Bummer

A general cause, a continuate cause, an inseparable accident to all men, is discontent, care, misery; were there no other particular affliction (which who is free from?) to molest a man in this life, the very cogitation of that common misery were enough to macerate, and make him weary of his life; to think that he can never be secure, but still in danger, sorrow, grief, and bummer manpersecution. For to begin at the hour of his birth, as Pliny doth elegantly describe it, “he is born naked, and falls a-whining at the very first, he is swaddled and bound up like a prisoner, cannot help himself, and so he continues to his life’s end”; a prey to every wild beast, saith Seneca, impatient of heat and cold, impatient of labour, impatient of idleness, exposed to fortune’s contumelies. To a naked mariner Lucretius compares him, cast on shore by shipwreck, cold and comfortless in an unknown land. No estate, age, sex, can secure himself from this common misery. “A man that is born of a woman is of short continuance, and full of trouble” (Job, xiv, I). “And while his flesh is upon him he shall be sorrowful, and while his soul is in him it shall mourn” (v. 22). “All his days are sorrow and his travails griefs: his heart also taketh not rest in the night” (Eccles. ii, 23); and (11, II), “All that is in it is sorrow and vexation of the spirit.” “Ingress, progress, regress, egress, much alike: blindness seizeth on us in the beginning, labour in the middle, grief in the end, error in all. What day ariseth to us without some grief, care, or anguish? Or what so secure and pleasing a morning have we seen, that hath not been overcast before evening?” One is miserable, another ridiculous, a third odious. One complains of this grievance, another of that. Sometimes his sinews, sometimes his feet trouble him; now it is a catarrh, now liver complaint; sometimes he has too much blood, sometimes too little; now the head aches, then the feet, now the lungs, then the liver, etc. He is rich, but base-born; he is noble, but poor; a third hath means, but he wants health peradventure, or wit to manage his estate; children vex one, wife a second, etc. No man is pleased with his fortune, a pound of sorrow is familiarly mixed with a dram of content, little or no joy, little comfort, but everywhere danger, contention, anxiety, in all places; go where thou wilt, and thou shalt find discontents, cares, woes, complaints, sickness, diseases, encumbrances, exclamations. “If thou look into the market, there,” saith Chrysostom, “is brawling and contention; if to the court, there knavery and flattery, etc.; if to a private man’s house, there’s cark and care, heaviness, etc.” As he said of old, no creature so miserable as man, so generally molested, “in miseries of body, in miseries of mind, miseries of heart, in miseries asleep, in miseries awake, in miseries wheresoever he turns, as Bernard found. A mere temptation is our life, a chain of perpetual ills; who can endure the miseries of it? “In prosperity we are insolent and intolerable, dejected in adversity, in all fortunes foolish and miserable. In adversity I wish for prosperity, and in prosperity I am afraid of adversity. What mediocrity may be found? Where is no temptation? What condition of life is free?” “Wisdom hath labour annexed to it, glory envy; riches and cares, children and encumbrances, pleasure and diseases, rest and beggary, go together: as if a man were therefore born (as the Platonists hold) to be punished in this life for some precedent sins.” Or that, as Pliny complains, “Nature may be rather accounted a stepmother than a mother unto us, all things considered: no creature’s life so brittle, so full of fear, so mad, so furious; only man is plagued with envy, discontent, griefs, covetousness, ambition, superstition.” Our whole life is an Irish Sea, wherein there is naught to be expected but tempestuous storms and troublesome waves, and those infinite.

—Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

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9 Responses to “Bummer”


  1. 1 Miep January 4, 2014 at 11:59 am

    This is pretty much my philosophy. That way everything that isn’t awful is a genuine relief, and anything that is genuinely beautiful or even pleasant seems like a minor miracle.

    • 2 bluenred January 4, 2014 at 11:09 pm

      I acknowledge the Burton, but understand that it is but seeing through a glass, darkly.

      I know that the Real, is the Fowlis.

      • 3 Miep January 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm

        The real is astounding when one is paying attention. It’s all this other crap that’s so tedious. Background noise. Static.

        You can tell by the spam comments. I could devote myself entirely to researching the weirdness of spam comments. Who writes these things? And why do they seem so much more relevant than so many things non-spammers say?

        They went through this link-word salad stage, but now they are taking on a life of their own. People are actually posting them. You’re the fourth or fifth person I’ve seen do that. I made a whole post out of some especially bizarre ones.

        And where is the real in that, I ask you??

        • 4 bluenred January 5, 2014 at 1:58 am

          It is indeed hard to focus in on the Real. There is, as you state, so much tedious background noise; so much static.

          This is why LSD should be administered, early and often, in the Schools.

          As for the spam comments: most of those that come in here are nugatory. But others both amuse and engage me. Because they are clearly badly translated from other languages, and, in their fumbling, they sometimes spark in me, through their very failure at English expressiveness, synapses that might otherwise lie quiescent. So I value them, for that.

          Of course, the spammers, they are all about advertisements. Trying to sell shit to somebody. At root: anathema. One of the scourges of this planet. Someday I will render here the report of Rudyard Kipling, when he ventured into the US, from England, to try to put a stop to Americans pissing on his copyright. And stood, mouth agape, soul shriveled, at the edge of SF’s the Cliff House, gazing down upon advertising slogans painted not only upon the rocks, but even upon the bodies of the basking sea lions.

          The horror. The horror.

          It is like these naifs at Daily Kos, who suddenly awake and discover there is corruption in politics. And believe it is some New Thing. They should be made to watch Altman’s Kansas City. All the political parts of that film, direct from Altman’s experience in that city, as a youth. Real. And really, at every level, much worse, than now.

          Similarly: ads: earlier. People—see, for instance, the aforementioned Kipling era—they have no idea . . . .

          • 5 Miep January 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm

            But let us return to our sheep–which means the sea-lions of the Cliff
            House. They are the great show of San Francisco. You take a train which
            pulls up the middle of the street (it killed two people the day
            before yesterday, being unbraked and driven absolutely regardless of
            consequences), and you pull up somewhere at the back of the city on the
            Pacific beach. Originally the cliffs and their approaches must have been
            pretty, but they have been so carefully defiled with advertisements that
            they are now one big blistered abomination. A hundred yards from
            the shore stood a big rock covered with the carcasses of the sleek
            sea-beasts, who roared and rolled and walloped in the spouting surges.
            No bold man had painted the creatures sky-blue or advertised newspapers
            on their backs, wherefore they did not match the landscape, which was
            chiefly hoarding. Some day, perhaps, whatever sort of government may
            obtain in this country will make a restoration of the place and keep it
            clean and neat. At present the sovereign people, of whom I have heard so
            much already, are vending cherries and painting the virtues of “Little
            Bile Beans” all over it.

            – Complements of Project Gutenberg


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