Barbecuing the Rhinoceros: Can We Ignore Absurdism?

As a literature student, I have unfortunately had to spend substantial time looking at absurdism, that particular cultural movement that sprang out of the head of nihilism and existentialism like a demented Athena. Most people tend to blame Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus for this birth, but that is not entirely fair. Why should the massive stupidity of an entire philosophical class rest solely on the head of one man? That’s, well, absurd.

Regardless for who is at fault, however, the truth remains. Absurdism was a wrong turn on the philosophical map, but whether we like it or not, that wrong turn eventually got us to where we are. Yet I wonder: was it a necessary step, or just a scenic detour that wasted time and energy?

I propose that, while absurdism did influence metamodernism, it was not a large enough influence that we need waste time studying it. The existentialists were far more influential and slightly less pretentious. Let us look at two plays to illustrate this point. The first is No Exit by Sartre, and the second is Rhinoceros by Ionesco.

No Exit is indicative of the existentialist movement in literature. It addresses some of the Great Questions (Why are we here? What happens when we die?). The characters are perfectly matched to torture each other and expose the souls within. There is depth and a haunting sense that we are watching our own selves tearing apart the rest of humanity. By the end, we truly believe that “Hell is other people.”

While No Exit utilizes imagery to stir up its audience, Rhinoceros seems to use imagery for the sake of using imagery. As a poet, I have little objection to this. But when the image becomes more important than what it is trying to convey, there is a problem. We are not at home in this play. There is nothing human about the characters, even before they become ungulates. No one really takes the time to ask why things are happening. They just conform to the shape-shifter trend, leaving one character alone untouched by the fad.

Both sets of characters are faced with a fate they cannot escape from, which is bigger than them and incomprehensible. Yet, the prisoners of No Exit, when faced with their fate, decide to retain their humanity and simply “get on with it.” The characters in Rhinoceros simply give up, even after the last man alive swears he will not. Secretly, even he wants to be transformed, and the only reason why he holds out is because he is not able to.

Because of this, I believe that absurdism should not be reflected upon at length because it is not only a waste of time but is far too focused on man’s failures. While existentialism is similar (and I will confess that I am not a fan of either movement), it still illustrates man’s ability to fight his fate, even if he fails in the end.

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Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Essays


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On Despair

The second greatest sin in existence is despair. True despair is not a mere depression. It is a blatant refusal to trust in anything: not in oneself, not in a higher power, not even in the hope of a better tomorrow. In short, it is to give up, to give in to the enclosing darkness and embrace it because it is safer to be wicked than to be good. After all, at least in death, you know how the story ends.

But we cannot lose faith in the story, even if we abandon everything else. To run from the story is to spit in the face of the Author. And no author really likes it when their characters rebel. I can say that from experience.

See, our Author has already broken the cardinal rule of great literature for us: our Author loves his characters, with a passion greater than anything a human person can muster or truly comprehend. It hurts him to cause us suffering, because he does not wish us ill. So we must believe that he would not give us obstacles if they were not made to lead us to something better on the horizon.

Don’t you want to see how it ends?

Here is my promise to you, and to the world. I will walk with you through this story. And we shall suffer. And we shall change. And we shall not quit until the last chapter, no matter what rises in the plotline. Because that is the only way to live. Anything else would end with regrets, broken characters, and a frustrated and sad Author.

Let today not be the day you sink into the mire of despair. Let today be the day you decide to fight for what you believe in, to conquer, and to start on the path towards victory.

I’ll be here. Every single chapter.


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Posted by on March 2, 2011 in Uncategorized


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On the Existence of an Author

Probably the biggest issue in Western culture is the fact that we tend to think we write our own stories. We reject the notion of a higher power because we are afraid of giving up control to someone else. We are individuals. We carve our own destinies. Right?

Well, sort of.We do have free will. I can choose to stop eating this delicious popcorn and take a nap instead if I want. I write that much for myself.

But honestly, I hope we are not the sole authors of our lives. I’ve read the writing of many of my contemporaries, and I have to say that I fear for them if they apply the same style and disregard for laws in their own stories. And I also know myself. If left entirely to my own devices, I’d have died at least five times by now (provided of course that I resurrected after each consecutive death.) Taking these factors into account — even these petty factors — I have no choice but to believe in a greater Author who is ultimately in charge of the story.

That, or we are all insanely lucky that we haven’t blown ourselves up yet.

Some will say (and myself included not that long ago) that there can’t be an Author because we can’t experience him physically. After all, we can’t yet prove an Author exists by science. And there are only two things in this world, such people claim: science and superstition.

If that’s the argument, I am forced to rebut with this: If the requirement for reality hinges on our senses alone, than kindness, love, truth, and a thousand other intangibles cannot exist either. And I don’t want to live in a world like that. That is a worldview that can lead only to despair.

I’ve been there. It was dark and cold and lonely and there was no popcorn. It sucked.

I’m not going back. After all, to paraphrase Pascal: if there is no Author, no one’s there to punish me for believing in him. But if I say he doesn’t exist, and he does, well, I’m in a whole heap of trouble.

Besides, I hear the popcorn in Hell is all burnt.


Bonus points for me if this left you wanting sweet buttery kernel goodness!

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Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Uncategorized


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On Patience

One of the hardest virtues to master, especially for me, is a little thing called patience. It seems to me that the faster things are available to us, the more impatient we become. Think about it. When was the last time you waited for a movie to load on Netflix without getting annoyed at how long it was taking? Or went to the grocery without tapping your foot impatiently at the old lady with the 12 bags of dog food trying to find her coupons? (I’ll bet she didn’t even own a dog.) Or threw your phone across the room because it dropped a call?

Ok, so maybe I’m a touch more short-tempered than most. But in all honesty, the waiting game sucks. It just sucks. And nothing we can do will ever make it less full of suck.

I left this blog for a while because I forgot what it was all about, what it has always been about. This isn’t a diary. It isn’t a place for me to record my problems and frustrations and that annoying tendency I have to let every little thing get to me. And most of all, it isn’t a graveyard. I can’t bury the past here. That’s what memory is for.

What was this blog about? What should it be about? Other people, and helping them with their problems. Somewhere out there tonight, someone is lying awake, not knowing if it’s worth getting up in the morning. Someone is desperate not to be alone any more. Someone is frightened, unsure, or merely apathetic. It doesn’t matter. This blog is for those people.

And it is for you, my dearest friend. As it has been. And as it will be until I finally quit.

So, patience. We all need more of it. And i hope that you have been patient with me as I have thrown myself into the ring with my hands tied behind my back. I let myself forget what it meant to be patient. To have self control. To bide my time until I am needed.

The secret of love, after all, is patience. Patience with your own shortcomings and human-borne stupidity. Patience with the other as they manifest their flaws and break you down as those we love are often wont to do. And most importantly, patience with the relationship, no matter if it is family, lovers, or friends. Heck, even casual acquaintances. Relationships are like an amazing sculpture that doubles as a grill. Without patience, the whole thing falls apart and we are left with a heap of scrap metal and unevenly roasted meat.

No wonder I hate patience so much.

So much depends on it.

Thank you for being patient with me.

I love you. More than you will ever really know.


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Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Why I Hate “Seven Pounds”

Those who know me know that I am not a card-carrying member of Team Critic when it comes to movies. As a rule, I enjoy them for what they are, whether profound or just full of explosions. But there are a few movies that stand in antithesis for what this blog stands for, and that are frankly downright evil. So I think it is my duty to unmask these movies so heralded as romantic and illustrate why they are not about love.

The movie that has irked me the most in this vein is the 2008 Will Smith release Seven Pounds. The premise seems beautiful: a man donates his organs so that other people can live a fulfilled life. But here’s the kicker: he’s not dead yet when he plans all of this, and in fact kills himself to help them. Well, sorta. He wanted to die anyway. But the point is that this movie takes a really sick turn about halfway through that I can’t get over. And I last watched it more than a year ago.

The reason why this gives me so much trouble is twofold. First, I have a problem with suicide. It is something that can never be justified in my mind. Suicide is the ultimate form of cowardice. It is being too afraid to even look tomorrow in the face. And it is a shameless act of brutality against the people left in your life. It is hard enough when a loved one dies in an accident. But when someone you love kills themselves, it scars you permanently. You wonder what you did wrong, or why they never told you they were hurting. It is completely unfair.

The other reason it irks me is because Will Smith’s character (Ben) by the end of the movie no longer is in a position where suicide is remotely justifiable. His life was crap at the beginning of the movie, which somewhat justifies him doing it. But by the end, he has a beautiful woman who loves him and is willing to spend her last bit of time with him. He has friends, a family, and a big dog. He has a future. But he’s so afraid of losing her to her heart condition that he kills himself anyway to donate his heart for her.

This is where we are supposed to go “aww, what an amazing sacrifice!” But it’s not. It’s cowardice, and it’s cruel. How can he give her a heart if giving it to her will break it? How can he tell her to live a long and fulfilled life without the man she fell in love with in it? How in the hell can this movie justify abandonment like that?

The Fox in Chapter 21 of The Little Prince said something that I will always carry with me: “‘Men have forgotten this truth,’ said the fox. ‘But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.'”

Ben is worse than abusive in the long run. If he was going to still kill himself, he should have at least not tamed Emily. He should have kept his distance, and never shared a romance with her. It wasn’t love. It was a selfish act of wish fulfillment. And that is a sin greater than suicide, in my opinion. It is a soul-burning act of evil and selfish intent that even outshines snuffing a life. It is a needless act of cruelty, and Seven Pounds portrays it as heroic.

And that, in short, is why I hate this movie.


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Posted by on January 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


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I’m Worried About You

You know I am. I can’t help it. I’ve tried so hard to just leave it alone. It’s none of my business what you do and I can’t ask you to do anything for my sake. It doesn’t work that way and I know it.

But every time you cry out in frustration, it tears me apart. I can’t do anything to help ease your burdens. I am just too far away and honestly, even if I were at your side I doubt my presence would mean much comfort. I am no stronger than you are, my dearest friend. I am broken and weak and jaded and alone just like you are. The only strength I have comes from a burning desire to quench the flames that gnaw at you, be they great or small.

I cannot relieve your suffering. That is yours to bear and yours alone, a truth that rends my heart to understand. But it is nonetheless the truth. I am not allowed to carry your burdens for you. To do that is to take away your selfhood, and sure as I love you, I cannot do that.

For I do love you, with a constant passion that carries me towards bettering myself, that yearns for nothing but your happiness. I laugh and joke and pretend that it is nothing, but I would give my life for you. Even more than that, I would live for you, and be your constant companion if I could.

The choice, in the end is yours. I cannot allow myself to be dragged into the pit of misery you call home right now. I would be useless to you if I permitted it. But I can help you out. I’ve offered you my hand.

Take it.

Take my hand, and follow me out of misery into pure and reverent friendship, forsaking all those so-called admirers who tear you apart. Please. Not for my sake, but for yours.

I will be waiting for as long as it takes to save you.


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Posted by on December 18, 2010 in Uncategorized


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The Artist’s Companions: Mythandroids (Part Two)

The trouble with being that wolf of an artist, who has seen beyond the pasture and knows of the mysteries of existence, is that it often feels as if there is no one else in the world who knows the agony this causes. You are forever separated from 90 percent of the human race, perhaps even 95 percent, who live their nine-level life on level two or three. When you were born on level five or six, you are destined to never comprehend them, as they will never comprehend you. It is a lonely, cold, brutal existence.

But here’s the deal. That whole thing is an illusion. Sure, there’s that barrier that separates the cave-dwellers from the mythandroids (my pet term for those who have left the cave). But, hey, genius! You weren’t the only one who made it out of the cave!

There are others like you.

And they are going through the exact same thing: the struggle to make humans better than they want to be, giving all of themselves and getting nothing back to fill the void in their own hearts. Yeah, it hurts like hell. Yeah, it’s hard to find other mythandroids. But they exist, and are as lonely and shell-shocked as you are by the selfish depravity of human nature.

The secret is to find them. Find those people you don’t have to stab in the leg and keep them close. They are your family, truer often than your own family. Uplift each other. And finally, fill that aching void with the pure love of one of your own species. They will be your Beacon, the pure light that guides you back to sanity. And you will be their Beacon.

The rest of the world will see the light you cast together, and will change. Example, rather than words, will always resonate best with humanity.

That, and stabbing.


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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Uncategorized


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