Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Older than Jesus

I know, I know... I've not been blogging as regularly as my discerning reader would like. Of course, seeing as how I pay him by the word, that's hardly a surprise.

In truth I've been rather distracted this past week... there's been a Big Complicated Work Thing (involving branching one application into several, over a period of days) which was using up a lot of my attention. And on top of that, I've been doing the whole Pre-Birthday Introspection Thing, which has produced a lot of writing... just not for public consumption... well, just a little bit then...

Yes. I'm 34. Hmmmmm. It's all downhill from here.

Thirty four. Unmarried. No children. No obvious social role.

I mean, I wish I could describe building web applications as a "social role" of some sort, but honestly? Let's just say that I hate that moment when I'm seeing a doctor and she asks "So what do you do for a living?" And I reply "Oh... I'm a writer... but just now I'm paying the bills as a freelance web developer..." I trail off. Awkwardly. I scratch the back of my neck. She smiles and nods her head, and her eyes betray almost nothing of the silent scream... "Do you know what my job is?! MY job is to work a hundred times harder than you, in order to save your worthless fucking life! That's my job!"

But we can't all be doctors, doctor. And I've been sold this here bunch of lies (opens briefcase; pulls out faded pieces of paper with "Industrialisation", "Capitalism", "Economics", "Globalisation", "Consumerism" written on them) that says my life's supposed to be about being economically productive. That somehow that's synonymous with fulfilling a social role. Somehow it's worthwhile and socially beneficial to spend 40 years making widgets just as long as someone wants to buy widgets. It doesn't matter what widgets are. And the more people you can pay to help you make widgets -- the more lives you can consume with the activity of widgets-making -- the more socially beneficial you become.

In the name of all that's sacred! The crassness of it all!

Aside to economists of the left... can I point out that giving all the widget-makers an equal share in the ownership of the operation doesn't make a life spent widget-making any less pointless. Marx was onto something with his ideas about industrial alienation, alright, but he was a rank materialist at heart.
Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterise our age.
- Albert Einstein
(whose 126th birthday would've been yesterday)
Ain't that the truth Albert!

So here I am. I'm multi-skilled, well educated, relatively resourceful, affluent (by the standards of most of humanity) and highly intelligent. And I'm surrounded by millions just like me. Some better looking than me; some less so. Some more resourceful or better educated; some less so. Some less intelligent; one or two equal. All of us. Individual hearts and minds, separated from one another by two feet of concrete and a thousand miles of alienation.

And we're all busy making widgets.

It should have been obvious as soon as the nuclear family arrived on the scene. Or even before that. Back when industrialisation finally drove the family out of it's central position at the heart of our culture (the final nail hammered into the coffin of tribalism by civilisation). Family ties are a threat to consumerism... and that - after all - is the ultimate aim of capitalism; to tend towards a society which maximises the number of consumers for that which is produced.

How big a boon to the building industry, I wonder, was the death of the extended family? Society was broken into small units of three or four individuals and the suburbs blossomed. And now it's gone further. Breaking everything down into subatomic participants. These social trends aren't the result of some liberal plot to destroy the family, as the Unimaginative Right would have us all believe. They are simply the inevitable result of a system which expends huge resources in order to maximise the market for consumer goods.

Bah! See where turning 34 has got me! Last year was the final significant birthday until I'm 40 (well, 33 is significant within the Catholic tradition in which I was raised, if nowhere else). But Forty! is next ferchristsakes! Oh sure, I've got 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39 still to go before then (assuming I'm not hit by a bus tomorrow)... but who remembers those birthdays?!

I'm 34 goddamn it! I demand my wife! My 2.4 kids! And my white-picket fence! Or failing that: My sexy girlfriend! My open-top car! And my cross-country killing spree!

Sometimes turning thirty-four can make you a bit confused. I promise a return to some semblance of normalcy in the near future.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

jezzuz... put it on me calendar and come to try to find some place to toss in a 'appy birfday' and awl that... and the kid does a whole dealio...

andywayz... happy birthday!

ron

15/3/05 20:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Know the feeling. I'm 46 and still counting 2 pence pieces out of a jar just to go down the shop for a bag of Mini Cheddars. I haven't won the Nobel Prize for Literature yet. No-one wants to buy my paintings. I haven't shagged a 21-year-old for months (about 557). What have I got for all my efforts over 46 years? A reputation as a person who consorts with demons and knows something about an obscure Chinese oracle. Where did I go wrong Jim?

Shit, 557 was off the top of my head. Just divided it by 12 it comes to 46! That's weird.

Joel

15/3/05 20:33  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

Aww, thanks ron. It'll come as no surprise to hear that I spent the day chilling out to the sound of good music, smoking perhaps a little too much pot, eating food that comes pre-packaged with defibrillators, and questioning the meaning of my life. The usual birthday routine.

There's a club night on Friday and a gig on Saturday that I may drag my 34-year-old bones along to, in the name of marking the passing of another year for memory's sake.

I hope all's groovy with yourself? That comment on HH really blew up in your face, man. A lesson in misjudging the mood of the times methinks, for us all!

Joel, I often feel like I'm sitting on the bank of a fast river watching everyone else getting swept along. Simply by default, by choosing to sit still, I'm taking "the path less travelled". I remember what it was like being swept along, and I'd rather eat my own flesh than go back to that. But at the same time, sitting on the riverbank isn't going anywhere.

Which is damn groovy if you really like where you're at. But less so for the rest of us.

From my own point of view, I suspect that a wife, 2.4 kids and a white picket fence is not a place I'd enjoy all that much. And the cross-country killing spree wouldn't suit me at all. Especially not in a car... y'know... fossil fuels... peak oil and what have you... The sexy girlfriend though... I know for a fact that'd make life by the river waayyyy more bearable.

Of course, Joel, you must remember that there's a dam upstream just about to burst, and the entire valley will soon become a seething maelstrom of extreme full-on-ness. So I think to myself "hell, I may as well sit here while I still can".

On the other hand, there's also the temptation to try and find higher ground. But from where I'm sitting, that looks like it's going to require a swim across the river.

16/3/05 20:19  
Anonymous David Duff said...

Thanks Jim and Joel, I haven't laughed so long and so loud for ages! You two 'Pte. Frasers' remind me of my old drill sergeant who discovered that I had an 'O' Level, and thereafter reminded me that whilst I had "loadsa 'edification', I'd got fuck all common sense."

Jim, I have to tell you, in a spirit of comradely brotherhood that sentences like "..you must remember that there's a dam upstream just about to burst, and the entire valley will soon become a seething maelstrom of extreme full-on-ness" is not likely to facilitate the parting of a young piece of totty from her knickers, which is, of course, at the heart (or perhaps somewhat lower) of your problems. Lighten up, man, but don't light up, that might cause the modern equivalent of brewer's droop, known as Dealer's droop. Girls love a man who makes them laugh!

16/3/05 21:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm 28 and in almost the same mental and social condition. I was going to give up boozin' tonight... but then i read this. Ouch.

ross "if alcohol can't stop the questions than what possibly can" kerr

16/3/05 21:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are looking for some meaning in life beyond the pursuit of pleasure and material things. (Don't worry, I'm not a religious nut.) If you are serious, try visiting this web site:
http://www.btinternet.com/~k.h.s/stoic-foundation.htm

I found it very enlightening.

Paul

16/3/05 23:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yup, groovin to a different style...

17/3/05 03:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

who'd a thunk it... a lynch mob full o'hippies huh...

been tryin' ta keep my mouth shut mostly now... working a lot on my motorcycle and riding a lot...

like i said just dropped by to wish u sincere best regards for your birthday... and congratulate u on that whole oil depletion thangy... tho' sumtimes it does suck to be rite... u-know....

love and respect,

ron

17/3/05 04:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Jim, the coming chaos is one of the few things that actually makes sense of the way I've spent the past 20 odd years and the choices I've made. I can appreciate the irony of that on days when it all seems to have been for nothing. So I just think to myself that I'll be in my element.

As for the river metaphor, well I trust you've read Hermann Hesse's "Siddhartha". Good riverbank reading.

Joel

17/3/05 15:15  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

Joel, to be honest the riverbank riff was a direct reference to Siddhartha which I've been meaning to re-read of late. Nice to see you picked up on it.

The reference, though, was lost on poor David I fear.

It doesn't surprise me, though, that someone who places so much faith in The Market should also enjoy a spot of pop-psychology. Unfortunately your analysis of me and my problems is roughly as accurate as your analysis of the world and its problems, David. But I'm touched that you try. Truly I am.

Also, can I take this opportunity to clear up a point? I don't need to "lighten up", David. Really. I'd be willing to bet that I laugh at least twice as much as you do. I laugh a lot. And it's the really good kind of laughter, y'know? Right from the soul. Oh sure, I probably spend 4 times longer than you do feeling 10 times shittier. But do you really think that's not a trade I make willingly?

You rarely meet an amateur analyst who doesn't start with the assumption that everyone else is a broken version of them.

It's certainly true David, that I believe the world is facing a very serious problem and that our civilisation is ill-equipped to cope. This is something which 99% of us have yet to face up to. And yes, it is a "heavy" issue, and does indeed make for lousy chat-up lines... "Hey baby, how about that energy-related end-of-civilisation thing? Wanna come back to my place and see my oil production forecast analyses?" is guaranteed to bomb in all but the most specialist of gatherings.

But one of the main functions of this blog is for me to throw out some ideas on this matter and get reaction. I'm putting together a book on the subject you see... and you may well find yourself in it David, under the safely generic name of "Some sceptics..."

However, you can rest assured that should I ever meet the "young piece of totty" of whom you speak, I'll not immediately try to woo her with politics, economics or energy systems. Instead I'll smile a big smile and (if that's not frightened her away) I'll tell her about how big my wallet is and how fast my car is and how glorious my career is and how wonderfully happily joyfully wonderful absolutely everything is whenever I'm around.

Cos women like being fed fairytales and bullshit, right?

To Paul the stoicist... I'm afraid you misinterpreted me if you thought I was "looking for some meaning in life beyond the pursuit of pleasure and material things". With due respect, I've got a pretty firm handle on the whole metaphysical end of things. I'm 100% centred and am completely at ease with my place in the universe.

It's just my place amongst the rest of human kind that I've yet to sort out. And that's not because I need some new ideas... I'm just waiting for everyone else to catch up. Far better to live your life fixing the flaws in your own system than railing against those of someone else's.

To anonymous, 28... I quit alcohol a while ago. I stopped enjoying it once I quit cigarettes (the tobacco industry is satanspawn and smoking cigarettes is, to misquote Vonnegut, "the most stupid form of suicide"). I can't say I've missed booze at all if I'm honest. And I'm thankful every day for no longer being a slave to cigs.

Pot is now my only vice. My life is a good deal less rock and roll than once it was.

17/3/05 17:02  
Anonymous David Duff said...

"Cos women like being fed fairytales and bullshit, right?"

Right! Well, most of them, most of the time, just like blokes really; or even, dare I say, you and me!

How else do you think Persil and Marxism sell?

17/3/05 17:33  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

David, it may well be true that "most women" and "most blokes" like to be fed fairytales and bullshit "most of the time". And it's obviously true - by your own admission - that you like it too.

But please don't elect yourself to speak for me on this particular issue. I'm busy admiring just how beautifully it highlights why our positions are so different on the subject of The Market. Have you sneakily been converted, and this is a bashful way of saying so?

I don't like being fed fairytales and bullshit when I'm expecting the truth David. That's why I never buy Persil, and I haven't been a Marxist since I was 16.

17/3/05 18:00  
Anonymous David Duff said...

"That's why I never buy Persil, and I haven't been a Marxist since I was 16."

Well, I'm delighted by the second part of your declaration, not that I suggested *you* were a Marxist. However I am worried by the first. If not Persil, what? And could this be something to do with your lack of success with the ladies?

Just pulling your leg! You put me in mind of Antonio's opening lines from 'The Merchant..':
"In sooth I know not why I am so sad,/ It wearies me, you say it wearies you;/ But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,/ What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,/ I am to learn:/ And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,/ That I have much ado to know myself."

Truly, my friend, I am sorry that a young man like you should suffer such melancholia, and I hope very much you come out of it.

17/3/05 20:27  
Anonymous David Duff said...

Jim, in my never-ending quest to cheer you up, may I suggest you have a squint at the latest Investers Chronicle - it is on-line but I'm not sure if it requires subscription - very interesting article on the pros and cons of 'oil peaking' theories.

Please don't thank me, I'm away for three weeks in sunny Spain where the last thing on my mind will be the end of the world!

20/3/05 21:51  
Blogger L said...

I think all single people must get a bit angsty after turning 30... but it can be worse for women. We're taught from a very early age that our most important role in life is looking pretty and breeding.

21/3/05 01:25  
Anonymous David Duff said...

"..our most important role in life is looking pretty and breeding."

Well, unless you are likely to find a cure for cancer (or something similar) then I agree with the last part of your sentence. I don't know how to put a quick reference in here, so you will have to go to my Homepage and click on the essay I refer to in my last post. It is worth reading for its own sake.

As for the "looking pretty" bit, don't worry, nature takes care of that because everyone is "pretty" to someone else, somewhere, sometime.

No use getting cross with me, I'm off to Spain in two hours! And do try a bit of "breeding", it's rather fun!

21/3/05 08:47  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

David, I'm never quite sure whether or not you're being sarcastic or just crass and arrogant.

I suspect it's a combination of both.

I think L's point had to do with the huge pressures placed on women to conform to a role that many find unfulfilling.

You responded as though it was a complaint that breeding isn't enough "fun" or that it's difficult to find someone who finds you pretty. That's patronising and insulting. And I doubt I'm the only person who thinks it makes you seem like a bit of an arsehole.

22/3/05 16:29  

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