February 14, 2014

Anonymous asked: What the fuck is the meaning of anything? Why am I compelled to wake up and go through the daily process when I know (or at least assume) that nothing I do will matter in say a thousand years? Is my inability to seriously contemplate suicide a product of my biology or is there some greater spiritual reason? Is it silly that I feel like there should be something above and beyond the nature of my meat, which is a spectacular work of natural engineering? Finally, how many of these do you get a day?

This makes me think about what happens in a woman at the midpoint of her menstrual cycle. 

A woman’s ovaries are, in life, almost completely white. They sit deep in a woman’s hips, at the bottom of her abdominal cavity. If they weren’t tethered to the uterus by a pair of strong ligaments, they would be free to move around the abdomen, rather like the testicles of a male fetus before they descend into the scrotum. 

The uterus is usually folded in a deep bow over the vagina. The two fallopian tubes extend from the top of the uterus, like a person bent double but with their arms thrown back at the shoulders. At their other ends, the fallopian tubes are open to the abdominal cavity. The openings are delicately fringed with thin fingers of tissue. 

By the midpoint of a menstrual cycle, one egg is about to erupt from its ovary. The egg sits in the middle of a ball of jelly about the size of a hazelnut. This is the follicle. The follicle is so large and so well-supplied with blood that it forms a black blister on the surface of the ovary. The follicle begins to digest the ovary’s surface, in order to weaken the walls of the blister. Just before the follicle bursts, it secrets a hormone that causes the end of a fallopian tube to stir. The fringes begin to push their way through the abdominal cavity and towards the ovary. Once they’ve found it, the fringes start to walk across the ovary. They know the hormone that the follicle secretes and to discover its source, the fringes taste the ovary as they move across its surface. The fringes billow out once they touch the blister and then descend on it like a curtain. The follicle forces itself out of the weakest spot on the blister’s surface. The egg in its ball of jelly flows from this hole, into the abdominal cavity and up towards the tent of red fringe the fallopian tube has erected over it. 

The egg is separated from its jelly by the fringe’s delicate fingers and passed from fringe to fringe, upwards into the mouth of the fallopian tube. Grooves in the wall of the tube slowly undulate to conduct the egg deeper and deeper, until a swallowing motion along the length of the tube catches the egg and conveys it to the uterus. 

In one sense this is where all of us are from, but in another sense this account is even more foreign than the most extreme alienations that geography can produce.

When I say “I’m from Boston” or “I’m from Lagos,” I mean to extend myself to other people.  When I say where I’m from, I’m trying to help someone understand me. But this is not the same kind of understanding you could boast of having once you’d read how an egg gets from an ovary to the uterus. When we begin to understand another person, after they start talking about themselves, we understand them. If you read a detailed account of an egg’s ovulation, you understand what happens to it. This is the difference between talking to a person over dinner and conducting an investigation that determines if they are guilty of a crime. 

As thoroughly as we study the fringes of the fallopian tube, when they taste the ovary’s surface or delicately raise the liberated egg into the swallowing throat, we are only documenting their performance to higher and higher standards of precision. And even a record of unbounded precision will never allow us to understand the egg as it is understood by the delicate fringes that search for it. When a person talks about himself, when he explains his accent, or his unexpected turns of phrase, or the blackness of his skin by saying “I’m from Lagos,” when I bow over my dinner plate to catch every word he says, he is offering and I am accepting an understanding of greater and greater depth. 

This is because the kind of understanding we would like to have, for other people and for ourselves, is a mutual activity. Something is offered and something is sought. An egg extends itself and the roving fringe tastes in search of it. A black man talks about himself and I lean forward so as not to miss a word he says.

3:37am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z3yrYy17Mi5nz
  
Filed under: txt 
February 12, 2014

Anonymous asked: I find myself checking your blog multiple times a day to see if you've posted anything new, then somehow feeling betrayed when you haven't. What's up with that?

February 4, 2014

Anonymous asked: i don't know who else to go to about this. i'm just incredibly conflicted about the whole damn woody allen thing. i don't know what to think. i don't know what to believe. i've read countless articles. i'm terrified someone will ask me about it. i know it's stupid and i shouldn't care. i know there are lots of way more important problems. i don't know. i just want it all to go away. i don't even really know what i'm asking you for here.

(just between you and me, if mia farrow had in fact coached her daughter to accuse woody allen of raping her, if mia farrow had gone completely insane and was manipulating her daughter to ruin the life of her ex-partner, I’m not sure I would blame her. 

yes, woody allen is not soon-yi previn’s father in any conventional sense, but soon-yi previn is unequivocally mia farrow’s daughter. and if the guy I’d left my husband for and started a new family with began to take nude photos of my 16 year-old daughter, if I found those photos cold, with no warning, if that guy then started fucking my daughter and if that guy then said he wanted to leave me for my daughter, I’m not sure I would be any more normal than mia farrow. 

if mia farrow has been irradiated by Phèdre-level family strain, it would not be difficult to identify with her distress. 

but this is not a parsable situation. it’s the j.g. ballard wonder years. the fact that you’re having trouble with it means that you are a normal person who is being slowly gaslighted by our psychotic media, as it insists that this situation is simple when it is not. 

if you think you understand this family, you are either fooling yourself or admitting that relationships of blood and love can be a great deal more complicated than is generally assumed or permitted.)

2:01am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z3yrYy16OIP0C
  
Filed under: txt 
February 1, 2014

acontinuation asked: Are your thoughts about Woody Allen any different now in the aftermath of Dylan Farrow's piece in the NYT?

If you mean different from the last post about this, I don’t think I expressed any thoughts about him as a person. There I said that celebrity was so poisonous and so malignant that it could bend the focus of a rape accusation away from the victim’s injury and towards an audience’s own feelings of betrayal and indignation. Which is a terrible insult to any victim of sexual assault, both personally and in the larger, more insidious way it dilutes our understanding of people who have been raped.

In Connecticut (where the crime was meant to have taken place) a criminal case can be brought for sexual assault of a minor at any time. A civil case, to recover damages stemming from the sexual assault of a minor, can be brought by Dylan Farrow until 2033, if I read Connecticut Statues, Vol. 13, Title 52, Chap. 926, Sec. 52-577d. right.  

8:13pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z3yrYy168_Qyu
  
Filed under: txt 
January 30, 2014

sinkstuart asked: I just caught up on your tumblr after months of just the opposite. It remains as thoughtful and interesting as ever, but I still can't figure out what you're selling or for how much.

high praise

January 29, 2014

10:33pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z3yrYy15t2UsF
  
Filed under: hi 
January 29, 2014

Anonymous asked: how've you been?

image

January 17, 2014

Anonymous asked: what do you think about the whole woody allen possibly abusing kids/gulf between his work and the person he is argument?

If there is a rape case against Woody Allen, he deserves little to none of our attention. The fact that he’ll still get it either way is a symptom of a very serious illness in all of us:

  1. Think about what would happen if someone you knew, one of your friends, were accused by someone you don’t know of sexually assaulting a third person, whom you also didn’t know. 
  2. People ‘like’ Woody Allen because he’s an acclaimed film director.
  3. A number of sick, sad delusions endemic to our society make people feel that Woody Allen is their friend because they ‘like’ him.
  4. And yet we, Woody Allen’s ‘friends’, do not leap to defend him—as we certainly would one of our real friends—because we are embarrassed by the delusions his celebrity has fostered in us. 
  5. Rather, we feel betrayed. ‘How could Woody have done this to us? And after all those feelings we felt about the movies he made!’ 
  6. ‘In a sense,’ we think, ‘it’s almost as though we were the ones he abused.’
  7. ‘Yeah, that’s it!
  8. ‘Woody Allen touched me! In a dark theater!
  9. ‘Several dozen times!

It’s revolting to watch people try and to cover this sequence up beneath high-volume outrage at someone else’s daughter having been raped. Children are raped every day, and except for a small but thankfully growing minority, nobody cares about it. That’s why they keep getting raped. 

What do people really care about? Themselves—and how everything bad that happens must somehow also happen to them. People like that belong in an audience.

And there’s nothing—nothing—more typical of an audience than their heinous conviction that they deserve the milk, the butter, and the maid who churned it. 

12:32am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z3yrYy14YH_5n
  
Filed under: txt 
January 16, 2014

8:23pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z3yrYy14WueE-
  
Filed under: hi 
January 10, 2014

Anonymous asked: I'm 21 years old, I've never had sex or any partners of any kind. this is something I actively want, but would feel strange to actively "pursue". opportunities have never presented themselves. should I be worried? can I alleviate this situation?

I think your instinct about sex as something that feels strange to pursue is right on. Not in a moral dimension, where you might think it’s wrong or douchey to hunt for sex, but in a deeper sense of strange. 

It’s a strangeness that stems from the way we’re all educated about sex as we grow up. And the fact that sex bears little resemblance to what you’re taught. 

The words we reach for to talk about sex before we understand it are words that make it seem discrete and isolated. In the same way you reach up for a product on a store shelf, sex seems like something that can be acquired. An object of desire. 

If you don’t have it, thanks to your education in treating anything valuable as an object, you’re impoverished. And in societies that educate people to link possession with feeling okay, nothing fills your cup with shame like being poor.

But of course, it’s dead wrong to think of your relationship to sex as nothing more than the sliding spot on a line connecting ‘Wealthy’ to ‘Broke.’ Societies like ours do something much worse than merely to instill this connection—they conceal the words by which any other picture could be expressed. These other ways are hidden by seeming strange and different. And difference, real difference, is nearly as potent a source of shame as poverty. 

We’re taught to think of sex as an object of desire and so the satisfaction of that desire as something you have to ‘get.’ But in reality, sex is nothing like an ipad.

Sex isn’t an ipad in exactly the same way that being alive isn’t a substance. There is no essence of life that fills your body but which is missing from the that of a corpse. Everyone used to think that there was, that there was something you could distill out of blood or fraction off of breath, and that the presence of this substance in medicines was what lent them their power to cure. Now of course, we know that life is not an essence you could isolate into a product, but instead that it’s a process. 

Same with sex. Fucking is change. 

Sex is the chance to remake yourself on the anvil of nature. To remake yourself in whatever shape pleases you. It’s our opportunity to unlearn the lessons we didn’t know we were receiving. Every orgasm is a hammerblow, and beneath the sparks you are malleable. The vulnerability of being naked with another person does not come from being close to harm but from being close to freedom. 

(By the way, this fact—sex as a catalyst for change—shows the true perversity of sex tapes. Sex tapes aren’t perverse because recording yourself as you fuck is wrong, they’re perverse because they imprison the people in them, people in the act of purest personal freedom, in a capsule of desperation, strengthlessness, or shame. Or, if made deliberately, worst of all: imprisoned in a crystal of loneliness, as their thirst for attention is stuffed, mounted and preserved forever.)

When it comes to wanting sex, first make sure you know what you want to be. Because sex, just like the societal educations you didn’t know you were receiving, will make you a way. And it will engrave you all the deeper for finding you blank. Because the world we live in has some deep-delving and extremely thorough ideas about what it wants you to be, and none of them involve you making up your own mind. 

Parable:

In Australia, opal mining happens in a fairly primitive way. The opals are formed when silicate rocks are subjected to high-temperature water, as this water snakes its way through deep-underground faults. Because of this, the opals are found stretched over a wide area as nodes in a spidery network of rock faults. This means they have to be mined with a scattershot method. 

A prospector usually hooks an enormous auger to the back of a truck and drives it out to the middle of nowhere. He anchors the truck with hydraulic spikes and drills the spiral bit of the auger into the Earth. He sifts the hill of dirt and broken rocks that the augur bores up out of the shaft. And he either finds opals or he doesn’t.

This type of mining has turned vast areas of opal-bearing land into swiss cheese. Land full of vertical graves ninety feet deep and just wide enough to make sure you go all the way down. The mining has made a landscape where it’s suicide to walk around at night.

Rock salt is mined in a very different way. Geologic salt is usually laid down when an ancient sea dries up. The salt flat it leaves behind is first buried, then folded into a corrugated sheet as it is compressed and distorted by the weight of rock above it. This tends to produce huge volumes of nearly pure salt. These masses can be equivalent to a cube of salt, a half-mile on each side, just buried in the Earth. 

Formations like these tend to be mined in a way that turns them into architecture. That is, the salt tends to be so extensive and so deeply buried that the only way of excavating it is to make a kind of subterranean building whose only structural material is rock salt. Salt pillars, salt arches, salt hallways and salt galleries. The miners getting what they want from the formation—by necessity—creates something else: a vast and secret building, hidden underground and given definition by what has been drilled out of it. 

So you can be out there drilling dry well after dry well, flagrant in your destruction of an entire landscape. All in search of a fourth rate gemstone. 

Or you can be otherwise. And realize that beneath even the most featureless Kansan field, a secret city can be excavated. Vast, unified and private. Far too majestic ever to be confused with a grave.

image

4:08am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z3yrYy13sbhbN
  
Filed under: txt 
January 9, 2014

Anonymous asked: I'm a 30-something lawyer who's dealt with depression and suicide since I was a kid. A year ago I wanted earnestly to kill myself. I was stuck in the outlying fiefdom of a firm, with no prospects for advancement. I realized that I hated the person I had become and that I wanted to kill her. Someone linked me to your post about Trayvon Martin and then I read everything else. I resigned and now I'm typing this from the library where I'm writing my 2nd novel. I don't know your name but thank you.

this caught me at a moment of weakness, and so means a lot

January 6, 2014

2:20pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z3yrYy13VAPjc
  
Filed under: hi 
January 3, 2014

Anonymous asked: who are you

December 30, 2013

3:44pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z3yrYy12lkSv3
  
Filed under: hi 
December 26, 2013

Anonymous asked: you saved my life. thank you.

Miracle on 23rd St.