From Wikipedia: Weltschmerz (from the German, meaning world-pain or world-weariness, pronounced [ˈvɛltʃmɛɐ̯ts]) is a term coined by the German author Jean Paul Richter and denotes the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. This kind of world view was widespread among several romantic authors such as Lord Byron, Giacomo Leopardi,François-René de Chateaubriand, Alfred de Musset, Nikolaus Lenau, Hermann Hesse, and Heinrich Heine. It is also used to denote the feeling of sadness when thinking about the evils of the world.
The modern meaning of Weltschmerz in the German language is the psychological pain caused by sadness that can occur when realizing that someone’s own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and (physical and social) circumstances. Weltschmerz in this meaning can cause depression, resignation and escapism, and can become a mental problem (compare to Hikikomori). The modern meaning should also be compared with the concept of anomie, or a kind of alienation, that Émile Durkheim wrote about in his sociological treatise Suicide.
I have felt this kind of world-weariness my entire life, and only recently learned that there was a word for it (those clever Germans!). I was told it was just teenage angst and that it would go away once I got older, and to a certain extent, I’m much more grounded and sensible now, but there is still a nagging in the back of my mind that is summed up by the closing line of the e.e. cummings poem that inspired this mosaic-esque picture: “listen: there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go.”
Here is where you will find my other writing projects, whether it be poetry or music, artwork, or miscellaneous debris. I’ve even got a script for a graphic novel kicking around if anyone wants to take on a crack at the artwork.
About ten years now, I wrote my first novel. I look back at it now with possibly too harsh eyes, recognizing that it has all of the trademarks of a first novel, but it is still worth a read, when I remove myself from it.
I’m going to post Chapter One here for you to read, and decide for yourself.
in which the players are introduced, a phone call is made, tests are performed, but nothing is concluded — it’s still too soon to know at this point.
‘Hello, Mum, it’s me. Hey, guess what, I’m dying’ was not going to cut it.
I mean, it’s not as if I’m calling to tell her I’ve gotten fired again, is it?
I’ll tell her.
Just give me a minute to pull myself together.
Emotional fascism, as it were. A dictatorship of one.
Getting My Shit Together.
That’s what I have to do.
Get My Shit Together.
Apparently there are stages a person goes through when they find out bad news, like, say, you’ve got lung cancer. I’m sure you’ve heard of them; you know, things like Panic, Denial, Blame, things like that. I’m not sure how it is for other people, but for me it’s been more like alternating waves of all of the above, crashing on me relentlessly.
My mother is not exactly the most stable person. I mean really, should I be dumping this on her? What kind of son am I?
I’ll tell her.
“Hello. Hi Mum.
No, nothing’s wrong. Does something have to be wrong for me to be calling you?
No, Mum, I’m fine, really.
No, Mum, I don’t need any money.
Listen, Mum, just called to see how you were doing.
Really? That bad, huh?
Right, well didn’t I tell you to go see Dr. Mohammed?
He’s not a witch doctor, Mum, he’s nice.
Well, I’m not going to carry you to the doctor’s Mum, you’ll go or you won’t.
Not all doctors are quacks, Mum.”
Hmmm. Here was my opening… should I take it?
“So, Mum, how’s things with Rick?
Well, I’m glad you’re happy, Mum.
I am happy, Mum. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a date tonight, so I actually better get going.
No, you don’t know her, Mum.
Of course it’s a girl, Mum!
Listen, Mum, I really gotta go, gotta pick up my date at seven.
No, Mum, I don’t think you know her.
No, Mum. Listen I really have to go.
I love you, too, Mum.
There is no date.
No Claire DeLalune.
I’ll tell her.
When I finally get around to it, though, she already knows. Don’t worry, we’ll get there.
Okay, let’s back up a bit.
This whole melodrama started on Thursday, though why that’s relevant I couldn’t tell you, only that Thursday is when I found out THE BIG NEWS, so Thursday is relevant to me in that it officially became THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE as it were. Maybe I need to back up even further.
In high school we had this guidance counselor who was a renowned cynic and pessimist, and everyone who went to see him came out with their spirit crushed.
Is crushed really the right word? More like shredded. Blown away. The man took any faint flicker of hope you might have secretly stored away deep inside you, blew it out, and then dumped all his poison down your throat to douse any chance of embers of hope lighting up again. He should have had a sign outside his office that read: ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE, or perhaps LEAVE YOUR DREAMS AT HOME IN BED. He didn’t bother me, though. I never had any grand dreams for him to crush. So when I went in for my CAREER SESSION, and he asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I stared into his shark’s tooth smile and told him:
“Professional Welfare Recipient, sir.”
“Very droll, Mr. Cooper,” he says. I mean, really, how full of himself was this guy? Who uses the word ‘droll’?
“Very droll, indeed. But, as you are not exactly brain surgeon material, I can understand you aiming low. Surely there must be something that interests you?” It wasn’t the first time I had been asked this question. My mother was always asking me:
“What are you going to do with yourself, Eric?” or, “You can’t just coast through everything, Eric, someday soon you’ll have to get some direction.” followed up invariably by: “So what’s it going to be?”
“So what’s it going to be?”
“Just coffee, please. Two sugars, black.”
Sue’s Coffee & Cakes. One of the last places in town I can go and be sure I won’t run into my mother. Or anyone else, for that matter. What a hole. Sue’s is one of those places that for some yet unexplained reason never closes or changes ownership despite doing seemingly dismal business. The permanent residents of Sue’s are old men in work boots and dirty jackets. They like their coffee like they like their lungs. Black. Oh yes, smoking is still allowed at Sue’s, not that anyone who comes to Sue’s minds this. Least of all me.
My coffee comes, I thank the waitress, pull a Winston out of its cellophane home with my lips, light it up, and, blowing smoke rings at the nicotine stained fan that spins above my head, I wonder what the hell I’m doing here, and why I’ve kept coming to this dive all this time. The fan circulates stale air, and like the air, the coffee is stale. Like the coffee, the conversation, as well, is stale and old. Did you see the hockey game last night, did you see the last episode of whatever. Old men talking about the weather and their wives, young men talking about how much they drank the night before, who they fucked, who they’d like to fuck, it’s the same thing day after day, day in and day out, I just guess I never stopped to think about it. It was starting to hurt my head.
These people are not my friends.
I just work with them.
You see, I, too, am one of those men sitting in a dirty jacket and work boots; company logo emblazoned on the breast pocket of my shirt, drinking black coffee and smoking too many cigarettes.
After high school, at the advice of my exasperated (and, as it turned out, suicidal, by the way) guidance counselor, and much to the dismay and never hidden disappointment of my mother, I aimed low and took a job at a local factory, building machine parts, which did not require any higher education and paid me a whopping $10.75 an hour to start. The truth was, I really couldn’t think of anything that interested me. And besides, there were worse things that I could have done. Yes, God knows there were worse things that I could have done.
I have an older brother who went to school for Marketing and jumped through all the right hoops and now works for an advertising agency. Which is to say that he has become a whore for said advertising agency. He’s really good, too, or so my mother always tells me.
He makes $100,000 a year.
Drives a BEEMER.
Has a BEAUTIFUL WIFE.
Two BEAUTIFUL KIDS.
If it were literally possible for him to have half a kid, he would.
Loved by one and all, most of all, our mother.
All, that is, save one. I’ll give you three guesses who that one is, and the first two don’t count.
The thing is, he got all this because he has a degree in Trickery, Lying and Half-Truths from some dipshit college where he actually paid people to brainwash him and surgically remove his conscience.
I don’t know if I’d say he’s good, but he definitely is successful. You’ve probably seen his ads, or certainly you’ve been contacted by some pimply faced twenty-something pothead telemarketer, who tried to sell you something you absolutely HAD to have at a HIGHLY DISCOUNTED PRICE. My brother probably designed that marketing strategy.
Sorry about that.
However, the good news is that they’ve finally started using telemarketers instead of rats in lab experiments. There are two reasons for this refreshing turn of events. The first is that the scientists grow less attached to the telemarketers, and the second reason is that there are just some things that even rats won’t do.
My brother, believe it or not, fancies himself an artist.
His ads are those ones that make you scratch your head, screw up your face and wonder what the hell the guy who made the ad was smoking. You know, the ad where the anorexic Heroin chic model is lying naked on the beach, all in black and white (if it is in black and white, it must be art) and shown in shadows, and then cut to horses dragging a chariot and some guy in the back who looks like Charlton Heston in Ben Hur. The music is something supposedly original, but actually it’s lifted from a Wagner symphony, usually the over-used Flight of the Valkyries.
Cut back to the girl, and now she’s spooning yogurt into her mouth, sucking the spoon a little too intensely for something as commonplace as yogurt. But that, as my brother says, is the MONEY SHOT. When the commercial is over, you have to stop a minute and ask yourself what exactly was being sold. After a minute is up, you conclude that it must have been the yogurt, though for the life of you, you can’t recall seeing or hearing a brand name.
And you’d be wrong.
It’s actually the first in a three part ad campaign for a large pharmaceutical company whose major products are anti-inflammatories and diarrhetics. Apparently (or perhaps not so apparently), the girl eating the yogurt and the man in the chariot represent some sort of metaphor for something or another, but honestly, it escapes me, so I won’t insult you by trying to pretend that I do understand it.
I’m really sorry about that.
My brother started out as one of those lowly telemarketers but quickly graduated from there and began developing his own marketing campaigns. By the time he was thirty, I imagine he had lied to more people than the devil, and had designed cleverly crafted subterfuges for others to spread via the phone lines and in magazines and on television. Billboards, park benches, neon lit signs ten feet high proclaimed him the king of the hard sell. I always said he would have made a hell of a televangelist, but, in all fairness to my brother, there are some things even he won’t do. On the other hand, the list of things he wouldn’t do for money is embarrassingly short. See, money is his big thing. It’s what he gets off on. We grew up without it, and he carries this big chip around on his shoulder because of that. So he sold his soul to this advertising agency, and now he sells perfume to lonely divorcees using ads that by most are considered soft core pornography. His ads tell them that they will be desired by men if they wear this perfume. They will stay young if they use this skin cream; if they drink this alcohol, they will find love. If they wear the right clothes, listen to the right music, use the right hairspray, co-ordinate their eye shadow, blush and lipstick correctly, not to mention brushing their teeth with the right brand of toothpaste and mouthwash, then they will find HAPPINESS and LOVE. Telling them that if they use the right fitness assistant device and take the right combination of pills (just 3 EZ payments of only $19.95 plus S&H) then they can have the PERFECT ABS YOU’VE ALWAYS DREAMED OF WITHOUT EVER DOING A SIT UP!
They say that you don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle, but at the end of the day, you can’t eat the sizzle, you eat the steak. If the steak tastes like shit, I don’t want it, I don’t care what the sizzle’s like. Now, maybe there’s truth in the idea that people are gullible and often stupid, and therefore deserve to be taken advantage of, but on the other hand, there’s the issue of my brother being a vulture, preying on the weak-minded. Thinning the herd. But it all boils down to the fact that my brother lies for money. He doesn’t see it that way, though. Like I said, he thinks he’s an artist. I asked him once if his conscience ever bothered him.
He laughed at me.
He drinks too much.
His wife is having an affair.
With another woman.
His children are spoiled.
His son beats up kids at school for their lunch money.
His daughter spends her recess behind the school lifting up her dress and showing the boys what’s under there in exchange for quarters.
He drinks way too much.
And last I checked, he had developed a rather nasty addiction to painkillers.
But he’s happy.
Yeah, I guess there are worse things. I may not be rich, but at least I’m doing honest work. What ended me up in a doctor’s office is a company policy that states that every so often you have to get a physical examination done. Which is how I first heard the phrase Dark spot on your X-Ray.
You see, for the past ten years now I’ve been working in the factory, breathing in oil-based lubricants and other pleasant chemicals and dust, not to mention those I voluntarily consumed or inhaled. So I guess I always figured that eventually I’d hear that phrase. No, that’s not really true. The truth is I’d never really given it much thought.
Dark spot on your X-Ray.
Sounds like some weird underground music group.
Dark Spot and the X-Rays.
Maybe some strange combination of surf guitar and industrial Goth. They’d have song titles like Emotional Aneurysm, or Brain Wave Psycho Surfer.
The news actually left me strangely numb. I was never the kind of person who was firmly planted in the first place. Indifferent to life, no commitments, no strong bonds, so I’m not sure what it was I was feeling. Not quite fear. Not quite panic. Not quite sadness. Not entirely.
I’ve passed through my life thus far as a tourist.
Just passing through.
Take no souvenirs.
Take no prisoners.
It’s left me strangely detached and distant.
Now I may never see Alaska or Australia, but I find I either don’t care, or can’t find it in me to care. Part of me, though, needed some sort of confirmation. So I asked the doctor straight out if I was dying, what my chances were, how long I had, what my options were, was there any chance there had been a mistake, you know, everything you’d ask if it were you.
He said that it was still too soon to know, and that he’d need to run some more tests.
That was Thursday. As of Thursday, it was still too soon to know, but let’s not kid ourselves; Thursday became Big C-Day to me, and it was time for me to finally answer that lingering question: So what’s it going to be? Start packing or roll over and die?
So there’s that — the first chapter of Being Human. I also, quite a while ago now, put together an anthology of my poetry and artwork, entitled A Glass Portrait. Not pretentious at all, right?
Anyway, I’ll likely be posting some of my favourites from time to time, but if you absolutely must have the whole thing, you can have it as a free download — just click the cover on the right and it’ll take you to the file hosted on Mediafire.
Stay tuned for more miscellaneous madness.