Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ten Random things that make me feel angry. And Helen Dewitt.

1. My ongoing lack of perfection
2. American soldiers killing people
3. My fucking grandfather (the bastard)
4. Abusive churches
5. Half truths
6. Obnoxiously cheerful people
7. Obnoxiously cheerful Christians
(note: the last two categories aren't mutually exclusive)
(note 2: I'm fairly certain he's not technically a bastard)
(note 3: I hope he dies really soon. ideally before my mother.)
8. Books by Dan Allender
9. People who are moving slowly in such a way that I am forced to slow down.
10. People who are excessively willing to believe in God AND let her off the hook for everything.

Prayer for the evening:


  • Could you arrange for my grandfather to die really soon?
  • Some effective help for the 160 U.S. veteran who will attempt suicide tomorrow? I'm specifically thinking if you could provide some help for my dad, that would be great.
  • Could you please arrange for the U.S. soldier who killed these four people to be brought to justice?
  • Could you please arrange things so that I can avoid being brought to justice for my crimes?
  • Could you eradicate cancer? I realize it might cause a pretty big shift in world population growth. But that's okay, because we can just have more abortions, right? (if you could do that in time to save my mom, that would be kewl)
  • While you're busy affecting world population growth, maybe you could also eradicate malaria, war, natural disasters, and heart disease.
  • While you're about reducing human suffering so much, maybe you could tweak the whole species (us, I mean) so we don't so radically *need* suffering for self-definition and self-understanding.
  • I guess that last one might be kind of hard. Not that you are very likely to be able to manage any of these. I mean even C.S. Lewis likes to point out that miracles are called that because they are relatively rare.
  • Could you arrange for Nancy Pelosi to ascend to the presidency. Immediately--so she could serve out the next 8 months until Obama takes over.
  • (God, wouldn't that freak out/piss off a few people? That would just seriosquiolio make my week.)
  • Thanks for sending the lovely Karen family our way. They are *yotta* brilliant.
  • I need some energy/motivation for the whole job hunt thing.
  • I understand people who commit suicide.
  • Thanks for Helen Dewitt. She's fucking brilliant:

Following is a section from Helen Dewitt's brilliant brilliant brilliant novel. It doesn't really do it justice. You should read the novel. You can get if free from your local library. If your library can't get you a copy, email me and I'll mail you my copy.

"I’m better on mechanics than pharmaceuticals, I said. I can make a noose. You want to break the neck rather than suffocate, if possible; apparently that’s quite difficult with a sheet. My mother thought I should know how in case I was ever put in prison and tortured—I’m terribly sorry.
That’s all right, he said. He drank a lot of the drink. She’s probably right. It’s not a bad thing to know—if you’ve use of your hands. I was tied up the whole time, so it wouldn’t have helped.
Except when you played chess, I said.
No, I was tied up then too. He made my moves for me. Sometimes he’d deliberately move a piece to the wrong square and pretend not to understand if I objected. You wouldn’t have thought I’d have cared, with everything else, but I made me absolutely furious. I’d refuse to play, and he’d beat me. Or he’d beat me if he lost. He didn’t beat me if he beat me.
He said
He was kind of split up. He’d be quite friendly when he brought out the board, and he’d smile. That would last for a few moves and then sometimes he’d start to cheat, and sometimes he’d lose his temper and hit me with the gun, and sometimes. The friendliness was the horrible part, because he’d be hurt, genuinely hurt. When I wasn’t please to see him or took offence because he’d beat the shit out of me the day before. An dnow that I’m back that’s all I see. That horrible friendliness everywhere. All these people who simply don’t realise, it just doesn’t occur to them that
He said
That’s what I mean about the ordinariness. That’s why it’s not enough. It’s not enough to stand up to what’s there, but people go on smiling pleasantly
My wife smiles and I see that horrible friendliness on her face. My children disgust me. They’re delightful, extroverted, confident. They know what they want, and that’s what interests them, and it disgusts me. They allowed me two weeks to be a bit strange, and then they all came to me separately.
My wife said she knew what I’d been through but this was hard on the children. My daughter came to see me and said it was hard on Mum, I didn’t know what they’d been through. My son said it was hard on his Mum and sister.
So then I think, this is bloody ridiculous. It’s unfar. They’re perfectly OK. It’s not their fault. What do you want? Do yo uwant htem to be shell-shocked and dreaming of horrors? You want them to be safe from all that. You want all the rest to get away to be ordinary. And I think, we’ve got so much. Let’s celebrate life. We’ve got each other, we’re so bloody lucky. And I throw my arms around them with tears in my eyes and I say, Let’s go along the canal and feed the swans. I’m thinking, we can walk straight out of the house, there’s no one to stop us, and we can walk by the canal because there are no land mines and no one’s shelling us, let’s not waste this. And they all look absolutely appalled because it’s such a totally wet thing to do, but they come to humour me, and of course it’s awful.
He said
When you’ve seen things, or things have been done to you, this badness gets inside you and comes back with you, and then people who’ve never been near a war, people who’ve never struck an animal never mind tortured anyone—people who are completely innocent—get hurt too. The torture comes out as disgust, and it comes out in that gush of sentimentality that chokes them. I see that but I can’t kill the badness, it just sits inside like a poison toad.
He said
Is it really doing them any good to keep the toad alive? Or even if it is can I go through a lifetime of it?
I said
It would obviously be better to die before rather than after years of suffering; no one would condemn an innocent man to a life sentence to make someone else happy; the question is whether it is really the case that nothing will blot out these memories and that nothing could be good enough to make it worth undergoing them. If that’s the question you can’t seriously expect me to know the answer.
He began laughing again. Could I give a word of advice? he said. Don’t every apply for a job with the Samaritans.
He could hardly speak for laughing.
My mother, I said, called the Samaritans once and asked whether research had been done on thwarted suicides to find out whether they had spent the time after the incident happily.
What did they say?
They said they didn’t know.
He grinned.
I said
Sibylla said
He said
I said My mother. She said they should recruit people like Oscar Wilde, only there isn’t anyone like Oscar Wilde. If there were enough people like Oscar Wilde so that you could staff Samaritans with them, no one would want to commit suicide anyway—they would joke themselves out of a job. You could call and someone would say
Do you smoke?
And you’d say
And they’d say Good. A man needs an occupation.
My mother called once and the person kept saying Yes and I hear what you’re saying, which would have been reassuring if my mother had been worried about being inaudible.
So my mother said
Do you smoke?
And the Samaritan said
And my mother said
Do you smoke?
And the Samaritan said
And my mother said
You should. A man needs an occupation.
And the Samaritan said
And my mother said
That’s all right. It’s your life. If you want to throw it away, fine.
Then she ran out of 10p coins.
I said
It’s your life, but you should give these things a chance. You know what Jonathan Glover says.
He said
No, what does Jonathan Glover say? And who is Jonathan Glover?
I said
Jonathan Glover is a moder Utilitarian, and the author of Causing Death and Saving Lives. He says before committing suicide you should change your job, leave your wife, leave the country.
I said
Would it help to leave your job, leave your wife and children, leave the country?
He said
No. It would help a little not to have to fake it all the time. But wherever I went I’d see the same things. I used to think I’d like to see the Himalayas before I died. I thought I’d like to see Tierra del Fuego. The South Pacific—I’ve heard that’s beautiful. But wherever I went I’d see a child clubbed to death with the butt of a rifle and soldiers laughing. There’s nothing I can do to get it out of my mind.
He looked at his glass.
He said

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas’d
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow
Raze out the written troubles of the brain
Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuff
That weighs upon the heart

He said

Therein the patient
Must minister to himself

He put his head on his hand.
He said
It is a pretty story.
He said
The world would be quite a pretty place if the only people tormented by atrocities were those who’d committed them. Would you like another Coke?
I asked whether I could have orange juice instead.
He went to the refrigerator with his glass. He came back with the glass and a can of Coke.
He said
I don’t mean it wasn’t hard on my wife. She had to shoulder responsibility. She had to write a lot of letters to people who weren’t very helpful. She had to keep going for the sake of the children.
I said
Does she want to die?
He said
I don’t think so.
He said after a pause
It changed her a lot. She became much less
He said
Or rather she became much more
He said
That is she turned into the kind of person who
He said
That is she developed a lot of skills. She organised a successful campaign, you know, that is she organised a campaign that was successful as a campaign, it had a lot of supporters who gave money when she wrote to ask them for money and went on demonstrations when she told them there was going to be a demonstration and wrote letters to their MP when she said everyone should write letters to their MP. The papers published her letters when she wrote letters and they covered the demonstrations when there were demonstrations, and she got interviewed on radio and TV on a regular gasis. That kind of thing doesn’t just happen, you know. Anyway once it happens you become quite confident that you can get that kind of thing to happen.
He said
Would you like another Coke?
I said OK.
He came back with another drink. He said he was sorry but they were out of Coke, he had brought me an orange juice instead.
He said
It sort of spoiled things for the campaign, in a way, my just escaping like that. Apparently negotiations had reached quite a promising stage or anyway my wife thinks they looked quite promising. I could have joepardised everything by just making a run for it. It’s irritating for her to have this have-a-go-Grandad type of attitude to deal with because she thinks it was just luck that it worked whereas she doesn’t think that if a campaign works that’s luck. It’s not that it’s a major irritant, more of a minor irritant, it’s just that I ahd to keep hiding how happy I was to see the dog. He practically went insance as soon as I came into the room, it was all I could do not to or actually I think I did break down and it wasn’t as if he’d developed any media skills worth mentioning or made a significant contribution to the campaign or anything. What I mean is that my wife has spent, well all of them had spent five years making progress or facing setbacks whereas I’d just spent five years
He said
So obviously when the dog died

From Helen Dewitt's The Last Samurai


Joe said...

Sending beer to you B.

(and if that is too 'nice', how about a punch in the face?)

Benjamin Ady said...

Thanks Joe. I'll be looking for the beer in the mail (Just kidding =))

Seriously though--you rock.

A punch in the face would work too, as long as there's not permanent damage. Or as long as if there *was* permanent damage, it was guaranteed to be well and truly permanent and it was damage to such a degree that I didn't ever *know* about the damage, or feel any pain from it, etc.

Joe said...

Email me your postal address, and I'll get you something you can share with your Karen friends. If I can.

Megs said...

coooo thanks Joe!
Bottleworks sell COOPERS, my favourite beer in all the world (from Australia of course!)

Joe said...

No you're not, Benjamin.

Cowardly is hiding behind a pseudonym and calling other people names.

Must. not. feed. the. trolls.