My most toxic trait is one I work really hard not to project on anyone, either in terms of judgment or expectation: that suffering contains a virtue in itself, and that one must submit to some small degree of suffering in order to achieve what one truly desires. The German word “leiden” means to suffer; Leidenschaft, the suffix forming a noun, means “passion”. To be passionate one must endure. To fully embrace joy one must first long for it. It’s a belief that has led me to an unimaginable amount of avoidable pain and heartbreak in my life but its the state where I do my best work. When my calendar is empty the quality of my work goes down. I need a little deadline pressure to induce me to action.
The frustrating thing about this tendency is the sheer impossibility it breeds in being able to do anything prideful when life is just kind of moving along. Ennui is my most antagonistic state. Listlessness is a noise, I can feel it in my neck, a tinnitus in my ears ringing just barely above the audible level, just enough to let you know it’s still there, that you’re not forgiven for your idleness. I write best when I am angry. I am supposed to be writing a book proposal. I know what I need to do. I just cannot make this ringing go away. I am not a very good writer, there is no real point for me to suffer. I am suffering for mediocrity. But that’s not the point. The point is to persist. Anfangen ist einfach, Behaarlichkeit eine Kunst. That Kennedy speech at Rice, “we choose to go to the moon and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” I feel that shit in my bones, man.
The thing about suffering is that its converse is guilt. When I am not suffering I feel guilty for not doing enough to suffer. I feel guilty that I am not writing. I feel guilty that I am not progressing through a video game or a book. The irony is that I don’t actually love suffering despite our symbiotic relationship. I have historically gone out of my way to avoid it whenever possible. I am only proud for having suffered, the rest of the time I merely traffic in guilt.
Or melodrama. It’s not that bad all the time, really. I also revel and rejoice and feel joy and anticipation and love and hope and all of those things. I am really just trying to reconcile my lack of progress in two weeks for something I thought I’d have done in a night. I need you to tell me I can do it. I need you to remind me I have to suffer a little and that the ennui can be held at bay. It’s not like I haven’t done anything this week anyways. Let’s get to it:
In this post:
A huge scandal in Germany erupted in the past couple of weeks when it was revealed that the far-right political party was meeting with Martin Sellner, an Austrian identitarian who allegedy received money from the Christchurch neo-Nazi mass murderer, to discuss a potential mass deportation plan for if the AfD ever takes power. The result was a series of massive protests against the far-right and neo-fascism in Germany. It was really heartwarming to see 350,000 people, roughly 10% of the population of Berlin, come out to demonstrate on a freezing cold Sunday, not to mention the dozens of other simultaneous demonstrations nationwide. At the same time, it was frustrating because these demos, if not coupled with material action, will be little more than noise.
Antifascism is an everyday practice. It’s not enough to get out in the street a couple times a year. One must also actively integrate immigrants into one’s society with little, everyday actions. I’m not scared of the AfD. I’m not worried that there plan might, in a longshot of longshots, actually succeed. Their racism and hatred affects me, sure. But so too does it affect me when the nurse at my doctor’s office rolls her eyes when my German is incorrect. There are many forms of racism, and we must fight them all.
What I’m reading
Speaking of fighting racism, you know who didn’t? Terry McAuliffe, former governor of Virginia. I’m moving all of my Charlottesville books back to my Charlottesville library, and that means I’m trying to read them so I can bring them back on my next trip, shelve them and be done. So this weekend I read his self-serving garbage tome, Beyond Charlottesville : taking a stand against white nationalism. Terry McAuliffe was governor during Unite the Right. His police stood down and let neo-Nazis brutalize peaceful community members. His police attacked peaceful counterdemonstrators protesting the KKK. He actively opposed those who opposed the neo-Nazis.
The best line in his book comes when he defends hiring Rodney Smolla to tackle free speech issues in the aftermath of A11 and A12. Smolla had defended three cross burners at one point, and McAuliffe writes, “I didn’t love his position on the cross burning, but…” Man, that ain’t a sentence that needs following with “but.” McAuliffe personifies exactly why liberals are the biggest impediment to addressing racism and fascism today. I’ve written about him before.
What I’m listening to
As a suffering sommelier, I am extremely vulnerable to the particular blend known as nostalgia. I put on the Foo Fighter’s The Colour and the Shape recently, a great post-grunge album that contains an all-timer of a song, “Everlong.” I’m especially fond of the acoustic version for one reason in particular: back around 2008 or so, when the song was younger than Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know” is today, I remember that song playing through Ventrilo, the old voice-over-IP system popular among gamers. I was invited to raid Naxxramas with one of the top guilds on my World of Warcraft realm at the time. It was before I became really good at the game–my peak was in Burning Crusade–and I felt like the invitation was something that marked a turning point in my life.
I had just finished college, finally, after a long saga of nearly four years fighting an autoimmune disorder that disrupted my senior year. I was about to head off on my own for a career and an adult life and independence. I was going to finally leave the small, 400-mile bubble I’d spent my entire life inside. My whole life was spent in nothing towns in a nothing state with no proximity or access to culture or meaning or superlative, with the lone exception of my university education, which had been stolen by my illness as soon as I had achieved much of anything. I had buried myself in gaming because it was my only escape from the ennui of a dying suburb of a third-rate city. Being allowed to raid with a top guild seems silly in retrospect, but it gave me a little ember of hope that maybe one day I could be good at something. That maybe my suffering would lead to something noteworthy. Within a year and a half I ran, briefly, one of the top guilds in the world and flawed and awful as I and that experience was, I was able to see a world where I mattered.
What I’m watching
If you’ve made it this far through a weekly life update that’s oddly self-reflective, you should probably intuit that I’m a big fan of epics and heroism. Not because I see myself as a hero, but because I think that our world is better when everyday heroism exists. That’s the appeal of the superhero narrative, isn’t it? That an ordinary person given opportunity, luck, and a little destiny can do a good thing. So I watched Echo this week, the latest Marvel saga series. It’s set on a reservation in Oklahoma and brings a native storyline to Marvel’s (probably ill-fated) multiverse saga. I actually like the representation work that Marvel’s done. It’s a bit heavy handed but it’s nice to remember that all cultures have their own sagas and those deserve to play out, too. It was a short but good little series.
What I’m learning
I was going to end this piece for the night and come back to it in the morning. But no! I go on!
This weekend I restarted Spanish classes. And by restarted, I mean my last Spanish class was in my freshman year of college. I’m aiming for the A2 level which I’ll probably proceed through pretty quickly. I remember more than I give myself credit for. I’ll be in Spain a lot this year and so I’ll have good opportunity to practice.
Art and culture
Saturday I needed to be out and about, so I headed over to my next stop on my Museum list: Friedrichswerdsche Kirche. That sure is a consonant cluster alright. Anyways, it’s a small, free exhibition in a neo-Gothic brick church designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Schinkel was a Prussian architect who had traveled Europe, saw all the great architecture, and come back to Berlin and noted how it did not. Most of what neoclassical style remains in Berlin (or has been rebuilt) was Schinkel’s doing.
My dent in the universe
Having joined the anti-AfD demos, my dent in the universe was gratifyingly small: it’s nice to feel sometimes that one’s contribution to a dent in the universe is being part of the combined weight of hundreds of thousands of people looking fascism in the face and saying “nah.”