Futility You Can Count On

You want to make yourself feel really stupid?  Try picking up a book of poems by W. B. Yeats or Dylan Thomas.  Otherwise, if you’re a liberal arts-educated dilettante like me, crack open a science book or massive historical tome and see how that grabs you.  Frustrating, isn’t it?  Even if you’re smart enough to understand it, if you want to retain any of what you’ve read, you have to review it, take notes, like a student, and who has time to do that–even if you are a student, for Christ’s sake?

You know who I feel sorry for?  (Apart from myself, I mean, but why bother stating the obvious?)  Babies being born today.  What the hell kind of future can they hope to have?  As Jesse Jackson said, “Keep Hope Alive.”  Later, Johns Kerry and Edwards added, “Hope Is On the Way.”  Finally, Barack Obama nailed it with, “I Hope Things Change Under Me,” or whatever it was (in fact, they have–from what I can tell, they have changed in the sense that they’ve gotten even worse, at least in the human rights department.  Thanks, buddy!).

I tell you, life is an uphill struggle.  Especially if you don’t have money.  I can’t even afford to drink anymore (probably a good thing, but still).  In order to get by in this word of paralyzing corporate conformity, unless you’re incredibly talented and you’ve got the chutzpah to stick to your guns (though not literally, please), you’ve got to kiss ass to get by.  I saw a headline on Alternet about a guy who got fired for wearing the wrong-colored shirt.  Didn’t bother to read the article as I’ve already got enough nails in my coffin.

Let’s face it:  the world wants you to be mediocre.  My wife Jina, who’s probably the craziest person I’ve ever met in my life (besides myself), not that I don’t love her, insists that the way to liberation is through Jesus.  If that’s so, why does church have to be so goddamned boring?  At her church (whose “service” takes place in Korean), they have the same robotic rituals every week and the cornball congregation assembles in the cafeteria for the same lackluster food after the pious indoctrination adjourns.  Then the chosen people go back to their presumably unimpressive, formidably unassuming lives, going out of their way to be extra-meek to avoid the wrath of the immortal prima donna invented by ancestral aliens (I’m guessing from the same planet), and waste their time praying because that’s easier than actually doing something to solve the terrible problems we’re working hard every day to compound by doing the same dumb things we’ve been doing for the past hundred and fifty years or so (my, how time flies).

The motto of a local supermarket here in Seoul is “Guarantee Happiness!!”  Whew, that’s a tall order, and a great way to lose friends.  “Don’t worry, Rhonda!  You’re going to be happy, whether you like it or not.”  It’s this anal-retentive approach to happiness (you see the word “happy” everywhere here, by the way, usually as the modifier for some service or product jockeying for position in the bustling cityscape of competitive storefronts) that explains why Korea has the highest suicide rate in the world.

“Don’t worry–be happy.”

“Fuck you!  I’m going to kill myself.”

“Very well, then.  Have a nice day!”

Again, apologies for the chronic whingeing.  I’d get out more, but it’s been in the fifties lately and I’m tired of running into the likes of Arthur Fonzarelli and Richard Cunningham whenever I walk down the street, denizens of a world of make-believe known, fittingly enough, as “Happy Days.”

Yesterday was absolutely beautiful, the first clear, warm, sunny day since October.  Of course, as soon as the sun started to plummet, the temperature did too, and since I lost my toque the other day I had to put on my hood and tighten the draw-strings in ineffectual, self-congratulatory solidarity with Trayvon Martin, who made the mistake of Walking While Black in sunny, trigger-happy Florida.

As David Byrne says, “If you are really smart, you’ll know what to do.”  Could you do me a favor and call me when you find someone who is and does?”  Meanwhile, I’ve got to finish reading Yeats’ collected poems (which are a joy, by the way, even if a lot of them do fly right over my head) and then Richard Ellman’s book on what all the great Irish poet’s symbolism signifies so I can feel a little less stupid before picking up Charlie Darwin’s The Origin of Species (finally), the colossal Penguin* History of the Second World War, and State of the World 2006** (sorry, I’m a little behind), with its probably already-outdated focus on “Chindia,” all so I can forget everything I’ve read afterwards and pick up a novel instead as a reward for the fruitless effort.

Hell, you might as well try building a sand castle in a tsunami.

* Who knew penguins paid so much attention to human affairs?  Such an impressive species.

** It would have made more sense to write the titles in bold-face, in order to use italics to greater effect.  To wit:  State of the World 2006.  Can you tell that the “6” is italicized?


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