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"Bastard Out Of Newton"

A confession:

I am a selfish, lazy, self-centered, no-good, manic-depressive, indecisive, muddle-headed, charlatan of a man and I love very goddamned second of it.

I don't do anything unless it serves my interests. I heap endless abuse on my friends and then fly off the handle at the slightest misconstrued insult thrown my way. I am lazy and unmotivated unless it serves my immediate, short-term self-interest. Even though I am seriously involved in a relationship, I am a lecherous bastard who's constantly looking for release elsewhere. My life is a frenetic rollercoaster between screaming ecstasy and suicidal slumps.

In short, I am way fucked-up.

We knew that already.

Or am I? I mean, who, basically, isn't selfish at heart? I break down all motivating human principle into two motives: love and selfishness. Selfishness is easy - it's what you need to survive. It's about you, your needs and cravings, you you you. Love, however, is that which is outside you, that which you willingly give of yourself to nourish. It's when these two principles, which are of necessity entirely different, mix that things get out of hand.

Guess where Scotty Jason Cohen is right now?

Feh. Blech. Yeah, caught somewhere between love and selfishness. Not at a nice balance point, either, considering the Libra in me is screaming in time to the sounds of the clickety-clacks of the rollercoaster I have tied it to. (By the way, that metaphor is my greatest accomplishment as a writer, which explains the suidical depths.)

And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other fucking way.

See, this is the part of the journal where those of you who are searching for earnestness, sincerity, or soul-revealing honesty should probably look elsewhere. Adam Rakunas and Maura Johnston are both very nice people who will not scream at the top of their lungs about how they're selfish assholes. Try Derek Powazek. He is the Nicest Person on the Web. I may sound sarcastic, but being nice is not a quality I have, and it's something I envy, quite frankly.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not a nice guy.

And the Superego goes DOWN!

I am not a nice person. I am funny, caring, vindictive, witty, cutting, easily bruised, selfish, a tad dipsomanaical perhaps, sensual, constantly aroused, full of bright ideas, creative, determined, wicked insecure, guilty, apologetic at the drop of a hat, ethical, moral, and the worst Jew in the world, but the one thing, one thing I am most assuredly NOT... nice.

Am I mean? Am I spiteful? Am I conflicted by this? Oh, you betcha. You betcher bottom dollar there, bucko, I feel like shit whenever I do what I really want to do, which is why I don't do what I want to do that often, because of this general sort of wrongness I feel whenever I make myself happy. Because, thanks to a combination of instances, I learned that unrestrained selfishness becomes simple greed and childishness and is detrimental and harmful to those around me, so I stopped taking, except in a passive-aggressive way. I still do this to this day - Lena goes nuts whenever I don't want to do something, because I'll just sit there, very very quiet, and insist that nothing is wrong instead of admitting that no, I really don't feel like seeing Brazil today, so instead I'll get quiet, like big-blond-guy-in-Fargo-scary-quiet, and insist that everything's fine and ruin everyone else's time because I don't want to be there.

Mature, eh?

Keep Your Beliefs Off My Brain

You see, I know exactly why this is. And this is actually the biggest operating principle of my psychology. Here we go. Ready? Okay.

It's all about obligation.

See, people have told me, and you, and everyone, that there are certain things we have to do. Like pay taxes. Or watch NBC on Thursday. Or worship this One God. Or whatever.

Now, I have no problem with a wide array of options. In fact, I encourage it, because I believe in infinite variety. And I'm also quite aware that I live in this modern American society which has laws and rules and I can't fight City Hall and I have to pay rent and electric bills and whatnot and I have to "work" for "money" and if I don't like it I can build a cabin in Montana and live like some kinda militia nutball and whatfuckingever. Okay, fine, I accept certain unpleasant facts as the cost of living in, without a doubt, the freest, most vital, most energetic society in the while. Everything comes with a bit of sacrifice, and if it comes in the form of a monthly check to Bell Atlantic, so be it. Fine. I can deal with a little physical inconvenience.

But the instant you tell me to do something, anything, my first question is "why?"

And Gods help you if you don't have a good answer.

Do As I Say, Now Shut Up

See, if you're willing to sit down with me and explain why, in reasonable terms, tell me where you're coming from, explain why you believe these things, and then ask me to consider your beliefs, I will. In all fairness. And I reserve the right to respect you and your beliefs and everything they stand for and look you in the eye and tell you they're not for me, but thank you for expanding my awareness of the infinite variety of options that the human mind can conceive of.

Now, we all know what the odds of that are for most things. Then again, you don't need to hear the explanation all the time. The power company could explain that the reason they are charging you for electricity is that they have invested time and materials into providing people with electrical power to power their various devices and doohickeys, so in exchange for this we will accept money which is the commonly-agreed unit of exchange, and then you'd think, "Gosh, that makes sense" and write your check. A bit excessive, yes? But that's what's happening. And the requests of the power company seem reasonable. But then you get into the requests of religions, governments, and fundamentalists of all stripes, and asking "why" is like slamming a bank vault door onto your nuts.

Let me tell you what the worst answer in the world is:


My theory, and I love this theory, is that beliefs are the most fragile, and yet the most solid, things in the world. See, a lot of people spend a lot of time drumming their beliefs into lots of people's minds, until their minds are those beliefs and nothing else. No one's immune - to a certain extent, we all carry this in us. It's called socialization. However, most of us still possess some capacity of free will.

And this is where my selfishness comes in.

Ethical Selfishness

I have absorbed some of these beliefs - the ones that tell me unless I obligate myself to someone else's mindset, I will receive a great deal of punishment, whether from God or the judicial system. So when my inherently selfish desires come to the surface, demanding to be acted on, those stone beliefs rise like fricking Stonehenge and block out the sun, leaving me cold and confused. (Okay, weird analogy.) And then, I react like a cold, confused person whose desires need to get out, but can't, because I won't let them. In other words, like a passive-aggressive selfish prig.

But I believe in ethical selfishness. I believe that if one's beliefs are like air - invisible, unobtrusive, ever-changing, yet undeniably there - one won't have unnecessary stress or selfishness, because one would be free to pursue his/her desires without any resistance. External pressures can be surmounted, but only if the interior is strong. And if there wasn't so much goddamn pressure to act in one certain way, people wouldn't be so stressed out about their utterly natural desires and try to suppress them, some of them to the breaking point. (See Ted Bundy.)

So I demand the freedom to be a selfish, lecherous, sensual, unreasonable pig. I demand the freedom, both from the external world and from myself, to do what I really want to do. I demand it, because acting insane might be the only thing that keeps any of us sane.

-- sjc