Late night shopping

Scenes from a double life

I am a bad misanthrope since I don’t really hate people. Actually, I should say that I don’t like any random person, nor do I really wish ill will on people who consider me their enemy (apparently these people exist). I wish them well. When I encounter people either online or in real life, I am really hesitant to press the issue on anything, or to exacerbate differences. I figure that if I have someone’s attention, I might as well get the most out of it on my end. It is not an issue of having an “open mind,” my mind is always made up. I have to bite my tongue to really listen to people as I am someone who has the temptation to merely “wait to talk.” It is probably for the best that I tend to keep quiet in many social situations, that I don’t volunteer my opinions, or that I do not intentionally pick fights. If people aren’t going to agree with me, at least I hope that they present the best argument for their school of thought that they can muster so that my beliefs will come out stronger in the engagement. In this project, I have had to attack people, and I suppose I am sort of good at it. I have a zero tolerance policy for sanctimonious bullshit, which has been difficult for me since sanctimonious bullshit tends to be the weapon of choice of the enemy. Continue reading

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Notes on extinction

Extinction is the grammar of techno-industrial civilization. It is how it got to be what it is, and extinction is what sustains it. It is as if it creates life in order to merely destroy it. This goes for agribusiness fields to aborted fetuses to entire peoples who have been wiped out in the name of “progress”. If the passive nihilist can hurl the accusation of nature being indifferent to the creatures that it brings forth, what is even more certain is that European Christian civilization (in particular) has taken this premise to heart and run with it at an accelerated and exaggerated pace. That which takes nature millions of years to create, formulate, and grow, civilization can get rid of in an afternoon. Our entire way of life is powered by the corpses of animals dead millions of years before the first shadow of a human ancestor graced the face of the earth.  Continue reading

Morning

Scenes from a double life

I like to get to work early. This is not simply because I am a morning person, but it has a lot to do with it. I wake up naturally at 4:30 a.m. I want to leave the house by 5:30 a.m. but usually end up leaving more around 6 a.m. for various reason. I am the first one in my office. It takes me a bit of time to “warm up”, but I walk the halls of my office, empty, and think of all of the years I have been here. I get some work done.

Sometimes I leave my office and look out the window. I have the privilege of having an office with the door and an uninspiring view of the city. Still, in the distance, over the bridges and roads, I see the cars pouring in from all directions. Traffic. Shining like a luminous snake toward a million destinations. I can observe this before the calls come in and the emails start popping up in my inbox. I get more work done. Continue reading

On public safety

My co-author Ramon Elani wrote an interesting article well worth reading on anti-fascist action (“antifa”) in the U.S. context. Here I will offer my thoughts from a personal perspective.

I am afraid that I will have to go a bit beyond what Ramon said and state that not only do I not care about antifa, but I don’t even care when people are racist, bigoted, or give the Nazi salute. It barely registers on my radar of emotions. There’s a simple reason for this: I don’t expect much from humans. I expect something from those I have direct and somewhat indirect interactions with, because personal interaction holds people accountable. But people I don’t know? Social groups? My own “ethnic group”? That’s out of my hands, and frankly I can’t control that anymore than I can control the weather.

In Trump’s America, I’m the “target”: my family is from Mexico, I am visibly not white, and my family is visibly not white. I also live in the South. Yet when I see groups of hipster (mostly white) anarchists and leftists fighting wannabe Nazis and white nationalists in the street, I don’t feel represented by the former side. Why? Who are these people to me? Do I owe them moral support, or some sort of ethical obedience? People have always been against “my kind” in this country: have the victories of any other “militants” in the street benefited me in any way, or are they just propagating a system I do not like but aim to give me a “higher place” in it? Or doesn’t it always end up being a certain privileged sector of “non-white”, “non-male,” “non-straight,” “non-cis” etc. etc. that gets the benefits, and the rest uphold the system out of fear of something worse? Is that any way to live, or conceive of your place in the world: your identity is your only real protection? Like any other individualist, I prefer to go out on my own, regardless of the consequences. Continue reading

Brief meditation on hell

As I have written before, hell is a little understood or accepted doctrine even among Christians. But I would argue that it is crucially influential to understand how the hyper-civilized see the world today. This is not only among people who were forced to read the Bible or Dante or Milton in school, but also among people who have any eschatological view of the world, no matter how secular. Put more simply, those who dream of a better world, a heaven, always do so in the context of a hell, the failure to achieve that better world. And also as I have argued previously, those who seek to herd the great masses of people need hell to coax the rabble into action, just as the fiery preacher needs the flames of hell to exhort the faithful to virtue from his pulpit. In both cases, there is a need to augment human power and agency: humans can totally save or totally damn themselves, they can totally destroy the world or build a new one. Continue reading

Rothko Chapel

Scenes from a double life

In the last few months, it feels like I have closed the shudders of the mind and sat in the darkness inside. To a certain extent, even polemic seems distant at this point. Yes, I have continued to blog and translate when I can. But as you can see, I’ve been elsewhere and otherwise busy. Even my intellectual pursuit, medieval metaphysics, has made my thinking quite insular.  Continue reading

Note on nihilism and egoism

Perhaps nihilism has nothing to do with intention and everything to do with result. As in, society doesn’t care how you feel about obeying, respecting the “rights” of others, not attacking persons and things… as long as you “stay in your lane” and pay your taxes, your attitude could be whatever you like. “Nihilism”, like “morality” or “a-morality”, has nothing to do with what you would LIKE to do, but what you actually do. This is the insight that eco-extremism and its nihilist affinity groups share. Modernity is obsessed with intention, when intention is irrelevant. Intention is just an excuse, literally washing your hands of things as they are.

Morality, civilization, technology, i.e. all the things you don’t like and the reason you read all the books cool kids read, isn’t a “spiritual” thing or a philosophical idea. It’s physical at its core. Any attempt to refuse it at merely the emotional or intellectual level does not affect it, it may even strengthen it. Here we are not even arguing about effectiveness, just the basic fact that if 99% of your life conforms to what the rest of society mandates concerning everything from traffic stops to “human rights,” you already have a morality, you already have a belief, you already have a god, no matter how much you protest otherwise. Your playacting in some “fantasy world,” even if you withdraw completely into it in the form of an intentional community or small commune, is an exercise of morality, and of the dominant morality. In a world where techno-industrial society dominates, those who claim to not have morality will be assigned one, and the fact that they don’t like it is neither here nor there.

Then again, human action is a weak and frail thing, and arguing about it in the first place probably concedes too much.

P.S. Also, some “nihilists” and “egoists” think they are doing something novel by holding their nose and obeying society’s injunctions, when in reality, EVERYONE does that, even the most theistic moral person does that some of the time, often much of the time. An anti-abortion religious person HATES this society for “killing innocent babies,” and some who have this opinion have even committed murder to support these views. You’re not unique in thinking that society is repugnant to the point of renouncing all society and codes of morality: in some sense, society HAS no morality, it has traffic signs and their other legal equivalents. Actual ethical or philosophical content simply isn’t there, and setting the question up as if it were somehow is a cheap victory.

The river

Scenes from a double life

I have commented previously that I am a believer without ritual. This is not something that I am fond of admitting. From my youth, I have prayed and meditated. I still can rattle off Catholic prayers on command in three languages. When I am forced to read the Biblical Psalms, say, in church, their poetry and sense of devotion move me, in spite of not being moved by the god who they praise and accuse, beg and glorify. There is a hole there, but I must admit, it has been there for some years, even during the many of the years when I was still a believer in the Christian god. It’s as if I lost my voice after a lifetime of singing; my heart has fallen silent, only darkness covers the upper vault of my soul. Continue reading

Three Places in New England

Scenes from a double life

I.

I have never been susceptible to xenophobic or nativist rhetoric, partially because I come from a family of displaced immigrants. With age, and perhaps with comfort, I am beginning to understand it. I was in a place, let us not say where exactly, that attracts capital and talent from all over the world. Unlike the U.S. Southeast, this would constitute REAL America: the United States of America as people imagine it to be. Continue reading

A new heaven, a new earth

A short eco-extremist reflection on Pentecost

Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur; Et renovabis faciem terrae. ( Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.)

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone…”

(Apocalypse, 21:1)

The Christian ideal for nature is the Garden: Nature at the service of Man. In the Christian vision, Man is the apex of visible creation, slightly below the angels. In fact, Man is the Union between visible and invisible creation (the realm of Angels and spirits). For Man, unlike the brute animal, has both a mortal body and an immortal soul: through his intellect he becomes all things intentionally, that is, immaterially. To have an idea of an object in my head, I become that object, or rather, I take into myself the perfections placed into it by the Creator. It is for this reason that God becomes Man: to join visible and invisible creation in Jesus Christ. And learning of this plan before Time began, it is the reason that the fallen angels revolted against God.  Continue reading