8 Dec


I’ve said it before, the song says it better everybody is fucked up.

Once I was sent to boarding school against my long, loud and sustained protestations. They told me it would build character. A character-building experience. What my parents meant, tho’ I’m sure they didn’t consciously know it, was that this experience would make me suffer. Thru suffering our character is built, our ability to be strong and righteous. They were right, altho’ in ways that backfired. I converted in a few short months from an occasionally backchatting choirboy into a recalcitrant rebel, relentless. I was then. I still am after my fashion. And they sent me to board because they thought I was becoming trouble, hah!

I wasn’t trouble by today’s standards even afterward. My catalogue of juvenile misdemeanours could not compare to the standard-issue chaos rent by so many of today’s teenagers who’ve already spent a lifetime addicted to various products of Modern Pharmacy. Nevertheless, they were right: suffering builds character, Mine anyway, so much so that I’m skeptical of the depth of anyone who has never suffered. But I don’t consider myself especially oppressed: took some licks, got some kicks, y’know how it is.

Still, later on during the sexual chaos of early adulthood, when someone was down, empathy was markedly in shorter supply coming from people whose homes were unbroken (not necessarily divorced). This is, of course, a generalization and there were many exceptions. But also, I remember that those who were from broken homes (not necessarily married) were spikier; harder to know and harder to hang on to. This was true of every one of us.

Even today I must resist the impulse to pre-emptive rejection. Dealing with any kind of attraction compels me in the opposite direction. This will, I think, be permanent. It can be, must be, dealt with. There comes a time in everyone’s life when one’s childhood ceases to be an excuse, so writes John Le Carré and often. I reached mine a long time ago.

At the heart of life lies a paradox, perhaps several. Perhaps only many different facets of the same one. We are human and it is natural in our species to desire the good and to conceptualize the truth of it. To make great efforts to manifest this conception. Yet we are pervaded by Nature – our lusts, our fury, our bad weather. This universe is profoundly indifferent to ‘the good’. Nature doesn’t give a fuck.

Thru this paradox as with the others we reach higher. If there was no suffering in this life would we have erected the grand institutions that bring such wonders: the Law, the Knowledge, the City; the stories, the images and the music? What would our music be without suffering? Forget the Cathedral at Notre Dame, would we even’ve built a house if it wasn’t for the rain?

Perhaps ten years from now I will have planted a seed and a little monkey (or two) – combination of myself and someone I love – will be talking back to me. That monkey will be much better than me at some things, not so good at others. That monkey will get sick, maybe a lot. That monkey will laugh, maybe at the suffering of others. That monkey will be raw and unique. And it will be up to me to teach that monkey the way of the world and how to get thru it.

So yes I’ll have to teach them respect. For self, for others, for the Law; that the more bread you make the less shit you eat and that people with shitloads are often unpleasant and unhappy. All that. But also, how to love. And that ain’t easy. Especially if those that taught you weren’t that good at it. But perhaps that’s to this little monkey’s advantage in much the same way that those raised in deprivation determine to defy it, raising their own in prosperous circumstance. I don’t know. Ask me again in twenty years.

There’s a rub as always. Do back-street guys who made good raise empty materialistic spoiled brats? My parents sent me to boarding school to ‘build character’. They didn’t want to break me they wanted to make me. Truth is boarding schools are designed to produce the ruling classes. What they got instead was someone eternally opposed to the idea of a class that rules and determined to keep that cold world at arm’s length. It built character all right but you can never tell what.

It’s a strong instinct to protect one’s children from harm. ‘As long as they’re happy,’ we say. But eternally happy children can be shallow. So what do you do? Do you subject them to controlled suffering? In doing so, do you make a terrible mistake or will they actually thank you. And if they thank you is that just because you’ve mind-fucked them into thinking that what was only destructive had essential benefits? Will they, brainwashed thus, persist in damaging their own children like such….

The paradox well known to all parents. I don’t really know if there is a God but I do know S/he has a sense of humor. I guess I’ll just make it up as I go along like everyone else.


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