The Underground Lady [Page Forty-Four]

In old age, dogs, like some people, tire of being kept, and they revert to their simple canine behavior—they tear things up, and get into the garbage, much as they did when they were pups.  In people, this indifference to the general situation comes out in stranger, and far subtler, ways of course.  For instance, some people stop listening altogether.  It is impossible to have a conversation with some older people, and this has nothing to do with a hearing deficiency.  They just don’t want to hear anymore, and there is nothing one can do to get them to pay attention.

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One shouldn’t mistake this state of indifference—which is perfectly human after all—with wisdom, or worldliness.  It is just what it is: indifference.

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Dogs are noble creatures.  I think it was Caesar who said, “I’d rather trust my life to a dog than to any fickle creature such as man.”

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Death should mean death in writing, nothing else—no metaphor or mythology is necessary.  Beckett gets it right.  For him death means the cessation of breathing.  This is simple enough, yet difficult to convey.

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While playing chess once with a much older friend, I asked him what he thought of religion and the afterlife.  This was more to distract him and put him off his game than it was to elicit any sort of response.  But he looked up and thought very carefully, and then he said, “It seems kind of distant to me.”  Mistaking his meaning, I began to answer how yes it was a topic that was full of abstractions when it should be concrete, brutally so, when he shook his head to stop me.  “No, no,” he said, “I meant distant, like some people are distant.  And no matter how hard you try, you can never get close to them.”  I had to agree.  It was, and remains, one of the most insightful descriptions of death I have ever heard.  I forget who won the game.

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Consumer culture, and the psychological types it produces, resemble fascist culture in superficial ways.  The type of consumerist culture—the marketing type—who is always concerned with appearing saleable, in their person as well their creations, is disturbingly arrested in its development, much like the fascist.  Infantilization runs between these two areas with ease.  Also, they both see any request for help as a sign of weakness, and equate individualism with an indifference to the suffering of others and a rank opportunism.  As such, they are both rather disgusting to be around for any length of time.  I once had the misfortune of meeting a neo-Nazi, and the overwhelming impression I had of him was one of wanting intensely to be liked.  He could have fit right in at any advertising firm, or been one of those people who is always trying to launch a new telemarketing scheme.

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Intellect does not provide sufficient real counter-weight to authoritarianism.  People who believe don’t care about their reasons.  Look at the sloppy way in which they throw around the term “theory.”

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