Rants & Essays

JT <-> Ryan

By Ron Cecchini

I usually don't share what I'm thinking and feeling because it makes me feel like I'm being self-righteous and "preachy" -- and I'd hate it if someone thought that of me; after all, who the hell am I, right? But sometimes I feel the need to get on a soapbox of sorts and scream my head off, to anyone that will listen, to get people to wake up, to get them to think. And maybe alt.gothic is not the best place to do this, not because you're somehow superficial (often, quite the opposite), but because perhaps there are other outlets more conducive to "spreading the message." But this is where I currently "hang out" and, like it or not, you're the ones that get to hear me spew.

Anyone that's ever read a post of mine longer than 1 line knows that I beat myself up over certain things, particularly those pesky existential issues. And when I'm in my more "humanitarian" moods, I go on about the absolute urgency to employ logic & reason, and to combat fanatical dogma and ideology.

It's hard for me to explain what I'm feeling right now...anger, sadness, confusion, a sense of being "lost," hopelessness, and the sensation that my guts are being ripped apart...I'm just going to ramble, so either just hit [Delete] or be prepared to bounce around.

Whether or not the reason JT took his own life was because of an overwhelming sense of meaninglessness (something I can relate to) and/or lack of a will to live (something I don't necessarily relate to -- I'm somewhat stubborn in this respect, and even if I feel it's all "meaningless," I'll still fight to stay alive, if for no other reason to annoy the heck out of people and shake them from their denial), his death has been playing out in my mind over and over, to the point where it's become symbolic. So, again, let me apologize for using his name, but the whole mess has taken on a life of its own in my head.

I'm sure some people are sick of hearing me mention Kierkegaard's philosophy and his concepts of dread, despair and angst; that until we "choose ourself," the meaningless pursuit of superficial pleasure inevitably leads to anguish and, if left unchecked, a deathwish of sorts -- including suicide. My attraction to Kierkegaard went beyond recognizing that what he said was apparently true (humans seemed to behave they way he describe, even if he couldn't explain why), but also because I have this weird curiosity about people that are in touch with their feeling and are not afraid to express them i.e. romantics & poets. I don't relate to them, but they interest me. I don't do that. I don't think I can do that. And, as I've admitted to several people, I basically work pretty hard at suppressing and repressing every feeling I have. So I started to see my interest in Kierkegaard as being one of my remaining ties to my inner-self. My Subjectivity.

His concepts became particularly important to me after I cast aside the "spirituality" I had been raised to believe without question. For, if I didn't believe in a God, what was there to motivate me to do...anything? Likewise, what justification was there for any action I or anyone would take? And I wholly embraced my agnosticism and for the first time was able to imagine -- really imagine and feel -- a Universe where there was no God. I.e. "This is it. You're born. You die. Kaput. No God." And it's scary, and many people can't handle looking into the proverbial pit and seeing nothing but blackness, no hope for something better, a shot at immortality -- all that stuff that motivates many people. So they go looking for something to believe in, to find something that gives their life meaning.

This Search leads to one of 2 things, as I see it: Dogma and/or Ideology (which I equate with "religious dogma" and "political ideology," respectively). And this is where it starts to get tricky again...

I am of the opinion that religion separates people and leads to inevitable conflict. I see no other way about it. Religion instills a sense of "I'm right. You're wrong." This leads to the notions of "Us" & "They;" thus, ideological separation. This inevitably leads to geographic separation, as like-minded people tend to group together. This leads to borders, which leads to states and countries. And since not everyone is of One Mind, there will always be those who try to cross over the border; thus, borders must be defended. This leads to conflict and then war.

The other possible path I called "ideology," by which I simply mean some non-religious dogma; i.e. the "political ideology" that I mentioned. E.g. here in the U.S., the belief that Capitalism, Democracy and "the prevention of the spread of tyranny" (to quote from "Saving Private Ryan") are superior to all other economic and political theories, and should be defended by all means necessary -- including countless human lives. This leads to war even more quickly, as all countries, no matter what they claim, are based not on religious principles, but purely economic ones.

War is always the result.

But more specifically, in the context of the subject of this thread, it seems that death is always the result. I know, this sounds fucked. And, yes, spare me the lines about "death is always the result. We all die."

What I'm trying to get at, and what motivated this thread, was seeing that movie last night, seeing it after having already having mulled over JT's death in my head for the last few days. I'm still pretty numb from "Saving Private Ryan." I don't know... how to explain...Just as some people will see "Contact" (still the most important film I've probably ever seen in respect to my burgeoning worldview) and see nothing more than "another dumb sci-fi film about aliens," some will see "Ryan" and think about the "awesome special effects" and "what a great war flick," etc. I.e. they won't think about it.

The movie knocked me on my ass. It took every ounce of will not to sob right there where I sat, which was on the edge of my seat for all 3 hours. But, moreover, it made vivid in my mind the concept of "dying for a cause," "believing in something greater than one's self" -- all those things that we've been taught (or indoctrinated with) since grade school. And I'm not saying that perhaps there is no cause worth dying for; e.g. if I were able to make some Cosmic Deal and trade my life for a guarantee that the rest of humanity would benefit for all eternity and live in peace -- that would be worth dying for.

But the movie brought home the concept of what it's like at the other end of the spectrum, the end opposite "meaninglessness;" i.e. extreme meaning. The adherence to an ideal so fierce that you would kill anyone that opposes it, and give up your life defending it.

And thus I started seeing JT's sense of meaninglessness (again, whether or not this is what he felt, I do not know -- like I said, his passing has become symbolic for me) being an idea diametrically opposed to the concept that I'm calling "extreme meaning" put forth in "Ryan."

And both lead to death:

Meaninglessness -> you kill yourself
Meaning -> someone else kills you

And I'm not sure if they represent two ends of a spectrum. I don't know if there's a "happy" middle ground. Can you "believe in something," but not believe in it too much? And if so, is that belief? And what do you do if someone decides that you shouldn't exist because of what you believe? Or what if you decide, or realize, that you don't believe in anything and that you're not happy existing that way? Should you try to "find something to believe in?" And if you actually have to go searching for that elusive something, is that really a belief? For example, I completely do not understand (and, to be honest, disrespect) people who try on religions like hats -- 'cause what they're doing is nothing more than looking for someone to tell them what to believe, as long as that something "feels good." They refuse to think for themselves.

So is there a spectrum? Can one find something to believe in, but not believe in it too much, or on the hand just (somehow) come to grips with their massive unbelief? But to do that, though, to "just accept it," requires a form of Denial. I.e. "don't think about it." Just go to school, get married, go to work, have kids, accept everything blindly, and be happy in your little daze.

And that's not good, I think. I mean, while "ignorance is bliss," I'm not sure it's the case that The Best Thing is to walk around with one's head up one's ass -- and if someone decides to rob, rape or murder us: so be it, for our State of Denial must be maintained at all costs!

And I've tried the "Norm philosophy" (Norm from "Cheers") of "finding that one thing you can love" (which for Sam was the bar) and, either I haven't found it yet, or it's a BS philosophy. I'm friggin' obsessive-compulsive about lots of things...I easily get tunnel-vision about something and give it 120%...and then I burn out on it. I can't have just one interest. For someone like me, that would probably be just as bad as having nothing to do and finding meaning in nothing.

Thus, the dilemma: not only do I not know what to believe, I no longer know whether or not it's even a good idea to believe in something. I've talked about The Collective before, my fascination with bees & ants, the idea of willingly subjecting one's self to the greater good, etc. But I'm a realist. I know that's never going to happen on a global scale.

So once again I'm slammed into my fatalistic mode of thinking. I can sit here and urge and plead (much like a Sagan) 'til I'm exhausted, but I get so damn pessimistic and think that most people just don't give a shit. And I admit that I'm no better...I can be just as myopic as the next guy...and I don't have the answers...I don't know what we should set up as being the Motto of the Collective...It just seems that no matter what we try, the inevitable outcome is that we're Royally Fucked. That it almost has to be that way.

Geez...I'm a babbling idiot here...I'm afraid to proofread...Look, I apologize for this piece of roadkill. I warned you that I was just going to vomit onto the keyboard to try to get some of this out of my head. If any of it made you think (even if it's "that guy is fucked in the head") then that's a good thing.

Speaking of "everything being fucked," I just saw the following in the Boston Phoenix at the end of a review for the new Hole CD:

"In a way, that underlying sense of hope is also what connects Love to a band like Echo and the Bunnymen: things may be fucked, you may be fucked, the whole world may be fucked, but a great rock song can change all that for a few minutes, a great album for an hour. And that's something." (http://www.bostonphoenix.com/archive/music/98/09/03/HOLE.html)

So, even though I'm seeing the Cruxshadows in a few hours, I think I'm gonna make a pit-stop at Newbury Comics. I think I need that hour...

If you made it here, sheesh...go get some aspirin!