When I think of how humans have dealt with some growing catastrophe, a few things stick out. There are many people who are ignorant of the problem. Even the gross outlines. This is a sizable number. Then there are people who don’t want to know about the disasters before they actually happen. This presents a tougher issue. Not only are they ignorant, but they don’t want to think about bad things happening, much less talk about the details. How it might affect them. Again, this number is quite large. There also are people who know. But almost always they possess a sense of foreboding. They become paralyzed in the face of overwhelming forces just outside their door. These are the sort of people who hope for the best and try to stay positive. This number is not as large as either the first two groups, but still significant. Finally, there is a relatively small number who know, want to know more, and act upon what they know. Sometimes they can slow the looming problem, but usually they get swept up with the other three categories of people and fall into the lake of fire.
All of them interlinked.
Everybody burned alive.
The Jews, Communists, progressives, democrats, foreigners, constitutionalists, LGBTQs, Gypsies, petty criminals, the mentally and physically afflicted, the independent-minded, avant-garde artists, and a whole hosts of naysayers fit into the above classifications during the 1930s in Germany and Austria. Recognition of what was happening came too late for most of them and they were killed by the Nazis. The madness spread outward and soon enough the entire world was engulfed.
I find this notion depressing. I’ve fallen into melancholia. So, naturally, I turn to Sartre’s book Nausea. I can’t say it’s the best thing I’ve ever read, but if one is going to trot towards the end of the world, it’s a good mate. Why? Because it’s a testament to the human voice, in all of its imprecision, detail, boredom, sadness, happiness, foolishness, regret, guilt … it is a book for people who are not insane, but perhaps think they are going insane. While reading, I often feel like taking Sartre in my hands and slapping the fuck out of him. But then I realize that my thoughts come in the same way as his, the same way as yours. We are all helpless in this respect. We have no real control over what we think or feel. We know not where we are going or how we will get there. There are bases of our existence which are important, to me anyway. These are mostly geographic or astral phenomena. Outside of that, there are other people, the ones we love, the ones we read, the ones we touch. But then, over time, we come to realize that we don’t really know who these people are, what constitutes the secret fiber of their being. Which brings me back to Sartre and Nausea.
He realized everything I’m saying and he hoped to give an example of how an understandable communication could go forth from one stranger to another. He hoped that Nausea might unite us in all of our unfathomable mystery. It is a book, ultimately, to weep over. It is sort of the words written on our collective tombstones. Always, we fail, can never do enough, blind upon the trail as we stumble toward the end.
Welcome to 2022.
I have an overwhelming sense of foreboding and paralysis and nausea. I am the captive of Sartre, and I’m sure I would have liked the guy. HIs only problem was the excuses he made for Stalin. Otherwise, he led the sort of life I admirer. He particularly hated collaborators. Yeah, so do I.
Too bad he’s not with us now. Maybe he could help me with a phrase I keep hearing from my friends out there in the world. It goes like this, “We are so fucked.”
I wonder what he would make of that?