So how was everyone’s summer? Did everyone have a fun time accomplishing lots and feeling comfortable about the state of the world?
The last time I wrote an editorial to be published in print my biggest frustration was the response to the UCU strikes (anyone remember those?) and the hijinks of the Democratic primary. Less than a week after that issue was published, where I made fun of neoliberal students and voters, clowning Mathieson and the anti-progressive attitude of the university, everything in the world changed. The person I was, an editor who felt he was writing progressive pieces that were helping to shift, or at least document, the shift of University of Edinburgh students into something better than our reputation suggests, was pretty quickly destroyed. It’s rather easy to get attached to a world that we tend not to realise is held together by tiny pieces of twine, that a powerful virus shreds right through and sends you to a place you never knew. There are hardly any remains of what made me feel like my life was improving and that which kept me living in a state of smug, youthful chaos.
That abrasive editorial had me oh-so-briefly on top of the world. It was a joyous week where it received lots of shares whilst I had some of my best friends in town, living life with no modicum of thought that things would change. Then they did and this edition that I worked hard towards was left to sit empty in the racks of Potterrow as I scrambled to get back to the US, leaving my flat and the friends I’d come to love. Soon, I was locked in my old room with posters representing the interests of a long-dead version of myself, the outside world shuttered, my only surroundings being my parents, who were struggling through it too, the quiet, synthetic world of suburban New Jersey, and my beloved pets, one of whom died a month into lockdown.
In the moment, it all felt like punishment for having made progress in my life, peace with who I was the year prior. And even as lockdown eased, the world became vastly different in a summer of volatility. Attending protests and seeing the country react to the death of George Floyd felt monumental, as it felt like minority experiences were finally being heard and people were waking up to the racism that has ingrained itself into the fabric of our societies. It also put into perspective the triviality of my own problems yet, no matter what, I could not escape the misery of myself. Seeing the reaction to this change from family members and the world at large, full of bitterness and anger at an issue that I felt was so clearly important, disheartened me further.
The question more and more became: why do we do it? And every day I still have to pose this question to myself. As climate change destroys our world, as I watch my country slide into fascism whilst our only opposition party bumbles its way through performative politics rather than substantive change, as I escape to Scotland only for it to nearly lock down again as soon as I finish self-isolating. Why do I get up and try to find a way to put this edition of the paper out and share it? Why do I try to put out an album or organise a video shoot? What good does it do to deal with the UKVI to replace my residence permit when it all feels like it’s about to burn down anyway and I am powerless to it all?
The only conclusion I’ve come to is because I am alive on this plane of existence and I am tasked to either do the basic requirements to simply exist and count down the long days to a hypothetical world where things are better, end my life knowing there is no second chance, or try to do the things I am good at and laugh at the absolute absurdity that the world is run in the way that it is and live in spite of it.
It is a conclusion I must come to every morning, but living in these times has made me much more grateful for what I do have in life and has made me able to be a much more independent person, cherishing the intimate moments with friends and loved ones, rather than craving the indulgence of a party or a night out. It is not that I don’t miss that, I look forward longingly to the day where all those things are once again viable. But today, I woke up, I made a pot of coffee, I worked on some things that I wanted to get done, I ate a few meals, and I had some laughs with my buddies. And that is all I feel I can ask for.
When things were rough in the spring I would lie down, take deep breaths, and listen to a song from the fantastic film The End of Evangelion, ‘Komm Susser Todd’, and dream that the world could end peacefully rather than this slow, bitter conclusion. I resonated with it so much that it motivated me to push myself to make my first EP with a good friend of mine, just because I wanted to sing it so badly as a cover. But proud as I was of putting it out and not needing to listen to that song in despair as often, the thought still often remained that it did feel like the world was on a slow, miserable decline to a fiery, horrible fate.
But then I became fascinated with Twin Peaks (yes, I am a fan of ‘90s aesthetics and I use Twitter, how can you tell?) and despite having read and studied actual philosophy, it more than anything else helped me look at the picture in a different way. Watching loads of interviews with David Lynch really had me believe that we are on just one plane of existence and while we may get glimpses of others, nothing really makes sense because it really all is a sort of cruel, absurd, yet shockingly funny existence we find ourselves in. We feel we are tasked with the challenge of wrapping our heads around it, yet it’s like ants questioning their individual merit in the world.
Things are so far beyond our scope, yet we feel we are supposed to make sense of why things are and must be slaves to the capitalist ideas of constant work, constant innovation, constant busyness and distraction to get us through the mindless days until we die. I no longer see the need to work towards any goal besides those I truly want, and I refuse to treat something as comically ridiculous as life with some sort of seriousness, that I feel I need to have some grand plan to get me where I want to go.
If you are reading this, like me, you are fortunate enough to live in a great city. Hopefully, you have some friends whom you love. Hopefully, you have simple pleasures that you look forward to every day. I hope you had a good day today and if you didn’t I hope you take a deep breath and maybe have a good cry and figure it out a little more tomorrow.
The most important thing I’ve learned, and that I wish to impart, is that I no longer want to spend my time simply being angry. So much disgusts me about the world. It’s hard to see family members live with such hate and see friends with good intentions tied to extremism or fall victim to those manipulating them into believing there is some greater purpose to work and letting yourself be a pawn in a system you will never control.
But I want to support them in finding the right answers instead of fighting them, just as I want to support the people fighting for what is right, even if they are not always fighting it peacefully. Anger at a world we have no say in is useless when we can spend our time figuring out what world we personally want to exist in, and do what we can to build a place that has what we need and where we can find a task to make us feel fulfilled each day. In the end we are animals who like to do tasks and see a reward fulfilled.
I don’t think we need to have ambitions grander than what we feel we can do and what happens to fall into place. Tomorrow never knows: don’t let bitterness cloud you down when we have such limited time to find the simple joys in today. Meet up with a friend and tell them you love them, go for a walk to a great album, make yourself a nice meal, make love to someone whose company you truly enjoy, and find a task that challenges you today. And hopefully it’ll bring us to a tomorrow where we can do the same.
Image: Rob Bazaral