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C’est la vie

I wrote this abomination of mental diarrhea at the height of my fever-induced delerium last Wednesday; lethargy filled me from the crown to the toes, and I could do nothing but mope and whine and write. I left it on my computer in case I wanted to do something with it and decided, why the heck not: nobody’s going to read to the end anyways, so I’m just going to post it here.

In it, I somehow manage to cover all eight of my classes and their associated midterm exams/projects. If that doesn’t merit a literary achievement, it certainly was a mental one… it’s Hell Week right now for me, so this also explains the inexplicable lack of posts from my part. Mad props to redball for doing the first impressions post—solo—last week.

C’est la vie. Such is life and life is such. A life of lives lives lively. Liveishly? Livelylike? Livelily? Consider the livelilies in the field. They study not; neither do they write. So society spurns them, casts them aside. What use have we for lilies? C’est l’école. Senegal. Say lego. Lilies are unproductive. Humans would also be unproductive if we didn’t go to school. But school takes a long time and that time takes away from the time that it would take us to take a hike and make something. Few people live over a century. No lilies live over a century. We must maximize the work humans do in their lives. Each extra year of education increases productivity by 0.56. Transform into quadratic vertex form and calculate the vertex. (-b/2a, 4ac-b^2/4a) gives an optimum human productivity of x when years of education are increaseh by y. Calculate x and y in exact form.

Because we’re all just numbers, numbers in the face of the societal God that is optimization and industrialization and productifization and efficientization. We’re organic machines, vegetables to be harvested for fuel, lilies that toil in the field, spinning, spinning. Why do we work so God-approved hard? Is it worth it now? Sacrificing all those bloody midnight hours for an extra mark, that 0.56% away from getting an A, and now an entire week wasted. Everything ventured, nothing gained. Going to school at 7:00 in the morning to retake a math test because 75% just wasn’t good enough. Fuck me in the foot if I actually do better this time what with the world spinning around me as I spin and the teacher spins out another math test, a midterm this time, a midterm that I can’t retake because I already retook a test and the teacher’s too lazy to let anyone retake more than one test in a year. Anti-China policy #1: stop students from compulsively retaking tests in a futile effort to achieve more than they haven’t achieved. Am I Chinese enough now?

I blame the cold. I blame the fresh mountain air and the cool, clean breezes of trademark Vancouver Hospitality™ others call rain, liquid precipitation, the tears of God as he struggles to understand: why aren’t people being more productive? Why are so many people doing nothing in the rain? They’re just sitting there, not moving… what a waste of time! I blame the mandatory P.E. strip everybody has to wear. We had P.E. strip in elementary. The vice-principal had 13 words everybody must remember: something something be on time something something pee ee strip something something something. Memory serves me well as tennis serves me well or volleyball serves me well. Waiting outside an hour in the rain. Volleyball wasn’t outside, but for someone whose only shorts are emblazoned with the school’s currish emblem, coldness is to me as bad luck is to that girl in that anime. Which girl? Which anime? Why do anime girls never get sick despite always wearing less than I ever will?

I remember that look on the P.E. teacher? Assistant? His face when I told him I was sick this morning. “Go home! I was just sick last week! Don’t sic [sic] me again!” The verb, sic, was necessarily preferred to the adjective, sick. Which he used, I shall never know, and neither did context reveal to me. Was he a teacher or just the assistant? He seemed a sprightly young fellow, and hung out with the girls in our class. But he also lounged around the teachers’ lounge, where I found him lounging in the absence of the actual P.E. teacher who wasn’t my legal P.E. teacher, because my legal P.E. teacher was hit by a car over the summer, yet the school still decided to give her two classes in the same block to teach. She must’ve been a really good teacher to watch over two classes at once. I walk over to him during attendance as he converses with some generic girl and tell him, I’m leaving. Without missing a beat, he shoos me away with a pompous lack of reaction before catching me off-guard: “Wait, which one of them are you?”

Not, “Who are you,” but “Which one of them are you?” What did ‘them’ mean? The students? That wouldn’t make sense, because I’m none of them, I was physically separated from all of them by the direction I was in and by the condition I was in. Why ‘them’? It had to be something that included me, because I’m one of ‘them’, but didn’t include the P.E. teacher-assistant-hybrid. The P.E. assistant-teacher wasn’t a student, and he also wasn’t…

…Asian. Situated as it was, our entire school was entirely Asian, save the French Immersion minority. There were only two non-Asians in our P.E. class. Did he just refer to an entire continent of cultures as ‘them’? Could he really not tell the difference between ‘us’? The audacity of… and the tone of his voice, that half-laughing, half-mocking sneer that momentarily claimed his mouth, as if he had made a nice joke by deindividualizing the entire class he was supposed to assist-teach. It felt weird. It wasn’t like my non-Asian friends telling genuinely offensive anti-Asian jokes which should really get my blood boiling but doesn’t. Here was some stranger, directly insulting every essence of my first-world-raised being, us who are taught from birth in our ‘specialness’, how each of us is a little lily in our own special little lilyponds. Do not toil—you’re special! Do not spin. Do not pass Go. Collect $200 anyways. This wasn’t racism. This was life. C’est la vie. If this mild annoyance disturbed me like this mentally incapacitating headache, then true racism would be the chronic cancerous tumour of mental termination, an end of life as life knows it.

Then, I saw. Saw his eyes met nobody’s but his pencil, searching down the list. What did ‘them’ mean? The names. “Which one of these names are you?”

But even so, that’s all I’ve been thinking of. Why did I go to school? The response would have to be this. People would look at me disapprovingly, and when, by a stroke of fortune or a stroke of the major arteries, they themselves succumb to the disease of human incapacity, who’ll take the blame? Find the most ‘logical’ explanation. It’s common sense, right? But it’s Wednesday and on Friday, we submit our French film projects. A grand total of two scenes filmed over seven hours Sunday as I lay on the floor—the floor!—of that room with the dimmable lights and giant television set, while we waited for our camera to recharge itself. The camera was a literal potato wired up to a 4×4 red monochrome LCD display screen that approximated the red light shining backwards through the pinhole. We had four iPhone 9GS+s, but everybody was too busy playing 2004 Flash games ported to iOS.

I’d say it was all an excuse. We used ‘recharging battery’ as an excuse to not do shit. For three hours before I arrived (because nobody told me there’d be a meeting), three people did nothing but translate two scenes in already-written English into French. Each scene had three lines. One of those people was a native French speaker. I arrived, the fifth member arrived two years later, and while I lay on the warm, soft, disease-matted carpet, they clicked around on their iPhones and now I know how I got sick I know how I got sick now.

I’m a bloody idiot.

It’s due on Friday. We need to shoot eight more scenes, as well as finish writing the actual script for those scenes—in English, not French. Translating the script is another beast entirely. I know, I tried it, and promptly succumbed to a large dose of not-giving-a-fuck anymore. I have two more scenes with me in it, and then there’s dubbing the French because we shot those scenes not having translated the script yet. If we finish all that within two hours tomorrow because the only guy who knows how to edit has school plays going on every night this week from 5:30 until 10:00, then we can hand in our French project. But if I’m sick tomorrow then I’ll have to skip the next day and get a doctor’s note in the vain hope that the teacher gives us an extension instead of yelling in our faces that we should’ve started sooner WE SHOULD’VE STARTED SOONER

A lifetime of procrastination begs to differ. We should’ve started later. Look, they shot three scenes yesterday in two hours. Productivity! 3 scenes/2 hours with 4 people. Person A can shoot one scene in two hours. Person B can shoot one scene in four hours. How many hours will Person C and D take to shoot the entire movie together? The implication is that I shoot an average of negative one point two scenes every hour. Shoot. Skipping school has its advantages. If she gives us an extension, we just got three extra days. If she doesn’t, I will literally become the bloodiest of bloody pulps, the mushiest of mush, my bones ground into paste, my organs cut into bite-sized chunks, my meat stewed into gravy and served on a platter to appease Armok. Your arm OK? No soap, radio. My arm is paralyzed from the fingers down. Falling down, tripping, moving my foot up to stop the fall—wrong foot—crack. Hitting the pavement while accelerating at 9.8 metres a second. Blood red, crimson, palm not OK: four cuts, bandaid slips, too much blood. Now two warts on my fingers. Now lip bleeding. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Doctor, doctor! It’s OK, no apples here; come, Eirin, save me!

It’s midterm weak. Midterms are for the weak. The strong stay at home, lie in bed of an unknown delirium and appear all fine and well the day after the midterms to find out all their group projects have failed. Science fair? BAM! You just lost 25% from your term science mark! Planning project? BAM! You just failed the entire course because that’s the only assignment this entire term! In the teachers’ minds, spinning: “Let’s give these poor bastards more pointless projects because it’s midterm week and they need one project for every single course! That way, it’ll be a FULL-COURSE MEAL!” Strings field trip next week sounds nice, but that’s two hours of nonstop performing and lugging cousin-sized violas on ~public transit~ (poor bassists) in a class we could study in. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? This fever isn’t killing me. Am I stronger now? Can I lift, bro? Please?

The God of Blood answers from his omnipotent throne, made from the ashes of countless anvils He has wrought with his bare hands: “Has the Campbell opposition changed their stances?” It is a task, an ordeal that We must struggle through to find the light that He promises, the light of a Good Future™ where we might be Good Numbers that increase our productivity by 0.56 each year until the year of parabolic maximum. To appease the Blood God. It seems meaningless now, but someday, someone will ask you; “What do you think about the Campbell opposition during that year when they said those things?” And you might respond in the affirmative, or in the negative, and you’ll think back to those halcyon days when you were lying in bed with a fever, typing out these monotonous words while praying to God, let Him have mercy on me, let He that deals divine judgement on souls spare my marks! Take my sons, take my fathers! Leave my grades alone!

“wat a horrible time to be sick lol”
“do you have the note cards”
“o ya i should probably buy those lol”

So the God decreed, “And I shall require, on the 29th of January, a supply of note cards appropriately purchased from capitalist establishments, that one may take notes on; And notes on other media, shall by this day be—Prohibited.” Was he being sarcastic? Was he implying something there? What did the ‘lol’ mean? If he was being sarcastic, he could have not really meant ‘horrible’ and ‘sick’; maybe he thought I was faking it? For what? So I could possibly get an extension for a French project we already failed, by association with me, that failer of failures? Or was he genuinely sympathetic towards my slightly irritating plight? Regardless, I’d have to buy those note cards before I can start taking notes on that in-class essay on the 29th. Did the Campbell opposition change their stances? Tiger stance to a dragon stance?

Ineluctable modality of the audio-visual. He says these words with a digital accent, one with no sarcasm detection. We may lower-case no-punctuation caps-exclamations-maximum on twitter if we’re being sarcastic, but he cannot. The culture of texting vs. the culture of often-at-home twittering. He does not say these words, nor do I hear them. He types the words, no, the letters, on the keyboard with his fingers. He feels the words. Ineluctable modality of the sensual. Story of my life, à la Joyce. Is this how I think? Not with pictures or ideas—with words. Do you dream in words? What was the last image I image-ined?

Ulysses is a modern masterpiece. Even looking just through chapter three, you see the rich interwoven tapestry of words and language that Joyce bends to his will. He’s a master artisan that manipulates, carves, and molds language itself into expressing more than language. More than meets the eye, more than the ear hears, more than the conscious mind can ever process—Joyce paints a picture of THOUGHT itself, making his characters more than simply human. The characters become us, we become the characters as we’re literally swept into another’s shoes, and body, and mind. Have other books done this? Possibly, but none to the refined needle of trenchant wit and biting description that is Ulysses. And definitely none have its epic scope, flooded with allusions. I used to think allusions were pretentious bullshit—who cares if you’re referencing some dead white guy? But no: they add scope, each allusion is a new story that enhances a tale, and Ulysses is that tale, a tale of tales, a mundane epic about a common hero, the towering modernist achievement of the century.

Writing essays is fun when you don’t have a headache—but you need to choose a topic. That’s the hardest part, because choose a topic you don’t like, and you don’t have yourself an essay. Have another choose a topic for you, and you don’t have an author. “Compare Ulysses to the Odyssey,” so the God decreed, “Rough draft due Friday.”

Weighing the options in my head, weighing mentally a loaded die that flipped over, once, twice, heads, tails, spinning like the world around me and my head spinning around and the God of Blood weighed in with a shatter of the skull, a weight upon it that sent vibrations of nausea echoing down my throat. Consider the lilies of the field. They don’t have throats. That’s why they don’t toil. That’s why they don’t spin.

Skipping school tomorrow and the next day? Failing our French film project? Having no class time to prepare for midterm week?

C’est la vie.

7 responses

  1. 2deep4me

    2013/01/31 at 09:18

  2. Dangerous Horses.

    tl;dr. Tried but couldn’t do it.

    2013/02/01 at 22:30

  3. I’m in a. . .somewhat similar position myself. One week of classes and I’m already 1 or 2 chapters and several homework assignments behind in every one. I have to spend literally all my time between school and work doing schoolwork (<< that's the most O-NEW thing I've ever done), and I haven't quite made that transition yet.

    Granted, your schedule sounds like a bigger piece of hell than mine (even if my shoulders hurt more because I have to carry my 35 lbs bag everywhere I go), but I'd like to think I can somewhat relate.

    There are two pieces of knowledge I've learned in the past year that I feel you might find helpful/interesting. The first is that college is better, if you want it to be. If you grasp at the opportunities for autonomy and freedom, then your teachers become less like a second set of parents that only order you around, and closer to intellectual peers, or at least comrades (and I am completely serious here). What was mandatory before now becomes a choice: attendance, homework, tests, and so on. The consequences, at home and in the classroom, remain largely the same. But the founding concepts are entirely different, because when you choose to skip a class or not finish an assignment, you aren't breaking the predetermined "laws" of your school, you're making a choice, and if you're prepared for the ramifications, that is perfectly acceptable.

    Given this post, I feel that is of only small comfort at best, nothing significant. Still, thought I'd share it. Maybe the second piece will be more interesting. A year ago, I didn't know what I wanted to do; or rather, I wanted to do nothing. Since then, however, I've found something. I've found a craft that I (or at least, the me of right now) want to devote myself to. When that happened, everything about education changed. It's stops being about going through the motions of school or being able to "find a job in the future." It stops being a precious roadblock you can be stopped at for 10 years while you wait aimlessly to find a reason to continue on once you get to the other side.

    When you want something, when you want to become something, education becomes a stepping stone that you'll gladly jump onto and off from on your way to the other side. Learning isn't a side effect of life – it's not something that takes up time, distracting you from the rest of everything you do. Instead, it takes you closer to your ideal, your goal, your dream. The nihilism and defeatist attitude of learning inevitably associated with school, the outlook of doing it for no reason other than to waste your life away in societies' cogs, increasing your productivity by .56 however many times and wondering what the point is – that's gone. In it's place lies nervousness, fear, even terror. What if you can't do what you want to? What if you're not good enough to do it? That’s paralyzing, and it’s not hard to be crushed by it. But at the same time, there’s hope. There’s ambition. There’s even – if you believe in it hard enough – destiny. And even if I trip and stumble and end up a complete and utter failure, unable to make even the smallest sliver of my dream come true, I think I still wouldn’t want it any other way. In that regard, I really don’t think I’m unique.

    And that, Mushy, is something to look forward to.

    Great post, by the way.

    P.S. Good luck!

    2013/02/01 at 23:27

  4. deeper than a finnish well

    2013/02/24 at 19:58

  5. tried -too hard- and couldn’t do it

    2013/02/24 at 20:00

  6. It’s sad because my current program is the epitome of limitation… nothing is a choice; even in electives (which you only have one of). All tests and homework are mandatory for marks, and the entire program is just a race to the top… it’s really quite hard to find a spark in this abyss.

    The hardest thing is probably my (mistaken) belief that school is useless atm. Before, there was a reason I disliked school—the internet was better. But now, when i hardly inter any nets anymore, that belief’s starting to fade… I hope that eventually, I’ll come to realize the same things that you have…

    Thanks for everything :)

    2013/02/24 at 20:29

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