Why does a parent love a child?
Two answers come to mind. One, because the child is yours - they are of your blood. And two, because in raising them, you grow to love them.
Like Father, Like Son is a film that plays on the tension between these two reasons, drawing them apart and setting them in opposition to one another. It follows two families in contemporary Japanese society, each raising a son. Six years into the childhood of these boys born on the same day, the hospital contacts them to let them know that they were accidentally switched at birth. Two sets of parents are placed in an impossible situation.
It's an intriguing setup and the film takes its time to explore the concept of parental love in appropriate depth. The film is shot in a clean, simple style, and the cultural idiosyncrasies of Japan recede into the background as the narrative emphasizes more universalist questions.
It's an interesting frame to think about: we all consider parental love as unconditional, but isn't it conditional on biological relatedness? Isn't the correct biological paradigm of adoption as one of an erroneous form of attachment? An ape executing an algorithm in the wrong way, failing to accede to its own genetic interest?
Spoiler alert: the film ultimately answers this question in the negative. The origin of our capacity to love doesn't matter - it matters only that we do love, and no matter the ruthlessness of the savanna plains from which it arose, we can choose transcendence.
Indirectly, then, Like Father, Like Son affirms the idea that love can have meaning outside of its biological constraints - that we can choose the meaning that we attach to love. This was ultimately the same point I wanted to make in writing Beta Male.
In conclusion: four stars out of five.
I spent several decades of my life as a fervent evangelical Christian. The first time I doubted my faith I was thirteen years old. I didn't understand why God allowed horrific suffering. So my father bought me a book about basic Christian apologetics, which directly addressed the problem of evil, and I was satisfied. For many years I read only apologetic literature by the likes of Lee Strobel and Ravi Zacharias.
Bad, bad idea.
Here's Mark Manson on the concept of epistemic humilty:
Knowledge is an eternal iterative process. We don’t go from “wrong” to “right” once we discover the capital-T Truth. Rather, we go from partially wrong to slightly less wrong, to slightly less wrong than that, to even less wrong than that, and so on. We approach the capital-T truth, but never reach it.
If you are unwilling to step outside of your assumptions and reconsider everything, you've locked your feet into place. You cannot move. You cannot evolve. It's a form of fundamentalism, really. Confirmation bias - seeking out only those things that agree with you - is a toxic, costly fault that's built into the human brain. Like gravity, you have to exert energy to fight it. But if you don't fight it, you might just waste years of your life believing in magic.
Eventually I snapped out of it, thanks to a year long process of thorough reading. I delved pretty deeply into the philosophy of religion, read widely on the problem of evil, the historicity of the Gospels, evolutionary theory, epistemology, the problem of the mind, and so on. Luke Muelhauser, formerly of Common Sense Atheism, pointed me towards some amazing books, debates, and papers. I'll always be indebted to him - this person I've never met (incidentally, this is why I've linked to him on my main page).
In conclusion: if you don't want to waste years of your life, challenge your assumptions.
After Darwin's daughter Annie died at the age of ten, he stopped going to church.
Sometimes an entire universe is encoded into a single sentence.
Ten years from now, I'll remember this sentence. So much pain, so much devastation, packed into a couple words.
Grief, and the collapse of faith that occurs in the aftermath, the pain of a lifetime of belief disintegrating in your fingers - these are the emotions behind Beta Male, and this sentence struck me like a resonant chord. I couldn't resist integrating into the novel (with some light paraphrasing, of course), an anecdote that reveals so much and so little at the same time.
Darwin, God, and the Meaning of Life is a good primer on evolutionary theory, evolutionary psychology, and their implications for our daily lives. No pre-existing knowledge of analytic philosophy is needed to understand it, and it's written in a clean, accessible prose that deftly communicates ideas.
This is how one should live: understanding that the boundary between philosophy and the daily practice of life does not exist. Everyone has a worldview and concomitant foundational assumptions. You owe it to yourself to examine these things. As much shit as philosophy gets for not making progress, it's still the best method we have for examining the core questions of life that fall outside the empirical purview of science.
What does evolution mean for your relationships with others? What does it say about your mother's love for her child? What does it say about a woman's love for a man? A man's love for a man?
Many of the implications of evolution are counter-intuitive and challenge our immediate reactions. Consider the following:
"The course of evolution has furnished animals with an increasingly great capacity to suffer. Monkeys suffer more than trilobites, and humans presumably suffer more than monkeys. Evolution has also furnished animals with an increasingly great capacity to inflict suffering. As evolutionary history has unfolded, then, the universe has come to contain more and more suffering. Is that progress?"
The book also serves as a useful counterweight to the crushing nihilism of contemporary manosphere pop evo-psych writers like Heartiste and Rollo Tomassi. Is it all black, then? Does evolutionary science lead directly into the pits of nihilism? (some philosophers think it does) . Not everyone thinks so. I loved this quote, too:
Whether naturalism leads to nihilism is a contentious topic of debate, and this book helps to illuminate it. In part, I tried to answer this question in a different way - I wrote a novel about it.
In conclusion: four stars out of five.
sometimes I feel like I could listen to this voice all day.
"There was something sad about him," said Walcott. "Something monstrously sad. I think he was probably the saddest man I have ever met, and even the word "sadness" seems inadequate; there was something broken in him, something completely devastated. I always got the impression that life was a burden to him, that he no longer knew how to make contact with any living thing. I think he held out as long as he could to finish his work, and I don't think any of us will ever know the effort he had to make in order to do so."
how to write a book about a white supremacist misogynist without being a white supremacist misogynist
This summer, I was in rural Scandinavia, and saw a group of black kids get beat up by another crew of kids, maybe 20, all white. At the end of the brawl one of the white kids throws a heil hitler salute and shouts some nationalistic slogan. The rest of the night, I couldn't relax. I was on edge, wondering if I'd need to throw down.
I have never felt anything other than love from the European side of my family. Speaking the native tongue helps, obviously. But such is the life of a hybrid - every now and then, you remember yourself looking in from the outside. The world reminds you there is a part of you that is the Other, a part that does not belong.
When I was a kid growing up in Canada, I always understood what Whiteness was. Quickly, one learns what it is and what it represents. And I hated it - I hated it so much.
That which you can never join - you learn to despise. Either that or you repudiate your heritage so thoroughly that none of it remains.
Beta Male was a novel I knew had to be written. I wrote it because I had to. I was sick of these straw-manned, simplified moralizing tales about race, these fucking Hollywood movies packed with platitudes and moral epiphanies and wholehearted redemption.
That's not the way the world works. It's not that clean.
If you're going to write a novel about bigotry - especially from the first person - it's easy to focus on a simple redemptive arc, like American History X. This is the easy thing to do. It's easy to ignore the fact the overwhelming majority of organized racism centers around some form of scientific racism.
This is the Hollywood way: avoiding the very core of an ideology, throwing in some heartwarming epiphanies, and calling it a day. The alternative is something like Atlas Shrugged - basically, constant speechifying where the protagonists or characters are mouthpieces first, and people second. Of course, that's not a real story. That's an essay with characters. Narrative is unique in its ability to move others.
Here is the ironic thing: to write a novel about a bigot, you have to humanize him. That's the only way. You have to draw him in a full sketch. You can't leave anything out. You have to focus on his vulnerability, which is the core of his hatred. You have the acknowledge his beliefs. Then, you confront the costs of his anger indirectly. You don't need a Paul on the Road to Damascus moment when-everything-suddenly-becomes-so-clear. You can show his shell cracking, and the light peeking through. That's both more realistic, and more powerful.
It's the same thing with misogyny. It's a simple thing to return hatred with our own hatred, to just match it. The very concept of a labeling someone as an "oppressor" is inherently dehumanizing - even if they are oppressing you.
Hath not a Jew eyes?
Consider "The Red Pill," a subreddit that has been roundly condemned for perpetuating extreme misogyny. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it's basically a group of men who've combined male dating advice with pop evolutionary psychology. Here's a post I found that showed me the vein that runs through this ideology - and if you've "taken the red pill" and don't think it's an ideology, then you're wrong.
I am "bipolar," or in retrospect finding temporary meaning in external things (money, women, career, physical image, fame) resulting in mania and elation, only to see all these temporary things fall away leaving me depressed, and sometimes suicidal / hospitalized. I'm not being general, I made 100k one year, "dated" 8 or 9 women this year, put out two albums, etc. Yay, ego!
Does this sound like pure madness? There are grains of truth almost everywhere. Who among us has not had a bad experience with a relationship and had a dark night of the soul? If you haven't had an epiphany like this, you haven't been paying enough attention, regardless of your gender.
My theory of misogyny is that it's a form of nihilism - a belief that love is unattainable. Here is the process by which it occurs:
Science is a difficult enterprise fraught with errors. Here's a post by one of the fathers of The Red Pill that argues that women are able to move on easily after a breakup because their ancestors were captured and raped by warring tribesmen, and those who couldn't bond with their rapist captors and raise their children were wiped out of the gene pool.
Based on what evidence? Is this anything more than a just-so story? Why are the Yazidi women captured by ISIS trying to kill themselves, then?
Except, interpreted through the experience of a young man who's just been dumped by his girlfriend, it starts to look like the unassailable truth, doesn't it?
Confirmation bias is a prison that traps the best of us. If you read only Manosphere blogs and you'll lose sight of any counterarguments. You'll lose the balance that makes you into a fully rounded human being. Jason Silva once said that cynicism is like going through life with dim glasses.
"ALL WOMEN ARE LIKE THAT," The Red Pill says, emphasizing the selfishness and solipsism of women. Yes, that's why women like Nancy Yoko died fighting Ebola in Western Africa.
I don't want people to spend their lives in a prison that they've built for themselves. That's what nihilism is, and that's the real reason I wrote Beta Male.
Of all the things in this world, hope is what you should give up last.
Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.
Jack Gilbert, 1925 - 2012
“We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.”
I watched a man die today.
No, I felt a man die today. Felt his pulse give out on me.
It came back, a couple of times, like he was hovering over the line between life and death.
CPR isn't what it looks like in the movies.
Something like this, the deficits of language come to bear. Like trying to capture something that keeps slipping through your fingers. Not possible.
There's a certain banality to death that's utterly surreal, impossible to get down on paper until you actually see it with your own eyes.
And yet: I can't help but think it a privilege to have seen this man pass. It's a sacred thing, the end of life. A man I'd never met before shared something with me - a gift, a remembrance.
Memento Mori: it means: "remember death."
I have a tattoo that means this very thing, a reminder that all of this is going to end, one day. That our most precious commodity is time. That life is too short for fear or holding on to anger, or holding back on love.
This past fall, I made some very bad mistakes. Some things I regret so intensely that it focused all the hate I have inwardly, refracting it like a prism. The hardest part of the past three months has been getting out of bed every day. I have been on the verge of falling apart, looping the past over and over again like a blade.
I don't have that hard of a time forgiving others. Decisions, even those that deeply wound other people, happen for one reason or another.
What I have a hard time with: forgiving myself.
I couldn't sleep last night, until it hit me: regret is a form of anger - a hatred you hold against your past self. And like all forms of hate, the tighter you hold onto it, the more it damages you.
Today, I woke up today for the first time in three months without feeling severely depressed. And when I looked in the mirror, I didn't hate myself.
Thank you, old man.
Thank you for the gift.
"At the bar I managed to negotiate a bottle of bourbon with the barman for seven hundred francs. On turning round I banged into a young six foot electrician. 'Hey, what's your problem?' he said in a not unfriendly tone; gazing up at him, I replied 'The milk of human kindness.' I saw my face in the mirror; it was gripped by a clearly unpleasant rictus. The electrician shook his head in resignation; I negotiated the crossing of the dance floor, bottle in hand; just before arriving at my destination, I bumped into a woman at the cash desk and fell to the floor. Nobody helped me up. I was seeing the dancers' legs pumping all around me; I wanted to chop them off with an axe. The lighting effects were of an unbearable violence; I was in hell."
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis