The Underground Lady [Page Forty-Three]

The monster is just a transformation of the human.  It is not ourselves—it always resides in its expression in the other.  We should get rid of the monster, and see ourselves and others for what we are, both awful and human. 

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The Demon is not the monster.  The Demon is us, and, once again, that is never the case with the monstrous.

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The Human must be taken down a  notch or two.  Rousseau implies as much, and evidently the cycle needs to be repeated every few hundred years.

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Satire cannot anticipate its subject, at least not good satire.  Anything is forgivable in satire except for attempts at social prophecy, and skilled satirists practice their art a posteriori, after the fact.  The difficulty in doing this is what Juvenal really meant when he said, quite seriously, “It is hard not to write satire.”  Even the most deadpan futurism is often transformed into satire by subsequent events.

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Humanity should be associated with absurdity, not grandeur; humility, not romance; and sin, not piety.  But this will never be the case.  Therefore, better to give up on humanism and start over, than to watch all our expectations, and ourselves, come to ruin.

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Forgetfulness is a terrible thing, but it is far more terrible in old age.  When we are young and we forget something, we attribute it to a momentary lapse—in a sense, to nothing.  When we are old, however, we immediately suspect it may be a sign of some infirmity, and despite all our contemporary knowledge of geriatric conditions of the brain, we still feel that it is a mark of death.  If anything we are more sensitive to this impression now, and the horrible, denigrating things to come.

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When people ask me if I find myself consumed with thoughts of my sickness, and how I deal with it, I remind them, delicately, that it is not only I who will have to deal with sickness, and decay, and eventual death.  And yet people waver between these two poles when addressing the sick: solicitude, which is another form of distance, and a cavalier indifference.  The people who choose the latter approach may be the more realistic, but they are no less in denial of their own eventual extinction.  In fact, their crass form of “worldliness” is not so worldly.  At the very least, those who respond to serious illness in others with sympathy are responding to their own plight through an act of projection, on some level. 

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True gallows humor escapes most people.  For instance the double meaning in the words “au revoir”—see you later, and also, perhaps I won’t see you later—is a light way of saying, I’ll see you later IF you don’t die first.  Notice the emphasis is still on the other.  Gallows humor plays to the unknowing crowd, after all, and not to those who stand naked before the void.

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Athletes are never what one expects.  They are always counter-types, and therefore the intellect can never bring them into focus.  When one expects them to be simple, they are sublimely technical about their own sport.  When one expects greater development, they are brutally, almost fantastically, crude.

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Amongst themselves, athletes are a delight—funny, friendly and talkative.  With others, they are absent.  Unless one gets to know a group of athletes on the right plain, on their terms, one will continue to get them wrong, individually and as a group.

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The athlete is not an adrenaline junkie.  There is no such thing, since the release of adrenaline happens relative to the individual, and, unless chemically altered, stays in perfect balance with one’s ability to handle the amount that one is used to.  Junkies, on the other hand, are always looking to increase their dose, and so they are junkies all the time.   The only constant in their lives is an imbalance, a jouissance, a painful, unpleasant pleasure.

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For the spectators, the thing in an athletic event is not the competition—it is when the competition dissolves in a moment of group or individual achievement.  We watch sports for these moments, and hoard them, and largely ignore the rest of the experience.  But don’t ask an athlete.  They hardly ever admit to the importance of anything but the competition, and this is not just due to a fear of being labeled as immodest.  They perform to compete.

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The snowboarder has become the new type of athlete.   The emergence of their culture, which values the technical specifics of the sport, and which comes with an argot to surpass all others, are indications of the sport’s contemporaneity.  Furthermore, we have been able to watch snowboarding emerge and develop as a sport in our own lifetimes.  Such a thing takes place maybe once every hundred years.

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Snowboarding, when done really well, has all the elements that both the ancients and the moderns associate with perfection: speed, grace, technical skill, and the unsurpassable experience of the frozen moment.  A snowboarder, suspended by nothing in midair, cannot help but inspire awe.  Anyone who is not lifted up by this sight in this way is not worth knowing.

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Athletes know each other only in a contingent sense.  They become familiar with each other through a common obsession with their sport.  But this makes their friendships deeper, not less so.  Anyone who has ever known athletes but was not one of them can attest to the fact:  their inter-connectiveness with each other is an inpenetrable enigma.

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Mystery surrounds the athlete in part because of their cultic insularity.  They are, after all, the image of askesis.  Pindar was right, and the Odes are the greatest of all the preserved ancient works.

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