Monday, 11 May 2015


(The following passage is an excerpt from Andy Nowicki's latest book Notes Before Death: Three Essays, now available on in paperback and on Kindle.)


I have long harbored a conspicuous suspicion that I ought never to have come into existence in the first place.

Not that I ever had any say over the matter, of course. At least, I have no memory of an ante-existent “existence” where I can recall giving the expectant authorities the go-ahead to have me incarnated in a fleshly vessel and bundled away to this earthly inferno within which we all now languish.

Nevertheless, according to some traditions, we all exist somewhere in a preborn state, and individual incarnation is a matter of willful volition. In such a perspective, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to be, and we have no one to blame but ourselves if we don’t like it, since we knew the deal ahead of time, even if we promptly forgot about our foreknowledge

Perhaps this is so. If it is, I can only observe that I must have known something then that I don’t know now, something that actually made the journey into earthly incarnation bearable, even worthwhile. If this scenario is actual, I hope someday to rediscover this originating conviction. What I suspect, however, is that I didn’t choose to come here, but rather was summoned forth, for some inscrutable purpose known to none but my Creator himself, and, that for equally undecipherable reasons, He chose to keep this discovery, as well as Himself, hidden from me.

To be sure, my emergence into the world gave joy to some—namely my parents and my extended family—not because of any especially endearing traits on my part, but simply because I was theirs. Once I squirted forth, I became a much-loved boy, a somewhat spoiled only-child happy to live largely in his imagination most of the time. And in these early years, I remained unaware of any misshapenness in my being, or of anything that would cause me any sense of dislocation with the universe that surrounded me.

Though admittedly an absent-minded lad who indulged heavily in elaborate daydreams, it didn’t strike me then that I was eager to escape from anything, not even boredom, and certainly not horror or tragedy. It wasn’t that I was unaware of pain and discomfort; at the time, I would mainly have associated it with the state of being sick with a fever, or a sore throat, or a stomach ache. Of course even illness had its attendant pleasures of mandatory relaxation and eventual recuperation. The sweetest moments I can recall were of being on the mend, still ailing enough not to feel any pressure to get off the couch, but nevertheless sure that my recovery was taking place and that in short order I’d be entirely well again.

Up to the age of 12, I can honestly say that I never suffered in the least from ennui, that malady which would alarm and distress me when I reached the threshold of adolescence. There was, I recall, never really anything to be bored with at this time, no possible reason to account myself “bored’; boredom simply never occurred to me as a possible scenario or outcome. Usually something interesting was going on around me somewhere, and if nothing of interest was happening, I could still always find some fascinating concept to ponder or satisfying sensation to meditate upon, even if it were a mere sense-perception, like the satisfying taste of a crispy, greasy piece of fried fish or the hearty warmth of a blazing fire in the living room hearth.

Simply existing, and being aware of the wonder of existence, was itself a kind of high. Pleasure back then came naturally, and when I speak of “pleasure,” I of course do not mean anything improper, untoward, or unseemly. Instead, my general state was a general state of comfortable equipoise. Of course, I don’t intend to imply anything exalted about my character or temperament as a child; like most children, I would occasionally sulk or pout if I didn’t get my way, but the point is that, at bottom, I felt safe, protected, and at peace. I never asked myself if I was “happy”—such a question would never have pierced my profoundly satiated child’s consciousness.

My innocent, inborn hedonism was, in fact, tempered by a naturally calibrated moderation; though I wanted to have fun—and in fact, primarily lived for “fun”—I also instinctively knew, knew in my very marrow, that experiencing “fun” required keeping alive a sense of adventure, and that creativity was required in order to retain an aura of proper adventuresomeness always pulsing in one’s brain, and that creativity could only be maintained as long as one possessed a nimble, active, flexible mind, and that retaining an active mind necessarily militated against the intellectual lethargy that is the inevitable result of overindulgence.

To be sure, I didn’t think in such terms, not in the slightest, but the proposition nevertheless held true. As an infantilely instinctive Epicurian, then, my sense of enjoyment never corresponded with the commission of any bacchanal-esque escapades, or whatever would constitute a “bacchanal” for a child… Of course, I needed my parents’ stern rule to prevent me from eating too many sweets, and to get me to go to bed on time, and so forth—once more, I have no wish to assert that, as a boy, I was in possession of any sort of preternatural inclination to healthy, prudent moderation… except that, to some extent I truly did in fact retain an ease of restraint, and a inborn proclivity towards the “golden mean,” insofar as I was occasionally steered in that proper direction by my loving mother and father.

All was not well all of the time, of course—often little problems crept up here and there, as happens in even the most perfect of lives… still, in a profound, general sense, all was well. And all remained well for blissful years and years on end… until, without much warning, a fearful transformation occurred, and suddenly all became most emphatically not well.

(See also "An Eyesore in the Architecture,")

Andy Nowicki, assistant editor of Alternative Right, is the author of eight books, including Under the NihilThe Columbine PilgrimConsidering Suicide, and Beauty and the Least. He occasionally updates his blog when the spirit moves him to do so. Visit his Soundcloud page.

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