A Living Protest

We take refuge behind our countenance; the madman is betrayed by his. He offers himself, denounces himself to others. Having lost his mask, he publishes his anguish, imposes it on the first comer, parades his enigmas. So much indescretion is irritating … It is only natural that we consign him to straight jackets and isolation wards.

~ Cioran (All Gall Is Divided)



The youth gathered around the White House in DC protesting against fracking. It was the largest act of civil disobedience in the USA in 40 years. Meanwhile, a difficult situation developing in the Ukraine. Another Cold War may be on the horizon.

Sometimes it is difficult to do nothing but get through the day. I continually have to transcend what I imagine as public opinion and try to hold my head up high as a living protest against the status quo. I take refuge in literature, tobacco, coffee, and writing.


I fully understand that my life is the antithesis of a Hollywood blockbuster. I am an anti-hero.


I am fortunate to have such a philosophical temperament where I am able to embrace a reclusive lifestyle, content with austerity. Have I mastered the art of getting through a life not worth living? Without career or wife or property or automobile or offspring or social life, without ambition for social status or position, without guilt or shame, I do live a Bohemian lifestyle. Of course, I am an outsider. I live outside the realm of mainstream society with entirely different values. I may be considered a dead-beat, but I posses a rich inner life.

While reading Topor’s novel, The Tenant, I discovered a paragraph that hit home:

“But what crime had he committed, that they should be so intent on his destruction? Perhaps the same crime as that of a fly caught in the trap of a spider’s web. The building was a trap, and the trap functioned. It was even possible that they had no personal animosity toward him. But when he thought of the stern, unbending faces of his neighbors, he abandoned this hypothesis. There could be no doubt of their personal animosity to Trelkovsky. They could not forgive him, just because he was Trelkovsky; they hated him for that, and they had determined to punish him for it.”

“Had this whole enormous machine been set in motion for no purpose except to punish him? Why such an effort, just for him?”

Had I also fallen into some kind of trap when I signed the lease?

Isolated in a dimension called loneliness, I have ample opportunity to stare into the abyss.

What is this? Automatic writing? Stream of consciousness? Being enduring itself. Each being endures itself. The less ambition I have, the less I suffer!


One of the most powerful messages in Toole’s satire, A Confederacy of Dunces, is Ignatius’s proposal that we just get by on “government relief” and not even attempt to find a position in mainstream “middle class” society. What a great relief to just withdraw from mainstream values such as marriage, career, prosperity, and property.

What is the significance of returning to the study of Schopenhauer’s magnum opus at this juncture? It gives me a sense of continuity. Some might see my continually moving from one residence to another as a sign of erratic behavior, unpredictability, or instability. Getting by without automobile, cable TV, Internet connection, smart phone, iPod, a “girlfriend” or wife, a religion, “friends,” work associates, I have successfully defied the pressure to conform to society’s norms.


otaku – someone without a social life; someone without a love life; also: a hacker/programmer.

I learn to be the otaku. I learn to be the “loser.” Sometimes, the only way to win is to lose voluntarily, to not give a shit about “winning,” to not care about status or position.

According to studies published in 2013, the term, otaku, has become less negative, and many people now self-identify as otaku. Otaku subculture is a central theme of various anime and manga works, documentaries and academic research. The subculture began in the 1980s as changing social mentalities and the nurturing of otaku traits by Japanese schools combined with the resignation of such individuals to become social outcasts.

I guess my obsession with Schopenhauer, Cioran, and even Antonin Artaud may classify me as a certain type of otaku … From the point of view of mainstream society, the otaku seems to be “a total loser,” and yet, there is a sense, from the view of the otaku, that it is the otaku who is elite or superior.

Developing the capacity to be alone. Isn’t this the advice Schopenhauer gives those who would transcend public opinion and false concepts such as honor? I’m alone, but not lonely.


Without alcoholic oblivion, there is nothing for me to do here in Brick but read (and hide), cook (and eat), nap, and smoke cigarettes. My life is an existential novel. I am the former student, Raskolnikov, minus the murder. When I get stir crazy, I walk around outside. Where do I walk? NOWHERE. Do the busybodies think it is easy to do nothing but stare into the abyss all day? It makes one’s mind strong, or it drives one insane.

“How easy it is to be ‘deep’: all you have to do is let yourself sink into your flaws.” ~ Cioran

Why do I write? Why do I write this very moment? I’m not trying to mimic Cioran. I could never mimic Schopenhauer. I fully accept my literary inferiority in comparison to them both. I am more like Antonin Artaud, the madman. Tonight I write to a future self who might mistakenly regret vacating this “beautiful” apartment in Brick.

First and foremost, the walls are paper thin and this causes everyone to be oppressively quiet. It actually causes me anxiety and distress, even when I’m just talking to myself in the bathtub. Secondly, there is nowhere to hide. The woods are thin. When I walk outdoors, it is always along a road, exposed to traffic. Even when I walk through a trail, the woods are so thin, motorists can see me from the highway. I just don’t like it. It is what it is.

Do I get any relief from writing? Haven’t I found relief in writing my secret thoughts ever since I was a teenager? I don’t travel to exotic lands or have romantic affairs, but live the life of the anti-hero, so I write about basic being in the world. There is nothing to be had out there. If I have an audience, that audience would consist of honest, authentic, unashamed outsiders, outcasts, what “high society” considers “losers.”

My wealth is within me: knowledge and life experiences. Can any of this morbid introspection be considered literature?


5 thoughts on “A Living Protest

  1. Great writing, Mike. No one knows anything about life who hasn’t faced the freedom unemployment and ‘social non-participation’ brings.

  2. Literature? I don’t read books. Yes, that’s right: I’m that kind of illiterate; the kind that doesn’t quote because he eschewed that ability. School never could get me into the discipline. But I do read blogs like these.

    There is still “worse” the outsider than the otaku and that is the “loser” who doesn’t get back up (to lose again and again until one can make the peloton?), the hikikomori, as which only my disorders could disqualify me.

  3. Thanks Karl. A relevant quote from our boy, Emile Cioran: “To have devoted to the idea of death which any vocation demands … Metaphysical outbursts are the attribute of monks, debauchees, and bums. A job would have turned Buddha into a mere malcontent.”

  4. The above is a poor translation of Cioran: “The uttering of metaphysical outbursts is the *function* of monks, degenerates and bums…”

    The problem with most Western angsters is forever ego. The Otaku is ego-less, like an unemployed geisha. The Otaku makes journeys without goals, exercises freedom by staying centred in humility. The best example of a Western otaku is probably Diogenes, though Genet might qualify, too. His passive, desire-less homosexuality is an expression of dedicated innocence.

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