The Modern Experience: Relationships in a Post-Modern America

Relationships in our modern culture are strange things. If the importance of an issue is proportionately related to its exoticness, then relationships are important. Since so many of us are obsessed with the strange, exotic, and rare, it is no wonder that many a young person living in our society spends countless hours thinking about the Other. Not only how one envisions the Other, but how one relates to that rare Other. The relation is our obsession.

My own ambivalence towards romantic relationships has created a bifurcation in my own mind. Like a schizophrenic, I can look almost objectively at inter-sex human relationships. On the one hand, I am just as obsessed as everyone else; on the other, I am not in the least interested. At one and the same time, I feel as committed to talking and thinking about romantic love as much as I am committed to ignoring the topic. This explains my love for pedantic scholarship, politics, theology, etc.—everything but that murky of subjects.

Modern relationships make me cringe. Even the thought of engaging in anything intimate makes my palms sweaty. As I type these words, I can feel a trickle—then a flood. This summarizes both my ambivalence and my obviously passionate obsession.

The thought, then, strikes me: why the fear of a modern relationship? Is it, as C. S. Lewis wrote, that I am attempting to become that loveless person, locked inside a casket? Am I afraid of the inevitable human weakness love brings? Or maybe I just do not think the costly investment is really worth it all at the end of the day? Maybe I’m subjunctively stuck in a world of “maybes” and “what ifs”? The thought of this might-happen gives me, perhaps, the only security and comfort I need to progress through life. The thought that—well, God, I probably should not say this, but I have to—maybe I am that loveless, stuck-in-my-solitary-casket person. Maybe.

Modern relationships are, as they appear to me, doomed, immediately from their point of departure, to failure. They cannot, in any way, succeed. Success is the thing that happens strictly by accident. It is never that conclusion which must follow from the premises. In romantic love, what little romantic love one actually gets is frequently reduced to one-night-stands and ephemeral dinners. There is no repetition, no continuation. There are no promises. There are no absolutes. There are no Immanuel Kants bombastically annihilating the living shit out of our scared-shitless ethical foundations. All we have is transient. Passing. Fleeting. How can relationships succeed when nothing larger than the relationship exists? How can one get anywhere without knowing from whence one is coming and to whence one is going? You have people engaging in things that make ultimately no sense. They attempt to establish relations with another human being—and yet, they are doing things backwards. There are no moral boundaries. Nothing that grounds their being. When relationships work, it is a pure accident that occurs in an unforgiving, meaningless universe. How can anything work in a modern world without meaning and sense? I am surprised the thought of a potential relationship still exists…

Humans are unforgiving, simplistically legalistic, categorizing creatures. They are almost infinitely stupid—and yet, they think they can somehow know anything other than themselves. It is pure silliness. This idea that we know other people strikes me as, well, the silliest notion ever invented. And, since some of you are wondering where this rant is heading, this is precisely the problem of modern relationships: they are deceived into thinking they know. How can one deconstruct a false belief when the person holding the belief is certain? So certain, in fact, that anything outside of that particular belief happens to be “false.” None of us really know much—if anything at all. Those who know are in the dark—confused geniuses they are. Modern relationships want—nay, rapaciously demand—knowledge of the Other. This obsession with relationships has become a perversion of knowledge of the Other. Instead of humbly seeking to experience life, to live it without knowing much, we have succumbed to the atrocious notion that life can be understood. We have reduced it to something tangible; a how-to book printed, collecting angry dust on the shelf. We have become obsessed with information in this information age. We have lost our humanity in our obsessive thirst for truth (truth, in this case, being nothing but so-called “absolute, objective knowledge”). Now we live in a “just-the-facts-ma‘am” world. There are hardly any facts, just interpretations. And interpretations of those interpretations.

Sure, I did say I love you—ten years ago. I no longer mean it. In fact, as I see it now, those were young, restless days. I was wrong. I did not know what love was. In fact, whatever it was, I renounce it now. And I am almost certain I will renounce what I am saying now at some future point. I do not know when. Don’t even ask. I am on my way towards becoming something—or, maybe, we are all disappearing into nothingness…

We have allowed ourselves to get caught up in what the few elite are dictating to the masses—those individuals who use mass-media and mass-entertainment to exercise their so-called power. Outside of the masses, truth exists—but it exists as a singularity, caught up in the life-giving messes of your individual human subjectivity. That, right there, is truth—truth for you.

We became acutely aware of knowledge so-called. This perverse knowledge was reduced to single events. Those single events were then used to color the entire life of the Other.

An entire life reduced to the facts of a few isolated events. Events you merely witnessed. Nothing which you understood. For how could you? You were never really there. You were a bystander. Merely watching what you thought was happening. Translating everything. Emphasizing one thing over another. Focusing on this, not that. Remembering that, not this. Repeating that event over all other events. An entire human life stood naked and cold before you. And yet…

What have you done?

You have done what humans do best: think they know something when they don’t. You have done what humans do best: crucify those who proclaim Truth. You have done what humans do best: reduce everything to print. You have done what humans do best: unforgiving, simplistically legalistic, categorization of a human individual. An enormous human individual, mind you.

In your remembering, you have accentuated a so-called truth about the Other. (Outside of your subjectivity, such a truth probably does not even exist.) In your remembering of particular events—events which you claim to know but know nothing about—you have degraded a human being; condemning him or her to the infinite abyss of unforgivingness. In your remembering, you have chosen to continually recollect a particular event—thus making the event unforgivable. It is an event—err, a mere memory—that will exist, possibly forever.

And yet the human, oh, the human. The human changes. The human evolves. The human forgets. The human forgives. The human is not even aware of your recollecting of events. He is oblivious to your so-called “knowledge” of him. But that human, the real human… He does not exist—for you. But, remember, that he does not exist only for you. He has surely changed—and moved on. He is out there, somewhere, being human. And you, you “knowledgeable” one, you are out there dissecting every little thing. Giving names to that which you know nothing of. That primordial of sins. Like the biblical Adam, the only thing you are capable of is naming—naming animals which you know nothing of. But naming things gives you a sort of voyeuristic pleasure. It makes you feel confident. It gives you life. You think you know. Again, an indication that the sin of Eden is still ever-present: your obsession with knowing is akin to Eve’s biting of that fruit…

And then the simplicity. Oh, the simplicity! You think you know when you know nothing at all. You never have. Your simplistic legalism; it is followed faithfully. Every “i” is dotted, and every “t” is crossed. You never seize to amaze me. You take complicated things—subjective things, mind you, which you have no access to—and reduce them to a couple of paragraphs, if that. You reduce an entire human being to a dustbin of nothingness. And you pride yourself in your simplicity—which you follow so religiously. So legalistically.

And then the categorization. We have not stopped yet. We need names. What do we call him? Which clique does she fit into? Is it really true? Is it really possible? You can take an entire life and reduce it to a word, a phrase? And you think you know?

Anything?

Modern relationships are exercises in so-called knowledge. They cannot stand on feet they do not have. The job of the modern human in a modern relationship is simple: reduce, reduce, reduce. For the stupid, all things are understood. All one can do is follow someone on Twitter, stalk them on Facebook, masturbate to them on Instagram, etc., etc.

Where is the relationship? Where is the intimacy you so demanded?

You get what you came for. You never came looking for a relationship. This explains why you’re reading this after your one-night-stand last night. But it’s okay. I have news for you: you can probably learn just a little bit more. Maybe your knowledge will save you. Maybe your reductionism will become your religion. Maybe your subjectivity will consume all other subjectivities out there. Maybe you will become god. Maybe.

But I place my bets on those few remaining. Those few particularly flawed. Those who live life. Those who ground their reality in something bigger than themselves. Those who obey categorical imperatives not because they have to but because that is the right thing to do. Those who choose you as a friend—who do so with an honest heart and an absolute spirit. Those who live life not because they have to, but because they choose to—for there is no other way.

As for an explanation—a definition of “relationship”—I will not offer you one. You already got what you came for. There is no need for more information. Ultimately, it probably doesn’t matter anyways. I doubt a definition would launch you into success.

I was going to let you try the fruit but then decided against it.

Sincerely not yours,

Moses Y. Mikheyev

The Supremacy of Subjectivity: Why Objectivity is a Contingent Truth

The modern age is full of humans who trust in nothing but the so-called “objective” scientific method. In the past, the Pope handed down to the majority of the world what was deemed respectable, absolutely true, and dogmatically certain. Today, with a few name changes and a swapping of terms, we have the scientific community handing down religious dogma shrouded in the cloak of scientific truth. In the past, as history shows us, one could not question the Pope. Martin Luther attempted to do this and faced a council, retaliation, and essentially, social suicide. He was a marked man the moment he called into question the ruling authorities of the day. One does not need to be a genius today to know who or what is the domineering authority today. In fact, there is no use in my telling you. You already know. Science prides itself in being able to hand down something that is warm, fuzzy, and absolutely cozy to modern sensibilities. If a scientist told you anything—and I mean anything—you would do everything he or she (or it) commands you. Science’s commands are absolute. There is no escaping both the beauty of science and the horror of it. It hands you nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons. Its only truth, in this particular case, is the reality that mass equals energy. And where lies the truth of science? That may or may not be debatable. On the one hand, it is a fact—an empirical one—that mass equals energy. “How so,” one may ask, “Is it fact?” “Well,” one may respond, “It is fact precisely because more than one person agrees on what he or she is subjectively experiencing—in other words, there is an agreement between two or more subjectivities.” What matters here is to note that objectivity arises out of that awful, abstract, misunderstood notion of subjectivity—that bastard of a thing! How could the world’s most glorious idea—the idea of objectivity (and it is merely a metaphysical idea and nothing more)—come out of of such a putrid thing? How could objectivity be grounded in the very thing it is attempting to deny? How could objectivity arise out of the confrontation of two or more subjectivities? Objectivity responds by denying the reality of subjectivity, like a daughter who denies the reality of her body housing her mother’s genes. Science’s response, in some circles, has been to suggest the idea (again, a very metaphysical “thing”) that, in fact, subjectivity is merely an illusion: all that really is real is the material, the neuronal, the scientifically attainable. Nothing outside of objectivity really exists—the rest is an illusion. “Yes,” some scientist shrouded in his religious white cloak and thick mystical goggles might say, “We have discovered that the only thing that is real is that upon which two or more subjective beings agree upon—so long as there is scientific consensus, we accept that as empirical fact, infallible (relative to the day) truth.” In the past, they had councils and synods; today, they have peer-review journals and scientific consensus. Same shit (for the most part), different day. But where art thou, Subjectivity? What happened to thou? Were you, too, persecuted by the scientific community? Did the “men in the white religious cloaks” banish you from the precincts of society? Were you, too, crucified like the Messiah, outside the streets of Jerusalem—err, outside the halls of the university laboratory? Did they annihilate you and reduce you to nonsense? In their religious zeal—for what more could it be?—did they take away individual freedom. No longer are certain aspects of the world considered “free to roam.” We cannot entertain thoughts questioning them. We, the individuals, have exchanged freedom to think whatever the hell we like for a scientific consensus. In return, we had been given health, electronics, modern and lonely society, etc. In fact, I heard we will be taking flights to the moon soon. Maybe we will even colonize it. So long as nobody questions the terrorists in the white lab coats; the ones in bed with big government, corporate America, and anything that smells of money. So long as they get their tax-sponsored government grants, for their all-important research (such as how to perfect torture, brain wash people, dictate people by means of mass-psychological manipulation, create weapons of mass destruction, mass surveillance, etc., etc.)—paid by, you, the tax payer. In the past, yet again a parallel, the Church collected so-called “tithes.” The Pope needed the palace built in Rome. Today, it is not much different. Your landlord has changed, his beliefs have changed, his weapons of mass destruction have taken on a new “flavor.” Back then, the peasants had the Crusades; today, you have drones striking down Pakistan civilians. (But, please, listen to your sensible Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of our Nature [2011]: the world is a much safer place to live than in the past.) Back then, we had court-sponsored prophets, like Micaiah, tickling the ears of King Ahab; today, we have Pinker tickling the ears of the modern elite inhabiting the upper echelons of Harvard society. “We have made progress—we are becoming (almost) angels!” The modern court prophets tickle the eardrums of people who like to hear “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace. But Pinker’s ass isn’t the one being fried by American drones in Pakistan. So, it makes perfect sense. Enough about court prophets. We are dealing with the irreligious elite who dictate what we should and should not do. It’s time to say the “f-word” to the Ten Commandments. We need the bazillion mandates that the scientific community is now imposing upon us. Ten is a bazillion commands too little. For every laboratory experiment a white coat terrorist performs, ten pills and ten vaccines are manufactured; for every idea entertained in the lofty courtyards of science halls in a given university, ten mandates are handed down to us—no, you—the people. The Pope’s reign of terror was a bunch of bullshit compared to this. It’s coming. The fact that I would disagree with the elite maybe never struck them as something that is valid. I mean, God, it is a subjective appraisal of an objective truth. Who the hell cares what I, a mere human being, thinks? Right? It is not like I have  some sort of white robe on. I am not a pope, neither do I have access to bishops or cardinals. I simply do what I am told. Because a white coat terrorist told me so. He terrorizes my freedom to think, to believe, to do anything that would allow me to be human. If freedom is a cardinal truth, then scientists are its terrorists. But we have already strayed too far. From whence does objectivity arise? Objectivity arises when two or more subjective individuals, limited as they are by their limited experience, successfully observe, record, and/or experience a given hypothetical noumenon, in which the noumenon is understood to be subjectively and phenomenologically similar to what is being observed by the Other. That is, when Einstein observed that E=mc2, this observation was confirmed and found to be similar to what other subjective human individuals experienced. As this subjective agreement increased in number, its truth increased proportionally. If E=mc2 only for Einstein—and not for the subjective world at large—it would not be considered an empirical fact, it would not be an objective truth, neither would it have scientific consensus. And so, we have come full circle. Objectivity presupposes, first and foremost, the cardinality and supremacy of subjectivity. Apart from subjectivity, objectivity doth not exist. And, hence, objectivity is a contingent truth; it is contingent upon the necessary existence of subjectivity.

But what do I mean that “objectivity does not exist”? Surely if there is a tree falling in the forest with no one to observe it, there remains a tree falling, right? By “objectivity” I mean that noumenon which exists outside of the mind (i.e., being mind-independent) but is, at the moment, being observed by an observer. All observers are, strictly speaking, subjective; all observations made are, strictly speaking, subjective. It is usually out of this chaos of subjectivities that we come to “objective” truths. They exist “out there,” so to speak—but in being perceived, they become “in here” (in our minds). But the object is never really “known” by us, is it? We may doubt its existence. We may need another human individual to confirm our suspicions. In any case, we are dependent upon the human mind. And the human mind is not a perfect machine. We are just as error-ridden as, well, anything else. Even if, theoretically speaking, we were able to have an objective object before us, and we were able to spend much time observing it, the object would never cross our subject-object barrier (just like certain medications cannot cross the blood-brain barrier). It would always remain, forever, unattainable and “out there.”
Epistemologically, I am merely restating the limits of human reason. Nothing more. Along with Thomas Kuhn, I myself do not claim to be a relativist. However, as it is quite obvious, I am certainly a subjectivist. That is, everything that I know—or claim to know—is thoroughly grounded in my own being, my mind, my subjectivity. As for absolute truths, I have little doubt in theoretically contemplating their existence. However, when it comes to empirically proving things, I am quite certain that this is easier said than done. Moreover, to be more clear, my main objection should be seen as a corrective to subjective approaches shrouded in the cloaks of objectivity. In other words, I am critical of a culture which claims objective knowledge of a given thing when no such objective knowledge exists. Anecdotally speaking, I hear the term “objective” thrown around quite often. It is to this abuse of the term that I am primarily reacting to.
Have I denied objectivity? I do not think so. I merely pointed out that objectivity (at the very least, some forms of objectivity) are reached by means of a democratic consensus amongst subjective human individuals. We might call this a “scientific consensus” or a “scholarly consensus.” That such forms of objectivity exist are, I believe, not really disputed. Finally, as a concluding comment, this writing is, as I see it, mostly to be read as a piece that helps us work together towards attaining absolute Truths. While we may disagree on how that is done, we should all keep our minds open to robust criticism and healthy disagreement. At times, one must step back and reevaluate one’s work: is it really as objective as one thought it were?

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev