So, a few months ago I realized that since starting work on Strangetown in earnest I have been stockpiling ideas for other things I want to write and this one wouldn’t leave me alone. Inspired by George Saunders’ take on consumerism and the numbing effect of it when I read the In Persuasion Nation collection I wanted to see what my own take on that might look like and came up with the man who could not smile. As it’s a little longer, I’ve split it into three parts, the next two will be posted over the next week or so.
the man who could not smile.
the thymus gland is found in many species of mammals, including humans, and only functions until puberty.
its function is to prevent autoimmunity, meaning that the immune system will not attack or reject itself helping to ensure that the creature survives into adolescence and thus reach full maturity.
in lambs, the gland begins to regress once the lamb moves away from a full milk diet, anytime between 14 and 60 days old.
i ate three lambs’ thymus for lunch yesterday.
i thought they were a little overseasoned and i said so to the chef.
he informed that his sweetbreads recipe was award winning.
i informed him that since the president of the united states of america had, in the same calendar year that had seen a considerable surge in the number of targeted drone strikes, been awarded the nobel peace prize, the entire notion of an award, of some underlying notion of meritocracy, had been negated.
the chef replied that his sister was very ill and that his restaurant was full and that he did not have time to discuss politics.
i reaffirmed that his sweetbreads were overseasoned.
he asked me to leave.
suicide tuesday is a colloquial term given to the period of depression and anxiety that occurs midweek due to excessive drug use at the weekend.
the thinking espoused by people that have a rudimentary grasp of brain chemistry is that the finite amount of endorphines, the hormone responsible for the pleasure which floods the system upon the ingestion of, for example, ecstasy, that store of pleasure has been used up in response to repetitive loud music and aimless, rambling conversation.
i thought about this, reclining in my chair and listening to a miles davis album through a newly purchased Sonigasm stereo system with patented dynamic equalizer technology.
according to the salesman, the adverts and several celebrity endorsements the way in which the amplifier reacted to modulation in the frequency of the music in real time ensured that the emission of every phrase, bar and note was subtly altered so as to be absolutely perfect.
a Sonigasm sponsored listicle about which ten albums best showed off their new technology, that had recently been awarded a prestigious prize for journalism, had appeared in my e-mail inbox a day or so after i bought the most expensive system in the range and paid someone to install it for me.
it was suggested that Bitches Brew edged out Dark Side of the Moon because, musically it was more challenging and therefore best placed to show that their customers were in possession of impeccable and discerning taste.
i do not like jazz music, but part of my employment contract was to ensure the curation of an impeccable and discerning taste in music in case I was ever called on to venture and opinion on, say, whether I thought that krautrock was better defined by can or kraftwerk during a business lunch with an avid record collector.
the reason I was thinking about Suicide Tuesday was this; the results of thousands of years of the human wide-quest for pleasure had conspired to leave me cold.
like the roman aristocracy, ensconced in a orgy while a madman played a violin on the burning rooftops outside.
the reason I was thinking about suicide tuesday was this; my employers had begun to suggest that my malaise was affecting my work.
they were of the opinion that, in order to sell luxury life insurance to precocious entrepreneurs, i not only needed to have impeccable and discerning taste but also to have an optimistic and gently encouraging disposition.
existentialism, they pointed out, is bad for a business that mainly trades on mortality.
one of my employers is particularly fond of internal rhyming structures and, when asked about it, is able to espouse at length the popularization of such techniques within the mid-nineties hiphop scene on the east coast of america.
this knowledge, he is keen to point out, once helped him sell a massively overpriced policy to an american mogul who, every 4th of july, sends him a hamper full of nestle products for reasons best known to himself.
this is one example of success that has been used to inspire me during the previous quarter, it being in the belief of the company that encouragement is a far more useful workplace tool than reprimand.
about existentialism my employers, i think, have a point.
kierkegaard and his descendants probably would have suggested that, in a world in which people have shifted towards defining themselves by what they enjoy rather than what they do, someone that finds no enjoyment is, philosophically and psychologically speaking, fucked.
this, i felt, was historically unfair.
at any other period in recent history me being symmetrical, strong jawed, muscular, wealthy, white, young, male, heterosexual, healthy and employed would have ensured that my place in society was taken for granted, unchallenged.
at some point, someone had decided that being happy was important too, that unhappy people were somehow unusual and unnecessary, to be avoided.
things at work had come to a head over a business meeting.