24 September, 2011

and then a unicorn flew out of my ass and shat sparkles upon the land

last night i hosted book club. although the night was mainly good, the end result was several levels of anger. anger because the food i spent two days preparing was barely picked at, including a brown butter sour cherry tart that was quite lovely, if i do say so myself. anger, because two people thought that one of the awesomest books ever written was... too long. and finally, anger because i discovered that the cult of positivity is alive and well and trying to convert me. and i bloody hate that.

what is the cult of positivity, you ask? well, it is but one of the symptoms of western civilisation's malaise: that utterly ridiculous belief that Things Have A Meaning. like fuck they do. the acolytes of the cult of positivity also believe that Everything Happens For A Reason and that Each One Of Us Has A Path. what i say to this, is give me a goddamn break. things often have no meaning. life is random. shit happens and, if we are really good at this sort of thing, we can try to make a reason out of it. we wander mapless and if there is a path, it is one made by us, not some random sky-fairy. and please, for the love of the god in whom i most emphatically fail to believe, do not tell me that an 8 year old's aggressive leukaemia diagnosis is some sort of a learning path for either her or her parents. if i have to believe in god, then a god who would let this happen just to Make Us Stronger And Better People is a complete asshole and can go to hell.

my book club ladies are nice and intelligent and interesting to talk to, but increasingly i see that they are not really my people. they tell me that i need to read books that are uplifting. books, by the way, in which i shall have to (i quote) "ignore dangling participles" and shush my inner grammarian. well, if something is worth saying, i believe it is worth saying well. if i have to drown in swooning ellipses and misguided pseudo-poeticisms, then the message becomes irrelevant. besides which, i find that most of these so called uplifting books are produced for (and by) people severely lacking in imagination - people who make up the bulk of western civilisation and are willing to vote for sarah palin and her ilk.

we are a civilisation that eschews instilling a work ethic in its youth, focusing instead on an ethereal and largely baseless self esteem (i know you've hear me rant on this here topic before). we change hans christian andersen's lovely but tragic tales and turn the little mermaid into a feisty red-head in a mollusk bikini who bloody well lives happily ever after just so that our children will never have to face one moment of ugliness and truth. we make cancer patients feel guilty if they aren't able to muster up a cheerful demeanour in the face of a truly horrific diagnosis ("oh! she's going to do great! she's so positive!" as if that has anything to do with it!*). we mass produce ridiculous literature (and i mean it with a small tiny little "l" much like the literature that jehovah's witnesses drop off at your house) like "the secret" and "celestine prophecy" and other such poorly written drivel that teaches Truths to sheep unable to muster up one single solitary drop of originality. we have achieved logic-defying feats of linguistic prestidigitation just so that we never have to call a spade a spade, because that would hurt its feelings.  and on and on and on...

now i know that when i write like this, i make myself fairly open to accusations of cynicism, bitterness and excessive anger, but you see, i think my way is freeing: things are the way they are, i need to be the best that i can be in the face of this (and boy, do i fail spectacularly), i need to sift the good from the bad and shape it into meaning myself, and if i fail, i need to take the responsibility squarely onto my own shoulders and not blame society, my low self esteem or worse, some ridiculous deity for trying to teach me something that if i have an ounce of imagination, i can figure out for myself.

now all anger aside, i happen to believe that a healthy dose of cynicism is not a bad thing. there's nothing wrong with looking at the world and seeing it as it is, instead of visualising unicorns in the hope that they come flying out of your ass - all the power of positive thinking will not change the fabric of the universe. oh sure, let's hope and dream and all that other fluffy stuff, because it is important, but it is ok to say that there are no unicorns, no matter how mean it may sound.

and that's that.

*if you say it does - well, positivity is, i'm sure, easier to live within than the alternative, but studies by reputable organisations have repeatedly debunked the feel-good-means-better-survival-odds myth, but tend not to get published because they aren't very nice.


Zhoen said...

This was my experience with the few book clubs I tried, then ran away screaming. If it's worth saying, it's worth saying well, and I hated Marley and Me, and My Black Mama, which I read only to discuss with others later. Well, Marley & Me hit the wall after two chapters.

The lessons of a child dying are not inherent, planned by a bewildering god, they have to be wrestled out of one's own soul.

Have you ever read Eva Figes?

the polish chick said...

eva figes? no, but i'll look into it. i always appreciate recommendations, especially ones given by people who, like you, don't seem to harbour illusions about ass unicorns. thank you!

Lucy said...

Polish Chick I think I love you.

(And I'm not just saying that to get into your lesbian dip, though your cherry tart does sound heavenly...)

I did detect a rebellion against the tyranny of positive thinking a year or two ago, along with all the schmaltzy pink fluffy stuff that seemed to have attached itself to breast cancer.

In fact sometimes I feel a bit more generous and take the 'whatever gets you through the night' line, but not always. Also, the 'you' is important, it doesn't give you the right to dump your inane denial and delusion on other people.

Now I'm asking myself why on earth I haven't taken down the Eckhart Tolle calendar I've got in the toilet which someone sent last Christmas and which turned out to be the only one we got suitable for writing birthdays on, as I'm not sure which annoy me most, Mr Tolle's glib and barely specious platitudes or the irrelevant and heavily photoshopped examples of eco-porn that go with them...

Perhaps I just enjoy being irritated sometimes. It may be so.

For a while I liked the idea of a book club, or at least of living somewhere where such things might exist, but now I realise there are too many things I want to read and won't get around to without risking wasting my time on other people's choices.

the polish chick said...

wow, lucy, thank you!

as for the book club thing, i was quite excited to be invited to this one and, as random social groupings go, it ain't half bad. still, i have been spoiled in my life's journey by always finding truly like-minded people around me, and i suppose i expected the same thing to happen with the book club. alas, not so. it's not a huge chasm of wrongness, but at this point in life, even a mini-chasm seems more than i'm willing to hop across, philosophically speaking.

and by the way, if you like, i can send you recipes because the lesbian dip is really really yummy. the tart is simple, which is nice, and not half bad. i suppose it's hard to make 2 sticks of browned butter taste less than delightful - and that's something i'd be wiling to put on a calendar!

Geneviève said...

My book club is great because it's really just an excuse for a bunch of great like-minded women to get together. We sometimes even talk about the book for a bit. This month was People of the Book. Next month is Room. November is literary erotica month (complete with boob-shaped cupcakes to eat). Sorry yours hasn't lived up to your expectations. You'll just have to move to Vancouver.

Joan said...

I would never join a book club. I don't want to read the crap I see most people reading and I don't give a rat's ass what most people think about a book.

Making everything "God's plan" is just blaming someone who is not there to defend herself!