“Where am I going and why am I in this hand basket?” —Murphy
What the fuck?
I ask that question often. I ask it because I find that the life is supremely confuzling (confusing + puzzling). I’m fairly sure life is that way for everyone, but it is particularly true for me. Why “particularly” for me? Maybe it’s my Asperger’s. Maybe it’s my mediocre intelligence. Maybe the world is just fucking crazy.
(perhaps all three?)
I dunno. All I can say for sure is: I am mostly lost when it comes to making sense of things. Mostly. And as if that weren’t enough, then there’s the plague of existential questions: Who am I? Is this what I should be doing? If it is, how do I know? Etc., etc., ad infinitum.
I’d happily abuse alcohol to quiet the noise but I’ve got the gout, and a sever allergy to pain. I’d even happierly smoke the pot, but the good stuff is too damned expensive these days, not to mention hard to find—and I’ve an even more sever allergy to jail. Ugh.
So, I have been wrestling, unaided, with my confusion. When I inevitably fail to come up with answers, I turn to the question: how did things get so bad? Yet, when I look back—my career, college, high school, pre-teen years—I’ve always been perpluddled (perplexed + befuddled). That is, things—or perhaps my mind—have always been fucked.
Looking back there’s one day, about fifteen years ago, that stands out as a perfect example of what vexes me so throughly. I remember the news reporting the CIA admited that there was no threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I remember how shocked and outraged people were. Confuzleperpuddlment (confusion + puzzlement + perplexed + befuddlement) popped his hoary head out from the darkest region of my mind. Huh? Yeah, this was terrible, but it was obvious from the get go. Had people really believed all that bullshit that lead up to the Iraq “war”? Were they shocked that there was proof now that the whole thing was a lie? Were they shocked because the news told them to be shocked?
(again, perhaps all three?)
I remember looking over at my Australian Shepherd, Beaux, and thinking, is he really any worse off for not knowing any of this? In response he cocked his head and sat up attentively, wondering if it was time to go for a walk, or perhaps play fetch. I turned off the television and grabbed his leash and frisbee.
I quit watching the news right then. Without it’s incessant influence, I slowly started to recognized how the bias and maximum sensationalism worked to twist me up. And that knot kept me coming back. I was trapped; disgusted, I couldn’t get enough. But eventually, enough was enough. Within a couple years I quit watching television altogether. I saw the yellow journalism sneaking it’s way into all the other entertainment. Or maybe the other way around.
(or maybe they equally influence one another. 6, one half dozen, all works out to the same thing in the end, right?)
I thought I could stay connected through social media, but the self-indulgent bubble it created was even worse than television. So I dropped out of it too. When I look at how anxious my friends, my family, my wife, and my children are, constantly staring into their screens, frustrated by the latest buzz, I’m heartbroken because I don’t understand why they can’t see what this is doing to them. And yet I totally understand. I want to know the scuttlebutt. I suffer from FOMO. I loves me some schadenfreude.
It’s a maddening spiral of contradiction.
And yet, speaking of contradictions, while I am a social creature, probably because it’s part of the human experience, I’m extremely introverted, because I’m an aspie. It is not surprising that I freeze up when I’m going out, even with close friends, which is usually one-on-one. I even get anxious leaving home to do something I really enjoy. I’ve canceled plans many times because the fear overwhelms me.
So, I have never had many friends nor much of a social life. Social interaction, what little of it I participate in, is extremely awkward for me. In my pre-teen years, an awkward time for everyone, I memorized lines from movies and tv shows to teach me how to talk with people. It didn’t work. I mean, the lines literally never worked in real life situations. As you can imagine, all the other stuff in the scene needed to be there for them to make sense. Ham-fistedly mashing random lines into casual conversation is literally as smooth as exploring the pros and cons of auto-erotic asphyxiation to your grandmother.
(nice how we got to use literally twice, and correctly to boot!)
It’s a little different now. These days pop culture references are all the rage. Even politicians are dropping bad-ass movie quotes into their press conferences. Although in vogue, they still lack the punch of unscripted conversation. Yet, for all my finger pointing and tut, tut, tutting, sadly, I still do it.
(yes, despite KNOWING that using memorized lines is unoriginal at best, and don’t work at all at worst, we still do it. maybe we were too generous with claiming “mediocre” intelligence)
So, I have ask the question: What am I to do?
Being a dyed-in-the-wool existentialist, I’d have to say that I need to face the absurdity and exercise my radical freedom in order create the meaning that life does not possess. Only in that way can I live authentically. Or some such bullshit.
And why not create meaning for the madness around me? I mean, I’m a writer, right? Well, why not put that skill to work?
(did we just come up with an answer?)
Yes, I think I did. And it is a little something I call Damnable Humbuggery.
(true life stories we just made up.)
In all honestly, this answer fell into place for me during a recent Intro to Personal Essay class. The teacher explained that one of the defining characteristics of the personal essay is that it is an exploration, a circling around a subject, rather than a definitive argument and answer. Holy shit! That’s all I do. Question. Wander around. Wonder what it all means. End up knowing less than when I started.
BOOM! My mind was blown.
This is how stupid I am: all this time I’d thought essays were simply the five paragraph variety learned in Composition 101. That is, the thesis, the three supporting paragraphs, and finally the summary. Hmmm. What’dya know?
(again, remember “mediocre intelligence?” we weren’t being charmingly self-depricating.)
Damnable Humbuggery is to me what gonzo was to Hunter S. Thompson. To give it a formal definition:
Damnable Humbuggery is the fictionalized-nonfiction personal essays written by a neurotic, unreliable narrator, i.e. a scalawag who intends to muddy the water with broken fourth walls and talking past the reader—directly to himself. Damnable Humbuggery is an absurd collection of existential contradictions where questions are the answers and no one is keeping score.
(imagine being locked in a room, on a bad acid trip, with a garrulous first-semester philosophy major, and no, you can’t kill yourself.)
So that’s what “all this Damnable Humbuggery is then.” And how it came about. The life, the universe, and everything is absurd, confusing, and most likely meaningless, and so, through my Damnable Humbuggery, I’m giving in to it. Art imitates life imitates art. Mimesis and anti-mimesis. Whatever.
(if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.)
Yeah. Let’s go with that.