Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Smoking, Anxiety and Modernity

I think I've got the drinking thing under control.  I am sleeping without alcohol.  The shaking is now manageable, and feels like the hind end of a major storm that has largely spent itself.

I've of course said this before, but in the past I felt either longing or antipathy to the MANY liquor stores around here (this is a drinking city), and now they feel like laudromats or TV repair shops.

I have squared with, taken a direct line with, the powerful feelings I used alcohol successfully first to avoid, then to manage, then to process.

Today, though, in an old story, I felt a need to smoke.  I've never liked cigarettes, but I am very fond of cigars.

And it hit me that anxiety is a natural emotion to feel in a world where intentional pandemics, nuclear war, and global economic collapse are all possible realities.  We live in a world where a lot of people want cultural and economic failure on the part of the mass of humanity.  This is not disputable.  Many of them, seemingly, live among us and drive Smart cars or Priuses.

Nor do we have reason to fully trust ANYONE who says they have it under control, or even that they have the best interests of the mass of humanity at heart.

I do think a credible case could be made that the addicts of the world are in some respects often the canaries in the coal mine.  They are the visionaries, and to quote Eminem, vision is scary.

To be an unconcerned member of a world where anxiety is a healthy reaction is to be in some respects mentally ill.

And being someone obsessed with the fissures within our culture, with the gaps between our culture (really, I should say cultures, shouldn't I?) and actual human needs, and with the seeming irrationality on the part of large segments of the western industrialized world, I cannot but speculate.

What are ways of palliating anxiety?  The most obvious, of course, is to sedate it.

But could we not posit as well that it is also possible to break down in the face of an unrelenting, unnameable menace, and side with it?

If the prospect of the demise of Western Culture is a source of unmanageable anxiety, could one not simply start wishing for it?  When some doom seems over the horizon, is it not in some respects human nature to just wish it were fucking here already?  Just do it.  Get it done.  Then I won't have to worry about it any more.

Can you not see people feeling this?

And can you not see surrendering primary responsibility for perception to someone, anyone, who says that they will deal with all the things which worry you?  With reverting to a childish dependence?  With gluing oneself irrevocably to a raft of people floating in the same flood, and clinging to them for very life?  You go up when they go up.  You do down on the waves when they go down.  Your relation is to them, not the oceans of emotion and change sweeping everything known away.

I do think in these speculations is a kernel of important truth.  This basic mechanism is, I feel, one of the most important factors in the disarming, of the Europeans particularly, of their ability to defend themselves and their cultural achievements from those who would destroy them.

You say outwardly "it will all be fine.  Nobody out there wants to hurt us.  Life will always continue as before", while inwardly longing on some level for a global fire to put it all out.


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