To quote the great one: “it’s been so long.”
sometimes you just have to hit the gods square in the mouth
To quote the great one: “it’s been so long.”
I’m sure I’ve had this thought for years and I’m equally sure that this thought is not original to me. Human Use-Value (HUV). If I weren’t so lazy, I’m certain that, with a little research, I could find extensive Marxist literature on the idea of human beings as intra-personal capital. Not your classic idea of human capital–not the grist for the mill of bourgeois, capitalist exploitation–but something more psycho/sociological, a kind of use-value that we attribute to one another in the course of our human relationships vis à vis how important the subject is to the object at any given moment in any given interaction. I’ve been thinking about my own use-value of late and I realize that, in the hearts and minds of most of the people I interact with on a daily basis, I am essentially the human equivalent of a mortgage-backed security or the entire Greek economy. I do not, however, foresee an emotional TARP bailout or IMF loan coming my way any time soon.
A case in point: In the sphere of my human romantic relationships I now hold less UV than the pizza delivery boy or the guy bagging groceries (especially since the pizza boy and the bag boy are the same person, thus, double the UV). I am, I realize, measured only by (a) the amount of money ($) I can loan my significant other and/or (b) the frequency and quality of sexual interactions (O) I can provide the aforementioned other. I suppose the calculus of my UV, then, resembles this formula:
UVs = ($ + O)
In this example, then, I can provide some use value if I am providing either money or sex. I do, however, wonder if the equation is actually more in line with a formula where the Sisyphusian Use Value (UVs) is not a matter of the sum of money loaned or sexual interactions performed, but is instead represented by the product of the amount of money loaned and sexual interactions performed. In that case,
UVs = ($ * O)
While this variant of the equation has the potential to produce a significantly higher UV by virtue of multiplication, in my particular case this equation can be particularly troubling, because if I am unable to provide either monetary compensation ($=0) or sexual satisfaction (O=0), then my UV, by definition, equals zero.
My socio/sexual economic index (SSE) resembles the following: I am a single parent whose gross hourly income is approximately $18.50. I also have a series of minor health conditions–(un)Lyme Disease, recent emergency gall bladder removal, anxiety, mild depression, and fifteen years of slothfulness. I live above the poverty line and can, more or less, function normally as a physical entity with some minor limitations (chronic fatigue, frequent irritability, an immune system that plays defense like the Run TMC Warriors of old). In short, I feel like a typical American citizen, struggling to live but living nonetheless. Regarding my place on the SSE Index, I earn approximately enough money to support myself and my child and my heath concerns do not render me incapable of sexual function or desire. I am, however, beholden to the rigors of an exploitative work place and the needs of single-parenting a precocious toddler. What little time, money, desire, and energy I have left over, though, I freely give to the people in my life who ask of it. This approach, apparently, is not sufficient for my significant other. Given my finite income and my limited free time I am afraid I have begun racking up a dangerously low UV, so low, in fact, that I am beginning to wonder if I am really of any use to my significant other at all, especially given the binomial nature of our particular equation.
I realize there are any number of variables that could fit the UV equation. The variables are unique to each relationship and each person; they also change over time. It just sucks, though, knowing that my own particular UVs has been reduced to ($*O).
“Time isn’t holding us. Time isn’t after us.”
David Byrne, “Once In A Lifetime”
Fifteen years. I don’t know if it’s the voice of Jeremy Piven screaming in my ear, the sound of the periodical cicada returning from parts unknown, or just the ghosts in my head saying that we’re back where we started, but the merry-go-round of personal history is coming full circle. Through the accident of marriage (again) and the inevitability of divorce (again) I have successfully managed to isolate myself (again) in the middle of nowhere. Most of my personal interaction happens between my three year old daughter and me…fortunately she is hyper-intelligent and super-cute so it is always rewarding. I do, however, long for some other connection. It needn’t be romantic. It needn’t be serious. It just needs to be real. A conversation without reference to Blue’s Clues. A story that doesn’t involve the Big Bad Wolf. “These are the days when we look for something other…”
There is Sturm in the air…the collective unconscious gently blows in through the window…a fog of memory and nostalgia and longing. Spirits? Poltergeist? The road not taken? That alternate universe where I did everything right? People named Roger and Virginia and…Anne. The voice of Pineapple Head…the girl I used to know a long time ago. Strains of Glitterball arrive via an email that has been bouncing around since… What does it all mean?
Car crashes. Government jobs. Families of five. Newspapers. Game Boys. Bikram Yoga. It’s the world that exists outside of me…a reality filled with people I used to know and love. They have all emerged from the abyss of time to….to….
Say that it is all ok.
I always thought I would sober up before one of my organs cried “No Mas!” In the very core of my being I knew…I fucking KNEW…that my body was tougher than that cream-puff Roberto Duran when he was getting the embarrassing beat-down of his life at the hands of Sugar Ray Leonard. I mean no disrespect to either Mssr’s Leonard or Duran, but come on, how can you not answer the bell? My body had always answered the bell, apparently, until I had one martini too many (and I mean one…I had one martini) and my gall bladder tapped out. So two weeks ago I head to the ER with uncontrollable vomiting and eight hours later I’m waking up with five small incisions and no gall bladder. I barely knew my gall bladder. One day it was storing bile, the next it had so many stones in it that I expected to see the visage of Keith Richards ripping through my torso like John Hurt in Alien (cf. Spaceballs if you are younger than 35). So I’m recovering now (too many complications to list) and have come to two inalienable conclusions:
1) There is nothing more important in the world than my daughter
2) I have absolutely no desire to drink.
I can’t explain it. Tomorrow I will be dry 3 weeks and I haven’t had the least desire to even sniff a cork. I tried to watch Barfly the other day (I am introducing a friend of mine to the films of Mickey Rourke–the finest actor of our generation) and for the first time in my life that film made absolutely no sense to me. I used to aspire to that role…I few years back I could have devoted my life to playing the role of Henry Chinaski on the dinner-theater circuit. But I just don’t get it any more. I can’t explain it.
So maybe I’m just depressed and rather than drinking I’m doing the anti-drinking thing. Maybe I realized that, fuck, I am mortal. No, I always knew that.
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
I am frustrated. I know Blue and Steve tell me that I need to “Stop. Breathe. And Think.” I’ve tried that and it isn’t working. I’ve tried transcendental meditation, but I can’t quite get “om” to do anything either. The great Martini Night experiment was a failure, too, because I inverted the Vodka/Vermouth ratio.
A bottle of Pinot Noir does not go well with a discussion of Cartesian philosophy. I discovered this the hard way last night when I thoroughly embarrassed myself during a discussion of Descartes’ primacy in the modern solipsistic ethos. In the sober light of day I see it so clearly…Cogito, ergo sum. Nowhere must I posit an other outside of my own thought process. That other is completely tangential to any notion of me as being. It is an a priori truth–a beautiful self contained argument. All of our western thought stems from this simple principle.
Could I elucidate that last night? Of course not. I was halfway through a bottle of red and moving toward the other half as quickly as possible. Moreover, I broke my cardinal rule: never argue with a gorgeous woman, particularly when she is both more intelligent and more sober than me. Like Descartes’ first premise, that, too, is an a priori truth.