by Arran James
Doing research for an essay on counselling I come across a text online called Anthropathology. Immediately the name of this book appeals to me and I start reading the googlebooks preview. Immediately I can taste the word and let it colour me. It’s refreshing to read a counsellor writing about counselling who is aware that their is something fundamentally wrong with humanity. For a while I have wondered if my thinking was still caught in an antihumanism or if I had managed to successfully navigate my way towards a more benign posthumanism. On reading this word I know where I stand. The metaphor I inhabit is diagnostic; neither for or against a pathology, aware that a thought that can only detect deficit is one that remains stunted in the shallows, afraid of drowning in the rapids of nuance and the depths of humanity’s amazing capacity, in most instances, to resist the temptation of the overripe fruit of suicide.
I haven’t yet read the book, only a few skimmed pages. Yet I have a presentiment of what it might contain. Man will be painted as hideous, deformed, small. Man will also be painted as beautiful, the owner of a profound capacity to keep going, to manage, to cope, even to convince himself that life is worth living (objectively, it is not). Not only is he the exceptionalist animal that sees himself as the animator of all being through his powers of imagination and reason (correlationism). But he is also the animal that knows it is no better than any other thing in existence, lacking all special status, and celebrates the figures who have told it such.
If narrative gives a form to life, and if we are narrating constantly, we are the strange animal that knows the horror of itself, its world, the social and interpersonal miseries it finds itself born into, engendering and maintaining (with only degrees of intention) and does not enact a tidal wave of suicides en masse, an true genocide of the species, being unable to even look at it’s own illusory reflection.
There is something wonderful about humanity. I can’t decide if I am in love with it or if I despise it to the core. Probably it doesn’t much matter. Pessimism is no trait for a counsellor to dwell with. A blank neutrality, an addict’s compulsive attachment to living, the defusion of self from act, act from thought, no revulsion but perhaps a perverse admiration for humanity’s essential monstrosity. There is something exceptional about this species; it can’t go on, it goes on.
I am in love with our lies, our confirmation biases, our delusions and illusions that propel us out of bed in the morning, never mind to the quest to discover God particles with giant atom beams in sprawling underground bases (a school boy’s scifi fantasies come true). I am in love with how it is we persist, even those of us most damaged- even those of us the most banal. The man who works behind his desk for 20 years- data in, data out- and contemplates hanging himself but instead goes on holiday once a year, every year…or simply stays indoors for a week, not bothering to escape at all. I won’t say I regard him as an idiot or as a hero, he is probably neither… it’s enough that he is, despite every reason not to be, to ensure that he isn’t, and that for most of his adult life he will be only seconds away from the means to end it all, to go dark and let the inputs and outputs finally rest in perfect equilibrium, but that he will not do it, will not notice it, will not even let it cross his mind. He doesn’t imagine he will be happy…but there he is, getting dressed, drinking coffee, hoping to God that his wage slip includes a rise in line with VAT, making plans to fall in love one day…ignoring the inevitability of nonexistence.
I am in love with at least some part of our sickness.
Having done a quick amazon search I see the book is priced well out of my means for a single text, coming in around £70 at the lower end of the price scale. I will likely never read it. It’s a shame and yet, probably best not have any more fire for my own confirmation biases. A little frustrated I’m logging off and going to watch a film.