OUR GOAL HERE IS TO MAKE YOU STOP TO THINK, AS WE ALWAYS DO, RATHER THAN STOP THINKING.
I became a traitor and have remained one. Though I throw myself heart and soul into what I undertake, though I give myself up unreservedly to work, to anger, to friendship, I'll repudiate myself in a moment, I know I will, I want to, and I'm already betraying myself, in the heat of my passion, by the joyful presentiment of my future betrayal. On the whole, I fulfill my commitments like anyone else; I am steadfast in my affections and behavior; but I am unfaithful to my emotions. Monuments, paintings, landscapes, there was a time when the last one I saw was always the finest. I annoyed my friends by alluding cynically or simply lightly - so as to convince myself of my detachment - to a common memory that might have remained precious to them. Because I did not love myself sufficiently, I fled forward.
- from Jean-Paul Sartre's autobiography The Words (English translation by Bernard Frechtman)
After consuming an estimated 500K pieces of
cigarettes in the last 57 years I still remain
addicted to nicotine
I was still very young when I first had the weird sense that death is at the very core of my life. Now with that feeling further reinforced as my life is coming closer to its end, I've realized I've lived my life as if it were a game. At the same time, I've learned that in most cases other people's attitudes toward life are 180-degrees different from mine. Most of you play a game like it's your life.
In recent months I've talked a lot about games. Now let me summarize my arguments below here.
There are three types of games.
The most primitive games are ones that even Japanese macaques could play. Among many other things I used to be into card games, solitaire in particular, first with the deck of paper cards, then with the virtual one. I still don't know exactly why I was hooked on them. All I can tell is that some of them are so addictive that my prefrontal cortex couldn't stop the autonomic nervous system from being into the hard-to-break habit. These games were not only unproductive but also uncreative. And yet I didn't think I had to kick the habit by all means because it could help ease the uncomfortableness inherent to my life - without doing me too much harm. I'll come back to that point in later paragraphs.
All along I've known the most creative type of games are ones that help me internalize everything that happens to me. I sometimes felt that without their help I couldn't simulate my future. That's basically why throughout my adulthood, I've stayed away from the other type of games that allow you to externalize your own life as if it were someone else's. They are only helpful when you want to emulate your past, instead of simulating your future. Unfortunately, games for externalization have proliferated across the board since the turn of the century. Now games for internalization have virtually gone extinct.
Take the currently most popular Fukushima game, for example. Most of you blindly swallow the media's propaganda that always goes: "3/11 is a wakeup call for believers in the myth of the clean nuclear energy." This simply means that we should forget about the fact that in the late 1960s, the vast majority of local residents were enthusiastic about the plan to build the power plant in their village, and that in subsequent years they could enjoy unprecedented prosperity which couldn't have been expected if the plan had been thwarted by these lunatics who untiringly played the green game. The same can be said of the plan to perpetuate the U.S. occupation of the Okinawa Islands. To most of you, Fukushima and Okinawa are always someone else's problems.
I know very little about American journalist Hunter S. Thompson. But I think he made a lot of sense when he observed: "Not everybody is comfortable with the idea that politics is a guilty addiction. But it is." To put it bluntly all political racketeers and pundits are drug dealers, and other people, who still don't realize politics is nothing but addiction to the wreck of the modern nation-state, are junkies. These guys never fail to politicize issues because they know very well it's the most effective way to externalize them.
This all the more makes Juvenal's disapproval of circenses the single most relevant issue facing us today.
There's another aspect we shouldn't overlook when discussing games. Despite the huge difference between your favorite games and mine, games are games. The two types of games have one thing in common: both are addictive, though to varying degrees.
To those of you whose mental development has been irreparably retarded by Freudian Über-Ich or Super-ego, addiction is always a vice. As was the case with Hitler, the goal of your life is to purify the world of the original sin. Let us be reminded of the disastrous consequences of the Prohibition hysteria of the 1920s. The lesson to have been learned there is that if you pursue a vice-free world too far, you always end up in a vice-ful world, instead.
Like I've said before, I am an avowed Epicurean. I always fail to understand what's wrong with letting the neurotransmitter called dopamine stimulate my "pleasure circuit." Don't take me wrong, however. I've never thought in my lifetime that addiction is a virtue. All I'm saying is that these fanatics and eunuchs should know that asceticism is the most perilous kind of addiction.
It is true not a few gifted artists eventually ruined themselves because of their substance abuse. The sad story about self-destructive trait of Billie Holiday or Charlie Parker only serves as yet another parable the nation of hypocrisy named America is always looking for. But it is also true that some others not only knew how to tame their susceptibility to addiction but even could leverage it. My favorite singer Anita O'Day (1919-2006) was a good example. The diva wouldn't have been what she was had it not been for her abuse of a variety of substances such as heroin, along with her tough experiences with abusive American gorillas before she could establish herself as a first-rate singer. And most important of all, O'Day was well aware herself that any talent wouldn't come into full bloom at the price of mediocrity resulting from axenic culture. That was evident from her candid and unapologetic way to talk about her "bad habit."
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80) is another case in point. He was seriously addicted to substances such as tobacco, "little meatballs on toothpicks," and possibly amphetamines to a lesser degree. Also he was constantly hooked on women, if not in the way an ordinary sex addict does. And yet the French philosopher seldom discussed addictions.
Some knowingly argue that Sartre's physical ugliness underlay his quirky thoughts. Maybe that is true, in a way. But I think it's truer that he owed his creativity to his addictive trait.
When he wrote "We are our choices," people took it as if he meant to say, "I could be a handsome guy if I chose to be one." These simple-minded people instantly jumped on the idea to pooh-pooh him because they thought Sartre had finally revealed himself as a naive and immature person. But nothing was farther from his ontological ethics that explains how a being-for-itself (l'être-pour-soi) gets involved with a being-in-itself (l'être-en-soi) or another being-for-itself (lêtre-pour-autrui.)
In later years Sartre used the word "l'engagement," in place of "free project," in order to counter the malicious distortion. But that didn't work either. People thought it was a new way to refer to the old idea, or subtly revise it, now to call on them to take part in politics by participating in demonstrations or signature-collecting campaigns. In fact, though, Sartre always viewed politics essentially in the same way Thompson did.
It seems to me the reason the French thinker always refrained from using the word addiction is because of, rather than despite, the fact that he wanted to say there's no such thing as life without accidental and self-deceptive attachment to things or people. In that sense, addiction is what his Being and Nothingness is all about.
I don't know exactly what biological and psychological processes man goes through to expedite interaction between the inner ape and the prefrontal cortex. But I think now we can safely assume that when one creates something new, he has to objectify his real self, first and foremost, to come to terms with his apeness because it is where his genuine spontaneity dwells. Only then he can sublimate it into a well-disciplined manifestation of humanity. If, on the contrary, he fails to contain his inner ape, the innate inertia will dampen what a neuroscientist once described as "dendritic fireworks." Failure to exploit spontaneity will thus lead to failure to ignite creative ideas. As a result, he gets hooked on a promiscuous idea about things and people to which he can't commit himself wholeheartedly. Worse, the addictive thought tends to be self-perpetuating because at the same time he's got a strong conviction that it can be defended by reason.
I'm glad my girlfriend asked me to take her to the 1960 U.S. film Jazz on a Summer's Day shortly before these "noble savages" swarmed out of nowhere. When I heard for the first time that obscene, greasy baboon named James Brown shout, "I feel good," I was really sickened. The movie itself was yawnful, or unimpressive to say the least, but the famous sequence (embedded at the bottom of this post) in which Anita O'Day demonstrates her inimitable talent improvising some traditional tunes was really unforgettable.
I also think I was lucky to have encountered Sartre well before the monkey business of crisis-mongers, doomsayers and truth-seekers started to prosper. Now more than five decades later, almost entire population has been irreversibly into fixation to the past, as if what has been done is, or at least should still be, undoable.
Many years have rolled by since I came upon these creative individuals. They still throw a bright light on the road that I once crossed and even lead me to an unknown world ahead of me. If I hadn't become addicted to the right people at the right time, I would have acted like a junkie for all these years. For my life filled with so much fun, I think I owe them much more than I can repay before my departure. This is why although it's well into the 23rd hour of my life, I still feel my game isn't over yet.