Category Archives: prose

Moments in History – Many is Man

Many is man, Prigozhin said. He chewed on a carrot stick, which had snapped off from its stem held in his right hand, his mouth gaped open, his thick underlip protruded sadly, the ring of his mouth opening and closing repeatedly, while with every bite he gently squeezed his buttocks together in tight harmony, as flighty words and sweet carrot mingled into half reason, half prime. Many is man, he repeated. The ring begins Prigozhin said, quiet, listen. The water of the Rhine rippled from its source, barely audible, quietly swelling, from the Lake Toma at the Oberalp Pass. You have to see to hear it, only then to rise to waves and flow around the castle of man. Prigozhin was a boor, but don’t be fooled by his simple, crude appearance, he was sophisticated. Many years later, I would think back of this scene, as Prigozhin had risen and he had long forgotten about me or the carrot he had chunked on quietly, but I remembered it indistinguishably like a great silent moment in history, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings.

The Sommelier

The sommelier was a light-black hispanic man in his mid-twenties, perfectly mannered and composed, quick to react to my teasing wit, while at the same time leaving no trace of composition in his smile, displaying an honest exuberance. The sommelier had been held up in the wine cellar while we picked our courses from the menu and had inquired for his advice on the wine pairing. He stood lightly stooped over our table, one hand behind his back and pointed with his hand, extended in a straight angle from his shoulder, at the wine choice, an Austrian Grüner Veltliner by Hirsch from 2013, that paired well with the Spanish octopus and the Japanese hamachi.
“You got locked up in the wine cellar by your co-workers, it seemed?”
“They tend to do that, yes,” he answered with a genuine and gentle smile.
“The Château de Pressac, Grand Cru Classé, from Saint-Émilion is a French wine with a very dark hue and berry that pairs excellent with the Wagyu Beef.”
“Excellent, I trust you.”
As the sommelier walked off, one of the middle-aged Indian backwaiters walked over, holding a dark wood woven breadbasket in front of his pelvis and a silver bread tongs in his right hand hovering above the whole grain, mini bread rolls and elongated berry bread sticks, ready to grasp a single roll with his tongs and transfer it to our plates.
“No, thank you.”
We had gracefully declined already at least 3 times prior.
Immediately following the bread runner, sensing another window of opportunity to prove his value, came the water runner holding a thin, chrome water dispenser, and carrying a white napkin folded over his wrist. I could hear the ice cubes dancing in the can, clinging against the metal sides of the dispenser, creating a wild, loud motion inside. Barely without pause, his arm stretched in one flow with his walk, as his legs came to a stop the dispenser moved steadily forward, being stretched out without delay to the rim of the glass. The glass was not even half empty yet, but water poured down like an avalanche or waterfall in one wholesome fall, everything passing so quickly it could not be helped. Drops of water splashed all over the table, the glass now refilled to the rim in a wild splatter of an instant, the base of the glass soaked in condensed water rolling down the bowl along the stem of the glass and being absorbed by the saturated table cloth. Seeing the refilled bowl of water, the Hispanic runner’s smile was equally full with satisfied content of a job well done.

The Napkin Diaries

Pravda 1
I sweat all day profusely. Not from running around like a mad man or fever, nothing of the sort. Drips of sweat covered my forehead, a thin layer stands on my back, a single stream runs down my chest. I am moving small items from the front room to the back room, discard them in a carton box, or drain a half empty bottle of liquor down the kitchen drain. Nothing heavily exhausting, all minor movements around a limited space, I am taking my time. This moist New York climate is getting to me. I open a bottle of water, throw some ice cubes in a glass and immediately gulp the glass of water down my throat. I sense the cold stream run down my stomach. With every move, I burst out in a horrendous fit of sweat again. I am a swamp monster laying in the dried out mud, waiting for my prey, a burst of cool air. But at this time, just now, the sweating and the heat grow on me. I become erotically pleased by this heated state, my body’s craving for a cool down, my senses on alert. Any short breeze engulfes me with a satisfaction that lasts minutes. I blow a breath of air up my own face, with my underarm, I wipe the sweat off my stirn. While in the last days I felt erotically poised, I now rupture in general desire. I walk to the bathroom, jerk off in the sink, wash my sperm down, and continue cleaning up.

The Taxonomy of the Free Will

Intelligence is a commonly misunderstood function of the brain. Consciousness, logic, the ratio is attributed many capacities that lift man above the beast, beast above plants, plants above matter. This taxonomy of the soul has created categories of Creation, in it there is the hand of a Higher Being, the incomprehensible world of meta-physics. But our free will is not a merit of intelligence, but a flaw of repetition. We are born as tabula rasa, the impressions of the world that penetrate the shields of our senses, are ink spots on our soul, stabbed by the hostile pen of foreign matter. In our subject slowly are carved the tracks of our experiences, that leave their trace like heavy carts in the mud. Our whole constitution is evolved to repeat these behaviors that are imprinted in our memory. That is the intelligence of man, to repeat as precise as possible, in the greatest detail capable, every action, every move and reflex that we remember to have experienced in circumstances as close as we can recognize to those we are faced with today, here and now. The complexities and varieties of matching circumstances and reproducing, copying behavior as precisely as possible, are such, and the capacity of our intelligence so imperfect, and the constantly changing world so demanding, that timespace never repeats itself. But our intelligence is ignorant of this uniqueness of the world, and rewrites the words it memorized. Our schools, high institutions of higher education, even create standardized tests that function as passages of intelligence. But we nevertheless will irrevocably fail. Our failure to repeat, this is our famed free will! Our free will is the imperfection of our ratio to repeat our habits in perfection. It is the golden time of ignorance, the innocence of childhood where we are most free to fail. Our capacity to fail, our capacity to at random be successful in a unique environment and time, given the flaw of our at chance mutated attempt to repeat ourself, which defines our authentic freedom. But let us not pride ourselves for our faults, but humble in shame, and praise forgetfulness for our failing successes.

The Phenomenology of Boredom

In his moments of self-loathing doubt about his own direction and path in life, he took a walk into the city, not to escape the embers of his lingering depression, but to breath life into the flames of his heart. To chase off those thoughts of dead life by emerging into the nameless crowds, that is by encountering the endless numbers of individuals that formed the anima of boredom. To see the nothingness of his own soul being reflected in the masses of New York was the perfect serum to his depression and always worked. Crumbs we are, dust particles, dots in a distant present that wasn’t meant to last, vectors extended in a negative dimension, meaningless words.

Emilian Cioran (1911- ..)

Reading The Trouble Being Cioran my soul dissolves into the gut recognition of a European intellectual looking into the eyes of another, and my heart sinks to my shoes, realizing I am standing into the mud of American populism. The challenge to civic norms is perhaps shared by all societies in which individuals seek to redefine themselves along a more personal identity, and certainly this individualism or social individuation, the quest for freedom by the individual is a common demeanor present in different forms in American and European societies. American culture is dominated by popular expression. It is a path that West European culture has been traversing too without a point of return now. But the advances of American culture cause the challenge to civic society to pop up in perversions. These perversions are too disguised to be easily recognized as such, but they are therefore stronger and more forceful than the European sublimation of civic unrest. The rationalization of the Egos resistance is less forceful, but more convincing to the intellect. The essence of this rebellion is very similar in both American and European cultures, but the psychological subtleties differ greatly in the psychological effect an thus in form. The appeal of the European intellectual to this American repression and popular perversion is interesting, cause it shows that in the end it is more forceful than the sublimation.
Then what are those civic norms to be replaced by? Maybe the outcome of this counter culture is not to replace the established culture in total. It could be the task of critical voices to struggle free of civic norms and create new ones, not because they will be adopted but as cultural mutations that play a role in the evolution and struggle of the fittest in cultural survival.

The biological substrates of human suffering

About Love
The neurochemical pathways that regulate social attachments
The biological substrates of human suffering

Only 3% of mammals form monogamous relationships. One of these are the prairie voles. The faithful and monogamous prairie vole has receptors for oxytocin and vasopressin in brain regions associated with reward and reinforcement, whereas the unfaithful and polygamous montane vole does not. When prairie voles have sex oxytocin and vasopressin are released. Additionally, when a female prairie vole mates, there is a 50% increase in the level of dopamine in the reward centre of her brain. The release of dopamine causes an animal to feel good. Rats too enjoy sex because of the release of dopamine, but, in contrast to the prairie vole, at no time do rats learn to associate sex with a particular female. Rats are not monogamous. Vasopressin and oxytocin are involved in parts of the brain that help to pick out the salient features used to identify individuals. The salient feature in this case is odour. Rats, mice and voles recognise each other by smell.

In science love is a hypothetic concept. Fischer defines three distinctive emotions: lust, romantic love and attachment, which can independently develop and co-exist. A relatively small area of the human brain is active in love, compared with that involved in, say, ordinary friendship. The location of the receptors for vasopressin and oxytocin in the brain and the variation in distribution of these receptors contributes to individual differences in social behaviour.

Lust involves a craving for sex and forms the basis for male-female social attachment or pair formation. A mix of chemical changes occurs during sex, including increases in the levels of serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin and endogenous opioids. Behavioural patterns of those ‘in love’ — such as attempting to evoke reciprocal responses in one’s loved one — resemble obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and aims to establish long-term attachments. Both sexual and parental attachments reduce anxiety.

The article The Neurology of Love studies the differences and similarities between parental love and adult romantic love. This thesis sounds very Freudian in my opinion, but it is possible although I would be curious to the effect that lust plays in both. Freud of course assumes the sexual desire is present but repressed in the parent-child relation.

Stressors trigger a search for pleasure and attachment, however excessive or acute stress might disrupt social bonds, inhibit the forming of bonds, and lead to the reduction of the abilities to propagate. In combination with population densities this can cause public health problems. Love can counter the effects of stress and isolation.

Lust, pleasure and love have physiological correlates, i.e., central nervous system (CNS) reward and motivation circuitries, effecting cardiovascular events. Adrenal steroids, vasopressin, oxytocin, dopamine, and endogenous opioids as well as opiates and higher levels/pulses of nitric oxide (NO) are released during pleasurable activities like sexual behaviors (e.g., ‘making love’) indicating neurobiological pathways that are linked to stress response and reward mechanisms likewise. Oxytocin not only plays a role in pair bonding, but also independently in stress reduction.

Based on:
I get a kick out of you – The Economist (12 February 2004) is in essence a book review of Helen Fischer‘s Why We Love. Fischer is a biological anthropologist, and a popular science author in the worst American tradition. So I would not recommend reading her book, nor listening to her lectures, which are awfully vague. But she should be credited by generating understanding and support for a deeper scientific study of love, as was done by Tobias Esch and George B. Stefano in The Neurobiology of Love (.pdf)

Other links:
David Pearce (philosopher)

The Loss of Home

The loss of home, some would regret, but I cannot. I cannot because there’s only more loss to be found in such a regret. When one loses one’s sense of home, it is rare to be reclaimed, because not a home was lost. The home is still there, it still stands among others. The home of the childhood, it can still be found. Its bricks are there, its back yard green as it was. The room that is filled with memories is now empty or filled with another child’s life.

This loss however in essence is a loss of the heart. It is the ability to feel at home that one is no longer capable of. It is the heart that has been drenched in the world and lost a home. It is the stream that dissolved in the ocean. Now, if I embrace a man, I embrace a body not a life. I hold in my arms the stone contours of the flesh. I feel not the compassion that puts me in his shoes, I do not see the world through his eyes, I do not undergo the immediate replacement of fates that a man with a home suffers if his neighbor is struck by tragedy. Nor is my own pain a tragedy, nor are you a fellow of man to me.

Do I shed tears for this solitude? Is this loss a sad occurrence like you, man with a home, believe it is? I cannot answer this, because you are not truely asking me nor yourself this question. For you know, you have no doubt, for you know not my loss. And thus I cannot cry. A man who is lost has nothing to cry over, nothing to fear. My tears would be dry instances of the past, of memories that belong to the past. The walls are still there, I have no shelter, I am here. My tears are sweet sugar cubes of the present that fall on the world’s wet ground. Now, how can I cry when this soil is sweet and wide? Is the soil of your home sweet and wide with tears of loss? So where are your tears then for not possessing such a beautiful loss? Where is the sadness that is enclosed by the plastered whiteness of your home, because you are there, in your home? Hear I breathe. I regret no loss because I have no home.

And you wonder about my wandering. Don’t I miss, do I lack out of necessity, the tallness, the firmness by which your roots entangle in the earth of your garden? But I say that ground is dirt to me. The absence of a radius draws the contours of my space, there beauty has taken the place of home. Beauty lies in the absence. It invites to be filled with a greater passion, with greater fear, with greater joy, with greater sadness, that is not. And you find relief in your home and cuddle for warmth in a chilling night.

The Tree of Life

None of my experiences bear the stamp of existential struggle, life has become certain enough not to be less certain than to feel comfortable and happy, than that we face tomorrow with relief, and regret today having passed so quickly. This regret over time lost is the mark of modern man’s civic life. Yet, although my life has lost all existential struggle and I cannot tell one meaningfull event from an uneventfull life, because I am so bored with life that I am excited by every moment of being, despite this numbness of the heart, this ignorance of misery, which is pityful, despite so, I, like all man, see how we are passing in futile happiness an endless repetition of seconds, minutes, time. This absence of struggle is meaningless, as is the presence of happiness, as is the suffering of man, as is man, as is. Man the miracle maker, the creator of his own significance, like dogs, like flies, like a leaf, like the wind, which tortures the leaf, bends the tree, the tree staticly rooted in the earth, which absorbs the leaf, absorbs man. It is not hard to care, it is not easy to not care, it easy to see there is little to care, yet man cares at times, times that pass. Continue reading

The Rustle of Crystal

Ed put down the top of his foot slowly in the midst of the slush of melted snow that covered the gutter and the pavement on the streetcorner of Houston and Broadway. The packs of snow that were stamped firmly together had formed layers of frozen ice by the hundreds of anonymous, scurrying boots. The crystals of dense snow rustled as a part of of it broke under his weight. It caused him almost to slip and loose his balance, but in a rapid movement he threw his right hand in the air, as his heart skipped a beat. He was calm, his mind was empty still, full of the morning impressions of early traffic and pedestrians evading the collissions of their bodies whose vectors crossed each other in a Brownian web of chaotic movement. This order was as predictable as spontaneous, Ed confirmed.

The best part of the day is before eight in the morning, he thought, when a human can still hide in broad daylight and silence. The brisk air awakened his sense and the tacid light wrapped around it. It would be two more hours before New York had fully got into the pace of a city that never sleeps. Alas, so much of New York existed only in the past, or in the spheres of lower classes only, but here and now down town in the city, everything was still dorment. He finally stepped out of the cold, the heavy door slowly pulled itself shut, and the number on the elevator’s display decreased bitterly slow. This was perhaps the most impatient moment of his day, but before the doors opened, he had time to breath and become serene. Continue reading