That Which We Are, We Are

I am strong of will and free of mind, and I can control the most significant of my own actions. This thought is now so thoroughly ingrained upon my consciousness that I no longer even have to repeat it to myself, with hands clasped about my ears while chanting above the din of dissenting voices, "Lalalalala, not listening," for it to hold true. But like everyone else, I am also a creature of habit, and even of plain inertia, and sometimes I wonder what good it is to be free if I should never desire to do otherwise than I have done in the past.

What experience has taught me about myself is that, left to my own devices, I shall invariably drink to excess and seldom wake, preferring a world built of hallucinations and dreams to one of muddy, springtime weather and a sun that is entirely too bright for rational eyes. So when my employers recently granted me six straight days of freedom from toil, I did what came naturally, renouncing the opportunity for novel experience, and instead plunging headlong into a bottle. In truth, several bottles. And why not? Why not let determinism run its familiar course, through that well-worn channel carved over many years by liquids both fermented and distilled? That, after all, is my goal: to imbibe, to geek, to whine, and not to bathe.

Drinking on the weekends, in the evenings, and in the company of friends is one thing. Drinking throughout the course of a week, in the mornings, and all alone is quite a different kind of experience. For one, it's the sort of thing that most people look down on, and so there's the head-rush that always accompanies the violating of conformist norms and the brazen flaunting of responsibility. There is a sense of openness about it, too, since whereas the shroud of night brings an air of clandestinity and mischief, in the daylight, one is disinclined to adopt masks. And while the night air seems permeated by unfathomable mysteries, the shine of day lends an aspect of abrupt revelation.

It was under these strange circumstances that I did most of my drinking. I'd wake up at around 2:00 AM, ingest caffeine, cook a meal, and then seek to quiet the mild nausea leftover from yesterday before beginning in earnest. My flatmates grew accustomed to my drunkenness in the mornings while they breakfasted and prepared for work. "Guess what I'm drinking," I asked Nat one morning.

He sniffed the air and responded, "Not water!"

"You're right! You're goddamned right. Not water." He closed the door to the bathroom and started the shower running, so I ambled shakily into the kitchen. There was Gavin, busy spreading peanut butter onto an English muffin. I tried to time my sips of bourbon to the movement of his knife: spread, sip, spread, sip. He wore a pressed shirt, a tie, and long pants, while I splayed out in the barstool in my shorts and stained T-shirt.

"Jesus," I yelled, "How many jars of peanut butter do you own? Three?" There were two jars of peanut butter there on the counter.

Gavin laughed. "Just one. That other one is Nat's."

"Oh." I felt ashamed, but it quickly passed.

Soon afterward, they headed out the door and I was alone for the day. The apartment was very quiet. I started back upstairs to my room, when for some strange reason I decided that the stairs looked comfortable, so I lay upon them. One sharp stair prodded my brainpan; another, my scapulae; still another stretched my Achilles tendons. The effect was something akin to a massage. For half an hour I lay on the stairs and sipped bourbon, and watched through the window as seagulls circled outside. They had but recently returned from their migration south, and were now very excited by a passing garbage truck. It had been many months since they had last tasted Maine trash.

I eventually made it back to my room, where I contemplated whether to play a PC or console game. I decided that I wasn't in the mood for a PC game, since they are often more complex, and what I needed was easy, straightforward fun. Some repressed portion of my psyche briefly swelled with panic, as I realized that the drink had brought out the weakness that I normally keep buried: my capacity for complexity--in games, and perhaps elsewhere--is in decline. I am not choosing the easy path; I am damned to it.

And then, as quickly as the feeling arose, it abated. I poured another drink and played some Crystalis from my bed.

At some point, I found myself back downstairs in the bathroom, staring at my reflection in the mirror. My eyes slipped their focus, and I saw that my face was smeared with a layer of fingerprints and a quick splatter of toothpaste. They shifted back, and once more I stared into my own bloodshot orbs. Inhale; exhale. This is who I am.

It was David Hume who shattered the entire notion of personal identity. He pointed out that the conventional view of a persistent self, identical from day to day and year to year, is an illusion. We are "but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement." Our perceptions constitute what we are, and although those perceptions are often interrelated, they are never identical.

Staring into the mirror--inhaling, exhaling--I wonder whether Hume had it backwards. Yes, he is right, we are not simply persistent entities, surviving intact from one moment to the next. But is he also right to think that as a result of this, we must fade into pure transience, never achieving anything at all like identity? Perhaps we exist all-as-one, with our personal identity made up of the entirety of our lives' experiences. I am Phillip Scuderi as he was, Phillip Scuderi as I am, and Phillip Scuderi as he will be until he dies; and I am such forever. Identity is not a matter of persistence through time, but of transcendence of it.

So this--this drinking of not-water, this playing of Crystalis, this staring into the mirror--is who I am. And I can't control it.

Comments

I suddenly have this urge to get up and walk away from my PC.....

I think the purpose of our lives is to learn which parts of ourselves we can improve and which parts are "hardcoded"... make peace with the latter and accept ourselves for who we are.

I too, have felt what you are feeling, or, what I think you are feeling, and I came up with a coping mechanism that seemed to work for me as far as a "Staring into the Abyss of Inevitability" situation went. I adopted the rather selfish notion that, I would always play the role that I fit into at a young age and would probably never break out of it, but I would make myself the star of the show. I would be the best at what I cared about, and, if not the best then the most renowned, or notorious or reviled.

This decision also came about in a stint of heavy drinking and happened to coincide with the "Year of Quake 3" a.k.a. my junior year in high school a.k.a. the year I failed every class but one and almost got held back for attendance. It started out small with LAN parties of a few on Friday nights, but it grew. It grew into 72 hour long Quake tournaments where I would walk into rooms and say "Welcome, to the tourney, I am Cue Mojin" and have my outstretched hand met with a slightly nervous handshake and a timid "Wow, that's awesome, I've heard of you." Empowering. Intoxicating. Ego boosting.

I still carry the confidence of those Quake matches with me everyday even though my LAN party days are long gone. I say revel in your newfound epiphany. Drink your wine, sit on your bed and say "Prepare yourself Crystalis! Prepare yourself for Lobo!"

By the way I would like to add that after reading Lobo's post I think any of us that submitted an article to become a writer just slapped our collective forehead. I love your writing friend, but it is intimidating.

It is 8 AM and I have a sudden urge to grab a beer. Since I am working from home this morning, this luxury is available to me. Perhaps not Lobo's drink of choice but beer is part of who I am; I have no choice in the matter.

/raises glass of milk to Lobo

Bah, I couldn't do it. Who drinks beer in the morning anyways.

I often find myself in the same state of mind. It's actually the entire reason I went back to video games after a 5 year or so hiatus. Games are ingrained into who I am, as are cartoons and comic books, and it is to those things that I go to find solace in an increasingly complex and unforgiving world. When I'm awake at two in the morning, watching TV or playing through the end of a game, I wonder if maybe a little more focus on what really matters would help me stay a little more sane. But what really matters? Happiness? Security? Not falling asleep alone? I know that where I am isn't where I want to be, but I don't know where I want to be, and the paralysis is infuriating.

This lack of movement is killing me, I need to get some inertia going.

Well said.

This article, aside from being well-written and wildly entertaining, proves once more that Lobo and I are brothers separated at birth. Cheers.

That may have been the most high-falutin' rationalization of morning-drinking I've ever read. Good on ya, mate! There just ain't enough pre-lunch libationing happening.

If only everyone could be so introspective about their binge drinking.

Also, what amazing timing your article has.

Here in Davis, CA we are on the cusp of the drinking holiday known as Picnic Day. Ostensibly, Picnic Day is an event held by the local university were the various departments of the school show off their work for the year as part of a day long campus wide festival, including numerous musical acts, a parade, and a "battle of the bands" featuring a number of the state's finest marching bands. In reality, though, this is all just an excuse for the the town's 30,000 stundents (and a good portion of the 25,000 non-student residents as well) to spend three days pickling their livers.

So as our friends who moved away after graduation spend today making their way back to town to participate in the festivities, I'm working on psyching myself up for a weekend full of corralling drunken revelers and holding hair when they eventually make their way to the bathroom to pay homage to the porcelain gods. Readng your exploration of your own inebriated adventures was a good exercise in this regard.

Chiggie Von Richthofen wrote:

By the way I would like to add that after reading Lobo's post I think any of us that submitted an article to become a writer just slapped our collective forehead. I love your writing friend, but it is intimidating.

Indeed.

By the way I would like to add that after reading Lobo's post I think any of us that submitted an article to become a writer just slapped our collective forehead.

Please, allow me to join in the slapping.

Lobo, it's been a long time since I've seen the dichotomy of inertia and inevitablility peculiar to drinking activities examined so beautifully. This brings to mind some of Raymond Carver's writings. It's got the same clear, bright vision, but with the thoughtful, intellectual touches you seem capable of bringing to any subject. I admire your ability and willingness to introspect publicly on such matters. Your focus here on drinking, but these issues of choice, purpose, and identity manifest themselves, in one form or another, in everyone's lives.

Disturbing article. Extremely well written, though.

Fletcher wrote:

Thsi article, aside from being well-written and wildly entertaining, proves once more that Lobo and I are brothers separated at birth. Cheers.

Seriously, you read my mind.

Want 5 days of which not to work and drink not water. WANT IT!

Why?

Why?

Why? I asked myself again.

Lobo wrote:

Maine

Ah. That calls for a beer at lunch. Cheers.

Lobo, I hope you turn out to be a philosophy professor in your spare time, and write for outrageous sums of money as your primary conveyance.

Ah, introspection, the most subtle of all poisons. When will it ever end decisively in favor of action over inaction?

I'm curious. When you're waking up at 3:00 am is that because your sleep shedule has shifted back in the day or forward? Given a week of nothing I naturally shift forward, waking later and later until my conscience gets the upper hand and a stasis is reached waking at about 3:00 pm. Were we to share an environment and a lack of responsibilities we would only be able to infer that the other existed by the evidence left while we slumbered.

Lobo, I hope you turn out to be a philosophy professor in your spare time, and write for outrageous sums of money as your primary conveyance.

For the record, if I recall correctly, he is indeed a philosophy major (graduated) and I believe has aspirations of teaching.

Grumpicus wrote:
Lobo, I hope you turn out to be a philosophy professor in your spare time, and write for outrageous sums of money as your primary conveyance.

For the record, if I recall correctly, he is indeed a philosophy major (graduated) and I believe has aspirations of teaching.

Yes, but is he happy?

(breaks out the Time/Life coffee table book of philosophy...)

souldaddy wrote:

Yes, but is he happy?

I suspect much of this depends on his current state of inebriation.

Great article, Lobo. Let me just say that it's a perfect example of why GWJ is such a great alternative to "mass media" (i.e. $$$) sites. Somehow, while there's still plenty of game talk, GWJ manages to cut through the layers of the bullsh%# that other sites seem content to heap upon us. As human beings we're not meant to be eternally sedated and blissful. Pain as much as pleasure defines us. Being slaughtered by a mountain lion in Oblivion the other day reminded me of that.

Fantastic article.

Great article, Lobo. Your writing keeps getting better and better, and, considering you started from such a high point already, I wish you'd just stop f'ing improving already.

Great writing...disturbing but a good introspective. I also find your roommates are very gracious...I would have cracked you upside the head a few times with those comments. But that's simply because I am a grump in the mornings; any dialogue directed towards is usually met with snarls.

I'll refrain from posting any canned philosophical responses to what you have said. Philosophy can be a dark rabbit-hole my friend!

That was an Excellent article.

This is brilliantly written, but very disturbing.

Brilliantly written alright, as always, but I don't understand why do we (or anyone, for that matter) should be reading that.

A certain sort of sameness in the gazing upon mowing neighbors when intoxicated...

mowing neighbors, neighbors mowing...

the greatness of a rainy day, for video games unexplored, and guilt free examination.

You rock, dude.

OK, I'm going back to lurking now.

Danjo wrote:

I'm curious. When you're waking up at 3:00 am is that because your sleep shedule has shifted back in the day or forward?

It depends. My sleep schedule is so erratic that on one week, it may constitute a shift forward, whereas the next may be the reverse. I don't pretend to understand my own behavior in this regard.

Thanks for the comments, folks.

In this game of life, we are not always in control of the cards that are dealt to us. It makes me wonder how do we all fit in? How much of life is pre-scripted? Is fate so uncontrollable.... Is my part in this world to be a major player, maybe a supporting role, or is my part just a minor bit role that will end up as some unsuspecting prop to be manipulated or destroyed by some other major actor. "Life is a play--unfortunately it goes on unrehearsed."

great artical!