Saturday, April 17, 2010

No attachments!

There is a large annual book fair near where we live. We were wandering through this book fair the other day with our chum, Rick Bomstein. Dozens of tables were set out piled with books. A little placard posted above the table told you something of the subject matter on each table. “Mystery.” “History.” “Travel.” “Absurd.”

We are kidding about that last one…

While poking around we found Henry Miller’s Colossus of Maroussi, one of our favorite Miller books about his travels to Greece before the Second World War. It is a lyrical book, a peaceful book, a meditative book full of epiphanies. It also has its absurd moments.

Anyway, this used edition was all of a dollar. We offered this to Bomstein who put it in is his increasingly heavy bag of books.

Later, we went home and pulled out our own copy of this book, which we have read more than once, but not again in several years. We had certain passages marked as our favorites. Here is one particularly absurd passage, which we share on this bright and cool Saturday morning:

“Our diseases are our attachments, be they habits, ideologies, ideals, principles, possessions, phobias, gods, cults, religions, what you please. Good wages can be a disease just as much as bad wages. Leisure can be just as great a disease as work. Whatever we cling to, even if it be hope or faith, can be the disease which carries us off. Surrender is absolute: if you cling to even the tiniest crumb, you nourish the germ which will devour you…”

Wonderfully put… The absurd man revels in his lack of attachments. Yes, he enjoys his creature comforts, his favorite food and beer and whatever else. But he is also secure in his knowledge that he could do without just as well. He attaches no meaning and importance to any of it. He is free in the most powerful sense of that word...


  1. Greetings Inigo,

    I always enjoy your book recommendations. I read "Tropic of Cancer" after your blog post about it awhile back, and I recently finished the short book on logic, "Nonsense," which was a beneficial read. I look forward to picking this one up in the near future.


  2. Henry Miller is one of those guys I've never made enough time to read. I'm a huge Orwell fan, and that's a hell of a disease to have.

    Anyways... Good post. Thanks for exposing your thought in public. Exposition, as every writer knows, is a hell of a disease.

    I should mention a few band names. Just because I'm attached to the music I love... The Germs made this book into a record, and it killed one of them. They didn't mean for that to happen./.. It was part of their disease.

    It's a sad sad story, but then again...

    Just another damn disease.

    Um.. Moderately yours, half punk and part pistolero,

    Yours truly,

    Anonimity Hide, another disease :|
    Zero One...


    and a one two three four!..

    Start all over again!

    Uh... Thankyouverymuch.

  3. Inigo (and Rick),

    Another great post. But the last paragraph raises yet again a criticism I have of the site.

    You guys really focus on creature comforts: song, women, wine, etc. Maybe you're not doing so, but to me you always seem to imply that the other, bigger, joys in life cannot be enjoyed without be anti-absurd.

    Love can be enjoyed without thinking it has Meaning (probably more so). Same with facing and fulfilling what I consider to be my responsibilities that I have taken on. This is an instinct that just feels good to fulfill. What about doing right by our friends? That feels really good (even when we successfully exclude the aspects of should and guilt and meaning). Helping a loved one. Reaching out to the desperate. A job well done. And another big one: finding a way to right a wrong we have done (yes I understand there isn't REALLY a 'right' and 'wrong', but you know what I mean. I mean as defined in accordance with our own conscience, a powerful instinct.).

    Even for the absurd, the above things bring much greater joy (in quantity, quality, and durability) to the average human being than a mountain full of GB, sex, drugs, and rock n' roll.

    This really is NOT meant to be a naive assignment of Meaning to do-gooderism, nor a judgmental ploy to any kind of 'should' (we should like this better, or people with these preferences are superior, or you should be ashamed of your bliss rather than follow it). Its not that at all. Im just saying that empirically, I think these things provide the most happiness during our temporary, meaningless lives. The only reason we don't excitedly do them more is BECAUSE we think we should do them. If we could let go of that BS meaning, then we could be free to see how good they feel and that we actually WANT to do them.

    So please notice the next time you are able to help someone or be there for a friend, without arrogance, or the next time you fulfill well (again without arrogance) a responsibility you've taken on, even doing a little extra without trying to get credit for it. Whenever this happens, then notice the next week of your life and please consider whether you think I'm right.

    Thanks again for a great site.


  4. Arthur, that's a fair criticism. We largely agree with you. Certainly, one can feel good about, say, doing a friend a good turn, without being anti-absurd. As you say, there are certain instincts that "just feel good to fulfill."