Christmas Movie

scenes from modern life

1

I manage to catch the last L train at 12:43 and then get lost in Bushwick for a while—disoriented at how empty it is.

2

A. and I listen to an old Italian movie soundtrack; her roommates are gone—so it feels right to crank up the hi-fi. I decide not to drink the fancy beer I impulse-bought the other night when we had a little party here; for whatever reason, buying the beer was the important thing—not drinking it.

3

Many New Yorkers I know or observe: condemned to fatuous and compulsive self-satisfaction, trapped in glassy new condos, walled off from everything natural and intuitive and spontaneously interesting, going out only via Uber to do a quick, heavily-masked canvas of the Whole Foods snack aisle. Scared. Bored. Trapped. Etc. I don’t think we can be pessimistic enough about the ongoing sterilization, monetization, and banalization of urban life.

4

Overheard at Caffe Reggio

“It’s so fun to just play on Street Easy. But I think I’m going to get a broker—it’s so overwhelming.”

“I got this $400 gift certificate for this match making service. But the whole package is like $4,000.”

“People say, ‘my partner and I are not going to see anyone for two weeks…’ but I’m single… so…”

“I’m still going to go running—but I’m not gonna do indoor hangs.”

“I had my annual review this week. Basically great…except…”

5

Christmas Dinner Grace

Lord (or someone—anyone): give me the strength to live a vital life with risk-taking and -without all this repressive and oppressive bullshit. Give me the strength to accept the Reality Principle and to accept that death cannot be excised from life without a loss of meaning and meaningfulness. Lord, give me the courage to refuse constant testing and control, to show my face in public—to be willing to make others uncomfortable.

6

As a rule of thumb: the more homogeneity prevails over heterogeneity, the less redeemable the human condition is.

7

As a rule of thumb: moralism drives out beauty.

8

You cannot eliminate all precariousness without eliminating our animal instincts, capacities, pleasures. People enjoy taking risks—calculating and taking risks is part of being human and part of what makes being human interesting.

9

Covid restrictions are equivalent to clear-cutting in industrial forestry. Communities lose their resilience without constant, active interchange. Symbiosis is a rule of life. Left to ourselves, we lose those visible and invisible moments of overlap—symbiotic exchange—in which gifts of all kinds, at all levels, are shared…

A lifeworld bound together by these gifts is a mesh—simultaneously complex and simpleAn apartment is not a lifeworld on its own; a Zoom account is not a lifeworld. Alone in our Chlorox’d bubbles, we’re cut off from our species being: blood and bacteria and the kind of boisterous freedom we need more than we know.

Covid-era politics have severed the ties, the capillaries, that bind together our lifeworlds and make them vascular and truly alive.

10

We sit in the living room and listen to Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra play Christmas classics and we unwrap one present apiece and try to make things feel like festive—except it’s raining outside and our families are afraid to see us.

11

The ultimate nihilism: the only value is safety and security and predictability.

12

Predictability is not stability or safety; only dead things are predictable.