Notes on Suspecting Everything is Terrible (aka An Attack of Somethingness)

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What do you have to complain about? Nothing. What? Was the fair trade organic coffee you use to wipe your conscience on not quite hot enough this morning? Did you get a paper cut on your soft pink thumb from turning the pages of the society section of the Guardian a little too briskly, so voracious was your desire to grow pig fat and smug on the goodness of your compassion for the less fortunate? What do you have to complain about? Nothing. Did the Beckett play you saw last night deviate from his original stage directions a little too much for your connoisseur’s taste? Was the Pad Thai you ate in that darling little place with the great pre-theatre menu a little inauthentic to your mind as one who has consumed real Thai food in real Thai Thailand? What do you have to complain about? Nothing.

Except that. Except that the nothing grieves you. The nothing grieves you because somewhere, yawning and aching under your sternum is a want. A want whose name is nameless but whose ache is great so we shall have to name it something after all. We shall name it somethingness.  We shall name it somethingness and in so doing acknowledge that it is real and alive and yours and a cause of distress and thus is something to be complained about. This nothing something of yours.

Your somethingness is a sorrow that you never can bleed off. The sorrow of not having bled enough, or suffered enough, or having experienced sufficient authentic misery to form a satisfying narrative that you might shock the boozy haze of the after dinner party table into reverent silence with survivor’s stories. Your unique pain, your narcissist’s excess of sensitivity requires an audience to hold it in awed, pitying regard, yet it is comprised of the knowledge that it is common and grey as Glasgow rain and ten times less worth noting. This somethingness of your is the universal agony of anonymity.

Yes your parents were cheese paring with their affections, you suffered the inadvertent cruelty of emotional austerity in a home where academic achievement was prized over happiness. Nobody beat you. Nobody starved you. They took you to baroque churches, Anglo-Saxon long barrows, museums of automata, troglodyte pre-history, cranberry cultivation and tin mining but they didn’t seem quite proud enough of you when you were picked to sing solo There is a Green Hill Far Away in church one Easter. Boo fucking hoo. Now mop the tears of your somethingness and tell me what you have to complain about. Nothing.

Except that. Except that you never can quite cry the top two inches off your somethingness which might be just enough to make its discomforts less present, less acute. Except that your somethingness is so deluxe and frivolous as to be humiliating and that self-awareness has no particular utility other than as a catalysing force. And so your somethingness is a trinket, a costume jewel worn on your chest like an ugly brooch, gaudy in its approximation of suffering, tacky in its simulation of that coveted diamond of real unhappiness initiated by real bad shit worth forcing other people to give a shiny, shiny little shite about.

So I will ask you again: what have you got to complain about? That your decency is under-appreciated? This speaks to your somethingess. That your neighbours played the whole of Yeezus four times through after midnight then fucked each other inside out at a volume which made you feel like you had fucked them both yourself and you didn’t even complain but lay there seething with the buckle on your tall, black puritan’s hat getting shinier with each thrust which they did not give a thought to? This speaks to your somethingness. Your somethingness is opportunistic – being dislocated and non-specific it is most efficient at identifying opportunities to nail itself to any minute instance of thoughtlessness which might temporarily be held up as the cause of it. Your somethingess sees nothingness then tries to make a nest in it. Your somethingness sees nothingness and tries to lay an egg in it. Your somethingess sees nothingness and hatches out its greedy cuckoo self, right in the very centre of it, flying out fat with self-selected melancholy.

So I will ask you again (and I am growing tired of asking you): what have you got to complain about? That your capacity for acute notice is under-appreciated? That you saw a single ballet shoe floating like a boat on the surface of a puddle in the middle of a desire path and were almost knocked flat by the simple poetry of it and that when you texted your friend (who, by the way, is a very successful playwright, because it should be noted that those sort of people are your friends) to describe it, she only replied ‘oh nice’ thus proving that even your inner circle are profligate with the rare and precious beauty of your thoughts? Please. Please. The cuckoo of your somethingness feasted on the worm of it.

I am not without sympathy for you and your somethingness: it must be hard to know your dreams are not worth mentioning, your sorrows bland, your suffering an indulgence and a bore. It must be hard to know the light yoke under which you labour still feels heavy to you, that you are conjoined to the agony of a practical joke which is that you have it easy but feel things hard. I am sorry for your somethingess. I am sorry for your complaint of nothing to complain about.




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