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Fatwah / July 13, 2009


In a world without miracles, death is a miracle.

A bad one. It makes no sense at all. This creature, your relative—Hell, your dog—was a constellation, a huge Venn diagram of metonymies, with a middle name and opinions and allergies and anecdotes. Doesn’t much matter if they were bad anecdotes, annoying opinions, a stupid middle name; there was the same density of little fiber-optic cables spreading out from them that mattered.

And now they’re a lump. Because one of the first things you know, when the great taboo on seeing corpses suddenly stops, is that dead is dead, gone.

That’s the miracle, the one miracle this universe offers. One little glitch and this galaxy is meat. Bad meat, too. It will start to stink soon. Actual maggots, not like in the rhyme. Various oozes.

It’s unthinkable. Which is where ghosts and gods and happy hunting grounds all come from. Not superstition, just popular physics, a natural idea of momentum. Because this, the one miracle we actually witness, is the one we want not to believe. Funny, if not exactly ha-ha. It can’t be; all that humming narrative momentum, all those Moby-Dick rusty harpoons dragging through the water as the creature drives on—they just aren’t there any more? You wouldn’t believe it about a rock, a runaway train, a flash flood. They don’t just stop in mid-lunge; it’s not even plausible. It’s not what Newton promised, god damn it. If we have to put up with Newtonian physics in all the dull high-school ways, moving your friend’s furniture up the stairs, why is it suspended here, the one place where it might help out? A body in motion can’t just become a lump in a chair. With flies.

But it does. The little cults, the last true human believers, make sure of that in little basement experiments now and then. Our messiah from Nowheresville Idaho will not die! Leave him in that chair for a week or so while we pray him back! But no, the Rev. Daryl begins to stink, becomes a home for many of our least-favorite species, and by the time the sheriff drags the last few of the faithful out of his Panhandle cabin in cuffs, they’re glad to go, asking the deputies if they can borrow one of those gas masks.

And Newton loses again, the whole notion that a human mind, soul, life is a thing that ought at least to have as much momentum as, say, a marble, loses again, every single time.

Every single time. That too is miraculous. What else happens every single time, without a hitch? Nothing but this, that I can think of. The smells, the flies, the whole horrible black miracle. It’s as if somebody were trying to tell us something. Nothing else works that well. Birth? For most of human history it was one of the worst bets around. And even if the child was launched successfully, there were a million ways it could die. That’s why they didn’t name the kid until it was older, likely to “stay” a while. A million ways to fool the demons, cut its hair in ways hard for their claws to clutch—none of which ever worked. Marriage, business, farming, war—nothing works. Only death, our one and only absolutely reliable anti-Newtonian miracle.

All you can do is get Exhibit A, that lump, offstage as quickly as possible and make something up so that momentum and mass, heft, value, some wretched consolation, is restored to its life in a few crania. So: “The lump’s ghost flew out through its nostrils, and now it’s…uh…hunting in the forests of the night.” “…selling bonds on the heavenly exchange.” “…patting out chapattis for eternity in some hot little village in the sky.” Or whatever.

But those are for the womenfolk; the more traditional male response was to embrace the miracle, become its priest. You see this man who laughed at me yesterday in council? I can make him into a lump of fly food. Instantly. One little flick. They must have learned quickly: flick that obsidian –flake on a stick at his arm or leg and he may not even be transformed, but flick it into his head or the middle of his chest and the miracle reliably occurs. One little stone chip in the head and your formerly witty, popular antagonist is meat, bad meat.

The kings tried all kinds of other ways to make good miracles; and in their definition, of course, “good” meant “the king gets to live forever.” It was like those five stages of grief, performed upon the bodies of slaves and POWs. “How about if I kill five slaves and ten horses? Will that delay my little miracle a few years longer?” Being good proto-Newtonian physicists, they tinkered with the numbers: “Damn, those five didn’t satisfy you? How about ten slaves? Fifty?”

It was like the bargaining Herodotus records between the pygmies and North African salt miners: no contact between the two sides. The salt miners would leave tombstone-shaped bricks of salt by the banks of the Niger, retreat one day’s march, and wait. The pygmies would leave little piles of gold dust by the salt blocks and retreat in the opposite direction. If the salt miners were satisfied, they’d take the gold. The pygmies would return and take the salt. If they needed more gold, they’d leave the pile, and the pygmies would add more and more until it was taken. Then they’d cart off their salt blocks. Nobody ever saw the other.

But whoever controlled the great miracle just wasn’t buying. It was like trying to trade salt with the hippos or crocodiles; they just didn’t get it. Whether you killed a hundred slaves or a thousand, you, O King, O Emir, O Shah, Son of Heaven, Whatever You Call Yourself, were going to be turned into a miracle yourself.

So they tinkered more. What if I kill these slaves in the most terrible way imaginable? And those God-Kings could imagine a lot. Sade has lists, they go on for 30 pages, I had to look some of those verbs up.

Perhaps there were even kings who tried benevolence, though you don’t hear much about them. Not surprisingly, whatever lone deity controlled the lone miracle was most definitely not impressed with that.

So the male response, the attempt to claim and control the miracle, failed too, was reduced to the same wretched stories: I have killed X number of Y tribe and when I die, they’ll have to serve me in the afterlife. The key phrase, the one that made the other murderous thugs around the campfire smirk under their grease, was of course “…and when I die….” Once you’ve said that, the rest is fairy tales.

By far the best response to an actual, reliable, ubiquitous miracle like death turns out to be not thinking about it. And that remains the option overwhelmingly preferred. In between, there was a blurry phase of watered-down kingly fantasies, democratized versions, an afterlife like a bus station where they let anybody in if they can show a ticket, but for some reason that phase, the so-called Great Religions, is now much harder to imagine than the God-Kings’ tombs full of decaying bargaining chips. Did anyone, ever, actually believe in the Christian or Muslim heavens? I frankly don’t believe it. The Hells, well yeah, of course. But the heavens?

My parents were almost appallingly rigorous and devout Catholics, but they died without a shred of comfort from the Church to which they gave everything, let alone its “God.” We couldn’t even get a priest to come to the house. That was the painful part, though: the nonexistence of the Church when they needed it. But that was a mere historical accident, bad luck, the collapse of Catholicism in the US at the end of the 20th century.

The other absence, of any notion whatsoever of going to a better place, one of those bus station heavens—that was just an unspoken premise in our house. You could believe in the Church because it was there, it existed. And served a purpose: for the slave class of the British Empire, it was a counter-hierarchy, a way of reinventing oneself as something more than despised vermin infesting the lawn. And they maintained that belief as long as they needed it, until convinced that America, for all its alarming Anglo echoes, wasn’t going to do that to them again. Then they very sensibly dropped it and dove into the money pit. Sane behavior. But the God part? As far as I know, no one of us was pitiful enough to believe in that.

So they died in terror. Not a hint of consolation, that I ever saw. Fear tempered with the hope of oblivion. That’s my hope too: oblivion, absolute. It’s a difficult discipline, summoning that oblivion, though the old tricks help (eg How did you feel the year Charlemagne was crowned? That’s how you’ll feel when you’re dead.).

I even thought about trying that bit of spiritual discipline on somebody I know who’s dying now. But you have to watch your mouth around the dying. It’s not a good time to let your tongue go traipsing among the daisies as it is all too wont to do. “Don’t worry! Hey, here’s a question for ya: how did you feel when Pizarro conquered the Inca? Moribund quaver from the soon-to-be-lump asking a question. “Oh, when, exactly? I think…actually I don’t quite remember, something like 1520? Anyway I mean before you were born, it could be any year…heh heh….” Oh yes, that would go over great.

Naturally we have DVDs on offer to squirt some consoling lies into this process, any number of dying-relative poems and novels and movies. No worse than what the Inca or any other huddle of terrified miracle-denying cultists offered their fellow chickens. Nobody here but us chickens, when the miracle arrives.

That’s what I can’t get over: this is what a miracle feels like. Like you would do anything to make it go away.

And that’s one way we’re at least a little luckier than most of the other tribal huddles: we have medications to make it go away. One of the most reasonable statements about death I ever heard was from a corporate lawyer who said simply, “I plan to be heavily medicated.”

But most of the deaths I’ve had to watch were not heavily medicated. In Reagan’s day it was much, much safer for your caring family doctor to let you spend your last days screaming in pain and terror than to risk the wrath of the DEA by handing out morphine. They’re not as cruel these days, but the patient has to agree, and these filthy taboos have a long life in the heads of their victims. I recall one death…terrified, eyes glued open, wouldn’t even take a sedative. A moral issue.

The only medications she’d accept were the ones which demonstrated contemporary medicine’s proud ability to prolong the terminal dive, like a doomed pilot being towed around in circles a while, to let him think about it before he hits the dirt. In one case I recall, two years to think about it. Terrified every second.

That’s why you have to revere Schopenhauer, despite about a thousand irksome pedantries and crotchets I can name off the top of my head: because he alone, or at least “alone” as far as I know, refused to say that this adds up. The rest of Western Philosophy resembles nothing so much as Enron’s accountants swearing on a stack of ledgers that it all made sense if you were an expert. The laity turned out to be correct, however, and the ledgers nothing but consoling lies.

It does not add up. All you can say is that: no. No, these books do not balance. Not even in Newtonian terms. The only terms in which they make sense are Darwin’s, and no one wants to go there. There are no protagonists in Darwin, and everybody wants to be a protagonist. It’s not hard to see why Newton is always depicted as an angel in human form, his bleached locks illumining his bony face with their own light, while Darwin is sketched as a all cheeks, jaw and eyebrows, flesh melting into shrub.

But for some reason you’re not supposed to say no; you’re not supposed to repeat that it does not add up. That’s one of those “obvious” things that have “already been done.” And the rule for these is simple: if you’re saying something nice, be our guest, it can’t be said too often and somehow it’s fresh every single time. But when the word “obvious” is uttered, you can be positive you’ve said something which is not wanted at the present time.

Which does suggest, if you’ve been around this cheap sideshow any length of time at all, that the word you need is, duh! “no.” Schopenhauer’s no. Lucy van Pelt’s no. Well, I can’t help it with the Lucy referent. Like Joe Chip attempting to contact souls committed to the chill of half-life, you have to use the materials to hand in their delusion. And the material at hand when I was a kid was, God help me, Charlie Brown. Through no fault of my own, damn it. But actually, and I blush to say it, actually, some of those cartoons—which is to say, this one I’ve been thinking of since I heard the news about [name deleted]. I’ve always loved this one Peanuts though I was never entirely sure why until now.

It’s three panels, one of the little black-and-white dailies, not the self-indulgent Sunday multi-panels. In the first panel Charlie Brown, that untiring Protestant missionary, stands before Lucy intoning, “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.” Second panel: Charlie has moved on and Lucy is standing alone, her beady eyes fixed, thinking it over.

In the final panel, my panel, THE panel, we see Lucy standing on the back step, her mouth wide open in a roar, shouting up at the suburban stars, “Curse you, darkness!”
I’m with Lucy.

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Add your own

  • 1.  |  July 13th, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Always the optimist Dolan. You should write one of those self-help inspirational books. You’d make a fortune.

  • 2. Grub McFiresteak  |  July 13th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I eat pancakes for a living.

  • 3. Jeff  |  July 13th, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Never apologize! Prior to its conquest by Snoopy, Peanuts was good, adult, even dark.

  • 4. Daar  |  July 13th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    As always, my brain hurting means that this is good.

  • 5. Punkercity  |  July 13th, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Speaking of panorganic necrosis for some reason after reading Dolan’s articles I’m always getting these weird ideas as if about true motives behind JFK assasination.

    Also looking at Newton’s picture one can’t help noticing that English medieval population were primarily similar to dumb ignorant bigots like myself. Or was it just the scientists – and the country red-faced freckled girls were sexy pretty? I mean why there were not any investigations specifically targeting female graves of the period, digging up their skulls, reconstructing them by MRI methods and testing their facial/oral fuckability in some online MMORPGs as standalone missions? There are BigDogs in US army already, why not give them some extra grave digging functionality, hook up facial modelling in real time to simple mouth type suctions devices that could be installed virtually anywhere. ‘An army’ of 5000 dog-type robots , 20000-30000 volunteers, a central command office of course, would be able to complete a most important archaelogical facial digitizing mission in most hardly accessible regions by rate of 30-50 sq miles per month and have fun in the process.

  • 6. pete  |  July 13th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Give us more hate, less depression

  • 7. Paul Yarbles  |  July 13th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Good article. Some somewhat connected thoughts…

    Maybe one comfort some of us can take is that our sense of self is illusory so death doesn’t really mean all that much anyway. We go on moment to moment thinking we are like some eternal unchanging god when we’re really more like a puff of smoke. Nothing but some matter that retains a certain configuration for a while and then dissipates (stole this from Schopenhauer — see below). And most of the time this configuration isn’t self-conscious, it is too busy reacting to the myriad stimuli pouring in from the outside or some uncontrolled internal processes. It’s those moments when we self-reflect and focus on the internal narrative that we can get bummed out by death. But remember this narrative is a fiction.

    It’s the ending of the sporadic narrative — one that we can’t help perceiving as continuous — that scares the crap out of us. But this narrative is not real, we lose focus all the time. Our sense of self ends all the time. One time it will end and not begin again. Big deal.

    Rationally we know death is no big deal. We are ending in some way a billion times a day. Many of us go into surgery and have little fear of going into that temporary oblivion that is general anesthesia. It’s what happens when we wake up or the prospect of never waking up that’s scary. Why the fear of never waking up? Once we’re under we’re like dead. 10 hours or eternity. Time makes no difference to the like dead and dead alike.

    Our irrational animal selves mixed with our knowledge of death makes for a bad combination that overrides any comforting rationality concerning our sporadic thoughts about the meaninglessness of the death of our sporadic selves. This and the fact that the road to our final ending is often filled with almost continuous pain means we’re fucked.


    Schopenhauer sez:

    “That we are nothing but _phenomena_ as opposed to the thing-in-itself is
    confirmed, exemplified, and made clear by the fact that the _conditio
    sine qua non_ of our existence is a continual flowing off and flowing to
    of matter which, as nourishment, is a constant need. So that we resemble
    such phenomena as smoke, fire, or a jet of water, all of which die out
    or stop directly there is no supply of matter.”

  • 8. rick  |  July 13th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Why John Coltrane makes Jackson Pollack and all modern artists look like pussies:

    All the exasperated wasting of time and emotional nihilism was built into the style. It’s a total loss, except for moments of religious transcendance, which quickly become as meaningless as they are precious and finite. It’s the idiotic spiritual unity that makes classic classical artists unlistenable. There’s no fear there. Coltrane was all fear, and better than the entire Western canon of classical music, effortlessly. Michael Jackson’s skin-bleaching, dancing superficiality makes a mockery of Coltrane, who surpassed every Western philosopher with no trouble whatsoever.

  • 9. Rick  |  July 13th, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    I’ll give you some hate, Pete. My dad wanted to end his suffering after his cancer spread to his bones. Of course, he wasn’t given that option by those around him.

    A system that doesn’t let you escape your suffering at your chosen time is worth hating. Dr. Dolan is right; the system doesn’t want people to be happy. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I promised my dad on his deathbed that I’d work to help other people avoid his fate. I hope I can be as outspoken as Dr. Dolan some day…

  • 10. Simple  |  July 13th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Writing such as this is wasted on the internets.

    This should be read off of its intended canvass; a prison wall. With chunks of bloodied fingernail for punctuation.

    And I mean that as a compliment.

  • 11. Bradley  |  July 13th, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Having just recently attended a fundamentalist Christian funeral, I can assure Dr. Dolan that a substantial number of Americans desperately cling to the idea of a “bus stop” heaven, and the whole slave mentality.

    But it was a woman who died, so maybe the beliefs were played up a bit for the audience. I don’t rightly know.

  • 12. jared  |  July 13th, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Sounds like Dr. Dolan should have majored in philosophy instead of talk about Sade and poetry.

  • 13. jimmy james  |  July 13th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    No, I want it all: hate, depression… just keep writing.

  • 14. captain america  |  July 13th, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    i’ve been rereading the lord of the rings over the last few months. there’s a lot there that makes you ponder about immortality and whether it would be worth it. good stuff…i dunno…do what makes you happy, dolan. you’re a smart guy. you can’t avoid death, why not enjoy the time you’ve got left?

    although, i’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and it seems to me that each man is more than just the physical sum of his body. there’s something there, intangible but real, that makes us what we are. it isn’t there once we get in the worm farming business, but does that really mean that it ceases to exist? seems almost unlikely to me.

  • 15. Evilcor  |  July 13th, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    I read this on the very day I came home to find my cat of 15 years dead. Thanks Dolan, I didn’t quite want to snuggle up with a .38 before.

  • 16. Hosswire  |  July 13th, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Great piece again, John.

    My little scurryings around to pay my debts and earn my living seem especially petty now. That’s good. It’s bad enough that I’m doing this shit I’m doing. It would be pretty awful if I started thinking it matters.

    And, yeah, darkness can suck it.

  • 17. Homer Erotic  |  July 13th, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    I’m not worthy. So I’ll just write that.

  • 18. Rick Ray  |  July 14th, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Spare us your metaphysical views on death and the afterlife Dr. Dolan and get back to writing more of your excellent literary reviews.

    Embrace the mystery of death and all its wonderful glory, since for whatever is true or not, we all can take comfort in knowing we don’t have to live forever in this cruel and painful existence.

    There can only be oblivion, heaven, or hell so choose one and move on.

  • 19. mechagodzilla  |  July 14th, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Man, dude feeds you some straight morose shit and you guys fall all over. Shit, he might be right, and certainly as far as the practical implications (especially the charade component of a religion, as opposed to the really badass effects), but this crap ought to be obvious.

    You should be out exploring instead. Read the downhill wagon Calvin and Hobbes comics instead of Peanuts.

  • 20. potassiumchlorate  |  July 14th, 2009 at 2:23 am

    be autiful

  • 21. jake  |  July 14th, 2009 at 2:58 am

    None of the comments are worthy of this article (or any of Dolan’s articles)

  • 22. teph  |  July 14th, 2009 at 5:24 am

    Great read.

  • 23. FSB Agent 008  |  July 14th, 2009 at 7:40 am

    From Whore-R stories to “People start to die” – in few short years? We kick you morons out of Russia, and look what’s happening to you, instead of overdosing on Viagra you clamor for painless death.

  • 24. Aaron  |  July 14th, 2009 at 9:24 am

    “…there’s something there, intangible but real, that makes us what we are.”

    Prove it, “Captain America”. Until you can do so, you’re no more clever than people who think that conservation of energy implies the continuity of human consciousness beyond physical death.

    I’m with Dolan. If I die and *don’t* cease to be, I’m going to be God damned pissed off.

  • 25. Graham C  |  July 14th, 2009 at 11:48 am

    “Birth? For most of human history it was one of the worst bets around. And even if the child was launched successfully, there were a million ways it could die. That’s why they didn’t name the kid until it was older, likely to “stay” a while. A million ways to fool the demons, cut its hair in ways hard for their claws to clutch—none of which ever worked. Marriage, business, farming, war—nothing works.”

    ^ The trouble with this, of course, is the fact that John Dolan was somehow still around to write it. Which suggests that birth was, generally speaking, a rather good bet after all.

  • 26. Homer Erotic  |  July 14th, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Funny, I don’t remember writing any such thing. I guess that’s what I get for choosing now to cut back my daily caffeine consumption.

  • 27. Homer Erotic  |  July 14th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    PS: “There is no cure for birth or death [other than] to enjoy the interval.”

    –George Santayana

  • 28. yabadabadoo  |  July 14th, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Writing this kind of crap does not help you get laid. Everybody remember that. This is what you must take away from this.

  • 29. casey  |  July 14th, 2009 at 5:10 pm


  • 30. captain america  |  July 14th, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    aaron, best proof i can think of would be to have you drink a big mug o’ hemlock. the exact same physical components that made up your body before would still be there, but something else would be gone. would it be destroyed? maybe, but the seems unlikely to me, in the same way that matter is never really destroyed, just transformed into energy or some other kind of matter.

    if that doesn’t seem logical to you, that’s fine. oh, and if you’re depressed, watch this oldie-but-goodie:

    always cheers me up. might even work on dr. dolan.

  • 31. brian  |  July 14th, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    I know I’ll be flamed or this comment.

    I used to get depressed when thinking of stuff like this, but then I started reading Teilhard, who pointed out that the evolution of all life is a process increasingly directed by human consciousness. I’m not sure why this makes me feel better – the survival of consciousness is still a dubious possibility – but it does give the universe a purpose: the willful expansion of the noosphere, etc, etc.

    Atheism still cannot be refuted rationally, since there is no proof of God, no ground on which to test the groundwork of all reality. There is really neither proof of God nor the ethical insights deriving from God; they cannot be possessed by the mind as data. There is only a rational judgment to be performed, a decision that must be made and cannot be avoided. A refusal to choose is a refusal to trust, a refusal of ventured confidence. Further connecting belief and trust, Hans Küng says that trust in God is, “super-rational, there is no logically stringent proof that reality is real, neither is there such proof of God. The proof of God is no more logically stringent than is love. The relationship to God is one of trust.”

    So basically, there are no answers (and there never were), only choices. Consequently, I don’t care much anymore for statements describing ‘Reality’s Ultimate Ground’ – data I might hold in my skull about God and death/life. Instead, I make choices and perform actions to bring about a more just world, trusting that the world is intelligible and meaningful.

  • 32. noone  |  July 14th, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Curses are for dyevs, only words. Real men are with Ivan Karamazov, aren’t they?.. Drag on untill 30 and then smash the cup over the floor

  • 33. Providence Wyldecunte  |  July 15th, 2009 at 2:58 am

    “The biggest defeat in every department of life is to forget, especially the things that have done you in, and to die without realizing how far people can go in the way of crumminess. When the grave lies open before us, let’s not try to be witty, but on the other hand, let’s not forget, but make it our business to record the worst of the human viciousness we’ve seen without changing one word. When that’s done, we can curl up our toes and sink into the pit. That’s work enough for a lifetime.”

    “To philosophize is only another way of being afraid and leads hardly anywhere but to cowardly make-believe.”

    -Celine ♥♥♥

  • 34. limaxophobiac  |  July 15th, 2009 at 3:17 am

    >>>Paul Yarbles

    It’s always nice when someone writes pretty mcuh what you were going to say but does it so much more eloquently than you yourself ever would. Which brings me to another point about death (which I feel I have to say I have no idea if Paul agrees with):

    All those things that make up ‘your’ narrative that you think will be lost when you die, the information that is you, the parts you find somehow imprortant atleast, are in all likelyhood not unique to you, and will therefore not actually be gone with the death of this particular dying animal husk.

    (Now you can argue that in time there will eventually be nothing of this left of these things at all as most of astrophysics points to time eventually comming to an ‘end’, but then we can get into the hurdle of the supposed linearity of time, “so it goes” etc.)

  • 35. limaxophobiac  |  July 15th, 2009 at 3:37 am

    The fear of death: Bascially the fear of death is based on the fact that you identify with ‘your’ physical body (or in the case of those of us who aren’t planning to die all that soon, our future physical bodies, which aren’t the same), so the sulution is simply to identify with something else (identifying with nothing at all is really hard to do).

  • 36. Ofrasr  |  July 15th, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    When W. Bush died we all cried. I don’t know why,we just did. A friend of mine studied with one of his daughters, was maybe close to her to be unofficially invited to the ceremony. The group was split into male and female parts. Then two mugs and two large cisterns on wheels were set forth under the table. Men masturbated to the mug and poured to their cistern, women peed and poured urine in theirs. At the end there was a preach told how Jews are always robbed by the female race, a couple of bitches were shot right on the spot. Then the rain came.

  • 37. booltox  |  July 16th, 2009 at 11:01 am

    I came here to say that once more Doaln has proven his worth as a writer. I’ve read it four times, each time laughing out loud at his description of the images of Newton and Darwin – although Darwin is misread by an equally trouble sort. All of the other comments are crap from either flatterers or blunted idiots. Nobody cares about your opinions, Dolan can write you cant, he alone gets to talk here. Except the story about Bush’s funeral from Ofrasr, that is just fucking funny.

  • 38. Joe Jackson  |  July 17th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Michael . . . DEAD?



    Watermelon on the house!!

  • 39. ibtrippen  |  July 18th, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Damn Dolan, did someone important to you die recently? I’m sorry.

  • 40. tom  |  July 18th, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Lucy might be wrong, Charlie B. might be right, but at least Lucy is testing the system.

    To the above commenter: Calvin and Hobbes do tend to embrace life more.

    There’s the one where Calvin is standing on top of the hill and says that he likes toboggans more than he like runner sleds.

    Hobbes asks why and Calvin replies, because you can’t steer.

  • 41. Grim  |  July 23rd, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Damn that’s grim.

    What you have written is exactly the lightning bolt of horror and gloom that struck me after watching my father die. I was useless for months, utter horror.


    We are on a ball of dirt orbiting a big ball of fire in the middle of nothing…
    So, with this in mind, you never fucking know what may come of you when the body fails. Newtons collection of bodily experience could be soaring the cosmos while communicating with a part of darwins.

    YOU never fucking know.

  • 42. lzzrdgrrl  |  July 24th, 2009 at 8:52 am


    You notice how certain animals don’t breed well when in captivity. They sit around and get all fat and listless. Without the promise of Eternity, human beings do pretty much the same thing as well. Plus, we have cable 😉 …….

  • 43. mitchell porter  |  August 4th, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    It’s not immortality – in the eye of eternity, it’s just a bandaid – but I thought I’d put in a word for… stem cells. Most of the ways that people die right now are only possible for a society and a species still in a state of technological backwardness, biologically speaking. Poets of mortality won’t be out of a job, people will still die; but the sensibility attached to illness and death is going to look a little different when you can regrow every organ from scratch.

  • 44. Michael  |  December 11th, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    I don’t really see the point in this article. But it seems that for the average eXhole it doesn’t matter: John Dolan writes something, so let’s all drool over it! Are we going to die? Really? Oh no, now this must be the most important part of life, let’s focus on it, let’s all be morose fuckers like some emo kids. And then let’s go through some religion-criticism 101. Pfuh. Schopenhauer, pathetic. All of his stuff has soundly be refuted as anti-life nihilism that doesn’t get you anywhere by Nietzsche anyway. And for all the talk of death, and life having no point and all, well, you live in the US, get yourself a gun and paint the bathroom a more lively colour. Or is everyone above that, is that too minor, are we waiting for the nuclear winter to wipe us all out? Fuck me.

    I smell simple mid-life crisis. Dolan is 54, was recently laid off unceremoniously from his university job and feels he’s at an end-station of life. No wonder he comes up with all this nihilistic crap. If he really feels that way, I suspect the eXile will come up with an obituary soon.

    The world is a crappy place, but I think a truly great person is above all the misery and stupidity, and strives to be the best. That means focusing on art, so you can leave something permanent of beauty to the world, or try to become someone extremely powerful and use that power to improve the world. Don’t be a nihilistic asshole, it leads to nothing. And if you are, just rid the world of yourself so the rest of us doesn’t have to listen to your nihilistic whining.

  • 45. Eric Fyfe  |  March 26th, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    John Dolan is one of my favorite writers. The best writers are Dolan, Ames, and Philip K. Dick. They all came out of the Bay Area and they all spoke the truth.I’ve read a lot of Dolan’s work and he
    was right about everything when it came to literature.

    I look at it this way. It’s all about interptation; This reminds me of The Albert Camus novel The Outsider. Both writers were trying to convey the pathos of the athiest man.

  • 46. Trevor  |  November 9th, 2011 at 5:57 am

    Aww, cheer up John! Didn’t you yourself say this was all going to change somewhere down the line in your review of The Elementary Particles? Sure, you’ll likely still die before it happens – as will everyone reading this – but never count out humanity’s fight against the “bad miracle.”

  • 47. Someone  |  December 8th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    There is no one but the great John Dolan

  • 48. Richard  |  November 18th, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Hegel was just as brutal as Schopenhauer. They hated each other precisely because they were so alike – kinda like China and Vietnam you know?

    Don’t trust Hegel’s Marxist fans, he had nothing to do with most of what they say about him. “Absolute Knowledge” “Thesis antithesis synthesis” and other dumb cliche’s have nothing to do with his thinking. In fact, you’d probably like him. Brecher would, that’s for damn sure – Hegel was one of the only philosophers brave enough to say that War is perfectly inevitable. And despite his supposed racism, he openly supported the French AND Haitian revolutions (ironically, he was far less of a racist than Marx, who called blacks niggers in disgust and anger, and dismissed entire categories of human development as “Asiatic mode of development” – intellectual slang for “I’m too lazy to look into it and it doesn’t fit my Iron Model of History anyway.”). Openly supporting Napoleon’s revolution was incredibly brave for a European (let alone a German) but supporting black slaves killing their masters? You can see why so many people thought he was insane. But Hegel was not (just) mad, he was a genius. Look into him, he’s not what the pseudo-leftists claim he was.

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