Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hiccups are above any kind of law

Of course, to commence our investigation of hiccups, we must first call them forth: either an sich, in the terminology of Immanuel Kant, which means from ourselves, or else from some other person, but for our own purposes, which is für sich, as Kant terms it. Of course, the best of the lot is both an sich and für sich, and here's what you do: drink some sort of strong spirit, say Starka, or Trapper's or Hunter's vodka, for two hours non-stop. Drink it in tumblerfuls, one every half-hour, if possible without any snacks. If you find that difficult, you can allow yourself a bite to eat, but something really unpretentious: bread that's seen better days, sprats, spiced or plain, or sprats in tomato sauce.

Then break off for an hour, don't eat or drink anything, just let your muscles go limp, and don't strain. And before that hour's up, you'll see for yourself: with the very first hiccup, you'll be amazed at the suddenness of the onslaught; then you'll be amazed at the uniqueness of the second hiccup, and the third hiccup, likewise. But if you're not a complete idiot, you'd better stop being amazed and get down to business: write down at what intervals your hiccup deigns to visit you — in seconds, of course:

8 - 13 - 7 - 3 - 18 ...

Naturally you'll try to establish some sort of periodicity here, even very roughly; idiot or not, you'll have a stab at working out some ridiculous formula or other, to predict the length of the next interval. Try, by all means. Feel free. But life will topple all your half-arsed constructions.

17 - 3 - 4 - 17 - 1 - 20 - 3 - 4 - 7 - 7 - 7 - 18 ...

You know, the leaders of the world proletariat, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, are supposed to have made an in-depth study of changes in social structures, and on that basis they were able to predict a whole heap of stuff. But they'd have been completely foxed by this one. Yes, you have entered, in pursuit of a personal whim, the realm of Fate — so bow the knee and be patient. Life will put all your mathematics to shame, both elementary and higher:

13 - 15 - 4 - 12 - 4 - 5 - 28 ...

Now, isn't this the way in which rise and fall, ecstasy and agony, alternate in each individual life — without the merest hint of regularity? Isn't this how catastrophes line up for the human race — in random order? Yes, the law is above us all, and hiccups are above any kind of law. And just as their commencement takes you by surprise, so also will their ending, and ending which, like death, we can neither foretell nor prevent:

22 - 14 stop. And silence.

And in that silence your heart will say to you: they are unfathomable, and we are powerless. We are bereft of free will, at the disposal of a fate which is nameless, and from which there is no salvation.

We are trembling wretches, and they are omnipotent. They are the right hand of God, which is poised above us all, and before which only cretins and scoundrels will not bow their heads. He is inscrutable, and in consequence — He is.

Therefore be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.
— "Kilometre 33 to Elektrougli," in Moscow Stations, by Venedikt Yerofeev.

(With a nod to Danny Yee, whose post saved me from retyping this entire excerpt.)

This novel, which often reads more like a series of prose poems, is very meditative, and in describing each leg of our intrepid hero's journey, it is highly conducive to reading during one's daily commute.

I'm not quite halfway. I lingered over this chapter, realizing how beautifully it encapsulates the feel of this novel to this point: the drinking and Kant and the crazy. The narrator is just within reach of the sublime, and just misses, both inspired and hindered by drink.

Also, wtf? Hiccups are the embodiment of free will?

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