some Buddhist shit I somehow managed to work Ayn Rand into (that is, I think, changing my life in fundamental and amazing ways ahhhhhh).

why no, I don't know how to de-yellow photos. Thanks for asking.

I’m only 1/4 of the way though it, but this article in the September 5 New Yorker (am I seriously that behind? Yep.) is seriously blowing my mind. Like, in a weird (god, I can’t stand this word): spiritual way. Like, I’m still sort of, processing it or something and am not yet ready to talk about it. (It has, however, turned my writing style into a Holden Caulfield parody. [More accurately: a Franny Glass parody.])

First thought: this dude manages to mush Ayn Rand’s theory of Objectivism (which, as you know, pretty much saved me from the most godawful childhood of all time but which, as you know, I am now forbidden to talk about because Liberals Cannot Admit They Might Have Ever Learned Anything From People Who Are Not Liberals)—in short: right and wrong are objective concepts, and if you don’t have values you’re worthless—into a Buddhist concept of the (lack of) self (=we are all one) in some mixed up weird and wondrous way that is, like, doing something to me. 

Second thought: WHAT IF WE REALLY ARE A PART OF EACH OTHER. And….like…indivisible. Not linked like in the sense that we’re all humans blah blah, but literally our atoms are all mixing and it’s really not clear where you end and I begin and our minds are these complicated little traps to make us think we’re these separate entities but in reality…is this getting crazy-cheesey? Is this something everyone knows but me?

Here’s why I think I’m thinking about this lately: I DON’T LIKE ANYTHING.

I mean, there’s lots I like. Sake, my cats, my shop, masturbating, my boyfriend, noodles, books, hard work—you know, the usual.

But most of the world, and particularly the people on it, make me sick to my stomach. The other day someone friended me on Facebook and I caught myself thinking “Just what I fucking need, another goddamn friend.” –as if the very idea of human connection with someone I haven’t already let into my pre-screened circle was so useless that even clicking on someone’s profile to see what movies we both like was a ludicrous exercise in wasted time.

This feeling doesn’t feel so good. Pre-judging people and closing myself off so tightly. But what’s the alternative? Being let down by the world, over and over and over until you find those little scraps of light you press to you—that whole thing, I guess.

Anyway, when I came home last night after a typical “driving when you’re so exhausted that the road is spinning is the closest thing to doing drugs I’ll ever experience” drive home (just 1.5 miles, don’t be worried about me!) and collapsed into bed and started reading about this guy who says that the idea of the self is ludicrous, I thought—yes.

Maybe if I could get it through my head that I’m actually a part of the world, and I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together (yes, I am seriously being blown away by ideas that were best expressed in the song lyrics to which I was conceived) I could calm down a bit about hating the world so goddamned much.

I don’t know—maybe?

Seriously, I have only had one wee glass of sake tonight, I swearz.


Read the article until then, OK, and we’ll chat about it? Does it show up as free for everyone? I fear not. That’s dumb. Maybe, like, email me and I’ll give you my New Yorker password thing or something if not.

PS: Ume sake = amazing! Finally, a decent use for the awful terrible umeboshi plum!

PPS: Your guess is as good as mine as to why there’s a paintbrush in the linen closet. The knitting needles hold my hair, but the paintbrush, not so much.

7 Responses to “some Buddhist shit I somehow managed to work Ayn Rand into (that is, I think, changing my life in fundamental and amazing ways ahhhhhh).”

  1. Randal Putnam

    So this is exciting! Inspirations that unstick us are rare and wonderful opportunities.

    Me? I read the NY piece and find Derek Parfit to be super cool. I wish he were my friend, but that is unlikely. I could read his work, but I predict that won’t happen. I am satisfied to see another example of Buddhist thought spreading. My brief Buddhist practice was very helpful. Although my practice has mostly fallen away, when I feel unsure (or too sure) about something I have done I examine my actions against a meager backdrop of Buddhist principles, imperfectly understood, but still the process is helpful. I will be delighted if I find myself in a sangha again, but just now I am doing nothing to make that happen. I am allowing myself to be stuck.

    What will you do? Let us know where you end up (and if there is anything we can do to help).

  2. Erin

    The commentary about Derek kind of ruined it for me. Although, I admit, reading that article put me in a two-week thought fest, so maybe it didn’t. How can right and wrong be objective when that very idea is soothing? How can morality be objective when we want it to be so badly? How can morality be objective when the human mind seeks objective truths? How objectivity exist beyond the human mind? Morality is like the thought that the universe is infinite and expanding at the same time. It is and it is yet to, it exist and it does not. And yet, if we are everything, as we are, scientifically speaking, then morality (even as a human invention) exists in everything, which exists a apart from the self, which in a sense, could be the definition of objective.

  3. Meghan

    I’m really going to need to read it again (or better yet, maybe just get me some straight up Parfit), but even on the first go-round my brain’s on fire.

    Being maybe the least concise person I know, I’m going to just pull third things out of the flames lest I unleash a big crazy mess in your comments section.

    First, relative to the idea of everyone being literally, atomically connected…have you seen the movie “I Heart Huckabees”? It will probably seem silly, but the part where Dustin Hoffman makes the analogy of this literal interconnectedness as a blanket was a strangely moving moment for me and this idea in general, as simple as it is, was a literal life-saver for me. In college I became profoundly depressed in the process of studying postmodernism because the focus in so many of the lectures was on separation, people experiencing the world in a mediated way, people being and becoming more deeply disconnected and sort of ultimately unknowable to themselves and others. It seemed to me horrific that these were notions that people studied and accepted as given and didn’t seem to mind very much. Believing that there is, at the very least a very dry, molecular connection between people even as the animating spirits tear each other apart is sometimes what gets me out of bed to give society another go.

    Second, I went into the article with Ayn Rand on the brain since I, too, am a lefty willing to fess to having a special place in my heart for her. She’d probably vomit to consider the bastardized way in which Objectivism operates in my life, but I’m comfortable with that for reasons that this article spoke to really directly.

    Rand always behaved as though there were no difference between theoretical and applied philosophy, which is where a lot of people who follow her get all whacked out and people who don’t write her off as a fascist. Pure systems are theoretical, whether they’re economic (say, capitalism or socialism) or philosophical (in this case, Objectivism) or whatever and that’s really interesting if you want to think about things, but most pure systems are pure because they don’t account for humanity which includes a variety of emotional responses to other people and the world around them, which is a pretty huge variable to exclude when you’re talking about putting something into practice in actual society. This phrase, “…it had to be the consent of plausibly self-interested people, not rational ghosts,” seemed to me, oddly, exactly the thing missing in Rand. Despite the importance of self-interest in her writing, she’s treating people as rational ghosts. Caring for the community or the larger world isn’t in opposition to self-interest. Who would be satisfied to thrive personally surrounded suffering and misery? Thank you Dennis Parfit for articulating the only terms in which philosophy makes practical human sense, and in such a gorgeous turn of phrase.

    And last, I wish that I lived in his brain. He’s essentially living the entirety of experience and time, past, present, and future, as the Schroedinger’s Cat experiment and trying to find a way to make sense of it. Everyone is everything and everywhen is now and the cat is dead and alive and upside down and sleeping on your lap and what’s the language we all agree to use to talk about that? It’s an incredibly optimistic, energetic, Willy Wonka way to think about life and I’m afraid I tend to think along the slightly nihilistic “gloomy Scandinavian” lines of his wife more often than I care to. Here’s to opening up the treasure chest of Derek Parfit’s thinking.

    • lagusta

      I love “I Heart Huckabees”! Yes! I like this blanket analogy a lot, thanks for reminding me of it.

      I think *everyone* who studied PoMo in college became profoundly depressed. Blech.

      Meghan! You’re my Ayn Rand soulmate!!! Let’s run off into Art Deco sunsets together. Thanks for tying it all together better than I ever could.

  4. David @ Buy Books

    I was thinking “How does he take photos to be so crisp?” on many pages on your site. Then answered my own question with the observation that it is very good lighting. So, was the lighting conditions the cause of the yellow in the photos?


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