Harri Teikka: An Individual In Confrontation With The World
On another morning of his misery, Sebastian looked back on his life. "The swine...!" he thought to himself. He was due to have an appointment with his employment counsellor. They were going to point him to a job, or at least training; to polish the bleak employment statistics at least for his part. "Yeah, right", he thought.
What choice did he have? He had dropped out of university; he couldn't take the stiff world of academia, the pomposity and biting sarcasm of professors, competing factions of faculties, ongoing tedious theorizing completely alien to life. He didn't need any theories tasting of paper and dust; he wanted something to grasp, something that was alive and breathing.
He didn't need that cold, detached look on life where everything was arranged and preserved in neat little boxes called theories; and above all, because university always represented for him his father, a senior lecturer living in another town; with his new wife that Sebastian detested. It was easy to say Sebastian and his father were estranged. Father sent him money for Christmases and birthdays, and occasional postcards from holidays. Every time Sebastian duly sent his father an e-mail to thank and perhaps formally tell some news of his ongoing "projects", but that was about all communication between Sebastian and his father.
Sebastian's mother, a heavy person both physically and mentally, never spared her words in telling Sebastian what an unfeeling, convoluted and selfish person Sebastian's father had been, still was. Then she started to grill Sebastian again on his lack of academic success. This was something Sebastian had heard about a thousand times before. Or then mother would start to ruminate on the past once again and wallow in her guilt.
Sebastian thought of the human waste on the streets; after all, he was not that far away from those miserable wretches. Maybe he would even be one of them one day. How many shortcomings would it take for a person to end up there?
He felt deep hatred and anger; fear too, when he had to consider his options. Educational system had let him down. Working life seemed to be based on draining an individual empty. A brief stint in the army made him realize the shallowness of democracy which has to be maintained with such means that deprive an individual of human dignity. People like him seemed to be on their way to a total dead end.
One could say Sebastian was anti-authoritarian. This puzzled him very much, since a person of his age was not supposed to behave like an adolescent kid any more. A sense of injustice, both common and personal, was still only too strong. For example, he felt his boss had never respected him too much, which was one reason Sebastian's disliking the idea of ever having another wage job.
When he was a child, Sebastian had always been a good boy. Well, mostly, but he never got into any real trouble with authorities. When other kids made a row or had their adolescent revolt against the teachers -- after some more successful attempts by the rowdier pupils, more sensitive female lecturers had left the class in tears -- Sebastian had always conformed. It was easy to manage through the education system when one let the others do all real thinking for oneself. Rebelling too visibly only led into trouble, it was too much effort. Now Sebastian felt he had really been in sleep through all these years, his real self never emerging.
Sebastian's grandmother was the real matriarch in his family, a woman with very strong opinions if not downright disciplinarian, and Sebastian gradually learned never to argue with her. You see, grandmother was a master in manipulating people with guilt, and Sebastian who disagreed with grandma's dominating manoeuvres was always duly informed that he was merely an "ungrateful child".
Sebastian always paid attention to alcoholics, winos, drunkards, bums, borderline psychotics, and those schizophrenics left loose from asylums because of budget cuts. Sebastian saw on the street a little man shuffling along with crutches: life had passed him by, fate had kicked him in the head.
Bottle collectors with their bicycles would patrol the town streets every Saturday night, picking up empty bottles partygoers had left lying on pavement. Come Monday, some extra coins would be made from the bottles at supermarkets and liquor stores: a nice addition to the dole money and scant pensions.
How did marginalization start? Was there some crucial blow at some decisive stage of life, after which it was all a downhill road, or were some people just born to lose? Was every one of us part of some vicious social-Darwinistic experiment?
Mr. Average, a little bourgeois man was so full of his fears, prejudices and projected fears that he couldn't see beyond them, so he lived his life trapped in them, with no way out. Sebastian understood this clearly, but did not think he would be any better than that.
Being somewhat a fatalist, Sebastian had learned not to be afraid of death. Mystics said there was no death; only a transition from one energy level to another. Sebastian did not know what to make out of it. On the other hand, if all consciousness just evaporated after death as atheists thought, it might not be so bad, either. After all, existing consisted of so much misery and pain, that just vanishing totally and ceasing all thinking, emoting and being sounded only all too merciful.
Sebastian had thought about committing suicide a lot when he was younger. Not a month had passed by without a thought of ending it once and for all. These days, the thought occurred very rarely to him; probably all therapy and medication had done their work. Life wasn't that dramatic any more, merely lukewarm mostly. And there had been already too much pain in the lives of his close ones that he wouldn't like to add to it. Sebastian could well describe himself an ex-suicide candidate. Still, sometimes he wondered.
That night Sebastian dreamt he was at the gates of Hell. He could hear the lament and wailing of souls, smell the sulphur and putrescent flesh. A three-headed dog with its eyes like flaming embers showed its teeth to Sebastian and growled at him as invisible demons pushed him on. Meat hooks tore Sebastian's bare flesh but even that didn't hurt as much as being in love had been.
The greatest of demons -- maybe Lucifer, the Light-Bringer himself -- among the others who called themselves Baphomet, Samael, Azrael and legions of other names, spoke to Sebastian:
"I will ride you to the end of your days, as Crowley rode Neuburg. You will forever wander those barren streets and lifeless deserts of concrete where no flower shall blossom nor a bird sing. You will never know woman's love or anyone's friendship. People will loathe you and curse your name. You will be eternally trapped in the prison of your fragmenting mind as your body withers and fades away, but still does not die to release you from your suffering. Your notebooks will be filled with pathetic clichés and banalities, with not one single trace of originality. Your days will be empty and your nights lonely."
Sebastian woke up soaking in sweat. The spring sun was already up like a burning, angry eye in the sky; easter eggs hatching serpents. Sebastian swore he would never again eat pepperoni pizza and watch Hellraiser on video just before he went to sleep.
Things seem to have a mysterious symmetry, Sebastian thought. It is as if the whole universe is one gigantic clockwork; events, happenings, incidents taking place in a complex precision, fitting together like pieces in a puzzle. When bad things happen, they seem to happen at once, like falling dominoes. It must be the same with good things, Sebastian pondered, at least he hoped so. What goes up must come down. What is down can't stay that way forever. Universe spinning yarns, weaving them together in a fabric -- or a web.
Remember this, Sebastian, the next time you whimper about your misery; the next time you cry about your unrequited love; the next time your bank account shows near zilch. Because things are never so bad they couldn't be worse, because there is always someone worse off than you.
No one loves the one who whines. Laugh, and the whole world laughs with you. Cry, and you can cry alone. What's up? they ask, but they don't really want to hear. I'm fine, thank you, and how's the weather? -- Aww, shut up with your platitudes already, Sebastian snapped.
The ongoing crisis of an existential young man, the young Werther: what a bore. Young hotheads with their fierce, burning eyes: it's easy to see the world in black and white terms only; there can be no dialectic there.
Children's crusade: old men sending young fanatics to their inevitable deaths. Chinese Culture Revolution 1966: Chairman Mao whipping up the fury of his youthful Red Cadres against the so called bourgeoisie remnants (read: Mao's own political rivals) still left in Communist China. Public confessions and humiliations, so called self-criticism sessions; all traits of mass brainwashing.
Empty souls and meaningless lives are fodder for fascism (under whatever colour), religious fanaticism, stale patriotism, bigoted nationalism. Media-induced mass hysteria and propaganda; lemmings running off the cliff. Surprise, surprise: your hi-tech toys can't buy you happiness, the mantra of ever-expanding economic growth won't lead you to nirvana, Sebastian thought.
Sebastian, you are a preacher and a clown; laughable in all your poignant seriousness, but you can't turn the tide. And all the time there is a creeping suspicion that while you rant and rave at the world's unbearable injustice, life actually goes on somewhere, without you ever noticing it.
You don't have to be Schopenhauer to see one man's accident is another man's luck: that is life's cruel balance. Lord giveth, Lord taketh. Submit to your fate, Sebastian, or keep kicking against the pricks. -- Oh, what sanctimonious crap, Sebastian thought.
Sebastian knew a girl named Elsa. Sometimes he wondered if he had a bit of a crush on Elsa, but lately he had been starting to think more and more it was not so. Sebastian was increasingly irritated by Elsa's self-centredness. Every time he met her, she would burst into a monologue consisting of a flood of words about what had been happening in her life lately, not sparing Sebastian from any totally banal detail that he did not find at least a bit interesting. She talked and talked, and Sebastian never actually listened to half of it, just nodded his head to her as if interested. Never did she ask what was up with Sebastian, she would just keep babbling on and on about herself.
Sometimes he wanted to just speak his mind to her, but knowing Elsa he knew probably nothing good would come out of it. Sebastian knew she had her problems and Sebastian his own, and it was wisest not to mix them together. Maybe if she was prevented from her babbling, she would just explode (and she was not the first troubled woman Sebastian had known). Once again Sebastian had to follow the way of self-discipline and self-restraint, so he decided to keep his mouth shut and never to say anything to her. Once hurt, women would never forget.
In the elevator Sebastian met his neighbour called Otto, but the men did not exchange any words. Otto was a civil servant of lower cast, a middle-aged man with sparse light-brown moustache, being slightly obese and balding, and a bachelor at 46. Otto had little piggish eyes covered by rimmed glasses and he was slightly hunched, always wearing a shabby trenchcoat and carrying a worn-out attache case. Everything about Otto told he had seen better days; if there had been better days for him at all. Sebastian always wondered if he was gazing at his own future in Otto.
On the street dust devils whirled, got little fine-grained specks of sand in Sebastian's mouth and made his eyes irritated. Every fucking spring the same thing. During winter they were spreading gravel over icy pavements, so that old grannies would not trip and fall, but come spring, said gravel and sand would be flying all over in the air, making life hell especially for allergics and asthmatics. Gladly weather forecast promised some rains were on their way, but until then, everyone had to suffer under conditions somewhat reminiscing a Sahara sandstorm.
Sebastian had always hated spring, it always drove him crazy, made him either sad and melancholic or unexplainably restless. Probably something to do with hormonal imbalance after a long period of light deprivation, serotonin depletion in the brain, and little things like that, all scientically explainable. Nothing to do with the rabbit-like longing for the opposite sex, of course.
Spring was funny: it apparently made all lunatics and alcoholics to crawl out their holes. One day Sebastian saw a man who was waving to apparently no one, emitting strange animal-like sounds from his throat as if in agony, hitting his head angrily with his fist; obviously to silence the sounds and voices he would hear there? It was scary, everyone on the street seemed to avoid the man. There were also alcoholics earning some extra pennies by washing the display windows of small stores; Sebastian always saw a lot of them carrying their squeegees and buckets of water. Wonderful career opportunities for the post-welfare society, Sebastian thought.
Otto had again met in the elevator that moody, weird kid with piercing eyes, which always made him a bit uneasy, but he forgot the strange young man as soon as he entered the street. Ahead of him was another day of stamping papers, arranging files and staring at computer screen till his myopic eyes hurt. In the evening maybe watching TV, or having a couple of pints in a corner pub before going to sleep. A colourless little life of a colourless little man, notable only for its uneventfulness and drabness; like tens of thousands of similar fates in his hometown of old factories and their harbouring smokestacks. What did rise him above all that was his ability to fantasize.
Women in Otto's office didn't do too much to catch his fancy, being mostly middle-aged wives in their cosy marriages or divorced, or even dry spinster type with their sagging breasts. Otto didn't dedicate many thoughts to them, bar some lukewarm chatter during coffee breaks which he barely ever participated. His mind was occupied with other matters altogether.
It was springtime, and the streets were again filled with miniskirts and high heels. This was the season of the year Otto always loved, though not exactly for blossoming flowers and trees.
It felt like all around Otto he could see voluptuous bodies and luscious lips, heaving bosoms and shaking hips; feisty little vixens and ethereal mirages strolling down the streets waving their designer handbags. Otto thought woman's body was nature's masterwork in design. If asked, if Otto was a breast man, a butt man or a legs man, he would definitely choose buttocks. Those wonderful curvatures and contours of women's juicy bottoms kept Otto endlessly in their thrall. Often on the street, a stealthy erection would rear its ugly head as Otto observed the lower ends of female pedestrians.
Young girls favoured these days stretch jeans which Otto thought just made favourable impressions of their succulent bottoms, shaped like peaches or ripe pears you just wanted to hit your teeth on. Otto didn't mind the girls who were a bit plump in their rear ends; on the contrary, a slight tubbiness in the bottom area would form a delicious sight for his sore eyes. Otto had spent many afternoons admiring and comparing these wonders of Mother Nature. Not only bottoms; also shapeful and fleshy thighs were another obsession of Otto; those divine pillars between which were located those lovely tight slits, the very object of any heterosexual man's secret desire.
Despite his vivid, lustful imagination Otto did not consider himself a type who would harass or intimidate women. Vice versa, he saw himself a sort of polite gentleman, albeit a connoisseur of sort. Nature was meant to be admired, after all, in all its beauty: as they said, nothing in this world was as futile as the pope's balls and nun's nipples.
Night after night Sebastian would watch rich capitalist bastards gloating on TV, after sacking again thousands of people from their companies, only to keep their precious balances right. This always filled Sebastian with silent, powerless rage. This made him glad too that he was unemployed, and out of the rat race, but for how long? Perhaps he too was to be turned soon into another minimum wage slave by the employment officials, and he had a great future ahead of him cleaning up construction sites to survive. Sometimes he thought he would rather blow his brains out with a shotgun than submit to this.
One day the chickens would come home to roost, though: it was inevitable one day oppressed masses would start revolting; when the revolution would come along, these members of economical elite would be slaughtered like pigs they were. Or perhaps the growing poverty and inequality would just pave way for populist politicians and totalitarian fascist-type of dictators. Read history: it all had happened before -- early 20th century Russia and Germany... in the third world countries religious fanaticism turning into terrorist violence. Or maybe there would be a nuclear war sparing no one, a merciful coup de grace to let the world out of its misery.
Sebastian firmly thought the whole Western civilisation (so called) was on the brink of collapse. Economy was overboiling, based on the deception of the notion of ever-growing profits. Every thinking person would see through that bullshit of the Orwellian doublespeak favoured by economists and consultants. These days any real alternatives were narrowed down to few: either play along their game, or perish. Those people who were still not outsourced out of their jobs were preached by the high priests of economy, in the names of cost-efficiency and productivity, that they should "work twice as much with a wage twice as small, so they elite could enjoy their own double income, preferably without the disturbing intervention by taxes". Put up or shut up.
Nature was dying as the imminent ecocatastrophe was being sped up by great industry. The ozone layer was evaporating, ice caps melting. The sun would scorch the Earth all the time more ferociously, while all over the world floods and raging storms were punishing people as never earlier before. Only a fool would dig up the earth from beneath his feet, and think he could gather together a bigger pile in front of him that way, but it was obvious we were all aboard a ship of fools whose captain was a power-hungry madman.
Was there anything to be done? At the moment, apathy prevailed. People were so brainwashed and alienated by TV and mass entertainment which kept them content enough. All aesthetics had become pornography. No one would bother to subvert; except only for a small minority of discontent activists who were aware and educated, but perhaps they were only in the minority: on a losing run against the oppressive machinery of establishment and powers-that-be. Party politics had become a joke after politicians had been reduced to marionettes and serfs for economic interests of large companies.
Selfishness ruled everywhere: everyone was only interested to grab more and more money. Egocentric individualism and elbow tactics were favoured by the ME ME ME generation; such noble yesteryear ideas as solidarity or empathy had been ditched, and old communities had broke up.
Life everywhere was a blood-thirsty conflict, a struggle for survival. Violence, both mental and physical made the poor and marginalized to turn against each other. Black-on-black crimes, white-on-white crimes, white-on-black crimes, black-on-white-crimes, everyone-on-everyone crimes. All street kids blinded by their MTV-fed dreams of "bling bling" wanted to become gangstas like Tony Montana in Scarface. When walking on the street, you could get battered to death for no purpose at all except for providing cheap thrills for a bunch of disturbed hoods.
LIES LIES LIES LIES LIES
Sebastian luxuriated in his near-orgastic apocalyptic thoughts: we were all doomed, the rich and poor alike; living on numbered days. Thinking of it was like an orgasm in reverse, and Sebastian was a disaster onanist.
Sebastian was seeing red again when he read from a newspaper another neoliberalist right-wing politician boasting: "If someone struggles physically or mentally, his income also must be superior to the one who doesn't bother to struggle", adding that "everyone is responsible for themselves". Such claptrap! If this was so, then why would some people struggle for all their lives, and still stay piss-poor?
Why should I follow the rules if those high and mighty politicians won't, Sebastian thought when watching a news report about the latest bribe scandal featuring politicians and some supreme court judges holding high positions. Viva civil disobedience! Up against the wall, motherfucker! Enough of this already. He had to get out. It was Saturday night, so he decided to head for a joint called The Pop Club. Actually he was too old for that place with its teenyboppers and hiphop kids, but he had become accustomed to hanging out there for over a decade now, and the idea of having to spectate the antics of sad, drunken people of his age or older at some other bar, where the more "mature" people normally gathered, only filled him with disgust. Having kids around him made him feel young himself, even though the calendar may have said something else.
The Pop Club was not far from where he lived, only two blocks away, so you didn't have to risk your physical health having to stroll all through the drunken Saturday night jungle by foot or to waste your money in taxis.
When Sebastian arrived, a heatwave struck him in the face. The air was hot and humid as if in a greenhouse. Later on he found out that the blower that pumped cool air to the dancefloor had been broken, and the bartenders opened windows to let in some cold spring night air, to the dismay of those people who were sitting next to the windows.
Nevertheless, kids were dancing and fooling around as usually, as clueless and stupid as ever, but still somehow cute, as very young and ignorant people can be. Sebastian struggled his way to the bar through the crowded dancefloor where party people were wriggling to Beyoncé's 'Crazy In Love' or to some other current hit the DJs were always playing. As usually he bought a lager in plastic pint, which the bartender handed to him even without Sebastian having to place his order: not a case of telepathy, they knew he never drank anything else. Then Sebastian tried to find an observation place in a club where people were jammed in as if in a tin of sardines.
As time went by, Sebastian saw less and less familiar faces at The Pop Club. He knew he was an old relic there; his own contemporaries or even the people he had hung around with only a couple of years ago had mostly stopped clubbing when they had gotten older, deeper into their relationships and careers, and had started their own families and so on. Or then the old school people he had known had moved away to the capital city after better-paid jobs in IT business, advertising, TV or music business. Many nights he was content only to sip his beer alone, never talking with anyone and gazing the ongoing silliness of kids around him.
The DJ, an old veteran who had played at The Pop Club at least for twenty years, spinned now Deee-Lite's 'Groove Is In The Heart', a big club hit in 1990. Sebastian had grown sick and tired of that tune after having heard it at The Pop Club about a million times all through these years. It still seemed to be a floor-filler, though. This DJ in question had previously been specialized in old soul and funk, but in the latest years had been starting to play more and more MTV-type of R&B, which bored Sebastian: all those girl groups with their dance routines and pseudo-raps, simple tunes that sounded like children's songs, and with their digitally enhanced breasts and booties. Well, if that's what the kids today wanted to hear, OK, but as far as he was concerned, they could just fuck their "bling-bling" culture. Keep it real, man...
Though usually drinking alone, Sebastian always did his best to avoid giving the sad lonely-wall-rose impression. He kept walking around the club all time, "checking the scene", even danced a bit occasionally, and always finding a new observation post, instead of keeping sitting in a distant corner table, lest some soul with good intentions came to ask him: "Hey, why are you sitting here alone, looking so sad?" and blaah blaah. Usually they were either some plain-looking girls with nurturing tendencies, not-so-attractive to him, or worse, drunken guys whose babble more often than not bored Sebastian to death.
Often Sebastian kept thinking about his loner position, why he had to be such a lone wolf. He had been like that since he had been a child; he had always found other kids' games and their constant running around only childish and stupid; there had always been other things he had found more interesting, such as his fantasies, the adventures in books or films, his own little private joys. He had felt for all his life that he did not belong.
Did he feel sad because of his solitude? Sometimes he had, yes, but he had learned to intellectualise it, to see it all just philosophically. He was just an observer in this world, it was his his task to learn to understand, to be an eyewitness to the world's madness, not an active participator. He knew he was running away from his own feelings that way, but even that was better than living in a constant pain which came along with understanding. Keep your distance, don't get involved. Observe, analyse. Think. Keep an ironic detachment. Just don't feel.
11 - Number of years in the sunspot cycle. The general number of magic or sorcery -- or energy tending to change. Uranus. Daath (or Egyptian Duat, Tuat). This is the individual in confrontation with the world. Hence its the number of Justice and Balance. It is also the number of war and the battle with the demonic element. - E.E. Rehmus: The Magician's Dictionary
Externalize chaos, internalize peace.
Sebastian knew that he had been damaged at some crucial early stage of development in his life. He might go undergo years and years of therapy and psychoanalysis but would he ever be totally repaired? His solitude was not only of personal nature but something of a fundamental universal scale. He knew life was only a game, and that was an ultimately frightening revelation, since it only deepened his detachment from other people. One might lose one's mind revelling in it too much. Again, the tightrope walker who should not gaze in the abyss but just keep on walking...
His friend Leo would say to this: "It's action which liberates us from our past. We define ourselves through our actions, and everything else is insignificant. In the end, we are only as good as our actions are, and they will liberate us from our unhappy childhoods and the overbearing feelings of being misunderstood". Sebastian found it hard to accept Leo's crude existentialism and his crushing vitalism of the "Act first, worry about the consequences of your actions later on" principle.
Nevertheless, Leo would go on: "There are so many weak people who in fact enjoy their being weak, because that's the way they beg for sympathy. They are like parasites sucking on other people's lifeforce. They are all the time in some sort of crisis because they secretly enjoy their indeterminacy and, yes, suffering. They keep whining to us: 'I'm so broke up', but they do nothing to fix themselves up, because that way they wouldn't be able to derive their masochistic pleasures any more, and most important, they wouldn't be able to suck up our energies we waste in trying to comfort them. Basically, they are people who are too much in love with their pain that they would like to give it up. Alcoholism, drug addiction, bulimia, anorexia, compulsory over-eating; those are only excuses not to give up that sweet pain".
Sometimes Sebastian would mock Leo and call him a "Nietzschean crypto-fascist". To which Leo would retort: "You just like to take the piss out of me because you know I'm right", and give one of his irritating, complacent grins.
Copyright © 2007 Harri Teikka
[Harri Teikka Resurrection Library]
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