“Sometimes death isn’t sad.” Bill Maher, referring to the passing of preternaturally pompous fundamentalist Christian TV fixture and leader of the “Moral” “Majority,” the Reverend Jerry Falwell, God rest his bullfrog-throated corpulence (the name “Maher,” coincidentally and appropriately, is an anagram of “harem”; by the way, Rodman, as in Dennis, as in bosom buddy of Kim Jongeun, can be scrambled into “random”).
Have you heard the anecdote about Winston Churchill, in which he was at a dinner party and a haughty lady said to him, “If you were my husband, I’d put poison in your tea,” and the British Prime Minister replied, “If you were my wife, I’d drink it”?
Or perhaps you’re familiar with the routine by the “Reverend” Sam Kinison, in which he acts out his half of a phone conversation with a friend, saying, “If you ever see me out in front of my house, helping out in the yard, mowing the lawn, could you do me a favor? Kill me. Kill me. That’s my neighbor. Yeah, he’s married; kill him too. Shoot me in the head, run me over with a car–whatever it takes–I live in hell. I LIVE IN HELL!”
When I first heard the Kinison bit I’d just graduated from college and had almost as much inexperience with women as I do today. But I also hadn’t pulled the lever for marriage yet, not realizing when I finally did a decade and a half later that it also happened to be the switch on the electric chair. You see, I thought Sam was joking but, like Martin Luther King’s long-lost brother Joe, who was a grave man despite his name, or Bill Maher’s brother Hugh, or Michael Moore’s brother, also named Hugh, when it came to marriage he had no sense of humor.
(In case you didn’t notice due to the shitty delivery, I just gave away about three lame puns in the above paragraph. Here’s how I was initially going to present the second or third one: “Why didn’t Bill Maher’s mother recognize his brother Hugh?” “She had no sense of Hugh Maher.” And you could make the same joke using the name of the documentary director. You can put that laugh on hold if you wish.)
I’d like to apologize for not writing more lately. I’ve been frightfully busy, getting up at five in the morning twice a week to teach a class of Korean students English, half of whom never show up, probably because they’re sleeping in, belying their people’s global reputation as workaholics. I’m also teaching one more class than usual, and my wife has been driving me crazier than usual because she insists on spending more time together than before, claiming that God wants us to be inseparable. This has also led her to be more affectionate between her nagging sessions in an attempt to ensnare me in the throes of fatherhood.
It’s become a serious moral dilemma for me as I don’t think I could stomach another twenty years with her, but it’s also probably the last chance she’ll have to reproduce. If we do decide to have a kid, he or she will likely end up killing him- or herself, understandably; hell, I would too. But in other ways I feel I owe it to her (meaning Jina, my wife), which is probably not the best way to enter parenthood, out of guilt or a sense of obligation, which is a thinly-disguised euphemism for drudgery.
I’ve also had a chance to get some semblance of what parenthood might be like by teaching children over the past year and a half, and I’m not sure either my wife or I would have the patience to do the job without ending up in neighboring rooms at the local nuthouse (wait–we’re already there; how convenient! You can say that word in the Church Lady’s voice, keeping in mind that I’m married to her).
The people I know who have children make raising them look easy, even though I have no illusions about its being the hardest job in the world. And considering that there’s probably nothing left that Jina and I don’t disagree about, the prospects of being able to guide a child through the treacherous waters of early life without sacrificing her or his sanity are scanty to say the least.
Finally, as I’ve mentioned here and there before, and on my other blog, it appears that I’m not going to be able to live much longer. Apart from my morbid penchant for complaining and resorting to knee-jerk negativity in the candlelit slaughterhouse of my mind, I don’t really want to die yet, at least not all the time, and not full-time. For the past several months or years–it’s hard to tell which–I’ve been stuck in a funk, a wheeling depression that circles around a problem I haven’t solved yet like a leisurely squadron of vultures, waiting for my heart to finally burst “smilingly,” like the blinded Earl of Gloucester near the end of King Lear.
The problem I’m alluding to is marriage to a woman who has gained a certain amount of control of my mind, as well as my heart, and, if you’ll permit me the egregious liberty of paraphrasing the late paragon of sap Dan Fogelberg, has wrapped her twisted love around my soul. It’s clear from my current vantage point that we’d both be better off divorced, but we’ve already been through so much emotional turbulence together and gone so far out of our way to ruin each other’s life, getting there may prove fatal to both of us.
In fact, the cumulative wear and tear of near-constant conflict, along with an unhealthy diet of too much meat (since I came to Korea seven years ago) as well as Salt, Sugar, and Fat–the title of a good book by Michael Moss about the U. S. processed food industry’s coup d’etat against American waistlines, threatens to kill me in the near future, and the chest pains I’ve had over the past several years have gotten suddenly sharper. (Jina, on the other hand, has “Jesus insurance”; while my moon wanes, hers waxes. Whatever kills me makes her stronger.)
When I wake up in the morning, I’m at the nadir of my daily mental health. Lately I’ve even made a mantra of a line one of my students likes to use (he’s, incidentally, an overweight twelve year old boy who appears also to suffer from his own special depression): “I can die.” It has such a nice ring to it, how can I resist? When Jina overheard me chanting it the other day after I got out of the shower, she warned me that it could turn into a curse (a more secular-way of saying it might be a self-fulfilling prophecy); little does she realize that that’s exactly what I have in mind at the time.
Then, as the day progresses, good things happen that cancel out the bad. My wonderfully fresh and charming female students cheer me up. A beautiful young woman walking towards me down the street makes eye contact and smiles. A high school girl working at a convenience store tells me I’m handsome.
“Even more handsome than Psy?”
“No! Psy’s ugly!”
Maybe so, but he has swimming pools full of that crazy little thing called money.
Speaking of Psy, which I would do with reluctance were the mere thought of his name not enough to make me boil with contempt, I was impressed to see and hear that his latest “song” is even more mediocre than “Gangnam Style.” I’m no one to talk, but the guy is so full of himself and thinks he’s so attractive to women, he’s obviously a creep. At least I’ve had the decency to remain obscure all my life, and will no doubt crumple and thud in my open grave without so much as a how-do-you-do from the public, while he basks in the glory of international recognition and fame.
Not that there are any objective criteria for establishing talent anymore; it’s all about marketing and gimmickry.
To pass the time before I pass away, I’ve been frantically buying and reading books. My attention span is so frazzled that it’s hard for me to get through all of them without getting sidetracked and distracted. Too much time spent surfing the Internet and brooding over the news, no doubt. I’m also fascinated with and will presumably become obsessed with what’s happening with China, vis a vis its growing geopolitical prominence and apparent readiness to replace the United States as the world’s main superpower and enforcer of economic and cultural hegemony. More on that in a later post.
Here are a few books you might want to check out if you get the chance: The Ego Trick, by Julian Baggini, a scientific study of the illusoriness (or at least the elusiveness) of the human self, Leave the Building Quickly, by Cynthia Kaplan, a funny and heartwarming series of autobiographical essays, Mario Vargas Llosa’s In Praise of the Stepmother, translated by Helen Lane in prose worthy of Nabokov, a delightfully lascivious novel about lust, appetite, and deception (unless it’s deceit), Shakespeare’s Tragedies, by A. C. Bradley, a collection of lectures by an Oxford scholar who knew the bard like the inside of his glove compartment (actually, I think he gave the lectures before the invention of the automobile), The Self Illusion, by Bruce Hood, which is in the same vein as The Ego Trick, and, of course, Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.
I almost refrained from picking up the latter title, having recently read Isaac Marion’s superb Warm Bodies, but my own resurrection as a zombie has made me more sympathetic to that species of imaginary demon, not that I have any truck with vampires–or robots, for that matter, who, unlike us fortunate mortals, can’t die, except by running out of juice.
If anything, at least in my opinion, it is our own collective yet individual permanent death that enables us to cultivate a moral sense, even though it doesn’t work that way for psychopaths due to a deficiency each of them suffers in the pre-frontal cortex, not that it’s easy or even necessarily wise (how should I know?) to feel sympathy for someone who’s reason for being is the piecemeal extermination of everyone he meets. At least that explains why they act like automatons.
Speak of the devil! It’s Yahweh! So nice to see you!
He looks so dapper in his Grim Reaper costume.