With these notes, I go through scraps of paper and legal pads scribbled on in the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s Hocus Pocus.
These excerpts, while taken from roughly 500 pages of scribblings compiled over the Summer of 2010 in captivity, may take quite a bit longer to wade through, decide what will be typed, and actually type up. A word processor on some old clunker of a machine would help at this point, and my nephew out in Seattle is pecking away at getting me such a workable clunker which would surely facilitate this heroic literary endeavor; but I am not obsessed with this project since this is just literature after all. I mean, life itself … being and all this entails will always take precedence over “writing down the bones.”
So, whatever gets typed up, that will be it. What doesn’t, oh well. A hurricane or fire could destroy all the notes and this would not be very important. I myself could die in some vehicular misadventure or become braindead from a fall, and … well, the literary projects would not matter a lick damn. I will peck away at what I can, but it is getting to be slow going.
First Page: Written on the Reverse Side of Receipt For Personal Property Received From Booking
After a soulful walk along the shore I was walking up onto the porch in a good-natured manner when I spotted a 40 ounce 211 Steel Reserve. Thinking it was my buddy George’s, who would have no problem with me taking a good slug, I reached for the bottle, when I was suddenly attacked by a very large female who turned out to be a “13 year old youth.” She lay hands on me for reasons unknown to me at the time. Somehow I managed to release myself from her grip. In the blur I was aware that she was not the only one laying her hands on me. I flew up three flights of stairs to my third floor apartment. It was then that I grabbed a thin wooden cane that was recently given to me by a young friend from Matawan, NJ.
I went down the stairs in a fit of rage and broke the cane on the street. Again I was pounced on by several sets of arms. Again I broke free and ascended up the stairs. When I got up into the apartment, I blockaded myself in. When the police were swarming at the door and at the windows from the roof, I demanded to see a warrant. I refused to answer the door. I had water boiling on the stove and was pacing the room with my large dream catcher as if trying to ward off evil spirits. I had the dream catcher in one hand and a saw in the other. After the police sprayed mace through the door, with little effect, they managed to get some kind of smoke bomb into my domicile which forced me out onto the roof. I carried the saw and the boiling hot water. An officer was waiting with his gun drawn and pointed right at me, ordering me to drop what I was wielding.
I hadn’t thought any of this through, but seemed to be simply reacting to my tormentors. I complied and was subdued. There were fire trucks and police cars and a crowd of people in the street. After a few hours at the psychiatric ward, I was brought to the Asbury Park police station and placed in one of their basement cages where they taunted me through the bars. After spending an entire night in that cage, I was transported to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution on Waterworks Road in my hometown of Freehold. I had only been back in New Jersey (Home Sweet Home) for two months! Professor Think-Tank in a cage with his inner life as his only refuge.
I had been scheduled to appear in court within a few days for the pathetic altercation with APPD officers when I was “flailing my arms” in the park by the library. Now I am in deeper trouble just for defending myself and my dignity. An honest man is always in trouble, Simon. Remember that.
Pages ii to vii: Written on Blank Pages of Inmate Handbook
What do I have to be concerned about besides losing my apartment and having a library book overdue? (I was re-reading Steve Toltz’s A Fraction of the Whole at the time.) I will pay the library what I have to, but I can’t let this stress me out. In here, it is vital for me to keep my spirits up and try to get as much enjoyment as possible from basic pleasures such as eating, sleeping, reading, and some human conversation.
Am I feeling any remorse? Why bother? I was attacked. I went into primal-mode. I defended myself. No self-defense laws in New Jersey, especially when it involves so-called “minors.” Now I feel as if I were at the mercy of a heartless machine which has me in its bowels. Will I get lost in the system? Did I fall into some trap? Rather than focusing on the details of what landed me in here, I will attempt to nurture courage, strength, patience, and a sense of humor, a sense of the ironic, a sense of the injustice of being punished for demanding the right to retaliate when a group lays their hands on me.
Observing other inmates I notice that, while the majority are miserable, there are a handful who appear to be blessed with temperaments that allow them to “keep it together,” refusing to succumb to anxiety attacks or paralyzing depression. I observe other zeks’ (jailbirds, inmates) facial expressions, mannerisms, and body language. Not all are broken spirits. Some still smile, others even manage to laugh with gusto. Some still seem to experience delight! Hence, I may be able to discover some measure of delight in sleeping, in eating meals, in going out into the yard to look up at the sky, to notice birds fly over the yard. I reflect upon some of my favorite films and novels. I realize that many of them were related to institutions such as this.
As soon as I was moved to the maximum security wing, a brother I recognized from over a decade ago told the CO he would prefer me as a cellie. I had no objections. We seem to have a mutual respect.
FROM Pages ix to xxxviii on scrap paper
My sister came through to visit me. So soon! She was able to make me smirk when she said through the plexiglass, “Well, when you were stuck out West you were aching to be in Freehold. Who knew you had to be stuck in the county lock-up to live here?”
Actually, at one point I had become so “homesick” that I may have actually said out loud (alone and drunk), “I feel so alone out here I would be glad just to be in the county lock-up in Freehold just to look out the glass in a cell and see Waterworks Road.” [sob, sob, sob … sniffle]
A psychiatrist came through the wing specifically to speak to me. Standard protocol I presume. She said that were I put on psychiatric medication I would have to switch wings to be under constant observation. I opted to remain off psychiatric medication and remain in general population (maximum security). The doctor told me that were I to become extremely agitated or depressed I am to contact “mental health” immediately. Maybe my mother has called the jail. Maybe the APPD told MCCI that I was “suicidal.”
Just knowing that there are at least three people wondering how I am feeling inside warms up my heart somewhat. Many have no one at all concerned. Being forced to live in close contact with others offers me an anthropological observatory where a philosophical mind can note the tendencies and characteristics of other men. One has no choice but to endure this species, so I might as well study it and try to understand its behaviors. The inmate of such institutions learns patience or else suffers more intensely.
During the night there were inner transformations occurring in my psyche. This world is not inevitable. What do I mean by this? This mass society with its overseers, officers, guards, landlords, social workers, psychiatrists, doctors, judges, jails, schools, churches … This world is an artificial construct superimposed upon the Natural World. Those who have constructed our societies have constructed a zoo … a dangerous zoo the likes of which H.G. Wells imagined in The Island of Doctor M.
Be careful. There are a lot of unstable phenomena out there.
There is no denying the great edge a jailbird is blessed with when possessing a rich inner life, a contemplative and reflective mind. For one who is already detached from the malls, theaters, churches, there is less to be anxious about. Surely this animal-body-creature-being prefers to be outside of these walls, but as long as it is trapped against its will, it will seek mental (spiritual) avenues of transcendence. I can slip in and out of parallel dimensions.
I was blessed with boxer shorts, t-shirts, and socks by some of the other zeks. One brother told me that I had a really cool personality – a “unique personality.” I was singing Rufis and even Johnny Cash out in the yard.
Does the individual personality and temperament remain constant? I would strongly say, no, it is constantly changing and transforming in response to environs and experiences. The I is transmutating as I scribble these words. This evening I had my head shaved bald. My animal being is furious over the small portions for meals. All it can think of is all the rice, grits, corn meal, pancake mix, coffee, literature, and tobacco stored back in the apartment in Asbury Park! If I had access to more food, tobacco, and literature, this incarceration would be much easier for me.
I keep going over the night I got into the altercation on the porch and how it escalated into my arrest. I had just returned from walking along shore and boardwalk. Two attractive young women had given me a beer on the boardwalk. One photographed me hugging the other, with me saying, “I’m Mike Hentrich, Professor Think-Tank.”
The one with the camera returns with, “I’m Professor Drinks-a-Lot and she’s Professor Smokes-a-Lot.”
I put the beer into my coat pocket and then crawled under the Paramount Theater. I drank the Coors. I returned to the porch of my residence. I saw the 40 ounce 211 and asked if it was “George’s.” That’s when the obese teenager lunged at me. She-Beast Girl. She screamed that the beer was her’s. She didn’t even live there and yet was handling me as though I were the intruder. I pay rent there! I become angry just thinking about it.
The small portions of food here makes me frustrated and angry, reminding me of the study mentioned by David Ehrenfeld in The Arrogance of Humanism. Prison authorities hire mathematicians to predict how little prisoners can be fed before there is an organized response or a riot. One thing leads to another, and there is potential for explosion. In the very fibers of my own animal body, there is the potential energy for a kinetic explosion.
The place I was renting in Asbury Park, NJ was just a means of transitioning back to New Jersey from Federal Way, WA. I wish there were a way to live in Freehold, NJ that did not entail being locked up in the county jail or wandering homeless on the outskirts of town. I prefer the woods over the ocean.
The Insanely Hilarious Autobiographical Manifesto of Mike Hentrich: Spring 2010
I had told my sister that I had been “homesick” all last year, and that, even though I was in the county lock-up, I no longer felt homesick. Could it be that I was afraid of getting arrested out West and having to be “processed” by an entirely different “system” ? Could it be that just recognizing the guards, nurses, and inmates in my hometown area gives me a certain sense of security? Just being a mile from my sister’s domicile and near the woods of my childhood stomping grounds may cure much of the “homesick anxiety” I was experiencing out West. It sounds plausible.
I just finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo, and I must be frank. While I did enjoy the story, it seems that Alexandre Dumas was all-too-impressed with “Christianity” and had a wealth-warped belief in the ability of money to afford one power, ease, comfort, and happiness – a kind of bourgeoise naivety. I was impressed with how many characters longed to put an end to their own lives in order to end their despair and heartache.
Some other zeks (jailbirds/inmates) want to read what I am scribbling. Will this motivate me to write more philosophically and poetically rather than going around in circles with if-this-then-that scenarios?
What are the immediate benefits of mastering the art of remaining calm when one is confronted with arrogant, controlling, confrontational gestures and comments? In taking deep breaths, do we channel the anger into a reserve of energy (chi, will)?
While out in the yard, after talking to my “Shadow,” Charlie the Book Man told me, “People think you’re crazy, but I say you’re a free-spirit. It’s great. Keep being a free spirit!”
A little later, Charlie’s right-hand man, John the Comedian, called me over to the spot in the yard where he was listening to his radio tuning in the song, It’s Still Rock N Roll To Me, by Billy Joel. He placed the headphones on my ears and let it rip. That song must be in my blood for it seemed to sing itself through my body.
I’m moving into darker waters of the psyche. Maybe darker moods are what is necessary for writing my “insane manifesto.” Feeling lower in spirits than I have since being arrested and taken into custody, I awoke just to get evening chow when I discovered that Charlie “the book man” had sneaked into my cell and placed Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment on my shelf. I smiled a genuine smile. The main character, Raskolnikov, is a “sensitive intellectual” driven by poverty to feel he is above moral law. He is a “former student.” Nietzsche had said that Dostoevsky is the only psychologist he has anything to learn from.
The atmosphere within maximum security pod I-1 is electrifying! Intellectual debates are now energized to a whole new pitch. Reading Dostoevsky in this environment makes apparent the depth and universality of Dostoevsky’s insights and observations. As is my manner, I am compelled to take some notes from Crime and Punishment. I was reading this section of the text out loud in the midst of “religious” and “racial” debates going on between Africoidal brothers, some Jehova Witnesses, some Muslim, others quite neutral. I stayed out of it, of course, just reading Dostoyevsky out loud to myself. This section, though, I read quite loudly with passion … another voice added to the mix.
“What do you think?” shouted Razumikhin, louder than ever, “you think I am attacking them for talking nonsense? Not a bit! I like them to talk nonsense. That’s man’s one privilege over all creation. Through error you come to the truth! I am a man, therefor I talk nonsense! You never reach any truth without making fourteen mistakes and very likely a hundred and fourteen. And a fine thing, too, in its way; but we can’t even make mistakes on our own account! Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, and I’ll kiss you for it. To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s. In the first case you are a man, in the second you’re no better than a parrot. Truth won’t escape you, but life can be fenced in and cramped.”
Isn’t writing a great way to “get back at” the world represented by the media whores, the celebrities, the professional sports industries and their collegiate counterparts – as well as all those who drool over them? Forbidden thoughts articulated via scribbling may eventually be typed and uploaded to the Internet, i.e., virtually published …
Hell, at least I finally have an opportunity not merely to continue reading Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, but to read it in an environment where I am actually savoring every morsel of it.
Note that, as the computer with the hard-drives where the source files were stored was stolen while I was locked up in the county jail, if I had not pecked away at uploading volume one of the diary excerpts to the free message board at isis.phpbb3now.com when I did, those records would have been “lost.”
Now, some notes from the Introduction to Crime and Punishment:
“The ‘autobiographical spiritual journey’ consists of three stages. It begins in a condition of aversio, a turning away from God and towards things of the world, the flesh, and the devil. In a condition of aversio, one is given to misunderstanding the nature of life. Aversio, according to Augustine, is the common condition of all humanity. For the truly lost, it persists an entire lifetime; for those who obtain grace, it is the first stage in the journey to salvation.”
Some jailbirds get together to study the Bible or the Koran. Hentrich studies Dostoyevsky in solitude.
To say one has 99% belief is to imply one doubts. Both Christianity and Islam are slave religions which demand submission and obedience to a monotheistic patriarch. I’ll have none of that. Why so many inmates go for these religions and their secular equivalents that are disguised as substance abuse therapies while incarcerated is most likely rooted in the conversion process itself, which is the manner in which these sects spread, namely, via proselytization. Prisoners, inmates, and other oppressed populations seek inclusion wishing to belong to the herd – for security.
foul stench in mouth
have to pee
jump down from bunk
step carefully on desk so as not to slip
mental hospital socks help somewhat
piss into toilet
piss has strong odor
rub corners of mouth with fingers
smells like shit
And so I brush teeth and wash corners of mouth and beard, thinking about how I might go about turning these nasty odors into literature. Did Shakespeare or Dante write about these foul odors? I’m sure that neither was spared experiencing the disturbing unpleasantness of our carnal foulness. Why didn’t the holy medicine man, Black Elk of the Sioux, speak about shitting in the woods or even masturbation, for that matter? Who writes or speaks about that weird smell when you press your nose down on your lip? Is it possible to unashamedly write an insanely hilarious autobiographical manifesto? Now I am getting somewhere!
Another unforgetable paragraph from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment: “I just came to find out personally, once and for all – well, number one, is it true you’re insane? You see, there’s a theory current (well, there, somewhere) you’re insane, or you lean strongly in that direction. I can assure you, I’m rather strongly inclined to that theory myself; in the first place because of your stupid or rather nasty actions (which can’t be explained), and in the second place because of the way you treated your mother and sister not long ago. If a man weren’t mad he’d have to be a monster and a villian to act as you have to them. Consequently, you must be insane.”
Also, when the detective is talking to Raskolnikov: “I repeat, you are very impatient, Rodion Romanych, and sick. You are bold and proud and serious, and you have been through a great deal – I knew all that long ago. I am familiar with all these moods, and as I read it your little essay seemed quite familiar. It was thought out on sleepless nights and in a state of wild excitement, heart heaving and pounding, and with suppressed enthusiasm. It’s dangerous though – this proud, suppressed enthusiasm in a young man! I jeered at you at the time, but I’ll tell you now that I’m terribly fond – I mean as an admirer – of this first, youthful, passionate experimenting with the pen. Your essay’s absurd and fantastic, but there’s such a sincerity that keeps flashing through it, such a youthful, incorruptible pride, such desperate boldness; and it’s rather somber, your essay; well, but that’s to the good, yes. I read that essay of yours and I put it aside, and … as I put it aside I thought: ‘That man’s heading for trouble!’”
There’s another passage I want to quote in full where Raskolnikov’s mother addresses him, and I sometimes like to imagine someone addressing me this way, for imagining this helps to protect my spirit against the status quo which would have me mocked and marginalized by their chain-of-command lapdogs, knucklehead authority worshipers, and degenerates-in-charge:
“I may be stupid, Rodia, but I can tell that you will soon be one of the top people in our learned world, maybe the very top. And they dared think you were mad! You may not know it, but that’s what they really did think. Ah, the miserable worms, how could they understand what it means to have brains!”
Since I am obliged to pass this text on to yet another scholar/jailbird, a few more little excerpts that I can meditate upon at my leisure:
The policeman, Gunpowder, says to Raskolnikov, at the station when Raskolnikov is about to confess for the murder of the old pawn broker, “As for the little ornaments and appurtances of life are concerned, for you nihil est; you’re an ascetic, a monk, a hermit! … For you it’s a pen behind the ear, a book, scholarly researches – that’s what makes your soul soar!”
Expressing Raskolnikov’s inner reflections, the narrator writes, “It even struck him that they [the prisoners] valued life more in prison than they did when they were at large. How much agony some of them must have been through – the tramps, for instance. Could an odd ray of sunlight really mean so much?”
“Everybody disliked and avoided him. Finally they even came to hate him. Why? He did not know. There were some far more criminal than he, and even these held him in contempt, laughed at him, laughed at his crime.”
“‘You’re a gentleman!’ they told him. ‘You shouldn’t have been walking around with an ax – not a gentleman’s business!’ For some reason he did not understand there was a quarrel one day; they all fell on him at once in a fury. ‘You’re an atheist! You don’t believe in God!’ they shouted at him. ‘You should be killed!’”
“He had never talked to them about God or faith, yet they wanted to kill him as an atheist; he remained silent and did not contradict them. One convict flung himself on him in a real frenzy. Calmly and quietly Raskolnikov stood his ground; not an eyebrow twitched and not a face muscle quivered. A guard managed to get between him and the murderer in time, or blood would have been spilled.”
In the afterward, Robin Feuer Miller asks, “Has the immensely private act of reading made you more thoughtful or more compassionate, or has it hardened your heart?”
“How will this novel insert itself into the private recesses of your living, thinking, feeling self?”
Dostoevsky himself spent eight months in prison in Peter & Paul Fortress, sentenced to death but reprieved at the last minute … four years as a fettered convict in a prison camp and then five years as a soldier reduced to the ranks … In a footnote there is something written by Tolstoy in an essay called Why Do Men Stupify Themselves? (1889): Raskolnikov did not live his true life when he murdered the old woman or her sister … He lived his true life when he was lying on the sofa in his room … when he was doing nothing and was only thinking, when only his consciousness was active: and in that consciousness tiny, tiny altercations were taking place. It is at such times that one needs the greatest clearness to decide correctly the questions that have arisen, and it is just then that one glass of beer or one cigarette may prevent the solution of the question, may … stifle the voice of conscience … as was the case with Raskolnikov.”
Sometimes you have to go crazy in order to keep your sanity (J.Quirk 2009). I guess some humanoids in our society are robotic. They are easily programmed and brainwashed, trained, tamed; they are obedient workers. They follow instructions like well-greased machines. Other specimens, like myself, are more spontaneous, more loyal to our animality, our primitive needs, the desires of our hearts. We are not easiy brainwashed, perhaps we may even be considered untame (wild), and therefor, unemployable. We do not want to obey the commands of fully uniformed robotic officials and regulators of the Corporate Law.
A pleasant observation: My cell-mate, “31,” is also, like me, very independent in his habits, forever jotting things down with huge stacks of legal paperwork around his mattress and upon his little desk. We are surprisingly compatible, giving each other as much space as is possible in such a small space, respecting invisible boundaries.
Incarceration does not destroy my phenomenological wonder.
While this may seem paradoxical and even contradictory, in my heart of hearts, I am not very stressed out at all about being encaged at the moment. Why not? Well, this latest discovery of books, specifically Thomas More’s Utopia (c.1516), and more so, Umberto Eco’s Baudolino, makes me suspect some non-human invisible intelligence is guiding me, perhaps even both my maternal-maternal great grandfather from Sweden and my paternal-paternal great grandfather from Germany!
Thomas More on the fretful judgments of men: “To tell the truth I am still of two minds as to whether I should publish the book or not. For men’s tastes are so various, the tempers of some so severe, their minds so ungrateful, their judgments so foolish, that there seems no point in publishing a book, even if it’s intended for their advantage, that they will receive only with contempt and ingratitude. It’s better to follow one’s own natural inclinations and ignore the vexing problems of publication. Most men know nothing of learning; many despize it. The clod rejects as too difficult whatever isn’t cloddish. The pedant dismisses as mere trifling that which isn’t stuffed with obsolete words. Some readers approve of only ancient authors; most men like their own writing best of all.”
I have to admit I like my own writing best of all! In an environment such as this jailhouse, there are a surprising number of honest thinkers who recognize a strong personality who must face scorn from “the good old boys” as well as hatreds coming from those arrogant pricks who just aren’t used to facing the challenge that mental powers present to the herd.
1. I awaken with a headache from these dreams where I am writing check after check only to throw them away and rewrite them over and over again.
2. I am sleeping in the little hut I constructed in the patch of woods along the railroad tracks across the street from this very dungeon, the one I placed a bale of straw in, but, in the dream I also have a pillow and a blanket. It is raining but the vitals are protected, that is to say, my animal body is warm and dry in the midst of cold rain outside the primitive debris hut.
3. I get beer and cigarettes for a guy I call “Satan Klaust.” He gives me a five dollar tip and a few cigarettes. My mother is waiting for me. We are to attend an event with her siblings and their offspring. I plan on drinking much beer. This is going to be a major problem.
4. I am at “Central Supply” where I used to be stationed when I was a State employee [what the girls at the local deli refered to as a “state slave”]. My foreman-boss is wandering around aimlessly, eratically even. I drink half of a 24 ounce can of Modelo in the bathroom of the shop.
What’s the deal with everyone encouraging me to “work out” while in jail? I prefer meditating in the sunbeams next to the plexiglass windows. I am most true to my living, thinking, feeling, inner being when doing nothing but contemplating. How does the “working class” atheistic scholar manage to live a contemplative life without resorting to joining a monestary? Does he become a vagabond, a dharma bum, a tramp, a dead-beat philosopher? Does he protest wage-slavery and go on the dole? Maybe such a lifestyle might land him in the jailhouse or the madhouse. And yet, he is prepared to do his time like an ectomorphic Oriental rebel monk. He is already an ascetic, the type of character who appears in classic literature as a philosopher disguised as a madman.
“A solitary ruler who enjoys a life of pleasure and self-indulgence while all about him are grieving and groaning is acting like a jailer, not a king.” (More?)
I am reminded of a passage from Thomas More’s circa 1516 Utopia: “The King should leave his subjects as little as possible, because his own safety depends keeping them from growing insolent with wealth and freedom. Liberty makes less patient to endure harsh and unjust commands, whereas meagre poverty blunts their spirits, makes them docile, and grinds out of the oppressed the lofty spirit of rebellion.”
This is the way tyrannies are preserved. The tyrant prohibits anything and everything likely to produce confidence and high spirit. His end and aim is to break the spirit of his subjects, because a broken spirit will never plot against anyone. Impoverishment is a principle means to this end. Hence the ridiculously small portions for meals in the county jail – the small ration of soup that compels inmates to aggressively compete for scraps … the race to the bottom in the work-force where people work more and more hours for lower and lower wages and hardly any “benefits” whatsoever.
Charley “The Book Man” passed off to me a little book by Epictetus which turns out to contain some real gems for anyone experiencing trials and tribulations.
“Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our own strengths.”
Epictetus also speaks to me about false impressions: “Mistreatment comes from false impressions.”
It’s unrealistic to expect people to see you as you see yourself. Perception is not reality.
“If your brother or sister treats you poorly, don’t grasp the handle by hurt or injustice, or you won’t be able to bear it and you will become bitter. Do the opposite. Grasp the situation by the handle of familial ties. Focus on the fact that this is your brother or sister, that you were brought up together, and thus have an enduring, unbreakable bond.”
Just a few more:
“If you want to develop your ability to live simply, do it for yourself, do it quietly, and don’t do it to impress others.”
“Goodness isn’t ostentatious piety or showy good manners. It’s a lifelong series of subtle readjustments of our character. You move through your life by being thoroughly in it.”
“Practice self-sufficiency. Don’t remain a dependent malleable patient. Become your own soul’s doctor.”
Now, from the notes I am going through, even though I know the following is an excerpt I copied down so as to reflect upon it, since I finished one text and began another that evening, and since I didn’t write down the source, I am going to have to check out whether this is Thomas More or Umberto Eco (from Baudolino). I’m thinking it is Eco.
“In reality, what she taught no one has ever known actually. All her writings were lost; those who had preserved her spoken word had been killed, or had tried to forget what they had heard. Everything we know of her has been handed down to us by the holy fathers who condemned her, and, honestly, as a writer of history and chronicles, I tend not to give too much credence to words an enemy puts into the mouth of an enemy.”
Sounds like Eco.
We’ve been on “lock-down” all day. No yard-out. No microwave oven for tea or coffee. No library. No TV (which doesn’t really phase me). No eating in the day-space. Continual searches. No looking out the little plexi-glass square in the door. No noise. We are threatened with charges. I shout out outbursts anyway. At least I was lucky enough to get my hands on Palahniuk’s Choke just before the unexpected and sudden change for the worse. I had read it out West, but it is worth a second slow read.
All day the officers (over-seers), instead of the usual “housemen,” have been handing out the trays of food At dinner: no soup, no tea. The toilets don’t flush and we’re trapped in our cells. The officers threaten to put someone in the hospital if they continue to hear our noise. I read loudly directly from Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke like a Baptist minister screaming a sermon:
“There are so many laws, you can’t keep them straight. Third-degree screaming in public, second-degree nuisance. It’s gotten to the point I’m terrified to do anything at all. Anything risky or exciting lands you in jail. With the whole world property-lined and speed-limited and zoned and taxed and regulated, with everyone tested and registered and classified and addressed and recorded, nobody had room for adventure, except the kind that money buys, like on a roller coaster or at a movie.”
The laws that keep us safe also condemn us to boredom. The only world left is the world of intangibles. Everything else is sewn up too tight. We’re caged inside TOO MANY LAWS. Intangibles: the Internet, movies, music, stories, art, rumors, computer programs, anything that isn’t real. The culture-of-make-believe.
Here’s a good scene, and very short:
“Dude,” I say, “You don’t think I’m a good-hearted person, do you?”
And Denny says, “Hell no, dude.”
I say, “You don’t think I’m really a secretly sensitive and Christ-like manifestation of perfect love?”
“No way, dude,” Denny says. “You’re an asshole.”
And I say, “Thanks. Just checking.”
Was it Heiddegger who stated that ANXIETY is the most natural state for Being-in-the-world? How does one remain calm and “keep one’s composure”? Is it an act? Is it the greatest inauthenticity to repress the general anxiety of being-in-the-world? Isn’t there some kind of consequence to thinking deeply, to pondering and probing fundamental philosophical questions? Won’t the upholders of the status quo be intimidated by those who do not pay homage to their values?
I can understand why Arthur Schopenhauer wrote frequently about his hatred for Hegel. I sympathize with his resentment against his mother and her social cliques. She did not acknowledge his greatness, but insisted on treating him like he was some kind of “social loser”.
Gotta stretch my mind to handle contradiction
Who wouldda thought: Truth is stranger than fiction?
Last night, in the cell, I read aloud chapters five and six in their entirity from Malcom Lowry’s Under the Volcano. In chapter six, I was surprised to read:
“No longer did he grub around from shady publisher to publisher with his guitar and his manuscripts in Geoff’s gladstone bag. Yet his life once more began to bear a certain resemblence to [the young] Adolf Hitler’s. He had not lost touch with Boloski, and into his heart he imagined himself plotting revenge. A form of private anti-Semitism became part of his life. He sweated racial at night. If it still sometimes struck him that in the stokehold he had fallen down the spout of the capitalist system that feeling now was inseperable from his loathing of the Jews. It was somehow the fault of the poor old Jews, not merely Boloski, but all Jews, that he’d found himself down the stokehold in the first place on a wild goose chase. It was even due to the Jews that such economic excressances as the British Mercantile Marine existed.”
I am in the process of trying to bail myself out, and this requires help “from the outside”. There is a great deal of stress involved. It seems the only allies out there that are willing to do any footwork for me are my parents. Although they have been divorced for three decades, when it comes to me, when I am in a jam, they seem to be able to get together and join forces. I write letters to The Mother. I call the Bail Bondsman. The Bailbondsman calls The Mother. The Mother calls The Father. The Father does the footwork, spotting cash until I can get the funds to him. What will I do without such “allies on the outside”? Without such allies, I would most likely want to relocate somewhere remote, far from any trouble. Actually, I am only here in Dirty Jersey because I was homesick. Homesick for what? Homesick for who? Well, who would be able to do such “footwork” were I have been locked up out West? I sympathize with those who have burned all their bridges “on the outside”. I sympathize with those who have no one out there to do any footwork, those who have no choice but to rely on social workers …
While I am filled with anxiety over the stress of trying to bail myself out, I am reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis, one of the greatest indictments against jobs ever written. Gregor’s impetus to transform reflects the illogicality of working life and the impossibility of sustaining a work ethic. It is a vitriolic condemnation of working life!
Give me tobacco or give me death
I’m tired of wasting my fucking breath
You can keep your cocaine and your crystal meth
I’m from the Spirit World like my name was Seth
So give me tobacco, liberty, and a taste of death
One more from Epictetus: “A disciple asked, ‘How is it possible for a man who has nothing, naked, without home or hearth, in squalor, without a city, without a servant, to live a tranquil life?’”
“Epictetus said, ‘Lo, Zeus has sent to you one who shall show indeed that it is possible. Look at me, I have no house or property. I sleep on the ground, I have only earth and sky and one poor cloak. Yet what do I lack? Has any of you seen me with a gloomy face? How do I act towards those of whom you stand in fear and awe? Do they not give way before me as if I were king and master?’”
It is 0600 hours in the county jail. Breakfast trays usually arrive before 0730. Here I sit all ready to go waiting for ETG. Sheets off old mattress, folded along with blanket. Underwear and T-shirts rolled up with my three notepads and shower sandals … itching to walk up the railroad tracks.
BACK IN ASBURY PARK
My father called telling me the bails bondsman was revoking my bail because I did not report to their office 24 hours after I was released. A photo must be taken. I need five references with addresses. I contacted the bails bondsman. The Mother will give me a ride to New Brunswick tomorrow. I want to see how to get a dictionary into my former cellie in the county lock-up.
BACK IN THE COUNTY JAIL IN FREEHOLD
Arrested for running through flocks of wild geese in a park by a lake … busybodies notify police. During the arrest, during a bit of a scuffle, the officer charges me with assault. I was able to pay rent in advance. Residing in Asbury Park is just not working out for me, evidently.
Even when I don’t have access to ink and paper, my story is still being lived. I was reminded of this by John the Comedian, right hand man of Charlie the Book Man, when down for a visit. This time I had been placed in the infirmary in a cell with four others. I was on the floor. I had no access to ink or paper. Would I rather be in I-1 where cats already knew me? I had just been there a week before. I-1 was maximum security for high risk (potential escapees). Now I am in H-2 as I must have been reclassified. I can’t believe I paid bail only to catch more charges and get put right back in here. I hadn’t even been to court yet! Now the judge has that much more ammunition to make a case against me. Those Asbury Park police really have it in for me.
I had one week away from this oppressive dog pound; and yet, it is not just me. I mean, my case is not extraordinary. John the Comedian said he had been released on his own recognances only to be re-arrested in just five days; and yet, he is far from broken. I feel almost broken. I’m sick of being thrown into jail over such ridiculous altercations and fabrications. Nobody will be surprised when I relocate in March 2011.
Is it possible to detach and transcend the situation? Can I just give up worrying and embrace the wretched truth that this life I am living is an absurd tragicomedy? It is absurd that I am back in the dog pound after only a week out there – and over something basically fabricated. I am defenseless against citizen harassment, and even more defenseless against police harassment. What is really going on?
SHARING MY WORD WITH THE WORLD
Does anyone even care to hear my word?
Compared to their Scriptures, they think my word is a turd
Am I to believe I deserve to be in a cage
Just because I sometimes go off in a rage?
When do I get the chance to speak?
The police treat me like I’m some kind of freak
Yet they are the goonsquad harassing the meek!
Do they ever lay their dirty paws on wealthy beach bums?
Do they harass the landlords who own all the slums?
They expect the poor to be meek and obedient
To be quiet as corpses and just pay the rent
But no, not I, I’m the albino Wonder
I’m a One Man March who sings like the Thunder
Becoming more indignant and mad
I’ve got songs to writes down
But I don’t have a pad
And when the establishment collapses
I bet I’ll be glad
Eventually one day the goons will release me
But even then I wonder “How free can I be?”
With so many of us locked up for no reason
Families destroyed season after season
See, I’ve given up trying to make sense of the nonsense
No justice, no peace, and no recompense
In this absurd theater I play the role of the loser
Even when I’m sober, the drones call me a boozer
I look into the eyes of those who assume to rule
On some level I make it clear that I’m no fool
And I’ll never submit to becoming their tool
I’m the professor, I’ll take them to school
No longer will I count the days ’till I’m free
There’s a wilderness within me that they just can’t see
Within is a Spirit that refuses to be Broken
This is my word, Mudslide has spoken
I won’t be your slave, keep your damn token!
I acknowledge The Confusion Master within me. True Mental Liberation occurs in solitude, one brain at a time. The path toward mental freedom leads into The Terra Ingcognitia of the unknown depths of the unconscious, what our ancestors called The Spirit World.
Such an absurd situation: arrested for running through a flock of wild geese!
Shall I make a big deal over my little troubles when the general situation is so grave? My encagement … my poverty … my drama … What is it in comparison to our mass hypnosis … our mass ignorance … our saga? And so the saga continues. The saga is generational, scanning many centuries. I see what “The People” put up with in jail. I also witness the way people who have never been incarcerated speak resentfully about how jailbirds get to watch the TV in an air-conditioned dungeon and get free food and medical attention. The ignoramuses resent it! Meanwhile, the jailbirds catch street charges for trying to stay warm by covering vents to keep the cold air out of their cells!
Can I become even deeper than I am already? I believe I can. Life, living, staying alive is perhaps easier inside the walls than outside. Jail life can be easy living, especially for a philosophical hermit such as me. I just don’t appreciate being thrown in a cage for something as absurd as “duh … we had calls that you was … duh … attacking da geese by da lake … derrrrrrahhh.”
You have got to be kidding me.
In the meantime, I am utilizing my imagination, as per usual, tapping into the strangeness of everyday reality. The guards = zombies? My Indian cell-mate from Mexico says the guards look like space aliens. Hee hee hee.
I received a form for requesting so-called literature. It’s all about Twelve Step bullshit … the AA Big Book … the NA book … How It Works (How about ‘How It Doesn’t Work?) … Fuck this bullshit! Give me Dostoevsky. I don’t care if my family thinks I am “safer” in jail. What kind of logic says, “I better stay in jail so I can’t get arrested”? Are you kidding? I witnessed a man put in here for 15 days get into an altercation out in the yard during a basketball game and end up with an attempted murder charge. Fifteen days turns into fifteen years. Les Miserables, anyone? Victor Hugo, anyone? Hello … is there anybody out there?
By the way, I am taking these notes from blank pages I had torn from the many Bibles circulating through this institution.
I am prepared to sit back as an orangutan genius in this cage, reading, scribbling, dreaming, and generally waiting for feeding time in the zoo.
What’s up with these police?
Arrested me for chasing geese?
In a cage so long I had to break my lease!
Once again I am out of paper, writing on any scraps I can get my paws on.
Could I be developing valuable coping mechanisms throughout these persecutions where I am punished severely for the most minor infractions? Surely I must be developing patience and fortitude and tenacity. Exercising my imagination, it isn’t difficult to picture what goes on behind closed doors: some of us are marked, targeted, blacklisted. The judges and prosecutors side with the police … always. Being persecuted would not be so bad if the authorities came right out and declared us heretics, atheists, radical intellectuals; but no, they want to paint us as clowns, idiots, or lunatics! That is insulting to our intelligence, adding insult to our injuries.
The “brothers” are singing while they are playing cards. This brings relief to my psyche. Perhaps there is Old Magic in their song! I feel more at ease than I did when I was first brought in.
What happened to my notes from Rutgers that I kept in expensive European notebooks? Surely those Multivariable Calculus notes were priceless! The thousands of dollars worth of books, computer equipment, software, music, memories … While it was a very expensive mistake moving out to the Seattle area, my mind was somehow purged or cleansed … All those possessions I was forced to detach from. Even now I am in a situation where I am forced to detach, to transcend my desire for security and to face the unknown head on.
Without access to great literature, specifically philosophical literature, aren’t I better off thinking my own thoughts rather than reading novels? My idea of “phenomenological writing” is writing to discover what I really think – not to explain, but to explore. Phenomenology is just a technical term for introspection. It’s not an explanation. It’s an exploration. I’m not explaining what I think and feel; I’m exploring what I think and feel. Feeling is just a deeper way of thinking. Does my inner nature refuse to “function” as a “white person”? Besides food and tobacco, out there, I hardly consume anything at all. This makes me a threat to the established status quo. I don’t want what they are selling. This kind of ruins their all-so ostentatious consumption. It takes all the fun out of it for them. Poor, poor cream-puffs!
John Kennedy Toole was onto something very deep with some of the things he had the character, Ignatius Reilly, come out with in A Confederacy of Dunces … The book’s opening scene has a cop trying to arrest Ignatius for being a “suspicious character” while he’s waiting for his mother. She’s shopping for some kind of cakes in a store. He’s a full grown and very large man, which makes the scene even more hilarious.
I enjoy conversations with fellow-inmates here in the county jail, especially older indigenous, Africa-Jamacian, or “foreigners.” We are able to converse quite heavily. There are like-minded gort-busting soul rebels in here … not many, but a few … and I find them. There is the Brazilian, Fabio, trying to get extridited back to Brazil. There is the Ukranian trying to get extridited back to the Ukraine. My cell-mate, an indigenous to Central America, wants to return to Mexico. The New Amerikan Dream seems to be to get the fuck out of the United States. Me? I was born here and am on the dole. Besides, I think Sweden is too expensive unless … I were like a ward of the state.
Today, having nothing better to do but stare at the groundhog outside the cell, I toyed with an idea for the autobiographical novel – that is, the truth disguised as fiction, where I just change the word “I” to the word “Henry,” which, of course is not my name and therefore “fictional” … wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
How would the story begin? How would I begin the “autobiographical novel”? Would it be a philosophical treatsie? For Madmen Only? I won’t be writing notes to myself, such as, “No more coffee today!” How many coffees did I drink since commissary arrived? Seven. And so I am wired.
Is there a way to sneak the philosophical and educational component in between some kind of plot? These are notes. The actual “work” will be extracted from these notes. I am counting on “The Cognitive Unconscious,” which will be an idea the protagonist, Henry Heinrich, explores throughout the novel. In fact, the Cognitive Unconscious will be likened to what the ancients called “The Spirit World” – so Henry will be guided by what once might have been called “ghosts,” but which he defines as “chemicals”. Whether he calls them “chemicals” or “Kurt Vonnegut Jr.” or “Arthur Schopenhauer” or “Emile Cioran” or “George Carlin” does not really matter. It is still what it is. Henry sometimes calls these chemicals Dr. Funkenstein or even “Captain Howdy”.
The first sentence would be: “This is the story of how Henry Heinrich cured himself of sanity, or, in conventional terminology, how Henry Heinrich went insane.”
As with many great novels, it begins in a jail cell. Henry had been placed in this particular institution on several occasions throughout his life. One night, after drinking at least ten cups of coffee, Henry was unable to sleep at all. He tossed and turned, moaned and groaned, stared at the walls, stared at the ceiling, stared out the crack called a window, stared at his fingernails, etc … Henry was running out of things to stare at since it was too dark to see Mr. Groundhog outside. He sat up and stared at the notes he had scribbled on some scrap paper he was using to continue his “memoirs,” which had become, over the years, an angry diatribe raging against a society he declared to be a confederacy of dunces, a phrase he picked up from John Kennedy Toole’s masterpiece comedy, “A Confederacy of Dunces”. Henry stayed awake throughout the night, and then, after eating morning chow, he set down to put in writing how he went insane, or, to use Henry’s terminology, how he CURED HIMSELF OF SANITY. He could not keep up with how rapidly his brainwaves were firing, so he only jotted down what appeared to be quasi-mathematical formulas.
The cognitive unconscious —–> the spirit world
chemicals —–> ghosts in the machine ——> spirits —–> “invisible non-human intelligence”
To anyone observing Henry from the outside, he must have appeared to have gone mad, which is precisely what he had done. In fact, this had been his intention. This mental progression was, for Henry, the ultimate mental liberation from the boundaries and constraints of a socially constructed mass hallucination of so-called reality. His goal had always been to transcend this mass hypnosis. Even as Henry was trapped in his cell without scrap paper to scribble “the transmissions from inner space,” the living story continued to unfold. The saga continued despite the fact he could not record or even verbalize the activity of the bad-ass chemicals dancing demonically in the Cognitive Unconscious.
The latest transmissions had been about what Henry called “Emotional Algebra” as well as a grammar that incorporates mathematical and computational operators and functions to describe emotions resistant to categorization. Human emotions, well, all animal and plant emotions, are, Henry reflected, internal weather systems.
Down at some routine medical examination, a tall brother with long dread-locks and sunglasses being held by immigration said, “This county jail is nothing but a huge mental institution where every operation against the individual inmate is a psychological strategy meant to break the individual down!”
He and the other brothers found it rather hilarious (yet still heart-breaking) that I had been arrested for “running through the wild geese” … It validated the “revolving door syndrome” in the flesh. Here Henry is back in the county jail over, literally, a pack of lies. Henry was not harming anyone, just happy to be running around with his headphones blaring, almost carefree like a wild child. It’s not about justice at all. It is total nonsense where morons get their rocks off having so many vulnerable creatures at their disposal.
Henry tries to stay calm, but he really, really wonders. He reaches a point where he is beyond angry, beyond even caring at all. He crosses a line and goes over an edge. With no more patience, he can no longer suffer fools. The county jail is a madhouse, and the lunatics are running the asylum. Perhaps now most people will be able to see clearly what a total farce the so-called “justice system” is. The police are drunk on power. The police are narcissistic psychopaths wielding guns, badges, and the authority of judges and prosecutors.
“Fuck the Corporate State!” Henry screams.
Henry considers himself fortunate to have a very intelligent Native American from the mountains of Mexico as a cell-mate. He has a great sense of humor about everything!
Henry Heinrich grows weary of trying to write a story without any paper. Besides, why bother with creating a story? He wonders, “Can’t I just be like Cioran and write philosophical aphorisms in a poetic manner? What was Cioran’s The Trouble With Being Born but a series of statements and observations without any theme or system?”
Henry tries to write an aphorism: We are punished not by what is done to us, but by our reaction to the injury.
Why compose books? I don’t need to be understood or appreciated. My inner nature more than compensates for the ingratitude of society. I walk as a stranger among my contemporaries who presume to judge me. I am a truth-seeker who sacrifices economic security and lives quite contentedly with few material possessions. The true mystic brings down upon himself the antagonism of public opinion. He is ostracized, publicly censured, and privately ridiculed. As proof of his wasting his life, people point to his diminished status. The mystic becomes more even as he possesses less. The world rejects the man of soul (intelligence). Mystics have always been persecuted or ridiculed or ignored. They are strengthened by the very adversities to which they are subjected! It is the mystic, and not the hero of science-fiction, who is the superman Nietzsche prophesized about: the Philosophic Elect … the poets and dreamers.
At this point, after only three days of toying with the idea of writing a novel, I scrapped that idea and went back to calling this protagonist, “I”. As my cellie, the Native American of the mountains of Mexico says, only about 1 out of 1000 people would be willing or able to acknowledge what I say as true. That’s 0.001 or 0.1% of any given population. That’s 50 times less than 5%! He seems to intuitively know that I am an honest man.
Meanwhile the one we call Rasta told me, “When we are hungry, we become one with the millions who are also hungry at this very moment. Although we may feel ‘physically weak’ when we are hungry, there is a ‘mental strength’ there.”
This helped me endure the small rations of food.
Again, while down at medical, I enjoyed more subversive discussions with fellow inmates about how the county gets paid $1000 per day for each inmate. How we get fed about $2 worth of food each day … and how commissary makes a 700% profit … no lie: one tablespoon of peanut butter for seventy five cents. This is clearly a strong case of extortion.
Dear faithful reader, how these words have reached you is a great mystery to me, but I shall continue to write my indictment against our society as though I were speaking from beyond the grave. As one who has been so influenced by authors long dead, I appreciate the potential for doing exactly that, speaking beyond the grave that is. I direct my literary assault not only against the Powers That Be and their minions who oversee the vulnerable human bodies born into this Black Iron Prison, but also against the hordes of drones who unreflectively defer to the status quo, who pass on wealth-warped values to the beings they breed, and to the many sports enthusiasts who are more concerned with the statistics of organized sports athletes than with social justice, economic terrorism, ecological degradation, and intellectual abomination. Surley the wisest geniuses of our society end up going bitterly insane after having been ignored, ridiculed, and persecuted throughout their lives.
I will attempt to make the most of my captivity. Even without pads of paper, I am managing to record some of my reflections.
“Why can’t you just sit there watching the brainwashing machine like everyone else? Have popcorn, enjoy the TV. There’s a great movie on.”
“No, I would prefer to sit here and brood.”
And that small, seemingly insignificant exchange is what I mean when I say I am living science-fiction cosmic horror. I don’t want to think about it or write about it too much for I’ll become anxious and depressed and bitter. The way to cope with this situation is to focus on how my own nature compensate me.
In A Confederacy of Dunces by Toole, there is a book mentioned: The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, a man unjustly imprisoned. It describes the plight of a just man in an unjust society, kind of like Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. Boethius is tortured and killed. Philosophy may have consoled him, but it did not spare him from torture and untimely death. It is as though philosophy consoles those who encounter “the absurd”. Once one has encountered the absurd, hope becomes a poison. Life appears to be one disaster after another, and we take as much as we can until it eventually kills us. This is the nature of our lives even without the constraints of civilization. Winters become more difficult as one ages. Winter informs us!
On my third reading of Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, I am rather disturbed by the conversation Ignatius’s mother is having over at officer Manusco’s. (p.202-205)
“I gotta do something. I gotta call the authorities to come take that boy away … Maybe they put him in a detention home or something.”
Could this be part of Toole’s genius, that he has effectively zoomed in on how fascism operates in our society, through mommy-daddy-me?
On p.203, Irene (Ignatius’s mother) says, “Ignatius woulda been locked up safe in jail.”
His own mother is his enemy? The villian? She openly betrays him. She seems to be his worst critic. Is this how our Twelve Step brainwashed society operates?
On p.204: “It was all Ignatius’s fault. He’s my own flesh and blood, but he sure looks funny when he goes out. Angelo shoulda locked him up,” says Irene.
And finally, on p.205, she says to the cop, “I should have let you lock him away, Angelo. Mr. Robichaux, you don’t know Ignatius. He makes trouble every place he goes.”
Those who insist I keep my head up and remain positive have lost contact with reality. Now I will brood. There is a definite relief that comes from facing the truth of our situation: having been born has been a cosmic accident which there seems to be no way to back out of. This insomnia … Could it help me articulate my situation? Dare I say “our situation”?
When I was 13 I said “Life sucks.” When I was 16, I said, “I am looking for Nothingness.” By the time I was 18, I was suicidal.
I sensed early on that life itself was some kind of cosmic nightmare. I wanted OUT. And yet, there’s no easy way out! I began to consider that it is most likely best not to reproduce. Life itself seems inherently evil in the way each creature can’t help but look out for its own self-interest through no fault of its own. On a whole mankind, or at least the mankind of mass industrial societies, seems to be a wretched species. Just observe when people experience road rage or when employees get trampled to death on “Black Friday” sales. It’s nightmarish and creepy. Would we all have been better off not to have been born? Now, once born, is it best to die soon? These are not pleasant questions to contemplate, and yet, there is some relief in facing these serious matters squarely with courage.
Getting out of jail will not liberate me from the nightmare of existence, and there are no chains as fierce as the chains of biological necessity … that is, basically, the need to eat, to find shelter, and relieve the sexual instinct.
I found a copy of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights in the “Law Library”. Back in 1997 the library in this county jail had a substantial amount of good literature: a great deal of Dostoevsky, five copies of Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, many mathematics texts and other information packed texts on electricity and what not. When the teachers went on strike and were incarcerated for it, believe it or not, these so-called educators complained of an abundance of subversive literature in the law library, and the books were removed!
Over the years, books that have been mailed in and then left in circulation remain, but it is slim pickings. On the outside, I would not get around to Wuthering Heights as I would have access to philosophical texts, but, in here, after reading through the notes in the back of the book, I decided to take a chance, and I got into it.
The character, Heathcliff, denounces the perverse act by which Catherine trades her authentic selfhood for social privilege as spiritual suicide and spiritual murder.
“Why do you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort – you deserve this. You have killed yourself.”
Catherine lives two lives: she tries to square authenticity with social convention, running in harness an ontological commitment to Heathcliff with a phenomenal relationship to Linton. This touches on the main theme of what it means to be a gort.
There are some mysterious clues in Ellison’s Invisible Man. I too may have been one who has been kept “running,” where I am being killed slowly with hope. One such clue is the part where the protagonist is on the bus, when the old vet says to him, “Learn to look beneath the surface. Come out of the fog. You don’t have to be a complete fool. Play the game but don’t believe in it – that much you owe yourself. Even if it lands you in a straight jacket or a padded cell. Play the game, but play it your own way – part of the time at least. Learn how the game operates – Learn how you operate. You’re hidden right out in the open. They wouldn’t see you because they don’t expect you to know anything, since they believe they’ve taken care of that …”
I made some kind of personal breakthrough right there in the jail cell when I read the vet’s words: “The ways of authority are indeed mysterious.”
It was the conversation in the Golden Day which caused the vet to get transferred out of town and for the nameless protagonist to get sent to Harlem. When one is not “bought off,” one is not “on the team,” and may be handled as if one were the most dangerous outlaw – public enemy number one. Why is this? Does it have to do with being unpredictable? When one is not on the team or on the payroll, one is outside the chain of command and therefore “out of control.”
We are expected to be concerned with our “criminal records” or even “credit ratings” or our “history with using chemicals to alter consciousness.” And yet, is there even a self or a personal identity? There are moods and states and internal weather systems, but is there a “self”? Personal identity, the one who the State assumes to address, is itself a social construct. Is it some kind of agreed upon game we all play? Moods. Isn’t this what Heiddegger was obsessed with? Being-in-the-world consists of anxiety. Who can deny this? When I behold the mechanisms involved in eating, when I see how fierce I become were someone to take my food while eating, I behold how illusory so-called “personality” is. My image may be as one who is “spiritual” or “kind,” but this is only a social construct. Try to take my food while I am eating. This will reveal the Thing-in-Itself, the will.
I may be pleasant after eating a meal. Do we know our “natural state”? I have experienced the truth, and, as we all know, the truth can get rather ugly and downright evil.
Having no one in particular who cares to engage in dialogue with me, I have developed this mechanism of conversing with myself – the very definition of philosophizing. My animal being keeps itself company. I “invite my own soul,” so to speak.
Am I able … to imagine … a future time when this animal being is either reading over these notes or typing them into a manuscript or manifesto? Can I imagine a reader brought to a deeper level within his or her own mind by some deep unconscious message in the text? Such as? Well, the very nature of time and space: “I” am in jail, but these words may be read elsewhere without me even dropping “this” paper in an envelope addressing it to “the future”.
I see “my skeleton”. The skeleton sits inside this skin, inside this jail, inside this cell, just as it sat in an apartment two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. “I” can still feel the loneliness I felt “out there”.
Why all the quotation marks? Well, we take these words for granted, and by utilizing quotation marks, I am bringing attention to the awkwardness of language … By using quotation marks, I am questioning what it is we mean by such symbols. To me, ‘I’ is a symbol representing my animal body, this being connected to the air, water, and food it consumes.
The Indio de Mexico tells me, smiling warmly all the while, “Write everything down. You speak the truth! Your thoughts are true. You are NOT crazy, ‘Henry’. Most people just don’t want to think about what you are saying. Write your ideas on the Internet. Maybe some youth will read what you put out there. Let them know that you think Hollywood is bullshit, that professional organized sports are a big distraction, that employment is the main way we are controlled. Do it Henry.”
Who benefits from so many people being incarcerated? Why are there so many laws?
The guy who was my cellie after the Native American from Mexico (the guy from Ireland) left me a note before he was released. I just found it on the desk:
“Just imagine the balls it takes to walk into the Monmouth County Correctional Institution every day, get paid $30 per hour for 8 hours work ($240) but you only work two of those hours and sit/eat/sleep/watch TV for the other six hours scratching your balls. And they’re looking our shit up? Bullshit.”
Oh well, says Henry Heinrich, I wouldn’t want to waste my life doing what they do. I’d prefer living minimalistically on government relief, studying Schopenhauer and Cioran. At least the Irish dude left me his pens. He was also writing some kind of book.
I came up with an idea to write myself a letter. Even though my name is ‘Mike’, I will address the letter to my fictional protagonist, ‘Henry’.
Hey Henry, remember when you were a child and you would “imagine” you were a prisoner held captive by some powerful empire? Well, you need not pretend any longer. You have become the protagonist of your own strange science-fiction drama.
Maybe the reason that Wuthering Heights strikes such a chord in me is because I identify with Heathcliff and the whole idea of being at odds with rigid, uptight phonies. I present a conflict in the social fabric. Like Heathcliff, I do not conform to norms, and hence, while there are those who will show me love and respect, there always seems to be some pestilent types hating on me. There is nothing I can do about this.
Cartesian mathematical dimensions do not apply to the spiritual realm, the psychological realm. I am a philosopher-in-chains about to be unchained again. Presently, I am resting in asylum.
Here is a powerful excerpt from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights:
“… Heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out, into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy. That will do to explain my secret, as well as the other. I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there [Mr. Earnshaw] had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff, now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he is handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton’s is as different as moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”
I am shocked at how much I am enjoying Emily Bronte’s book that was written so long ago. It is sort of a romantic tragedy like Legends of the Fall. Who was this Emily Bronte? She died at age 33? She published the book just prior to her death? She was a misanthropist? A hermit woman? And why did it take me being locked in a cell in order to enjoy and appreciate such treasures? Will I be able to embrace literature with as deep an appreciation upon my release?
They stole your song then sold it back to you
Told you you’re not God’s chosen because you’re not a Jew
Then they stole your life when they threw you in a zoo
And fed you medication to keep you confused and blue
That’s right, I said it
It’s not just you
The bloody bastards
They got me too!
They stole my song then sold it back to me
Called me a devil, kicked me out the Family Tree
Then they spit in my face laughing while I bleed
Trying to brainwash me with some foreign creed
That’s right, it’s not just me
We all have to fight back
To set our minds free