07 October 2013

the complaint desk.

I'm tired of the nature of things. 

What I mean by that is that I don't approve of the way things are designed in this world. What things? Everything that's organic or essential. I'm talking about the things that we didn't invent but were always here, establishing the rules and parameters of our subsequent existence. Disease. Deterioration. Death. The collusion of matter in this cumbersome, tactile universe in which we find ourselves.

As you probably know by this point, I don't believe in God—either as a super-powered son-of-a-bitch or as a diffuse, organizing principle tapped into by hippies and other Californians—so I don't really have anyone to register my complaints with. This, I think, is the most troubling aspect of my worldview. We are conditioned to seek out a Complaints Desk in every facet of our lives because we trust that—if the powers-that-be were doing their job properly—things would be improved, optimized, perfected... Even though we live in a mostly infuriating world of traffic jams, murder, country music, and pop-up internet advertising, we somehow believe (instinctively?) that there is an authority figure behind the scenes who's dropped the proverbial ball—another old man in a navy blue suit with an American flag lapel pin snookered by powerful lobbies or the base urges of their own corruptible natures. 

When you don't believe in God, you reach a limit. If you get bad service at a restaurant, you can complain to the manager. If the manager is rude, maybe you can write to an owner or the company that owns the franchise. If you don't get any acceptable response, perhaps you can write a scathing review on Yelp in the hope that you'll negatively impact the restaurant's business in the future. But if you keep going on like this, climbing the hierarchical chain of griping and grousing, you'll eventually arrive at a place where you finally zero in on the nature of things themselves and there's just nobody left to read your comment card. (Let me introduce the idea here—only as fleeting conjecture—that maybe humankind created 'God' in order to have someone to blame for how shitty everything else. I have no evidence of this idea, but nobody has evidence for the existence of God either—so we're even-steven.)

It's frustrating when things are shitty in your life—i.e., completely circumstantial things that have nothing to do with your own volition—and you don't have anyone to point the finger of blame at. (And you also don't have anyone left to give the finger to either.) Why do I have to floss my teeth to keep my gums healthy? Why can't we cure pancreatic cancer? Why does it get too hot in summer and too cold in winter? Why do spiders freak me out? Why do I have to get tired? Why can't I always have the energy to do whatever I want to do? Why am I intolerant of lactose? Why do I have to keep dropping things—my keys, the mail, coins, receipts, my glasses? Why do we have to die? Why can't we just live forever—or as long as we choose to? What's the use of pain and injury? Why aren't we more indestructible and intelligent? 

I know that some of these things have 'scientific' answers. But who created science itself—its laws and fundamental structure? Ultimately, every question eventually recedes to a brute fact that cannot be explained or understood by earlier facts. There is always a limit that we'll butt our heads against. But why this limit? Where's the twenty-four-hour hotline where I can tell a knowledgeable but indifferent operator about my allergic reaction to the nature of things—to the way things fundamentally are? She could suggest a salve or an ointment to reduce the swelling, and I would be pacified by her authority and by her mere presence 'behind the scenes' of reality, understanding its esoteric mechanisms.

But there is no operator, no quality control manager, no all-encompassing Fact that validates all of reality in a satisfying or conclusive way...

It's like this. If 'Life the Way It Is' were a product that I had ordered from amazon.com, I would like to be able to go the website and write a lengthy, critical review of this product—which would not necessarily be seen by anyone or anything that had the power to change or to improve it but which would (at least) offer the hope that it could be seen. It might be seen. It's possible that my protest would reach the iPad of the authority figure who had the power to change everything. Or at least explain it.

But there's no such recourse. This blog is probably the best proxy I can hope for.

(In case you were wondering, if 'Life the Way It Is' were a product that I had ordered from amazon.com, I would give it two or three stars. I'm not sure which.) 


  1. Science isn't "created." It's the study of those laws and fundamental structures you're talking about. But you're exactly right about the limit of understanding. Didn't you like that part in The Magic Mountain where the narrator talked about cells as the building blocks of life and how the cells were comprised of molecules and the molecules of atoms and then the atoms of subatomic particles which resembled the stars in the universe and how it was all very cyclical in its scope (wherein you zoom so far in that you have essentially started over)? Anyway, there's a lot of crap in that sentence but basically: where exactly is the "start" of life? Because subatomic particles on their own don't seem to.

    1. Yeah, I didn't really mean that science was created. I meant the laws that science investigates. Where did they come from? Why are they this way and not some other way? It all seems so contingent.

      No, I didn't make it that far in The Magic Mountain.

  2. Dumb blogger.

    Because subatomic particles on their own don't seem to be the start of life. In some ways, life *is* like a disease, a rogue cancer of non-life, unexplainable and incurable.

    I was sitting in traffic this morning (on a back road) watching a bunch of little birds eat something out of somebody's lawn and it just struck me how they are there without anyone having anything to do with it. I don't think I really believe in god, either, but it's really that "limit of our understanding" that we keep hitting up against and I think it makes sense that that's the reason people believe in anything higher-up to begin with. Because otherwise, whoa!

  3. If "Life the Way It Is" were a product they sold on Amazon, seems like someone could get very rich selling "Life the Way It Could Be."

    All this dissension over God. Isn't God simply the collective thoughts and actions of the living things populating the planet we live on? God most certainly exists and to a very limited extent, don't we all have control over God?

    1. Well, that's one way of defining God, I suppose, but it doesn't answer any of the big ontological questions. Our collective thoughts and actions don't really explain how things (in the natural world) came to be the way they are. And I wanna know, dammit!