“What if a demon crept after thee into thy loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to thee: “This life, as thou livest it at present, and hast lived it, thou must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to thee again, and all in the same series and sequence-and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself. The eternal sand-glass of existence will ever be turned once more, and thou with it, thou speck of dust!”- Wouldst thou not throw thyself down and gnash thy teeth, and curse the demon that so spake? Or hast thou once experienced a tremendous moment in which thou wouldst answer him: “Thou art a God, and never did I hear anything so divine!….” –Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Gay Science” Paraphrase of The Heaviest Weight.
As I flipped through the pages, mesmerized by that paragraph of Friedrich Nietzsche and his concept of “The Eternal Recurrences” or the affirmation of a person that is willing to live this life over and over again, in the same sequential occurrence without differences and isn’t hesitant in the agreement then they are considered a Übermensch or Superman. Only a person with such mental strength would agree to such a fate that some would call torment. As I put myself in the eyes of those starving kids in Africa, you know, the three a.m. commercials, those commercials that only ask for three cents a day but no one really gives a cent. I asked myself “If I was a child in those conditions, would I want to repeat this live again and again?” Without hesitation, no way in hell would I submit to this torment…what I consider as torment.
As this notion meanders through the corners of my Übermensch mentality, I caught the stenches of an old “friend”. His obese grotesque shape of a body, like a ball of sorts with tiny arms and legs. Wearing an overly large T-shirt to cover a shame of a body, and the smell “oh” the putrid stench of sweat as though an ulcer was growing in the underside’s of his skin, lost in the folds like sedimentary rocks crushed throughout the ages. Slowing wobbling through the coffee shop, I would assume that if a demon would to placed him in the world of recurrences, that if he had to live this life again and again, then… No, I could not bear that thought…. That cruel notion.
My “friend” circled around the tables, looking for a spot to place his giant, spherical body, the devil on my shoulder shouted into my mind, “Wei, uh, yah I know that you love this guy man, but, I am praying for your ass that this “friend” of yours don’t sit here.” And my little devil was correct, I didn’t want him to sit next me, or anywhere around me. If he sat near me, my views of his sadness would burden me. My empathetic self created a Box to lock all the problems in the world, of famine, disease, war, oppression and poverty, and by placing those in the box I could lock it up. Hid the keys until I need them for intellectual or discussion purposes but otherwise I wouldn’t want to open this box. However, if he were to sat next to me, his aura would put a crack on my box, like Pandora, all those thoughts would fly out, and greatly burden my ideal world.
“How’s it going man Kisame?” I asked, shallowly, as I held out my hands palms open, anticipating a handshake.
“Oh you know, the same ol’ same ol’.” Kisame replied, and returned the gesture.
Yes it has been the same old, same old. Ever since the day I met him, it was the same old same old. Sitting on the chairs of the coffee shop, beaming over his yellow manuscript, switching back and forth analyzing an old beat up Bible with other comparative literature about incoherencies and fallacies that are presented in the Bible.
For a while I came to respect Kisame, my Confucian upbringings meant that you must respect your elders, especially those who are wise and cogent in their speech. For a long time, I did. Being an inquisitive mind, I would be the one who always ask questions in class for the sake of understanding the topic, even though my peers found it annoying, I remember a classmate in my 12th grade humanities shouting out “Wei, shut up so we can move on!” as we were talking about Dante’s Inferno. I never hated any of my teachers (or professors), because I knew that one time my math teacher were like us, sitting, writing, asking what is the meanings of those repetitive homework assignments. I knew that my 10th grade English teacher had to suffer during her career because my peers would make fun of her, to undermine her pedagogical style by replacing the film Macbeth with MacbeXXX, a porno. My 11th grade English teacher had a high pitch voice that sounded like a parrot. Not to mention that she was also ancient, in her 70s, and became the top of my peers’ prank list. I however would never participate in any of those pranks.
My respect for authority for teachers as well as civil law came from my semi-authoritarian Chinese father. In the 7th grade my father slammed my head to the wall when my social studies teacher Mrs. Rollins told him how I was fooling around in class while visiting my family restaurant. From then on, every time when Mrs. Johnson (Mrs. Rollins married Mr. Johnson in following year) comes that restaurant, she would tell me jokingly how I ought to behave or my father would kick my ass, and we would have a laugh.
I did behave better. After a single drop of alcohol, I do not drive due to the shame I would put in my fathers name if I drank and drove. I don’t smoke weed because, if the school caught me, expulsion practically means death; or worse, it would stop my parents’ funding my college. The reason that my parents are so authoritative is because of their upbringing; my father lived in a family of six: three siblings and his parents. My grandfather was a farmer living in such meagerness that one egg and some potato rice would feed a whole family of six. My grandmother was mentally disabled, so that didn’t help the situation. After immigrating to the US back in the 90s, he was able to open his own restaurant and bring my mother and me here. My father’s family was able to climb out of the depths of Dante’s Inferno and now into Paradiso.
Fast-forward 15 years later, right after my high school career I had to make new friends. All of my classmates and friends went to different universities across the country, so I had to start making college friends, or to find a new and hopefully intellectual community to associate, and to travel with me in this path of life. I found a coffee shop that never close, and that allowed me to study as well as to make new friends. My audacious tongue talked to random strangers, and if I was lucky turned strangers into friends. Til’ this day, the few interesting friends that I made became close companions and knitted me within the Coffee shop community.
There was a doctor named Dan S. that came from Pakistan and would go to Starbucks to study for the U.S. medical school board exam, as well as study how the ladies work. The Pakistani doctor became friends with an Iranian medical school resident at the University of Michigan Hospital named Arjone. Arjone would go to Starbucks everyday after work because his Romanian wife is in Chicago finishing up her Ph.D. so he felt lonely in the apartment. Dan introduced me to the Arjone so the three of us became friends. The third doctor in the coffee shop crew was an Indian by the name of Negephusnum Beddi, or simply John who went to the University of Edinburgh for medical school studying emergency surgery. John became bored of his career after cutting and stitching patients for 16 years that he came to the US to open up his own iPhone App Business.
Not only was there doctor but also there were also radical thinkers. One is Kisame and the other a professor by the name of Timothy Bishop. Dr. Bishop is a sociology professor that studies the name of power in an institution and how democratic theories work in the educational systems. I met this professor due to his habitual visitations to the Coffee shop every Thursday to Sunday night. I introduce myself by ways of poking into his personal bubble and engaged in a dialogue with him.
It was the winter semester of 2009; around 11pm a tall handsome figure would walk into the coffee shop. Wearing his brown jacket, and a brown beat up leather bag on his left shoulders, gazing around the coffee shop after getting his small cup of coffee looking for a seat. “Hey, this seat is available.” I offered, loudly. “Thanks.” He gently replied. He pulled out a stack of papers, in sets of stapled five to seven pages and started gazing over his square spectacles. Concentrating, correcting, commenting on the side of the paper, and within minutes a page full of red circles, lines, and comments.
“Are you a professor or something?” I asked fondly.
“Yes, I am.” He replied, without a hint of irritation.
“What do you teach? And where??” I asked enthusiastically.
“I teach sociology and education at Eastern” he replied.
“Oh cool, is sociology like philosophy or something? I’ve been learning about philosophy, it’s a really interesting subject so far.” I replied without the slightest fear of being told off. “Well in some aspects of it, it is philosophic….” Without finishing the sentence I quickly interjected “Oh cool! What’s your view of religion?!” We talked for a bit that night, then every time when I saw him I would ask him questions on philosophy, from Plato in the 400BCE all the way to Nietzsche.
And that is how I met professor Bishop, talking to a random stranger on a topic that some consider being taboo. The next radical thinker was Kisame, parallel to my philosophical journey, was also the love for my religious or rather anti religious journey.
When I read “The God Delusion” I decided that this was it, this was my Bible and the British scientist Richard Dawkins would became my prophet. In the archangel side, there was Sam Harris who wrote “The Letter to a Christian Nation”, a fun little piece that I read within 3 hours. And lastly, there was the Demonic writer for Slate Magazine Christopher Hitchens who wrote the “Portable Atheist” a piece that I recently reread and found that it is a nothing more then complaint on the surface level of religion and not going into the sophisticated social sphere of problems of religion. Hitchens was diagnosed with throat cancer a year ago, now unable to speak. If there is a God, it must be his way of saying “Shut the fuck up now, I’ll deal with you when I see you in the very near future.”
I would agree with all those atheistic-pseudo-philosophical authors because that was my first time listening to those arguments and they were my first sources. My first semester in college, the pretentiousness that I showed was overwhelming. I would spark random arguments with others reducing their religious arguments into a pulp for the simple pleasure of showing off my intellectualism. The first time I saw Kisame, reading his Bible, I categorized him as another religious nut-head, and his being poorly dressed simply agrees with the stereotype that those who are poor, who are uneducated, tend to be more religious. I would ignore him at all cost due to his physical distortion and my assumptions of his religiosity, but one day it was disproved.
I bought my coffee, and there were no other seat in the shop except for that one seat, across from this guy. It was between driving to another coffee shop, buying another cup of coffee or sitting next to this guy, ignoring his eye contact, and submitting to his stench. I picked the choice that seemed reasonable and smiled as I asked him if the seat was taken.
“No.” he said gently, there didn’t seem to be any accents that would indicate sarcasm or annoyance.
“I see you here a lot, what do you do?” I asked, thinking, and hoping that he would reply, “I love God, therefore I need to understand his texts, through the readings of this Bible.” No, instead he asked me, “Did you know that in Galatians 6:2 of the Bible, the passages says Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. BUT in Galatians 6:5, only two lines afterwards, it states something completely faults, for every man shall bear his own burden.” He replied, laughing at the biblical problems. I chuckled along, “I’m Wei, pronounced Way, because I am the way.” I introduced. “Kisame, nice to meet you Wei.” He greeted smirking at me. I was impressed by his blasphemous comment, and began to converse about the problems of religion, the inherent contradictions, and how religion ought not to influence politics.
From politics to religion, the conversation with Kisame over the course of the next three years went from great, to okay and slowly declined the level of annoyance. I also learned about his background. He was a pre-pharmacy student in at the University of Michigan and during the sophomore year of undergraduate learned that he didn’t like the path so he chose to study sociology. A cogent thinker such as him would be respected more as a sociologist then science. He was finishing his Masters Dissertation until one day his funds ran out. No money for college, he worked in the school until recently laid off. Jobless, he began writing a manuscript attacking the Bible, but still today there doesn’t seem to have an end with his finished book, let alone publishing it.
He would start dialogues about religion with me and I would be completely fine with it. At least for the first year or so. My arrogance with religious people had dampened, soaked in the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, calmer. I shifted my attention that time to ancient Greek philosophy, the intensity of hate towards Christians became less and less. I realized that I went through a phase of life like the Gothic or the Preppy and the Arrogant Atheist. I would now get tired of religious debates or talks of religion. I realized that they couldn’t prove a thing and I had bigger fishes to fry, so I shifted from my Atheist phase and went into an ancient Greek philosophy phase. (The I am at today is Social Theory and the notion of Hyper reality. Those phases never completely died out; they still accommodate each other in my thinking because they are the building blocks of my rational thoughts). I had shifted phases but he was still the same. After all, how could he change his perspective, he is a man in his 50s, the only thing that’s pushing him right now is that anger for religion, a hope in the changing of our religious system.
“Hey Wei, did the Greeks have ideas about Christianity or allegories that is similar?” he asked, “Well, the idea of Plato was…” I answered carelessly, annoyed. I knew what I was talking about, but I got tired of his conversations about religion. It turned into a series of annoyances that had slowly repelled me from him, hoping that every time I enter the coffee shop to not have to sit next to him. To amplify my hatred, I began to magnify his physical abnormalities, and created a false sense of disgust. I also wished that he would disappear so I wouldn’t have to see or feel bad for him anymore.
Every time I looked at him, I saw suffering: a mother’s unfortunate creation, humanity shrinking smaller and smaller, living on the welfares of the government. Being victimized and made fun of by people like me: people who lack empathy, compassion or the sociological imagination of viewing things from their perspective. How forlorn his life? A man whose passed the mid life crises, single, alone and no kids, that if I were him I would rather pull the trigger because I know that no one is going to give a flying fuck if I die.
Last month, the news of him being evicted spread through the Coffee shop crew. According to an email that Kisame sent to Negephusnum, explaining how many years of disorganization had caught up with him. Kisame seems to be blaming himself and realizing what was going on, he wrote that disorganization and no sense of getting things done on time was a problem even in his college days. If he had prepared for his financial situation in college then maybe he wouldn’t have to drop out. Maybe if we helped him month prior with finding a job, and establishing financial stability he wouldn’t get evicted and force to live in the homeless shelters of Ann Arbor.
“Is there anything we could do?” Dan asked. “I mean we have no money to give. There isn’t any place for him to stay at. Shit I don’t have room in my apartment, and besides my wife is coming to town.” Arjone said with not hint of remorse.
“This all could’ve been prevented if we prepared him for this in January, were we could try to find him a job, and none of this could happen,” said Negephusnum. And he was right, if we knew about this six-month ago, we could help Kisame. Kisame had incredible writing talent, according Dr. Bishop. Maybe if we did our job as respectable human beings many month priors to that we might, just might, save this guy from financial death. The enthusiastic Negephusnum made a bet with the Arjone. They bet that six weeks from now the Negephusnum would help Kisame lose weight and make him socially and economically stable again. The Arjone bet 100 dollars against that notion, and also, “Me too, I am in as well, and if we lose, our money goes to his pocket. Deal?” I bet against the Negephusnum but maybe he would win.
I got my wish. He was never heard from again since that night, and supposedly he quit, like the 3.5 million Americans a year: homeless, unshelled, unloved by society. He would not survive in the homeless world, morbidly obese, the weights crushing his kneecaps, and living with diabetes. Watching an obese, homeless, suffer through life challenges my philosophical, social and political believes and intent.
I studied about philosophy, sociology, linguistics, and the human relation. But I live in an ideal world because my family can support me through college, never worrying about where to sleep or what to eat. I studied those topics to master the intellect and to show off. But philosophy is useless and sociology is useless without using it to help those who are suffering from their unfair fates. If I was a Buddhist, I could believe that their suffering was caused by the sins of their last life. But I am not, and this is no spiritual world, and God is not here to help them. He showed me my true self, not a socialist community loving caregiver of the world, but a person who I have criticized in my philosophy and socio-political papers: an elitist capitalist, egotistical bastard who only uses others for the sole purpose of power. And I realize it; I don’t have to change the system because I benefit from the system due to me socio-economical standpoint. Those who are struggling with life need to step up to change the world that controls and shapes their destiny so they the poor can shape their destiny. A change that hopefully can say Yes to the demon who said to thee.
I am powerful; I can handle the eternal recurrence because I have the capacity and the great fate of being in a place that I am today due to the fortune of my parents. As for him, if he had to live this life again and again, then… No, I could not bear that thought.
(Continued from first page.)”…If that thought acquired power over thee as thou art, it would transform thee, and perhaps crush thee; the question with regard to all and everything: “Dost thou want this once more, and also for innumerable times?” would lie as the heaviest burden upon thy activity! Or, how wouldst thou have to become favorably inclined to thyself and to life, so as to long for nothing more ardently than for this last eternal sanctioning and sealing?” –Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Gay Science” The Heaviest Burden.