Nihilism in the Morning

I should like to suggest we start each day with a touch of nihilism. I find myself most adept at managing my day when I wake up and question my breakfast, what it stands for, who it works for. This starts out as skepticism but turns nihilistic when I realize I have been questioning my breakfast, which, in the end, is futile. I suggest you try it, though. Is your breakfast really attempting to nourish you, or is he really just trying to extend your subsistence, ever dependent on subsidy milk from regulated cows? Then decide how much you care about your subsistence. Believe me, it works.

Next, I’d like you to get into the shower. Not because you need to be clean, but because it feels good. Go dip yourself into what is the most mismanaged renewable resource on our planet for a bit. Let it dampen your hair. Let it tickle your tits, if you’ve got them, and tell me how that feels. I don’t know how it feels and I never will, but at this point in my shower I’ve already decided that doesn’t matter. I want you to ask your body wash what he’s doing in there. I want you to hold him accountable to his sulfates. If he doesn’t talk, squeeze him by the neck a bit, choke some fluids out of him, then bathe in them. Your shampoo, your face wash, your toothpaste, your conditioner – ask them, and yourself, how truly beneficial your relationship is. Ask them why they dress themselves in often-unrecyclable mixed plastics. Tell them you demand answers, then remember that all the while, you’ve just wasted gallons of what some little child just missed out on.

Exit the shower and look at the foggy clock that hangs in your bathroom. Acknowledge to the clock that you have not cared enough about this one to set it completely properly, and confess that it has been ticking a lie. The clock will argue back and say he’s close enough, but you know that he’s two minutes behind, and you account for this every time you look at him, and you get anxious because you know his inaccuracy only serves to further remind you how you wake up ten minutes too late every day.

As you helplessly waste your precious morning moments trying to wipe the dew off of your bathroom mirror, remember that you are looking at yourself much more critically than any of your critics. Your boss will not notice your new lipstick because your boss will barely even notice you unless you wore the right color of lipstick to your interview. Remember that your job doesn’t matter anyway, which is important, because if it were, that would make your boss important. Your boss, however, never talks about his home life at work because it is his greatest misery, and in the vain attempt to be optimistic about life, he has conditioned himself into a luxury sedan that whispers positive messages through an audio system designed to scream. He goes home and cries, just like everyone else. He gets furious about how his employees just don’t get it, much how you get furious about how your boss is so inept. He was staring in the mirror, too, thirty minutes ago, but he gets to work early. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t know what else would make him the boss.

You’ve now managed to toy with the ideas of eating real food, ditching your sulfate shower gels, and not reporting to work, but you know that it is not your best option because Margaret.

Margaret is your favorite coworker because she says funny shit sometimes, the kind of funny shit that could get you fired within minutes, whereas any performance-related shit would take you months to get fired. Margaret is just about to eat her breakfast because she usually eats breakfast right after the shower, but she optimistically has decided a bowl of muesli will keep death away, which is good, because for all the funny shit Margaret says, she will never understand the importance of holding your shower gels accountable, and she will never start her day with a bit of nihilism.

It’s now time for you to get into your car. You loved your car for about the first five weeks of owning, but then started noticing the things that you did not like about it. Car manufacturers know better than to perfect their craft; you don’t know better than to keep buying new ones. Your next-door neighbor has one that is two years newer, which makes you feel inadequate, but he bought his because yours had made him feel inadequate, and this cycle will continue until you move into a neighborhood where everyone’s car is so much nicer than the rest of the world that you don’t care about model years any longer. You are about fifteen minutes behind comfortably arriving with a moment to spare, which means you will pace yourself at that four-miles-per-hour sweet spot where you know you will not get pulled over for speeding, but you have deemed the best way to take more than you deserve from the road. You are still going to arrive later than you should, but Margaret will arrive even later than you, and your boss, who actually was looking at newspaper ads for firearms while drinking his morning coffee, thinks Margaret would be the first head to pop. This gives him a grin he can’t explain, and a guilt that secures her position.

You sit down at your desk, and you know that you will spend the next eight to nine hours working with minimal efficiency, lauding yourself each time you have a gust of productivity. Your productivity will be measured in three months. Your boss will be deeper in his firearm fantasy than any of you will ever know. You know now that you will then know nothing you didn’t know at this point, and you will contemplate going rogue by reading a book or finding a new fitness center to show the world who’s who, to really stick it to the man, to really up the ante on your breakfast cereal, because as a well-conditioned adult, you daydream often and wake up each morning knowing not what you thought for the last six hours of sleep. This leaves you lethargic, and sometimes you even wake up feeling a bit nihilistic.

Trust in the Files

This is a race obsessed with documents. Ours is a generation consumed by them. So much of our first-world lives is indeed dictated by varieties of proof: proof that you are social, documented by the Internet; proof that you have paid your share; prove to us that you were born in our country. I can carry this natural herb that you’d be thrown in prison for, because I have a documented need to use it. If I were to irresponsibly be involved with a child, my address and I would be kept in a special database, so that when I move in you can move out — there will be documents showing the decline in your property value if I am around. I’m sorry, sir; I know we’re the only place that sells this brand, but I can’t help you without a receipt.

Nearly every action anyone takes is documented. I’m certain that the console in my computer could tell me indirectly how long it took me to write this very sentence just based on CPU usage. The text message I just received on my iPhone was an SMS, but since I’m using iMessage, I have no doubt that it is kept, somewhere, safe or not, making the tiniest little electron hold still, in a data base at Apple, concurrently at AT&T. All of these things are set in place as failsafes. If my computer were to stop working while I write this, the console would tell me what went wrong. If my SMS were never to be received by some glitch of a cell tower, it would resend itself as soon as my connection to the tower was renewed or replaced. Everything will be ok, because we can prove that everything happened.

It has the tendency to send me into a fit of anxiety. Maybe not instantly, but there will be times when I find myself much too concerned with the status of my documents. As a writer, documenting is what I do, but I document what I believe to be much more relevant to the greater human experience, and have no interest in knowing at which point in time a car passed in and out of the garage and to whom how much is owed therefore. I feel almost leprous by the weight of my receipts. I never ask for them, and when asked, I never want them. I know I will never again catalogue them — but I have.

I collected every single receipt for every transaction I performed for a whole year at one point, no holds barred. Cash, card, gift certificate, coupon, you name it. I did this because I was certain I needed to do this for tax purposes. I will probably go down in history as one of the most obsessive compulsive 16-year-olds to ever be churned out of the Pacific Northwest. At the end of this year, I sorted through the shoebox and discovered nothing. I discovered only that I had spent an hour pouring over the finances of a 16-year-old, only to occasionally be reminded that on this date I had indeed eaten this, that was the day I that, and those happened usually on the days I didn’t thus.

Why do we want to track these things? Keep your old love letters; throw away your old bank statements. What’s so hard about that? I don’t know for certain, but I know that I could certainly produce a bank statement within a few moments of being requested; ask me for the last card my grandmother gave me before she passed, and lunch is on me. Not only do I find myself overrun with documents, but I find myself overrun with the wrong kind. I am certain I could build an entire house out of the stacks of drawings I’ve thrown away because they “weren’t that good.” So why the shrine to the things that enslave us?

I have to believe that some of this comes from the desire to be validated. There has to be some connection to wanting a sense of security. Let’s keep papers and files, digital and printed, so that at some point, no matter how bored we may have been throughout our lives, we at least will have a biography written every step of the way. It will be a book written by cashiers, debt collectors, county clerks and human resources. The Story of You, as written by those who only saw you as a hand holding a charge card, a number in a spreadsheet, and a statistical dot relevant to your likelihood to pay your taxes and cling bitterly to your healthcare. This is the story that is written in our first-world lives, often with never so much as a single word ever quoted from your lips.

You can’t trust people these days; for the real truth, let us consult the Documents. They will know who has been good, who has been bad, and who has ceased to be economically relevant to the charts.

A society that thinks it was founded on the values of religion is completely tangled in the messy business of trying to verify any individual’s past actions. We can know you killed someone, but if we don’t have the proof, it never happened. So if we cling onto this religious background to define our logic and patterns, certainly it must be, well, in the Documents, right? Yes, the Bible! The Document of History. The ultimate proof that our documentation is worth the time invested. The single solid piece of proof that as time passes, our records will remain untouched, and none shall commit to memory what ought be stored in the infallible fortress of a database. Untouched as the Bible, unadulterated as the Holy Word of God, never out of selfish reasons altered, our truth shall live on in the Documents.

Book update

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about life right now. I’ve had an amazing two months off, and even though it’s time to get back to the grind, I’ve gained a more complete appreciation of what I am and what my true strengths are. I don’t have to worry. Nobody needs to worry, really – I’ll be fine, and so will you, if you do what feels right.

I will continue to keep everyone updated here about the progress on my novel, as well. I hope you are as excited as I am.

First draft: [________|____________] 40% complete