to it. It is impossible to escape.

I can't believe the number of things that I can't write right now. I even wondered last time I wrote in this blog whether there were things which were censored by the friendly people of the blog administration in the interests of family-friendly viewing. Though to be honest, I find censorship to be rather liberating rather than confining. I found this because, due to my fear of censorship, I self-censored. And in the end, it is incredibly easy to write the kind of words which would, in any other medium, would involve overuse of the number keys with Shift held down. And it adds rather little to the meaning of what you are writing. That is, I find that if I am able to use words such as these explicitly, it turns into the word that I use when I can't think of another word to use, which has two effects. (1) It strips the word of any impact it may have had in the first place, in a similar way to Eddie Murphy stand-up - it's funny, but the swearing doesn't add anything. (2) It provides a convenient excuse, which is really a non-excuse, because the only person you are cheating is yourself, from thinking up a word that can go in its place. And I'm not thinking here about a substitute swear-word, like "sausage" - yeah, did you see how that sausage sausage mother-sausage sausaged the sausage sausage? - I'm thinking about genuine text that has genuine sub-text (but very rarely super-text). Hey, there's an idea. The world (at least, the comic-book world) is full of super-heroes. But there is a serious paucity of sub-heroes. I'm not talking here about people who are "super" by being "sub", like a guy who has this great power to freeze people and is therefore called something trite like "SubZero". I'm talking about creating a comic book about people who notoriously underperform, who have diminished powers, who are able to fall under a building with quite a lot of steps, really, and accidentally set fires which trap people in them, and fall off things that are quite high up and hit the ground at a rate of acceleration of 9.8 m/s/s (possibly the laws of gravity could be altered in the case of the sub-hero - but in that case, would they be accelerated or decelerated?). I'm not talking about people who merely underperform in a dysfunctional and rather human-like manner, like the Simpsons - I'm talking about people who are genuinely "super" in their "sub"ness. I think it could happen.

I read a book a while ago about grammar. It was called "Eats Shoots and Leaves". So in this book, the author is saying that the grammar of the world (okay, she was just talking about English grammar, but she was talking about it with such respect that it could have been the language of the world for all she cared) was degenerating just at the same time as the internet had allowed everyone to become their own publisher (without editorial control). And she cited blogs, and email, and all kinds of other things that the modern age has permitted, as evidence. And what I think is - I'm here, writing a so-called "blog" which I genuinely do not expect ever to be read by anyone (other than a small child in a major city of China, who will accidentally stumble across the site whilst looking for porn - as 80% of the world's internet surfers do - and will close the window almost as soon as he opened it, especially when he doesn't see sufficient sexually-related swear-words appearing on the page) and the fact that it is theoretically published for the viewing of the world does not, in fact, mean that it will actually ever be a subject of reading or discussion. And let's say that not only one person (not including the small Chinese child who really doesn't like my writing style anyway) but two people were to read this blog. What would they discuss? Would the debate that arises between the two of those people actually have any influence on the future of the world? Or would it be like I find on many websites, that people have very long and in-depth discussions which are dominated (I am convinced) by 12 year olds, university professors and computer science students, and then in the end, the information is just lost into the ether? Is it even valid to call this stuff "information"? I mean, if we think about it, data without direction is not really "information". It's just data. We could bring examples of thousands of orang-utans with thousands of typewriters, but I don't think that it's even necessary. Everything around us, every drop of water and follicle of hair contains an infinity of data. Its length, its breadth, its density, its specifications, where it has been, where it is going, what its dreams are, etc etc etc. But the data, because it is not directed (maybe?) is sheer raw data which never really goes anywhere. It cannot be "information" because: (a) there is too much of it; (b) it goes unanalysed; and (c) there is really no (c).

Is it clear to everybody that, at least in English-speaking Western culture, "3" means "many"? I remember being in a linguistics class (I think) and learning about a language which didn't have numbers after 5 - 5 (or possibly 6) was considered "many". And people laughed the kind of laugh you laugh at cultures which don't make sense and are silly - hehe, silly culture. And that's okay. Because these people didn't realise that in our culutre, if you can think of three examples of something working, you can pretty much fudge you way into getting people to think that you've got way way more examples up your sleeve, you're just busting with examples, but you're only giving three just now because that's enough to prove to people that your axiom is true. While we're talking about laughing at other cultures, a scene from my life. I'm sitting in a class at university on like International (legal) Advocacy or something. Relatively bullshit course, but whatever, that's another story. So the teacher asks, "what is an example of cultural relativism". And smarty-pants don't really know what her name is sitting on the other side of the class puts up her hand and says, in a snooty voice, "female circumcision". And the whole class cheers and says hooray! Female circumcision is a terrible thing that other cultures do and it is wrong! But it's kind of not wrong because it's cultural! And I'm sitting there thinking - yeah, whatever, female circumcision is really not the point. Being snooty is the point. Because it's very easy to be torn apart by the decision of whether to condone or condemn another culture. But it's far less comfortable to genuinely consider the failings of your own culture. And I got really angry. And I wanted to say: "There's this really craaazy culture of these wacky people who, when you take a lolly from the store without the permission of the guy who's always at the store, take you to this place where you get beaten up until you say things and write your name down, and then you go to this place where a guy with a deep voice and funny hair talks to you but doesn't really talk to you, and they say that you're allowed to speak, but when you try to speak it turns out you're not allowed to speak, and then, craziest of crazies, instead of a sensible punishment like spearing or exile, they send you to this place away from your country, and put you in this room where you can't go outside, and especially they keep you away from your people and your elders who normally tell you what you should be doing, and they give you funny clothes, and they expect that they're doing you a favour. Oh, and lots of people kill themselves there. It's weird how they kill themselves when they're meant to be getting "rehabilitated" or even "punished"." It really peeved me that these things exist, and that there has never been debate in the United Nations on whether cultural relativism should permit imprisonment to be used as a form of tribal punishment or whether it should be considered cruel and unusual, or on the other hand whether cultural universalism should say no, that's wrong, even if people do it and it's part of the culture, it's wrong, it breaches human rights. But I really shouldn't be pissed off, because it's part of life that the dominant culture will enforce dominant norms and the minorities will be annoyed that they aren't the dominant culture.

White supremacists are strange. On the one hand, the idea of recognising white people as a "race" has positive aspects. It can be used to stop you from "other"ing the "other". On the other hand, the only people who are going to stop "other"ing are the academics, and it ends up being a scenario of preaching to the converted. In reality, when we start talking in terms of "race", it all just turns to shit. People seem to like killing people, and generally they will find any kind of reason to justify it (or at least, if not justify it, make it possible to do it more).

Man, how did this all turn so heavy? I guess I get tired late at night and start wanting to talk about death. Is there a connection between death and the night? I mean, yeah, they're both represented by the colour black and traditionally, death stuff happens at night, but is there a real rationale behind this? I am all for formally and democratically overturning this notion, and establishing a link instead between death and shiny hub-caps. I think the whole world would be a happier (though less shiny) place.

Right, that about does it. I'm outa here.

All the best,


PS: Fooled you! It was a letter all along! Ah, the power of the author. Bye now.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Thinking about stuff

I like to think that I spend a lot of my day thinking about stuff. I see it as a good thing. I can see how people could think that "thinking about stuff" is kinda like daydreaming, where you're just sitting there lost in your own thoughts - but for me, this is less of a fault, and more of an aim.

I want to be a guy who thinks. Not a philosopher - I think I've read enough to realise that in order to be a philosopher, you have to use words like "aetiology" and "logorrhea", and I just don't think I have the vocabulary. Just a guy who thinks. Even if I only get to have one really interesting thought a day, I would consider that an achievement.

On the other hand, I work during the day. In a law firm. So I sit there, and I exercise my brain, and sometimes I do stuff which really might be considered creative. But not think. I mean, there's a certain futile feeling that comes with thinking in order to work out how to do something that's already been defined. And that's pretty much what working in law is. Sometimes you don't immediately know what the thing is that's already been defined. So you try to find out. You try to figure out the right questions to ask of the right people, and you maybe do a bit of research or (in my case) think back to those principles you learnt or didn't learn at university, and you maybe take a few wrong turns, and then you design a solution. And you hope it works. But that's it - even if you don't know that the problem is defined, and you can fool yourself into thinking that you're taking part in the "defining" process, it's other people's lives, other people's money, other people's things, and at the end of the day, other people who are not just doing to the defining, it's other people who have already done the defining, and you only get to find out when it's too late, and all the excitement that comes with really thinking, really creating something out of nothing - it's already gone. And that's it - that's the law. Always arriving at the party when the beer bottles are lying empty on the floor, there's a half eaten taco sitting in the tzatziki, there's some guy passed out on the couch dribbling on himself, and there are like three kids sitting out the back still smoking bongs. And that's depressing. I mean, you can go out and smoke bongs with the kids, but that's kinda escapism.

So that's it - that's my life. I work during the day. Sometimes I work so hard at doing this "not-thinking" thing, that I don't have any time to think. And then I get home at night and I'm tired, and all I want to do is hang out with my fiancee and read the newspaper and maybe write on the computer, and that's nice, don't get me wrong, but there's got to be more.

I play Scrabble. On Thursday nights, I go to the Tel Aviv Scrabble Club on Shenkin St., I pay my 23 shekels, and I play three games of Scrabble. It's an incredible release. It can actually be quite stressful, but a good kind of stressful - possibly I've got the word wrong, and I'd be better off calling it "tension" or something. It's like, when I compare that kind of stressful with the stressful I get during the day at work, it's completely different. At work, I'm like I feel like I've arrived six hours late and I'm just struggling to catch up to where I should have been when I was still lying in bed recovering from the day before. It gives me this feeling inside of internal explosion - which in a sense, like internal combustion, is what keeps me going through the day. But it can't be good for me - there's got to be wear and tear. I mean, how long does your car last - 10 years? 12? The little explosions inside have got to be doing serious damage in the long term. The Scrabble feeling is different. It's a feeling of competitiveness, like wanting to be able to play the best you can, whilst still recognising that there are a bunch of people who take the game a lot more seriously than you do, and who could thrash you like a dirty-heeled shoe that they want to wear indoors with just a flick of their tiles. It's a feeling I never got from sport. Because sport, for me, was never anything but a disappointment. I was never faster than anyone, better than anyone, more agile than anyone, except in these marginal sports like table tennis which no-one ever took seriously anyway. And one day, I played a game of table tennis against another kid at school, and he beat me hands down. That hurt - the feeling that even in the sport that I was okay at, that even if I did win, it would still earn me absolutely no kudos whatsoever in the way that the kids who were good at rugby, basketball, athletics, soccer, cricket, swimming, even trampolining, got. That sucked indeed.

I played a game of tennis once, against a kid who kept on hitting the ball hard to my backhand. Now, I'd like to think that I don't have a terrible backhand. Admittedly it's not as strong as my forehand, but whose is? I'm more of a hit it with a backspin long and deep kind of guy when it comes to backhand. One handed. Two handed backhand always felt wrong to me. So this kid picks up that my backhand is weaker than my forehand in maybe the second or third game of the first set. And from that point on, he hit every single shot of the match to my backhand. I'm not kidding here, every single shot. Point after point. I even kept hitting them back, even hitting them to his backhand, and he would always run around them, and hit them back again and again and again to my backhand. And I would lose. I'd lose the point, and then the game, and then the set, and then the match. And this kid would just keep on hitting it to my backhand. And at the end of the game, this kid walks up to the net and when I'm about to shake his hand he makes some comment like: "You'd better work on that backhand". And I want to kill him. I really do. Okay, maybe not kill him, but certainly cause him a lot of pain. If possible, on his face with the pain-causing part of my body of his choice. And when I was thinking about it afterwards, I thought, "why did I want to kill this kid?" I mean, he was just playing the sport in the best way he could to win the game according to the rules as they were. And yeah, maybe I felt it wasn't fair and that he shouldn't be allowed always to hit to my backhand, and it spoiled the game for me because I couldn't have any fun with it because I felt I was just losing and losing and losing, but that's what our culture encourages. We make rules for games which can be exploited, and except for the occasional Marxist on university campuses, there's no-one saying that exploitation of the rules is wrong. In fact, we treat it as a virtue. We celebrate the fact that people push the rules, and bend the rules, and even break the rules (sometimes), and we reward them financially and in other ways, and we, as lawyers, we help them.

I thought, the other day, that there is a point in having lawyers. Because, if you think about it, most people don't have lawyers. And they're the people who keep within the boundaries of the law, more out of habit than anything else. It's not that they don't rob banks because they're afraid they'll get caught, or because they have a morality which doesn't permit them to do it, but because that's just where they stand. They're the cows who are standing in the middle of the field, and it doesn't matter if there's a hole in the fence, it's not relevant to them. It's a long way away, and they're not at all likely to even see it. Then there are the people who do use lawyers. These are the people who are always pushing the boundaries, trying to see "what will happen if I do this", trying to get around everything they possibly can, pay the least possible tax, try to get out of the agreement without getting sued, trying to avoid doing criminal things and getting caught up by the police, this kind of thing. And sometimes these cows get out of the fence, and they come in again, and they jump over, and they walk through the holes, and the government or whoever is the farmer guy who mends the fence (okay, maybe the farmer doesn't mend the fence herself, perhaps she hires some hokey kid to do it - actually, in the advertisements for telephone companies or apprenticeships or something, it's the farmer who mends with the hokey kid who ends up getting the farmer's dog as a present). And the lawyers are the ones helping those cows do what they do. But the point of this is, that it's the cows who are pushing the boundaries that keep it stable for the cows standing in the middle. That is, without the boundary cows, the middle cows wouldn't have a middle to stand in, because the fences would just keep getting brought inwards and inwards and inwards until all the cows are suffocating for lack of oxygen and grass. Which brings us back to the kids smoking bongs.

But the point is, I don't think that's right. Maybe the cows on the edge are just tolerated by the cows in the middle because the middle cows are tolerant, but getting towards the ends of their tether? Maybe this is the difference between capitalism and communism - which way you see the relationship of the cows working.

Note to the gentle reader: I am not stoned while I'm writing this. Just really really tired. I was thinking of calling this blog "random musings", but I'm almost certain someone else already used the title. Why is it that we have this self-censorship for originality? Maybe, if we weren't so bothered with being original all the time, we could relax, and actually be original, instead of being abstruse, by trying to be more original than ourselves. I find this when I'm writing stuff, sometimes it's like - "no, don't write that, that's boring and been done before and whatever, write about this - that's original" and then I'm writing about something I know nothing about, and the whole thing goes to Gehenom. I've got this theory that there's a big circle of (un)originality. Person A wants to write about Thing A, but thinks, "that's not original - I'll write about Thing B instead". Person, B, who should really be writing about thing B, decides for the same reason to write about Thing C. And this continues on and on until we get to person Z (who is not necessarily 25 people after Person B) who writes about Thing A, which is Person A's thing. And if only all 26 (or however many) of them could agree to shift one to the left, everyone would be writing about the thing they should be writing about, and there could be some real originality. I mean, what if Paul Coelho should be writing Don De Lillo, and Tom Clancy should really be writing Salman Rushdie? That would be cool then, if they already write so well and they're not even doing what they could be doing better than they're doing now.

Clearly I'm tired. I'm going to sleep. G'night.