We are a thing that is wounded, American society. People raised for the new millennium were to be a kind of final proof that democracy and American society was, indeed, the greatest that ever could be made, now that primitive superstitions had been cleared, tech and science and finance reigned, major political threats had fallen and our hegemony seemed complete. We were, and shakily remain, utopian in ways I would laugh at if I hadn’t bought into them, too. More than half of millennials still tell pollsters they believe they’re going to be millionaires. Most of us expected to achieve idyllic marriages, even though so many of our parents had divorced. We were taught that anything you hoped for could be achieved with the right planning, that life is a series of hacks: fabulous tricks, but ones that have a reliable code for how to repeat them.
Of course, none of this was true. The tech bubble burst. There was 9/11 and the financial crisis and the surprise election of a reality-TV tycoon as president—all things that loosened our faith in the world’s goodness and in our comprehension of and control over things.
I used to think I was the only one whose outwardly awesome-seeming life—I was following my “passion” in a rocky economy, maintaining my friendships, looking good on Facebook—bore almost no relationship to her roiling inner monologue, until a friend of mine showed me her diary. It was shocking because the sentiments sounded so much like my own and also so little like anything most of us are courageous enough to reveal: ceaselessly self-scrutinizing, ceaselessly self-punishing. “Am I less interesting at 24 than I was at 17? Where has all my discipline, all those self-imposed exercises gotten me?” She spoke of trying to recover some potential life and world that had, in her early 20s, already been lost. Contemplating her desire for securities like money and a nice husband, she wrote, “I’m realizing I’m much more conservative than I thought.”
When I read this passage to Satya Doyle Byock, an Oregon-based psychotherapist who focuses on counseling young adults, she laughed grimly. “That’s the essence of what I hear over and over again,” she said. “We’re raised in a quantitative culture with quantitative goals.” She works with young people who believe society has given them all of the tools and the technology and the science to construct an ideal life. But they still feel like failures. And they feel shame for feeling it, and thus they are trapped in an ironclad double bind. Declaring everything achievable tends to dig a well of grief in people because it implies that any problem we encounter is a result of our miscalculation. “It causes suffering,” she said, “by denying the necessity of suffering.”
Sure, crimes such as selling a pig corpse that has “pronounced sexual odors” are funny, but the humor wouldn’t matter if the subject itself weren’t important. As Chase writes, “The tricky part for the average person is that there’s no comprehensive list of all the things that are crimes today. In fact, no one even knows how many federal crimes there are. What’s worse is that the law usually doesn’t require that a person know something is illegal before they can be criminally charged and convicted for it. And when you can’t always know if something is a crime, you can’t always know if you’re a criminal.”
As if this sort of legal sprawl weren’t alarming enough, many of these laws come directly from unelected heads of federal organization instead of Congress itself. As Chase explains:
By the late 1800’s . . . Congress started passing broad statutes giving executive branch officials the power to make rules with the force of law . . . So Congress began delegating its lawmaking authority to federal agencies. As a bonus, congressmen didn’t have to face the political repercussions when agencies made unpopular rules the way they would by voting on controversial bills. And if there’s one thing that’s popular in Washington, it’s lack of accountability.
It might be an odd comparison, but Boyle in some ways stands next to French author Michel Houellebecq. Both cast a cold and cynical eye through the illusions that we not only convince ourselves of, but pride ourselves in believing. And much like Houellebecq, Boyle doesn’t actually make the case for anything. He peers through the cheapness, but doesn’t seem to sense anything beyond that should take its place. Fittingly, Outside Looking In ends with Leary saying to Fitzhugh, “Fuck God … let’s get high.”
Perhaps suspecting that nothing lies beyond the swindle is also part of the American psyche. Or, perhaps it’s just another part of the swindle. Whatever the answer might be, Boyle is here to remind us that it won’t come easy.
The world is a wall
on which we have painted
the horizon, our dreams
of where the sun sets
drawing out of us
aspiration and desire
in an infinite movement
toward a speck of dust
which recedes like a summit
behind the sea.
What storm of suspicion
would rescind the dazzled eye
and raise a hand
to scrape the paint off the distance.
To fathom at once
the hoax of arrows
soaring out of view
before cursing their targets
on the ramparts of fortresses
still bounded within
the foresight of our yearning.
The mote in the gravel
glows in the scale of our sight,
but ceases to beguile,
it crushes the invertebrate hope
that the curtain
is lovelier than
what hides behind it.
The question Sieferle raises, then, is what relationship to the Nazi past would be preferable. Without providing a direct answer, he gestures toward the possibility of turning back from the ersatz religion of commemoration to a genuine religion of atonement and grace. “The drama retains an Old Testament rigor,” Sieferle writes. “Adam Hitler is reconciled by no Jesus; and one would probably crucify such a Jesus as quickly as possible. The guilt thus remains total; it is compensated by no grace.”
"Japan is thus rather odd; it seems both hyper-capitalist and hyper-traditional. A major value in traditional Japanese culture is, of course, humility. Ghosn has sinned against humility. He has failed to be sufficiently unassuming in his rule. In fact, he has, some say, been a tyrant, when typically Japanese boards call for at least the appearance of consensus.
Ghosn has been clear that he simply wants to rule the company like any other global one: extremely-high CEO pay, autocracy, and a ruthless commitment to profit-making and nothing else. This carries with it many rights for the board: many homes, fancy clothes, and political power—all worn and displayed openly. Ghosn has argued: Nissan is a global company. It shouldn’t be bound by backward, Japanese fetishes! (The New York Times). Japan has responded that these traditions do matter; not everything can simply be pulverized by the imperatives of profit and growth."
A neural network imagines a person. Then, one by one, neurons in the network are being switched off...
Project page: https://aitold.me/portfolio/i-will-not-forget/
Against a contemporary critique which would banish the religious, the transcendent, and the infinite from phenomenology, philosophy, and human life as a threat to the integrity of finitude, Chrétien shows that it is precisely our encounter with the excessive call of the infinite that invites, nay demands, us to embrace, “body and soul,” the finitude, fragility, and corporeality of human life, more conscious than ever of their limits. They are not rendered superfluous, but invested with irreplaceable significance. It is not as if “because no one can ever think, say or paint divine beauty in all its plenitude . . . we can avoid the task of praising it every way we can: quite the opposite is true—it is an essential aspect of its radiance that it demands our hands and voices.” In speech, nothing less than the totality of our finitude is offered, wounds and all, “knowing at one and the same time that it cannot be enough and yet that nothing other than it can be enough.”
Chrétien’s thought returns again and again to this moment, when finitude is stretched and broken open without ceasing to be finite—to the “wounded word.” This word is not defined by its adequate correspondence to its object or by its self-sufficiency. Instead, it is “wounded by this [divine] listening and this summons that have always already preceded it,” the immemorial and excessive to which it is impossible ever to fully correspond. Just as blessing and wound were inseparable when Jacob wrestled “all night long in the dust . . . and thereafter [bore] the sign of a dislocated hip and a limp,” the weakness of speech is witness to its impossible strength. In this kenotic logic, “speech is all the more confident the less sure it can be of its own capabilities.” This paradox reaches its culmination in the hymn, the speech in which “there is always this hint of tremulousness, suspended, as it were, on the edge of silence.”