The Murmurings: Human Beings and Our Instinctual Fear of Change and Progress

Change and progress are, inherently, opposed by human nature. Humans do not like change, even if it is change for the better. An ancient text relates what a group of Israelites felt once they were freed from slavery. The story of the Exodus is not just a story of liberation from slavery; it is also the story of how shitty human beings are in response to beneficial change. Michael Walzer, commenting on the Exodus narrative, writes that one response to liberation is that of “murmuring.” That is, murmurings proceed from “not someone who is adjusted to his slavery but someone who complains endlessly about his liberation.”[1] As David Pacini notes, “[T]he greater price of freedom, haunted by evil, is that we live in the permanent possibility of falling apart.”[2] The price of freedom is: “murmurings” and “falling apart.” Or, as Søren Kierkegaard put it, “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”

A slave who had been a slave all his life could not be saved overnight from his “slave mentality.” To invoke a popular quip (modified for our purposes): “you can take a man out of slavery, but you cannot take the slavery out of the man.” As the Israelites marched onwards towards the Promised Land, they were out of their comfort zones, marching into a future holding the unknown. Back “home” in Egypt, they had shelter, food, and the comfort of familiarity; up ahead, in the desert regions of Sinai, they faced the “permanent possibility of falling apart.” And so, in the strangest of fashions—or maybe it wasn’t so strange after all?—the Israelites complained. “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” (Ex. 14:11, NIV). Instead of freedom, the Israelites—upon tasting its bittersweet waters—demanded, quite adamantly, a return to their previous state: a state of slavery.

In light of such reflections, it is certainly possible that, as some claim, change must occur slowly. You boil the water too fast, and the frog jumps out; you heat it up slowly, and you boil it to death. Humans are like that frog: you pressure us into changing overnight—even if the change is in our favor—and we’ll bite your head off. Instead, what is needed sometimes is the slow and steady change of progress towards the ideal. In light of recent events, events which are affecting our country in numerous ways, it’d be wise for both legislature and people to recognize how instinctually frightened the human species is to change.

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Michael Walzer, Exodus and Revolution (New York: Basic Books, 1985), 50.

[2] David S. Pacini, Through Narcissus’ Glass Darkly: The Modern Religion of Conscience (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), 35.

In Defense of Materialism: Philosophy of Language and Employing Material Things as Symbols

Materialism has been criticized on many grounds that I will not cover here. In fact, I have, in various ways, been strongly opposed to materialism. (Read my essay Materialism; Or, The Human in Decay as a case in point.) That is, until now. In this paper, I will attempt to articulate a sympathetic approach towards materialism. More specifically, I will argue that materialism, when seen through the perspective of the philosophy of language, is actually a type of “language” used to communicate certain things (like wealth, power, prestige, responsibility, success, etc.). In fact, “the pursuit and possession of grand material objects” (my modest, working definition of “materialism” in this paper) is beneficial to a human being attempting to communicate and convey certain values and/or facts. First, I will argue that the philosophy of language sheds light on how we humans employ “communication” (and it is not simply reduced to “language” and “writing”). Second, I will argue that materialism allows humans to communicate certain messages rapidly/promptly (without resorting to “proving yourself”). Third, I will argue that this is actually a good thing, that materialism, as I see it, is beneficial to finite human beings.

Paul Ricoeur, a phenomenologist interested in language, once said, “The word is my work; the word is my kingdom.”[1] That is, within our words, within our language, that is where all life and communicating occurs—it is our “kingdom.” Ricoeur defined language as using “symbols,” symbols that functioned as pointers to objective things in reality, myth, etc. Such symbols had multiple meanings, and, hence, could confuse interpreters. Ultimately, all acts in which the reading and understanding of texts—which used symbols—occurred were inevitably going to end up being interpretations. However, it should be noted that symbols in and of themselves need not be inherently reduced to language/writing. A symbol could be a national flag or, as in my case, a luxury vehicle. All such “symbols” communicate and stand-in-for something else. (A luxury vehicle, for example, may communicate to those around you that you are a successful individual who is responsible, who will provide for a future family, etc., etc.) The point here is the following: as we try to communicate things to those around us, we use symbols all the time. In most cases, symbols are words or phrases. I say, “I love you” and that means that I will take you on dates, buy you dinner, send you flowers on Thursdays, be concerned about your wellbeing, etc., etc. The phrase, “I love you,” is a stand-in-for something else. In and of itself it means…nothing. (Of course, this, too, could be debated.) I employ the phrase in such a way that it points to something outside it; it points to actions I will take on behalf of my beloved. The phrase, in this case, is a “symbol.”

Ricoeur writes: “I define symbol as: any structure of signification in which a direct, primary, literal meaning designates, in addition, another meaning which is indirect, secondary, and figurative and which can be apprehended only through the first.” Moreover, he goes on to define the process of “interpretation.” “Interpretation, we will say, is the work of thought which consists in deciphering the hidden meaning in the apparent meaning, in unfolding the levels of meaning implied in the literal meaning.”[2] Ultimately, he writes, “[T]here is interpretation wherever there is multiple meaning…”[3] Since symbols are almost always open to being interpreted in a plurality of ways—and, thus, of being found guilty of “double meaning”—it is the task of the interpreter to discover what the meaning is.

Going back to our luxury vehicle example, the “symbol” (i.e., the vehicle) may also be interpreted to mean, “I am a thorough-going materialist only interested in material things. I care not for relationships and people. Give me a dollar, and I’ll sell you my soul.” Of course, this is one way of reading materialism. It is one way of interpreting the symbol.

But notice what I am saying here, even as I speak the critique: it is merely one way of interpretation. (“One” way implies there are more ways.) It is possible to behold a symbol (i.e., a luxury vehicle) and to interpret it in a different way, another way. It is possible to see its owner as a good person. It is possible to see its owner as being a thoughtful person who goes to work on time, is punctual, cares about his family and tries to provide for them. Notice, then, that there is nothing in this interpretation of the symbol that is utterly negative and/or derogatory. In fact, I would like to be such a person. And maybe you’d like to meet such a person.

The next point I want to make has to do with prompt communication. If I am attempting to—let us theorize here—meet a girl, in what ways should I go about doing it? First, I am a finite human being, bound to space-time. I cannot be everywhere at once, meeting millions of girls in the span of one minute. Being thus bound, I have to make the most of my time. Second, and by implication, if I want to make the most of my time, I have to communicate things clearly and promptly. I could, in theory, be an “anti-materialist,” and resort to explaining to each and every girl I meet that I am successful, that I will take care of her, that I am a responsible human being, etc., etc. That’s one way of doing. It’s a very time-consuming way, but it is certainly an option. (If you have the time for it, go ahead and do it, I say!) In this case, you would essentially have to “prove” to every girl you meet all of the above. Or, you could do things differently.

It is possible to use symbols that communicate more rather than less. A picture says a thousand words. Driving up on a luxury vehicle conveys more than several hours of conversation over coffee. (And what makes you think she’ll believe you when all you’re doing is feeding her “words”?) That is, the symbol (i.e., the vehicle) conveys more than a million words spoken in defense of your alleged success.

Finally, as I’ve already hinted, materialism—as I have defined it here—seems to be something that is possibly beneficial to human beings. It allows us to communicate things to those around us. It allows us to do more with less. It also allows us to spend our coffee dates talking about things like love and romance, loves and hates, rather than trying to prove to the Other that we are responsible, successful, wealthy, etc., etc. In other words, I stand by my word: buy yourself that Lamborghini and enjoy your finite life!

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

 

Dedicated to: Petr Bulkhak—for being a good conversationalist regarding this particular subject.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Paul Ricoeur, “La Parole est mon royaume,” Espirit, XXIII (February, 1995), p. 192.

[2] Paul Ricoeur, “Existence and Hermeneutics,” in The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: An Anthology of His Work, eds. Charles E. Reagan and David Stewart (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978), 98. Italics original for both citations.

[3] Ibid.

adultery poem

Ghost Kiss: A Poem

I cannot kiss your sparkled lips
As we roam our souls downtown
City lights wander drunken, toxic
Blind ghost-kisses landing on your mouth

The wet paint from twilight’s crime
Sticks to your heels like lover dust
Leaves you adulterous and mesmerized
Vain attempts to pretend focus

You quake your spine to face my wrath
Those sacred lips of yours still moving
Two ghosts and an insomniac
That tongue of yours accusing

And who the hell may they all be
if not some ravenous intruders?
I’ll wait for death to erase me
To discuss what still behooves us

So will it be that frozen phrase?
We said: “‘Till death do us part”
If so, then kill me; do not wait!
Your vows writhe, breaking on the rocks

But you are much too cunning, Sweets
To speak cruel words, weep poison
Beneath the skies of tidy sheets
You’ll sex me till I’m noiseless

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

Dedicated to: E. A. P. (without traces of K)

 

AUTHOR’S NOTES: I’ve always found the concept of reconciliation post-adultery rather fascinating. Do people actually forgive the Other or do they merely forget? Or, which is more likely the case, do they simply pretend? Pretend to not care; pretend to not recall the atrocious act committed; pretend that it’ll never happen again.

It is, as my poem suggests (not that my interpretation of the poem has anything to add of any authority, since authorial intent is usually eradicated in the presence of the potent subjectivities of my fellow readers), the story of an adulterous affair committed by the feminine, female character. (Not that female characters are predisposed to such things; rather, I could not imagine it otherwise, being a heterosexual male myself [and such acts would, I assume, be committed against me by none other than a female character; but, of course, “God forbid!”]).

The poem begins with the negative, the “cannot” (reminding me of the “thou shalt nots” filling the Hebrew Scriptures). The characters find themselves entering city lights. And, if one is familiar with Johannine literature, one would know that sinners are afraid of entering the light. And the light becomes, for our female character, something which is rather “toxic.” Once in the light, the male character realizes the ghost-kisses, the “twilight crimes” committed by the Mrs.

But where lie her crimes? They are stuck beneath her heels; they are hidden—but they are, nonetheless, there, stuck to her like wet paint.

Once the conversation turns to confrontation, she pretends to focus. But it’s not meant to be. Then comes the victim mentality, the psychological rationalization. “Of course, it wasn’t me! It was that ghost, that invisible and ever-absent Other!”

The next several lines are self-explanatory; there is no need for me to comment on them.

The closing stanza changes the scene to the bedroom. There the couple is having sex with the male character’s voice coming to a close as he exchanges ethics and anger for sex. And so, sex wins. Sex is the de facto dictator when it comes to silencing those who have a voice, making them utterly “noiseless.”

poem poetry rain drops romantic romance dark unrequited love sensual

When the Tears Wrote: A Poem

Seek to love first rather than understand

For faith is a virtue your lover demands

Hurricane tides and nomadic dreams

Innumerable changes in fluctuating seas

Flowers sent first, prior to meeting

Hand held back, coy, her passions receding

 

Oh, but her youth, so brief and so tender

Like reckless and wilting roses you sent her

Maybe she’ll change? Maybe she’ll listen?

Could I be a god in her damn religion?

May I be Bonhoeffer when your Hitlers rise?

Could I be your Jesus or your Anti-Christ?

 

But this—this is poison, her potent hemlock

She’ll rest, peacefully, while I wrestle sleepwalk

Drug me tonight—again, again, and again

I’m spent on you; have no hope left to mend

Take all you will; I’m distant and drunken

I, Leaning Pisa; and you, Tower of London

 

Roses I’ve sent for various reasons

A poet’s regret is a literary artesian

And who am I to be sending her blossoms?

A ghost lingering ‘round her mind so colossal

Surely she knows that I am mere human?

Dead words on my page, while her body’s my music…

 

Why not take a chance? Why not share a moment?

Are you really so cold? and I, so fatefully boring?

Your beauty makes poems rain in my head

Floodwaters and rhymes have left me for dead

Should I charge you for murder on numerous counts?

Will you offer salvation? Grace—just an ounce?

 

Am I not worth saving, if only for rhymes?

For you, rewrite Shakespeare in four lovely lines

But you’re just a girl with a heart made of foam

Poets, like myself, your naiveté dethrones

So long brazen mistress; I’ve done what I could

I’ll rest my pen while tears write of you

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

 

Dedicated to K.

human decay materialism critique of

Materialism; Or, The Human in Decay

Material things function as extensions of ourselves, extensions that serve as substitutes for the living and breathing beings that we cannot have. A romantic in despair is an impulsive consumer. When the life which we lead forces us to be “at peace” with the unpredictable, we, naturally, seek something stable, something material that will numb our senses. For example, if you were involved romantically with someone, and out-of-the-blue he or she decided to call it quits on the relationship, this instability—this unpredictable and uncontrollable chaos—would have terrified you, the romantic. Maybe it was all in my head the entire time? Maybe love was never there to begin with? Maybe people are just too unpredictable? Perhaps, this is why my own world is so prone to falling apart…

The unstable characters which surround us, characters that are no different than us, create within us the desire—nay, the demanding need!—to find something eternal, something stable, something that would last “forever.” And what could be the polar opposite of the unstable and the human? Material things of course!

It is in material things that we find a kind of permanence. No, I’m not suggesting that material things are permanent (for one knows that steel rusts and wood burns); rather, I am suggesting that material things are permanent enough for us to feel as if they are, indeed, stable. This stability, this permanence that we desire begins to surround us in our chaotic world as our material things increase in number. The more material things we buy, the more stable the environment around us feels.

Take me, for example (allow me to function as a sort of “martyr” for this piece!). In losing a relationship—or should I rather state “since having lost a relationship”?—I have done nothing but consume. And it was this nonsensical consumption that prompted my interest in examining, philosophically, what exactly it was that was causing me to consume.

I purchased a Fossil wallet, throwing my old, black leather one away. I use my wallets all the time, and the fact that I changed the wallet gave me a sense of “Well, you’ve entered a different stage in life; now you are a different person. Cast off your worries! The things that occurred in the past are no more!” Maybe that’s what I had been looking for all this time: I wanted to feel as if the past was the past, the relationship was over, and it was time for me to move on. My old wallet would have hindered that process. I am no longer that man who had used that wallet!

I purchased a new car, trading in my hybrid for a convertible Lexus. And why the hell not? You only live once, they say. I drive a lot. Maybe this, too, was a way for me to evade reliving the past—and I wanted nothing to do with it.

I also went shopping. (You might as well change out your wardrobe if you are planning on reinventing yourself, correct?) Why wear the same clothes that you used to wear? That person that wore them, that was a different he. That was a he that belonged to a she; a he that lived a life that is now completely foreign to you. You’ve left all of that behind too.

I then dyed my hair. Why look the same when you are no longer that you?

And so, in a mere few weeks, a distance had been created between the present you and the you who had lived in the past. Lines were drawn, phone numbers deleted, photos erased—an entire epoch in your life brought to a slow and annihilating death. And that was that.

You left it all behind.

You walk around feeling like a million bucks; you laugh in the most evolved of manners—for, by all means, you have changed.

But that is all change controlled by you. The entire time, you had been in charge. The dying of the hair, the purchasing of a new vehicle, the sheer mind-numbness of materialism—that was all “controlled demolition.” You were in charge. It gave you a sense of power, a sense of control. And it had been control that you had wanted the entire time. You wanted to feel like life made sense. People made sense.

But they didn’t. And they don’t.

Out of the tumultuous dizziness of heartbreaks and sorrows, out of the nauseating suppression of the human—there, in the dampest and darkest of places, out of the utter decay of the human, there materialism rears its monstrous head.

But materialism is not some sort of dream-state. Like anything else, it has its problems. Surrounded by the nonsensical possessions, one sinks into a despair far worse than the original wound—for the plastics and the steels of this world cannot quench the fires of a burning love, a dying-yet-resilient passion.

And so all one can do is return to the initial despair, to the initial wounds, the initial life-beginnings of a romance that would not be. “As a dog returns to its vomit…” (Proverbs 26:11). Perhaps it is here, in that most remedial of places, that one discovers a single truth: tgtyelijtlablir.[1]

Or maybe not.

 

 

As I leave the Mall of Georgia, sporting a new jacket, the sound of a folk artist playing guitar and singing some melancholic tunes distracts me. I approach him, toss him some money, and sit next to him. I ask him to “play me something romantic.” He complies with my wish.

After playing three songs for me, I finally leave a lighter and happier soul.

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

 

[1] For those who do not know, this is the acronym for “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” It is a lyric written by Eden Ahbez for Nat King Cole’s song Nature Boy.

Demons: A Poem

Come, join me in my wicked rhymes
Where ghosts are haunted and zombies die
I have a sickness, or was it a disease?
I can write tragic, deafening poetry
It all began when demons came
A demon crawling for it was lame
That vice of virtues and twisted plots
Where hearts are bruised and sorrows sought
I seen a demon, “please tell,” said she
“Had it a pretty smile like me?”
“Yes, smiles – plastic and all around
With hearts of foam that beat underground”
It was you yourself who came to me
Upon the edge of my words and toxic fantasy
I indulged that demon to the point of love
A ring she asked and contracts thereof
I couldn’t wait to have her whole
I called the devil to bid on my soul
That poor wretch and wicked beast!
Failed to show – my soul sold least
Had he been there to bid upon
This heart of gold to beauty drawn
I wanted much for her to stay
But she asked for money and I for prayer
Before the night could yet commence
She called it quits and burnt frankincense
That wicked beast of ages past
He never showed – but then alas!
A bright light and broken glass
A being stared back at me so crass
I awakened from my fantastic rhymes
For the beast, the demon, were both I

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

An Existentialist’s Survival Guide to Recovering from Heartbreak: 6 Wonderful Ideas to Help You After a Break-Up

If you have an ounce of human in you—and, believe me, some of us do—you’ll probably experience some form of heartbreak at some point in your life. Ever since I was a teenager madly in love with the girl next door, I have been prone to experiencing all forms of emotional distress. Over the years—and they are nearing three decades—I have discovered ways of dealing with all things heartbreak-related. (If I ever die from heart disease, it’ll almost certainly be Takotsubo’s cardiomyopathy.) So the following suggestions are based on my life experience. I present them to the reader with the hope that you, too, may survive to witness another romance, as I have. (The incurable romantic in me hopes for more such romances to come—hell, at least let me write another poem!)

1. Try “The Mikheyev Potion” for Restless Nights: Alcohol, Tylenol, and Benadryl

After I get “the news” (whichever form it may come in; often times, the worst is “cold shoulder,” which I have dubbed “ignoring bliss” in my more younger and vulnerable years), I usually end up sleeping poorly. In fact, to quote a Hawk Nelson song, I “sleep all day, gonna stay up all night.” To be completely honest: I never considered medicating myself in my more vulnerable years. I guess I thought that I could deal with anything and everything. But as I grew older—and as the world became a more distant place—I realized something profound: alcohol has all kinds of wonderful uses. I remember a time, not too long ago, when I was working full-time and finishing my undergraduate degree at Whitworth University. I let some girl get the best of me without taking care of myself. At the time, I had to wake up around six in the morning to study Hebrew. In addition to this, the night before, I’d only come home from the hospital around eleven in the evening. Once the shower and meal were thrown in, I was going to sleep past midnight. And if you’re any good at math, then you would know that I was maybe getting five to six hours of sleep per night. But now I had “girl problems.” And this meant virtually no sleep. I couldn’t possibly function as a nurse at the hospital the following day without getting sleep. So sleep became a huge issue in my life. I purchased a SleepNumber M7 mattress (with all the fancy remote controls and such) with the hopes that this would solve my problem. It did, and it didn’t. It was an excellent bed, but I couldn’t sleep. So I went through all kinds of different sleeping medications with the hopes that they would solve my problem. Some worked all right; some didn’t. In the end, I developed what works pretty well for me. I call it “the Mikheyev potion.”

I essentially believe in the power of the “synergistic effect” (that is, I believe in what others have called “stacking”); I combine multiple medications in relatively “low doses.” While every individual is different—and this will certainly not work for everybody—I combine alcohol (half a bottle of wine, preferably chardonnay), a thousand (1000) milligrams of Tylenol, and fifty (50) milligrams of Benadryl.

Prior to the recent scientific studies that only came out this year, I recognized that, in addition to pain relief, Tylenol actually dulled emotions. And boy did I need that.

I also drink a bottle of Gatorade prior to going to bed—as the Benadryl and alcohol will make you relatively thirsty halfway through your good night’s rest. And so, cheers to good sleep!

2. Rewrite Your “Narrative”

I recommend rewriting your life’s narrative. If you are anything like me, then you probably spend a lot of time daydreaming and writing a narrative for your life. When in love, you probably include the other person, attempting to see if your life together would look wonderful. Once the Other is out of the picture—as a break-up would imply—you must begin rewriting your narrative. I suggest rewriting the narrative as soon as possible. Don’t wait.

3. Probably Forego the “Rebound” and, Instead, Talk to Friends

This point is certainly commonsensical. Some prefer hitting up a “rebound” practically immediately (which works for you, the sufferer, but is also an unethical move; to invoke Kantian ethics, you are using the person, i.e., the rebound, mostly as a means to an end without treating them as a subject of their own reality [as you are mostly treating them as an object, which is not a good thing]). Instead of rebounds, I prefer the more ethical alternative: talk about your break-up with your friends, be they male or female. I also suggest being as honest as possible about both yours and the Other’s failures (that is, don’t entirely demonize the other person) when discussing the relationship.

4. Okay, Demonize A Little

Disregard the previous point somewhat: it’s okay to demonize the other person, if only a little bit. (I am invoking Kierkegaard’s “teleological suspension of the ethical” here.) While it is not entirely ethical to badmouth anyone, if you are on the verge of committing suicide, I recommend demonizing (if that’s what it’s going to take for you to make it out alive). I don’t recommend this in the long run, but I do okay it for short-term purposes. Talk shit about the Other for a week or two—and then move the fuck on. (However, I would also like to point out that if you choose this route, please be conscientious of the fact that the Other is merely human—they are not perfect.)

5. Create a Break-Up Soundtrack

People who don’t like music are usually soulless. If you are experiencing heartbreak, I assume you have a soul—and that’s why you need music. I prefer doing something entirely erratic when it comes to my choice of music: I listen to everything. I usually tend to oscillate between very dark music and very upbeat music. Here’s a sample of my recent playlist:

  1. “Shattered” by O.A.R.
  2. “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” by Mike Posner
  3. “Nuvole Bianche” by Ludovico Einaudi
  4. “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift
  5. “Gravity Lies” by Red
  6. “It’s Your Move” by Josh Kelley
  7. “It Is What It Is” by Lifehouse
  8. “Jenny” by Nothing More
  9. “I Will Not Bow” by Breaking Benjamin
  10. “Gravity” by Papa Roach
  11. “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
  12. “Paperthin Hymn” by Anberlin

Often times, I find walking in nature and listening to music to be a relatively soothing experience. In fact, I recommend getting away from people—at some point—and simply walking. You’d be surprised how many problems one can literally walk from.

6. Distract Yourself: Go Out and Read a Boring Book

Distraction has always served its purposes. I prefer to either watch a movie—preferably in a theater—or read a book. I don’t mind watching horrors after a break-up; they usually function as excellent distractors. In addition, excellent reading material may be something very easy, like The Little Prince, or something intellectually stimulating, like Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. As a general rule of thumb, anything by Søren Kierkegaard is usually good when feeling depressed—he is so depressed, he makes your life look amazing.

Concluding Remarks

This guide was written from an existentialist’s point of view. What that means is the following: as an existentialist, I know how hard it is for us not to remain hopeful and optimistic. You’re probably yelling “What?” Yes, I did just say “hopeful” and “optimistic.” This is actually deduced from the idea that human beings are, as Kierkegaard reminds us, “a becoming.” Since we all are always changing, it makes us—who are cognizant of this fact—remain very hopeful. When a girl turns me down, I’m often times reluctant to call it quits. After all, she’s just “a becoming”—that is, she’ll come around. One of these days she’ll figure out what she’s missing out on, right? Being aware of this fluidity to life makes us, inherently, resilient. It also makes us prone to delusions of change. The other person is not required to change. They probably will change their mind at some point, but it may not be “soon” or even “ever.” (I once had a girl apologize for how she treated me in her teenage years after she had gotten married, had a child, and had grown the fuck up. The apology came almost a decade too late. But it did come. And it no longer mattered.) The point I am trying to make is this: it’s okay for us to sit back and watch others make foolish decisions. We all do that. We all make mistakes. And, hell, it sucks when you love someone and they fuck up. I know it does. But maybe that’s life? Maybe we’re all here just to be good people, try to make things work with others, and try to be as forgiving as possible when things don’t go our way.

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

This Was Written to Prevent You From Being Bored: 7 Reasons Why Your Life is Interesting; Or, An Ode To Women

Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, “People with experience maintain that proceeding from a basic principle is supposed to be very reasonable; I yield to them and proceed from the basic principle that all people are boring. Or is there anyone who would be boring enough to contradict me in this regard?”[1] I accept Kierkegaard’s challenge, and so take the contrary position: I will be arguing against Kierkegaard’s categorically universal claim “all people.” In my humble opinion, “most people are bores.” I reserve the right to call myself—and a few limited individuals—quite interesting people. I, perhaps, may be a bit pretentious when I say that I am certainly a degree removed from “the bores.” And is there anything wrong with my saying so? As ostentatious as my remarks sound, I, in the most un-humble of manners, beg to differ.

Even on the most boring of days—one which most “bores” would find hugely entertaining—I never cease to surprise myself. Maybe I am closest to boredom when boring people surround me; it is only then that I begin truly contemplating the following thoughts. I think of publishing writings titled something akin to: “On the Ethics of Boredom; Or, How to Be Bored Ethically.” Perhaps something like “The Philosophy of Excitement: How To Wet Your Pants Even While Bored” would serve as delicious entertainment on the most boring of days for a fellow human being struggling to make ends meet. After all, even that bore, Blaise Pascal, managed to dissertate on boredom. “Human beings are so unhappy that they would be bored even if they had no reason for boredom, simply because of their nature. They are so vain that with thousands of legitimate reasons for boredom the slightest thing like tapping a billiard ball with a cue is enough to distract them.”[2]

Take today, for example. Hell, one could even begin with this week. And, while we are at it, let’s just describe the past two weeks. I’ve met swarms of bores. Allow me to indulge myself—and, perhaps, your voyeuristic tendencies would allow you to double-dip in my indulgences. I was smack dab in the middle of Seattle, and all sorts of boring people surrounded me. Some were bored independently—they sat there twitching on their own, possibly undergoing a seizure, while intently gazing at the wonderful artwork being projected from iPhone to eye; others were bored en masse—they twitched together, pulsating to the hypnotic bleedings of TV screens in synch with one another. Some were bored in the most idealistic of manners: they sat absolutely still and drank their (probably) alcoholic beverage. (Well, maybe I’m wrong here: “beverage” should certainly be plural.) Some were so bored they were out chasing Pokémon. And who could blame them? I would be chasing Pokémon too had people chasing Pokémon not surrounded me. So, naturally, I sat back and watched “the Games.” But don’t get too excited: I was bored almost instantly, so I began writing about them. (What else does one do when one is—like everyone else—participating in the act of boredom?)

And amidst the hustle and bustle of boring beings, I eyed a few interesting creatures: women. (This prompted me to forget all about them.) When women are beautiful, a good antidote to male boredom they can be. On my most boring of days—an event that does not occur that often—I go to a coffee shop to write and people watch. But I single-handedly and categorically ignore males. They are too boring to observe for aesthetic purposes.

Women secretly despise me because they know that I know that they are all bores. I go on dates sometimes with this one girl. She’s got two un-boring traits about her: she can hold a discussion with me about virtually anything, and she has beautiful, beautiful blue eyes. If she didn’t have eyes, I’d find her utterly boring. Sometimes I catch myself going on dates with her just to look into her eyes. I’m sure she doesn’t even know it because I’m very tenuous like that. And if she does know, who cares? She probably likes looking into my eyes too. Or maybe she just likes being looked at? I don’t know. I never claimed to specialize in the psychology of women…

Allow me to pontificate still more. I find all women to be utterly boring. I mean, on a scale of 1-10—actually, I prefer not to go there. But on a serious note, men are the least boring conversationalists. My favorite discussions have taken place in the presence of other males. I probably should have been born Ludwig Wittgenstein. And gay. Very gay. But here I am, a very straight male bored with females. Let’s sample a few of the most intellectually satisfying discussions I have ever had. I won’t mention any names, but if I did, they’d all be masculine.

But men are bores too. They talk abstract nonsense all day long. They pretend to know what the hell “the ethics of care” are even when they don’t. They even attempt to write novels that exploit and elaborate upon female psychology. Please! Leo Tolstoy was a man. And Anna Karenina—I hate to break it to you—was a character created by a dude. Enjoy it all you want, fellows, but the girl you’re all drooling over is really “a dude.” And maybe we’re all secretly homosexual anyway…

I like beautiful women for several reasons. In fact, if I must confess, I’d say women are the most beautiful when they are most like themselves. I’ve met some charming debutantes in my life, and all of them have inspired me; that is, they have distracted me from my own self-inflicted boredom.

How many men have inspired me? Nada. Women? All of them. I find women to be singularly beautiful. This means that women are, naturally, the very epitome of beauty. We probably cannot talk about beauty as a Platonic ideal without resorting to a foundational principle, and that very principle is reduced to the female body.

I like beautiful women for several reasons. (Did I already say that?)

First, beautiful women remind us bored males that Platonic ideals probably exist—that is, beautiful women are the very embodiment of Forms (with a capital “f”); they serve as Platonism incarnate, reminding us, males, that philosophy is real. Very real.

Second, beautiful women are distracting. Has anyone read Song of Solomon? Allow me to plagiarize my own work. In the Song of Solomon verse 1:9 reads: “To a mare among the chariots of Pharaoh have I likened you, my darling!” Most people probably read that and react with a “What the hell is he talking about?!” And that’s a very fair reaction. However, the Hebrew poet actually recognized a singular and universal truth; it is to that truth that I now turn my attention. Robert Alter writes regarding this passage:

“Pharaoh’s chariots were drawn by stallions, but the military stratagem alluded to has been clearly understood by commentators as far back as the classical Midrashim: a mare in heat, let loose among chariotry, could transform well-drawn battle lines into a chaos of wildly plunging stallions…The lover speaks out of a keen awareness of the power of figurative language to break open closed frames of reference and make us see things with a shock of new recognition… [T]he sexual attraction she exerts also has an almost violent power to drive males to distraction, as the equine military image powerfully suggests.”[3]

Maybe not all women would enjoy being likened to a mare in heat, but I could think of several Kim Kardashian wannabes. And, personally, I find the Hebraic poetry here quite romantic. But maybe I’m being too much of a male.The truth? Women are distraction par excellence.

Third, beautiful women are always—first and foremost—women. While the adjective may try to annihilate the noun’s place of chief prominence, it serves mostly as a sort of subordinate clause in the phrase “beautiful women”—for even I know that it is “women” here that functions as the main point of departure. Women are, naturally, more beautiful when they are least like men. Because men are brute beasts—and nobody wants to be a man anyhow. The word “women” carries with it a sort of mysterious aura. In the word we meet all the women we have ever encountered. The word reminds us of all the wonderful ladies we have ever met. In particular, the singular “woman” carries the weight of the more universal, plural “women.” It is in her that we meet all of them. (God, how I wish English had a third person feminine plural pronoun—something akin to the Hebrew הֵן!) In the singular woman, we encounter all of the “shes,” all of the “hers,” all of the heartbreaks, romances, and feminine universals we have observed throughout life. So whenever I think of her—or of women in general—I always find the word to be a vast ocean of verbs, adjectives, participles, and conjunctions that I cannot but feel helpless in.

And, finally—if there is such a thing as “finality,” which I emphatically reject—I have one last observation to remark upon. (It’s not my “last,” but let’s pretend it is.) Women are so much better than men. For one, they are genetically predestined to play mind-games. (And that, in and of itself, is a wonderful and delightful distraction from my mind-numbing boredom.) Males, such as myself, read novels and so train ourselves to be weird and strange—“eccentric,” in this case, perhaps. But these traits I have developed, not inherited. Second, women are extremely loyal creatures once you endow them with all things beautiful—be it words of affection or something of a romantic nature. Strange how words have such ethical repercussions!

And there you have it: I have refrained from being bored. I am least bored when I am alone, being surrounded by beautiful women.

And, honestly—allow us, that is, you and I, to have a moment of truth—how many of you read my writing out of sheer boredom? That, right there, is the irony.

(But it is I who had the aesthetic element pleasurably bestowed upon me, not you.)

As for the “7 Reasons Why Your Life is Interesting” part, I have one word: oh please. (It’s actually two words, but who’s counting, right?)

Give me a break, your life is boring. Go out there and be bored en masse with “the bores.”

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

When I’m not bored, I can be found writing my thesis in the philosophy of language and religion at Emory University. 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Part I, trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 285.

[2] Blaise Pascal, Pensées and Other Writings, trans. Honor Levi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 47.

[3] Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1985), 193.

A Religious Abyss: A Poem

Love’s pain a virtue

That you don’t want to miss

Her eyes a culture

A religious abyss

 

There’s a light in this town

Where she only glows

The keys are locked out

And her secrets not known

 

I’m always wandering

So near and so far

She’s deaf to pondering

How close is my heart?

 

I walk in shadows

Where the light is my grave

She says she can’t go

Where the night is my day

 

My eerie romance

Leaves nothing to bare

Bones all exposed

Silhouettes running scared

 

This town is haunted

With fragments of her

My mind is wandering

My heart is allured

 

My mouth it waters

At the sight of her dress

Her sex skin hollers

Marry the “con” to the “fess”

 

Her eyes are pearls

That fell from the sky

Comets unfurl

Where wool meets the dye

 

Touch, taste and lipstick

She wears on her cheek

I am a misfit

Could I sneak your peek?

 

I’ll talk my way in

Right through closed doors

Your makeup wears sin

Like Juliet and Romeo

 

My words make her novels

Where she is the saint

I am the sinner

From birth to the grave

 

Let’s shelter our passions!

Let’s make them our home!

Drown math by fractions

Where partial is whole

 

Hang on, dear innocence!

We’ve got nothing to lose

My eyes are no hypocrites

No way in hell she’s a ruse

 

Slow down the night

Before we get started

Her backed-up smiles

Souls of the departed

 

I hope to taste her

To spill a wet kiss

Those eyes a culture

A religious abyss…

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

Dedicated to: a muse, a yet-to-be-determined—a non-existent entity, inspiring the pseudo-romantic poems of a flailing poet on the verge of The Verge Itself, writing with the last drops of dropping blood, which flows from the veins of a Spanish Armada, that had sunken—deep, deep, deep—within the bowls of a boisterous ocean…For what else does one write? On behalf of whom does one breathe? One cannot breathe underwater anyhow. Perhaps one only writes when one has already died a deep, deep, deep death.