Contemplating the Monster

‘These are the opening remarks of what is intended to be a book-length project. The larger project is untitled.’

What would I become if I did not overthink it? Or do I not have the luxury for this to be more than a passing thought? Nature, and the world, sure do temper what freedom I imagine is evoked by the question; perhaps I should open myself up to their violent imposition? To live otherwise would be to deny their reality.

The problem is, I don’t think I am one-hundred percent convinced by their reality. Or, at least not the world’s—goodness, but that sounds like an invitation to dissociate, and that’s not what I want. This because, in fact, what I do believe is that the world in its substantial form—that is, in every way it seems to have an affect—is absolutely real, indeed so wonderfully real that the realization that it is so, that it exists, halts me in my tracks, mid-stride, makes me weak in the knees and causes me to sway, uncertain, there as I stand, even as it inspires in me an appreciation of the rushing force of life, of its inevitability, and thus simultaneously gives me the strength of a certain conviction in my standing there, in my being, alive: the consequence of this realization blooms, blossoms, explodes with all of the certainty of nature, inside of me. However, at the same time, it is a feeling irreconcilable, really, with the looming impassivity of the modern world: our world which we call ‘reality’, which is defined, I guess—if I had to pick just one thing, gun to my head—by the tyranny of the market.

You must know to what I refer. And I’m sure you must also wonder, as I do, what this beast is, that has come to hold sway over all, which we’ve watched rise to a staggering height and become titanic as a mountain, altering the landscape of this, our earth, with an inertia of tectonic magnitude. You must have seen too how it has grown, monstrous, all the while emitting not a roar, but a whisper of ones and zeros—steady beeps—as each day it stretches and flexes across ticker boards around the globe, and upon every wall and screen at the NYSE, JPX, LSE, SEHK, and SSE.

Do you know, writing those acronyms out caused me to shiver; I wonder how you felt reading them. For me it felt like I were invoking its beastly presence by their incantation—I did not utter them out loud, though, so we shall see. Besides, I’m sure it speaks only to those who have given their life over to it, who yet strain to understand its language, which is all but impenetrable. Its words are the derivatives of financial trade, the agreements between corporate institutions which offload all risk to Some Other Company Inc.—or at the very least to some other time. Its gospel is filled with the prospecting of the future five, ten, fifty years in advance, as the brotherhood of its devotees does all that it can to make sure that the predictions turn out all right. I know this much about its operation because I have been watching it. But what I have not been able to discern, all this time, is whether there is a way to cut through it, to get to whatever inside of it functions as its heart, and arrest its thunderous beating. With it gone I hope its hot, oppressive lust would likewise dissipate, unfortunately there are some who believe that lust would simply find another host in which to grow, monstrous, and they are convincing in their argument. I hope they are wrong, as I hope we will be able to get out of its shadow once and for good. We really have been living in it for so long that I fear we have confused it for reality. I claim—unlike those others—that this shadowy realm is not reality. Reality is brighter than this. Reality is warmer than this.

I’m sure of it.

But where do I get this certainty? Such optimism could have a superficial cause, after all—perhaps I’m just the lucky product of a happy household, for example, by which I mean to say, that if I weren’t, then it would be entirely possible that the shadow of which I speak were already inside of me, so that conquering it would require conquering myself. Do you see?

I must consider this, and here it is worth pointing out that Freud, one of my influences in my theory of dreams, hypothesized that the oceanic feeling of some world unity, which mystics the world over have invoked throughout recorded history—and which at this moment I suppose I too am imagining—is nothing more than the distant memory of the womb; in other words, the warm womb, coupled with the brightness of a happy home, could explain away my intuition. Perhaps I am only fooling myself, then, to think that it’s anything more, and that this feeling, properly applied to the whole world, can overcome the darkness of our time: the darkness which I see everywhere I turn, while the warm glow is only ever fleeting, if even I do see it, in moments of—for example—communal gathering.

Perhaps.

But where’s the story to be told if the world were so bleak as that?

No, I will declare, here, that I have faith that the feeling—this distant memory—somehow lies beyond my own subjective experience of this life, even if it is only for the sake of story.

Yes, even then, for it is my work in literature which lends me my conviction in the first place. In literature I’ve discovered that all the great thinkers are talking about this same feeling, and have grappled with it, much like Jacob did with the angel, paying their toll of sweat and blood in order to be declared fit enough to lead humanity to its destiny.

Now there’s a story, and I’d have mine be as powerful. Into the heart of darkness we go, then, and it will take a lot of strength indeed to find our way to the other side, back into the light.

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