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Walking Austin, pt.2

Essay
Marcus Little

Walking Austin, pt.2

It rained this morning. I stood beneath the stairwell and felt the mist. I miss the living harshness of the north—the stinging freshness. The sun came by midafternoon and took it away. That is Texas—she brings the sun, and you can’t argue with it. But I know how to love two climates at once.

There is man who lives next door who has come to fascinate me. I’ll spare his name in case he runs for high political office someday. Let’s call him Gerbald. When I first moved to the North University district, Gerbald was in the heat of a very close political race for the city council. He was one of nine candidates for the district seat. His signs popped up like little mushrooms, shiny and pristine, poking out from people’s flowerbeds as I walked the avenues.

Last night I went for a late night walk and did my nightly check in. I passed Gerbald’s house. He was watching the state of the union. I’m not surprised that a wannabe technocrat would find himself doing so, I’m just surprised as I always am that I am not surprised. Oh how far I’ve come. Or oh how far I’ve been pushed. A thirty-five year old white man who still watches SNL and the State of The Union? How much self-loathing can one heart hold? I mean, what type of man would subject himself to such belittlement? I’m being harsh, I know. I know what it’s like to want to cling to a sinking ship. I do understand. I too have clung to edges until my fingers were rapped to bare red bone by bamboo rods, tortured until I could cling no more. That was Sociology class.

I walk on, and the afternoon sun breaks through the trees and paints the houses in an orange light. Another thought finds me and scolds me for being so flippant about Gerbald. I must be careful as all dissidents must be careful not to make un-necessary enemies. It’s an unholy thing to put yourself at odds with the whole world. In reality, it’s dangerous, and in your mind, cancerous. It behooves the dissident to spend his time ruminating on realities which he is not in opposition to. It behooves a dissident to spend his waking hours searching high and low for allies to his spiritual quest. I have grown skeptical of that gleeful feeling I get when I pass Gerbald’s house and all the Gerbald’s of the world. I don’t like that righteous feeling anymore. I don’t like the admonishment where I put myself below him and above him and in opposition to him. I damage my very soul.

One should know his enemy, sure. Spend years knowing him. Spend years knowing yourself and him and the distinctions and the symmetries, and finding what it right and what is wrong about all in the world. That is after all, what adolescence is for, and to the extent that we are still flabbergasted by the evil which works against the good, we are indeed in that modern state of extended adolescence. Once we are confident in our knowledge of the landscape, we should not linger any further. The journey should begin. We should not make a religion out of knowing evil. Knowing good and creating good shall be your worship. The gleeful hatred makes destruction of your heart. But that is their attitude, and you will never best them at it. You can’t out criticize a critical theorist. Their connection to the power of pathos is too strong. You can defeat them only with your ethos.  We can live defiantly only by an attitude of creation. There is indeed little of a frontier left to this planet, and little left of wild place. But there still are little pockets. Go and find them and colonize them with your goodness.  “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.” said Archimedes. And he is with me here on this walk of mine. His hand is on my shoulder.

 

 

Sometimes I walk around the university. It’s good to be reminded that there are young people who have not yet had their hearts entirely colonized. It’s good for one’s health to be surrounded by the young. Childlessness is a character of our age and a shade of our sickness—I come here to retreat from its consequences. In most times, and in healthier times, children were everywhere. Youth and the future were omnipresent. I wonder what that does to people—to be surrounded by the young? It brings them back to reality I think, connects them to the temporal element—past, present, future—strengthens the relationship to lineage, reminds us that what is continues on until halted by interceding force. There is also the young’s frantic energy, their vibrance is like the inside of a nuclear reactor—it can power a city or destroy a whole continent. It helps to be frequently reminded of that—that the consequences of unholy allegiances will bear its hideous fruit, not in you, but in the generation of your children, and when you are frail and old, you will be at the mercy of their inner angels and devils.

 

When inner darkness comes in contact with that young frantic energy, an instinct to creation turns to a pathological desire for destruction. The reactor rips open—cultural destruction, genocide—egged on and given philosophy by the elders sure, but made possible and give energy by angry 20 year olds. Such is true also in positive form—innovation, growth, the creation of societies—thought up in the minds of the old and wise, but made possible, given energy, by the youth’s desire for change—to make their place and mark upon the world.

Therefore, is it a blessing or a curse that these generations grow smaller and smaller? For someone looking to enact a cultural change at the level of DNA, it would certainly seem a boon—that there might no longer be enough young energy available to propel a new ethic past the sentinel of liberal boomer orthodoxy. Oy vey

The buildings of this university, beautiful and grand, like much of this city, and much of the western world, seem like artifacts of a previous society. It was built in the frantic creative energy of the interwar and postwar 20th century. There were anti-civilizational sentiments brewing even then, but you can tell in its construction, in its Spanish revival, and neo-classical motifs, the arches, the ornamentation about the doorways and entrance ways—you can tell that the tradition of the west was still the operating software when the frantic growing energy was unleashed upon this place. But alas, the 60’s revolution succeeded, the traditions were cast down, and now the frantic energy of the millennials and zoomers expresses themselves in perpetual cycles of destruction and criticism.

A question:  what narrative do you tell a child to pull them away from destruction? It will matter gravely what becomes of these young people. The precocious among them, the leaders and Kings and even the jesters will notice the incontinuity of their age. Their beautiful spirits will feel the ugliness and inhumanness of modernism most oppressively. Some will seek a flourishing—some will seek a blossoming garden. So, if we meet such a young person, what are we to say to them? If their heart is lowly burning, how can we fan the flame?

How does the desire to create make argument against the desire to destroy? What happens when the cycle of destruction outpaces the cycle of creation? The cycle of destruction is the Techno-dystopia, the Total-state, the Marxist virus, the end of peaceful days. These forces spiral in on each other ever faster, casting their coercive acid on more and more of life. How then, when the forces of creation require such gestation, do we repair?

I don’t believe cultural resolution can be hurried or speed up. If hurried in brash and untactful ways, it is likely to leave flaws in foundation and the destiny of said revolution will be that of all the failed revolutions you’ve never heard of—total obscurity. If a cultural revival methodology and worldview is a half-baked loaf, premature and unformed, then it will be easily unwound and destroyed by a more entrenched and sophisticated destructive energy.

The force of chaos plays our negative emotions like notes on a harp. It knows when to strike a chord firmly and when to refrain. This force of modernity plays on our empathy, guilt, shame, fear, and envy—these are its cards to play. If a dissident understanding is not hyper self-aware of these emotions, and if it does not strengthen the countervailing emotions; Honor, Courage, Grace—If these pillars are not bolstered before conflict—if the youth are not prepared to face enmity—then any movement that requires their young and frantic energy will be doomed to failure.

How then do we create stable hearts and souls? A question for another time. But before I have a chance to turn for home, a white pill strikes me and it is this: I would rather have one true warrior than ten slaves. For when the warrior’s deeds are victorious, or lest he is martyred, it will catch aflame the inner warrior trapped within the DNA of those who witness his courage. If however, half-baked soldiers are thrown into battle, their retreat will inspire the instinct to cowardice for all who witness. This reason and this reason alone is why they want you to charge into them unprepared.

 

 

The best place to see the sunset in Austin is from the western hills looking east. There you will see the fire blazing across the aqua skyscrapers. The sun’s beauty is most seen in its reflection. What else is this true of? Is the light of truth beautiful in itself? If I was to know truth in its pure form, maybe it would look like the sun and it would blind me. I can see truth only in its reflection off the world. I see it only in its illumination—in its bright purifying heat.

In the popular ghetto culture, I am made to feel self-conscious for my affinity for the affluent parts of the city. I am made to feel as though I am running from “real life” from the ghettos in the east. “Real life.” When did real life become synonymous with the suffering of life, and the dark and ugly? There is that giddy nihilism which dances in the kitchens of the restaurants on sixth street, and in the halls of the schools. I hear its aggressive declarations in the lines at the BBQ joint and sprayed onto the pavement.

That giddy nihilism says that violence is real, and peace is a facade. My generation seemed to be born with that intuition, as if we sensed the secret we weren’t supposed to know—that we were standing atop a house of cards. We felt the erosion beneath us and became aware of the show-business which held society together.

In my darker moments, when I walk through these beautiful hills, I can’t help imagining them in ruins—smoked and burning, trash littered, graffitied to hell with illegible screeds. I can see this land burning and growing darker. I can see the Tuscan mansions falling into shabbiness. Oh, how it hurts my soul to see this true possibility. But if the palaces of Rome can be vandalized, so too can any monument of this Empire.

Because I like to stand in the west, I often find myself looking to the east. Perhaps that is the reason for the blackness which seems at times to settle on my heart. I look to the east and watch the storm rolling in. And now I understand the giddiness of my nihilistic peers. They have an entitlement of vision you see. They are looking from east to west. Ahead of them lies green rolling fields and it matters to them not that they journey there to set those fields ablaze. They still get to look into the sun, while the conservatives path is to look at the sun shining onto darkness. That entitled nihilistic peer of mine will never turn around to look at the destruction of their wake. Asking them to see what is behind them has borne no fruit.

Still, I refuse to move. I would be a peasant in the west of the city before living with all the material trappings of modernity in the south east where I once did. No amount of extra disposable income is worth losing my freedom to walk unmolested by the demon-trolls that live under the eastern bridges. I turn left at Exposition St. where there’s a church. Jesus is carved into stone, beside him waves a rainbow flag in the Texas wind. I go past for half a mile and turn west onto Enfield and head up to higher elevation. There’s a high school to my left and I wonder, what it must have been like to be schooled there? You couldn’t help but be an optimist I think, raised in that light, with the city shining downtown, and the blazing sunset shimmering over all that you saw. Surrounded by such prosperity of nature and human wealth, you couldn’t help but be an optimist up here, looking to the east and watching the city growing up alongside you. Where I come from people grow up watching cities torn down and torn apart in front of them.

It’s no wonder to me that the fire of revolution never comes from the top, and yet, only from the top can it be seen through to completion. Perhaps this is where we find the archetype of the “true born”, who comes and returns to us the glory of the kingdom. What is it that a noble born has that the hoard leader does not? Perhaps it is that optimism of the shining hill, steeped in beauty. Knowing beauty intimately cannot be substituted with pure unadulterated will. Perhaps it is important that a noble leader of a popular revolution understands that if his movement were to turn ugly, it would be against his own upper class that the revolutionaries slaked their bloodlust. It is not the goal of noble destruction that motivates the heir-king, but a desire to bring the plebeians up from abuse—to bring the nobles and the plebeians back into harmony with each other. If you’re looking for nobles in Austin, you’ll find them at Mozart’s.

When I leave Mozart’s I follow Lake Austin heading back east towards downtown. The last rays of sunlight are playing on the glass of the half complete megastructures. When the sun has fallen beneath the horizon, the city, viewed from the west, for ten minutes of the dusk, becomes a vaporwave fantasy.

I get off 5th and head back west on 6th. 6th west has become the new 6th central. The famous old 6th was infected by too much debauchery. A little debauchery is tantalizing—that character they claim to love, but too much keeps the classy girls away. And the classy men with their black credit cards follow them. One too many of the wrong type of felonies, can begin a mimetic cycle of abandonment that seems to be an undefeated force of American urban life.

I’m heading back west on Lake Austin, when I come to a bar with a neon vintage 7up sign above the doorway. I think about heading inside and watching the superbowl, but the place looks too lonely and yet not lonely enough. I realize I’m close to the water, so I head down a little hill until I come to a park and a large public pool. A large portion of the pool is waterless, closed for the winter. But the other half has swimming lanes and I see a man there taking laps through the water. The sun is below the horizon and the park is illuminated by overhead lights. A single lifeguard sits at his perch in hoodie and sweatpants. The man swims back and forth metronomically in the cold water.

This is another thing I find intoxicating about the city. It’s an epicenter of discipline. There are many of these types in Austin. The types with willpower you wouldn’t believe. The kind, who come alone on superbowl sunday, after the sun has gone down to swim laps in a cold pool. That, I realize now, is the human element that brought me here. It is the scent of these people, their hints and traces which brought me to this city—the epicenter of indomitable will. The most willful ambitious people come to places like this to make their fortunes and follow their ambitions. This city attracts the individuals, that if brought together, could make a terrifying army. I don’t see their ilk back in the heartland. The spirit of the rural American is broken. I’ve see a lot of broken spirits, but not here. I have spoken at length on the problems of this place. But in this concrete jungle, you will not hear me speak of broken spirits.

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