May 13, 2017

Play Dead: The Sullen Young Having Never Been Alive Are Half In Love with Easeful Death


Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain....
- -
- - Keats: Ode to a Nightingale


More than by anything else, however, I was struck by their facial expression.

It was surly, sulky, sullen, sour, and morose. It was the kind of expression to which only thoroughly spoiled brats might aspire. Even in my far-off days as a lazy and impertinent youth, I would never have adopted an expression half so insolent. Two of the men, however, managed also the clenched and cruel facial habitus of camp guards or officers, one German and one Japanese. The nearest the others came to an active expression was a petulant pout. As a group of young men and women they could hardly have been less attractive. It is true that, for the most part, they were not of the type whom one would cross the road to avoid; rather they looked as if a gust of wind might blow them over and the slightest impact snap their bones. But they looked as if they would have nothing to say if spoken to, their brains reduced by starvation to a boring self-obsession.
To whom would such models be attractive? As I looked at them, fascinated in the way that the morbid always fascinates, I could not help but think of Sir Thomas Beecham’s characterization of the sound of the harpsichord: skeletons copulating on a tin roof. The world had evidently disappointed them, there was nothing in it for them, their expensive clothes notwithstanding. I had seen happier people in a displaced persons’ camp. What cataclysm, what civil war, had they suffered?


.... It was a pose, of course, but when a pose is kept up long enough it ceases to be a mere pose. To express joy, or even mere pleasure, would evidently for them be to lose caste, to seem shallow and unsophisticated to a youth brought up in the hope and expectation of emotional and psychological problems. To be without such problems is to be a simpleton and, what is far worse, uninteresting; for what do you talk about if you have no problems? How can you talk about the one subject on which you are the world expert, yourself, if you are uncomplicated and un-immiserated? For if you eavesdrop sufficiently in public places (bars, buses, trains, airports), you will soon discover that the self is the main topic of conversation—or should I say of alternating monologues?
Catalog Slog by Theodore Dalrymple


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 13, 2017 10:31 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Long term abundancy leads to complacency and the loss of aspiration and the very essence of the joy of living is abandoned or worse, never known and for people such as that there is no point to living. In fact they see no difference between the living and the dead and for them life is but a series of reactions rather than a planned journey.

The prescription is more cowbell.

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 13, 2017 2:06 PM

The young find death infinitely amusing. It's like pre-adolescent boys forcing themselves to laugh at sex jokes that they won't understand till the hormones flow. Eventually the truth of death, like all true learning, makes its journey from the brain to the gut. The view is far less amusing down there. That is the second puberty. The one when we grasp the thorny truth of our mortality.


Posted by: jwm at May 14, 2017 9:00 AM

This is the consequence of growing up in a society of staggering abundance; life-long adolescence, living a life with a mind short-circuited at the age of around fifteen. Advances in productivity means that an increasingly smaller cohort of the population is needed to grow the rest of the way up, and keep the wheels turning.

Or else it's just a thin rime of wealthy urban fashion victims overdue for a purging. Something I like to think of as, not Social Justice, but Civilizational Justice.

Posted by: Monty James at May 14, 2017 9:53 AM