Warning: existential read.
Texas is a messed up place. I think, possibly, only a federated state which previous was its own country can be this messed up.
The first photo is from a petrol station toilet. I have no idea what a sexual ‘grab bag’ might include, although the Brit mates hypothesised over pints upon my return, as social science PhDs are wont to do.
The second and third photos are from a local favourite eatery, Sealand. Yes, it is the land of the delicious sea. Not making this up: while at dinner there with my partner, we overheard, “If the restaurant is called Sealand, why are there paintings of birds on wall?!” … they were herons. Anyhow, you can’t make this stuff up.
The last two photos are something I struggle with. Minnie was my grandma who died just after her 75th wedding anniversary two weeks ago. My grandpa said after their story was published in the local paper (see link), many people came to visit them in care home to say their story was a source of inspiration.
My grandma died just before her 99th birthday; she is buried next to her mother, who I am named after, who died in her early 90s. My grandma is also buried near her sister who also lived to a ‘ripe ole age’.
I MAY have been to church that day and had too much scotch on an empty stomach and had a massive breakdown at the cemetery for two reasons. First, this Christian ritual of burying the dead doesn’t sit right with me. In Britain, its become much less common (unless you want to be laid to rest near Karl Marx in Highgate), and I am much more comfortable with burning the dead. Just knowing their bodies are beneath my feet is a huge source of unnecessary, attachment-based grief. A counselor once asked me if I am Buddhist because it made all the death in my life easier to deal with. She was probably right, but I think this whole Christian burial is far too torturous. Second, I DO NOT WANT TO LIVE UNTIL I’M 90-something, and ALL the women on this side of my family do.
I’ve been through my fair share of ‘hard knocks’, and undertaking a PhD in a ‘foreign’ country has certainly exacerbated these, but this year I’ve learned one very hard lesson… I think. There’s not much purpose to life, to our individual lives… other than the old ‘Keep calm and carry on’.
My grands ‘pulled themselves up from their bootstraps’ (if this was a thing then, it certainly is not now); they went from Great Depression-broke to comfortable. They had a family, a close family; they worked hard in community service and were fortunate enough to enjoy 75 years with a partner who was truly a partner. This is outstanding. This is the best we can hope for. But, at the end of it all, we’re still alone. We outlive our partners, and we outlive our bodies. In our youth and middle age, we command our bodies. In our old age, our bodies command us, never knowing when the next emergency run to the toilet will interrupt our regularly scheduled programme.
I know my grands are just ONE example, but I honestly feel like their lives are the BEST example of a good life… and in the end, first-hand, its awful. When we are younger, we always wish the world would just PAUSE: for a nap, for time with family, for time to read, for time to relax. When we age, there’s nothing but time: time alone, time to reflect, time to regret, time to read but we can’t see, time to holiday but we can’t walk.
I guess this whole post is just my way of saying the human condition is a shit condition. I regret coming here for my PhD, a year before finishing I regret it almost 100%. And if you are considering one, I’d advise thinking twice. But a very kind friend recently sent me something from EE Cummings:
because you take life in your stride(instead
of scheming how to beat the noblest game
a man can proudly lose,or playing dead
and hoping death himself will do the same)
because you aren’t afraid to kiss the dirt
(and consequently dare to climb the sky)
because a mind no other mind should try
to fool has always failed to fool your heart
but most(without the smallest doubt) because
no best is quite so good you don’t conceive
a better; and because no evil is
so worse than worst you fall in hate with love
–human one mortally immortal i
can turn immense all time’s because to why
I think its meant to be encouraging. So reflecting on Texas being so messed up - the world being so messed up - my grands’ story and life, and my own regret and current personal hell that is elite education … I am certain there is no point in life, and I think that’s what Cummings is trying to say as well. That there is no point and life, as a state of being, is pretty awful - the good is the exception, not the rule - but the best we can try to do is keep challenging ourselves to endure the awful, the hardship, the regret.
To turn our cheek and try to silence the awful with drugs, sex, gluttony, envy, or such vices is to miss the nature of the experience that is life.
I think what I’m trying to say is, migration, war, genocide, discrimination, poverty, hunger… these are the rules, anything else is the exception. The purpose in living the unpurposeful life is to endure.
Illegitimi non carborundum
this is my only academic accomplishment this week.