A word from the former president of Uruguay.
To see the mind minding in real time.
To see clinging in all its subtle disguises, including the “having-seen-through-clinging” that can reinforce clinging.
To see the limitations of insight; to see insight as phenomenon.
To see the limit of limits; to witness the clinging in the search for limits.
To see the necessity and futility of wondering when the lesson will finally be learnt.
To see seeing while eating breakfast.
The new imprint we launched last year after everyone left Zero Books, which we’re calling Repeater, is finally ready to start releasing its first titles. In January, we’ll be publishing Dawn Foster’s Lean Out — a pretty fierce, punchy and to-the-point answer to Sheryl Sandberg’s business bestseller Lean In— and MKL Murphy’s The Isle of Minimus, which I can’t even begin to describe, though I’ve tried. Thank God I’m not in charge of marketing. (The whole book is a single sentence-long novel about a revolt in Las Vegas, but that doesn’t really do justice to the thing.)
Anyway, the books exist in physical form, and they’re looking beautiful. It’s wonderful to be working in a more traditional setup after the rather hurried and sometimes slapdash approach we had to take at Zero. Each books feels like an artefact. All covers are done by the artist Johnny Bull, and I think they’re nicely distinctive.
For me, the really wonderful thing about Repeater is that we’ve basically got free reign to publish what we truly believe in. Books that are probably a bad idea from a purely financial perspective are okay. Really difficult novels are okay. As long as one of us is willing to fight for it — take it on, edit it, and accept responsibility for its potential failure — then we’ll give it a shot. And to have Penguin Random House distributing our books in the USA is a big plus. These books actually have a chance.
The result of all this is a pretty eclectic list so far. I can’t wait to release more titles. We’ll be moving slowly at first, but 2016 will be a busy year nonetheless.
We’ll always be a bunch of amateurs, but it’s great to be here.
I’ve been reduced to silence lately, a strange and beautiful silence, something I can’t even begin to make sense of yet in writing. After a few more sesshin and some breakthroughs, I took a vow of silence — to get off Twitter, to stop posting on this blog, to avoid making any public comments on anything. To vanish as much as I could. So I moved from London to Buenos Aires and have been living a pleasant, quiet life here. I am very happy. I can only be ambiguous about this, mainly because I don’t feel like talking about it too much. There just needs to be a bit of context, because I have a feeling my posts from now on will go in a slightly different direction.
So, the thing is, I wanted to wait until everything felt more stable again before I came back to this blog. This was, in large part, because the last post I wrote, a three-thousand word essay that was extremely frank, turned out to be unpublishable. My friend read it before I posted and said, “You should consider not posting this.” And he was right. My sense of what was appropriate to share was all fucked up. I was just so happy, so blissful, that I’d lost all sense of social savvy. Unfortunately, the real world still exists, and not everyone wants to share in the love.
Things are calmer now, so I can go back to posting. There are plenty of emails I should reply to, as well. I still hate emails.
How we condescend to nihilists: how we infantilise their motives, reduce their lives to shells and hypocrisies. We treat the nihilist as we might a local madman whose visions we relish for their falsity, the drunkard on the corner no longer respectable for what he’s done to himself. We treasure the childish element in children, in dogs; we loathe it in anything else, and please ourselves with the castigation of overgrown innocents.
A nihilist doesn’t come to our door wearing some trademark hat of immorality: he is revealed over a long dinner, he comes into our world dressed like other friends, and we listen to his words with perked ears and mouthfuls of meat and opinion; we discern in the timbre of his voice a total nullity, a reluctance to love what we love. He is a nihilist.
We call him deluded, we tell him he can’t possibly believe in nothing. Having offered him such expert diagnosis, we then rebel at his indifference, we offer treatments at a bargain. But of course he will not change. We see in him the void of our convictions.
With every insolence we detect in his tics and grimaces, we grow nobler, we turn philosophical in our violence. We aim our rhetoric at ourselves: the public is our own uncertainty, the hyperbole of this stranger’s total nothingness assures us of our truths, glorifies our patience, justifies our traditions, hides the doubt that would leap out of the chasm.
It finally happened: I bought a PlayStation 4.
This is momentous news! Mainly, because I haven’t actually played video games in years and I don’t care about gamers much (except for my old housemate, Rob, who was cool) and the whole #GamerGate thing was really off-putting (my stance: if you threaten someone online to hurt or rape them, you’re automatically wrong). Sure, I’ve tried to get into them again a few times, but never with any success. As video games have become prettier and more “social” I’ve become less interested, because I am a grump. At heart, I’m a sucker for those games with shitty graphics that you have to get to know intimately, trying to master the mechanics like a dweeb but never being able to go very far — which is why roguelikes are so great for me. I never give a shit about games like Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty or even World of Warcraft, which once upon a time I would’ve assumed might be up my street.
But, even though it was 2014 that was the year of fun, it’s not like I’m not trying to have fun anymore. And it’s hard to have fun if you can’t shut down your brain. Nothing says “mindless, pointless activity” like playing video games.
But this has been a surprisingly emotional decision. The first time I tried to buy the PS4, I actually walked for about 45 minutes to get to a place where I assumed they would sell PlayStation 4s (they did!), waited in line, and decided at the very last minute not to go ahead with my terrifying purchase. Then, the next day, I went back and bought it. No idea what that wavering was all about. In fact, over the last few months I’ve wondered repeatedly whether to buy a games console again, then told myself I would, but never did.
This time, I even bought a copy of the new Assassin’s Creed! Which I am fairly sure I will not play for more than a few hours at most.
I spent like 15 minutes trying to figure out how to insert a game disc into the PlayStation 4. I had to Google it, and then I realized that the disc tray doesn’t come out like on an old-school computer. You can just stick the disc into the slot directly. This is how out of touch I’ve become.
But I’ve done it. I bought myself a video game console. Take that, strange ideal of remaining a Luddite forever!
I wish I could carry this man in my pocket.
It’s snowing tonight in my little part of the country. I hate snow. Especially when it’s like this, wet and heavy in that “I’m not going to be around long but everything will still be slushy tomorrow” way.
My hatred of snow comes from the years I spent living in the Alps, at my little rich boy boarding school, where we had to ski whenever there was snow. When I tell people this, they always say, oh lucky you, to be able to ski whenever you wanted, that must’ve been fantastic.
Well, no, it wasn’t fantastic. It was fucking annoying. The magic of skiing vanishes very quickly when you have to do it as part of your ordinary school day. Trust me. You thought it was boring having to sit around in physics or geography class all day? Yes, it was probably boring for you. But try being forced at gunpoint to go skiing every school afternoon after class, simply because that’s what they made you do at school when there is snow. Every afternoon. Even on Sundays you had to go skiing. Imagine that for six years. I was there, man. Imagine having no choice but to ski for your phys ed class, and having your progress on the slopes count towards your final grades. This, in the civilized western world.
I soon lost count of the excuses I used to get the school nurse to write me sick notes.
Yep. I had a very rough upbringing.
However, tonight the snow reminds me of this one kid in particular from school, Nick the Russian. He wasn’t my roommate, but he might as well have been. He spent almost all of his time in my bedroom. Not simply my bedroom, but my bed. Even when I wasn’t in the room, he would make himself comfortable on my bed and eat sausages, drink Diet Coke, and play video games. I never really grokked why he couldn’t do that in his own room, in his own dammed bed. I’m sure there wasn’t any sexual tension between us, especially since, you know, he was Russian, and just about every Russian is grandiosely, Academy Award-winningly homophobic. As for me, I was worried about getting a girlfriend, not a boyfriend. So, as I say, this wasn’t some weird sexual arrangement between boys at boarding school. No, I think Nick just really liked my bed, and for some reason I have no memory of ever telling him not to use it that way. The past is a different country; they do things bizarrely there.
For the record, at the end of that school year, I discovered a bunch of wrappers, sausage wrappers, hidden away under my mattress. Thank you, Nick.
This reminds me, too, of the time someone left a human turd on the floor of my friend’s room. I have no idea why this happened, but I guess Dan had made himself an enemy, and the enemy decided it would be fair to take a shit on Dan’s bedroom floor. The school authorities, of course, were hardly amused, and they threatened to perform a “genetic test” to find out who had done this stupid thing. They said to all the students at our school assembly that the “genetic test” would let them know exactly who had shat on Dan’s floor. They said that whoever had done it might as well fess up, to spare them the expense of the “genetic test”, and if he fessed up, his punishment would be reduced. Interestingly, they never brought it up again, which we, the general student population, took to mean that some idiot had bought the whole “genetic test” thing and decided to step forward as the perpetrator of this shitty misdeed. I asked Dan, but he said he wasn’t allowed to talk about it. To this day, I don’t know who did it. At least it wasn’t my floor. This is what you can expect from sending your kids to fancy boarding schools.
Hey, look at that. Can it be a coincidence that the minute I start thinking about snow, I also start thinking about shit?
Agnosticism is the philosophical conclusion of the present.
To be here, now, is not to be here now.
Where am I? Here. Where I am here? I don’t know.
Is there a God? Not a question. Do I exist? I don’t know. Who am I? Dunno. Not when I am here, now. Who am? Who?
Is this the only room in the world? Here, in this room, I don’t know.
I know Liberia is real but am not there. I don’t know Liberia’s real.
I don’t know whether my own back exists.
Am I even here, now? I don’t know. Who the fuck was the Buddha? There was no Buddha. There was no “was.” There was. There.