That Hideous Habit

It’s been two months now that I’ve been talking to myself in the Club.  This is a lonely state of affairs, but at least we have good port, yes?

Not that it matters, as I have left the Cockburn ‘96 untouched.  Though the bottles have settled again, that’s the sort of thing I’m unlikely to consume by myself.

Always drink in celebration, never in consolation; and if you must drink in consolation, never drink alone.

Always drink in celebration, never in consolation; and if you must drink in consolation, never drink alone.

I can only assume that my sister muses are all busily engaged elsewhere, or that the Prince of Stories has stayed far from them and thus they are uninspired.

Perhaps I should tell of stories I’ve read lately, but I tell you what: I picked up A Severe Mercy to reread it, and threw it down in frustration because I’m so irritated at how much delight Sheldon and Jean shared.  I picked up Gaudy Night, and though I love the writing, the storyline, and the honest exploration of what constitutes a woman’s work, rereading it tore at my heart just as much.  At present I’m working my way through That Hideous Strength for the third or fourth time.  I’m not convinced that its denouement will distress me any less, but at least the book prompts more general thoughts and questions about the role of science in society and the role of man in the universe.

One of the most ghoulish images in it is the bodiless face: a bit of skin, a horrible flap of mouth, a drooling tongue, carefully preserved by dials and tubes and various climate controls.  It is able, through the worst sort of manipulation, to speak, but none of us would regard it as alive.  It is not viable, not an entity on its own, unable to wipe the saliva from its lips.

Pausing in my reading and pondering this sad facsimile of a Head brought to mind a question posed to my Philosophy 101 class, years ago when I was a Hillsdale freshman.  “Say that you could be hooked up to a machine that would provide you intense, unceasing pleasure, for as long as you wanted it.  Your body’s physical needs for nutrition etc. would be taken care of.  Would you opt in?”  We all declined (with the possible exception of the class smart aleck; I can’t recall), stating that our lives were meant for more, yes, even if it involves suffering, that we wanted to accomplish things, that surely there is a difference between manipulation of the brain and the real deep delight of taking some sort of action and reaching some kind of result.  Our various arguments – some more reasonable, others more emotional in nature – all denied the humanity of a being attached to a dopamine dispenser.  We declared that such an existence, no matter how pleasurable, did not suit the dignity of a man.

All of which is to say that my freshman-year self is standing in judgment of my present-day self, since my present-day self has spent huge chunks of time – embarrassingly long chunks of time, really – reading and reading and reading fanfiction online.  “That’s not so bad,” you say.  “Fan-written stories?  Surely you’d get impatient with them if they were rubbish.”

Sadly, I don’t.  I click ever more furiously.  I go for the hit.  I keep clicking.  It is everything I admitted in my Obsession Confession Session, if not worse.  The Twitter account @VeryShortStory summed it up well:  I fed the King another story for his pleasure. It was his opium. He lived in my words, while outside, his defeated kingdom crumbled.

Study in Pleasure Receptors: a self-portrait

Study in Pleasure Receptors: a self-portrait

Sisters, please come back, lest you find the place in ruins.

7 thoughts on “That Hideous Habit

  1. Such a beautiful image of a thing I never want to taste again.

    But to the matter at hand, you’ve been talking to me, at least! Though you may not have known it until I decided to start catching up yesterday. I love reading your posts, but yes, I also want your Sister Muses to return, both for your sake and mine. In the meantime, shall I give you assignments as a distraction? Or rabbit-trails that don’t involve fanfics?

    • True and true! And though they’ve returned, it seems, I could do with some assignments anyway ^_^

      re: things never to be tasted again: I had the most unfortunate experience with sherry the other day. It’s never a good sign when the cork is so old that it crumbles into the bottle as you try to remove it!

      • I’ve tried port in several forms, and it always tastes like cough-medicine to me. When it comes to alcohol, though, my palate is completely unrefined. I am a bad judge.

        *rubs hands mischievously* assignments. Some of these you might be familiar with, but some, perhaps not.
        For starters, unless you already read it, go to Lackadaisy: and catch up. It is painfully slow to update, but fantastic.

        Discover the pleasures (and cringes) of Old Time Radio: and its mother, the Internet Archive: which has old movies and videos, radio clips, documents, and crazy weird things.

        If you are only hungry to read, go pick up a copy of (or locate online) Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens, Lilith, by George Macdonald, or the short stories of either Edgar Allen Poe or Flannery O’Connor. If you’ve read all of those, or they don’t strike your present fancy, I will think up more. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Alphabooks: W is for Worst | Egotist's Club

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