Many things in this period have been hard to bear, or hard to take seriously. My own profession went into a protracted swoon during the Reagan-Bush-Thatcher decade, and shows scant sign of recovering a critical faculty—or indeed any faculty whatever, unless it is one of induced enthusiasm for a plausible consensus President. (We shall see whether it counts as progress for the same parrots to learn a new word.) And my own cohort, the left, shared in the general dispiriting move towards apolitical, atonal postmodernism. Regarding something magnificent, like the long-overdue and still endangered South African revolution (a jagged fit in the supposedly smooth pattern of axiomatic progress), one could see that Ariadne’s thread had a robust reddish tinge, and that potential citizens had not all deconstructed themselves into Xhosa, Zulu, Cape Coloured or ‘Eurocentric’; had in other words resisted the sectarian lesson that the masters of apartheid tried to teach them. Elsewhere, though, it seemed all at once as if competitive solipsism was the signifier of the ‘radical’; a stress on the salience not even of the individual, but of the trait, and from that atomization into the lump of the category. Surely one thing to be learned from the lapsed totalitarian system was the unwholesome relationship between the cult of the masses and the adoration of the supreme personality. Yet introspective voyaging seemed to coexist with dull group-think wherever one peered about among the formerly ‘committ

~ Christopher Hitchens

Here in Alpha City, we have a common saying: “What we call ‘sky’ is merely a figment of our narrative.” The most dreamy-eyed among us seem to adorn themselves and their aspirations in that proverb and you’ll see it everywhere: in advertisements on the sides of streetcars and auto-rickshaws, spelled out in studs and rhinestones on designer jackets, emblazoned in the intricate designs of facial tattoos—even painted on city walls by putrid vandals and inspiring street artists. There is something glorious about kneading out into the doughy firmament the depth and breadth of one’s own universe, in rendering the contours of a sky whose limits are predicated only upon the bounds of one’s own imagination. The fact of the matter is that we cannot see the natural sky at all here. It is something like a theoretical mathematical expression: like the square-root of ‘negative one’—certainly it could be said to have a purpose for existing, but to cast eyes upon it, in its natural quantity, would be something akin to casting one’s eyes upon the raw elements comprising our everyday sustenance. How many of us have even borne close witness to the minute chemical compounds that react to lend battery power to our portable electronics? The sky is indeed such a concealed fixture now. It is fair to say that we have purged our memories of its true face and so we can only approximate a canvas and project our desires upon it to our heart’s dearest fancy. The most cynical among us would ostensibly declare it an unavoidable tragedy, but perhaps even these hardened individuals could not remember the naked sky well enough to know if what they were missing was something worthwhile. Perhaps, it’s cynical of me to say so! In any case, we have our searchlights pointed upwards and crisscrossing that expanse of heavens as though to make some sensational and profane joke of ourselves to the surrounding universe. We beam already video images of beauty pageants and dancing contests with smiling mannequins who look like buffoons. And so, the face of space cloaks itself behind our light pollution—in this respect, our mirrored sidewalks and lustrous streets do little to help our cause—and that face remains hidden from us in its jeering ridicule, its mocking laughter at this inexorable farce of human existence.

~ Ashim Shanker

Weight Watchers holds as a descriptive axiom the transparently true fact that for each of us the universe is deeply and sharply and completely divided into for example in my case, me, on one side, and everything else, on the other. This for each of us exhaustively defines the whole universe... And then they hold by a prescriptive axiom the undoubtedly equally true and inarguable fact that we each ought to desire our own universe to be as full as possible, that the Great Horror consists in an empty, rattling personal universe, one where one finds oneself with Self, on one hand, and vastly empty lonely spaces before Others begin to enter the picture at all, on the other. A non-full universe... The emptier one’s universe is, the worse it is... Weight Watchers perceives the problem as one involving the need to have as much Other around as possible, so that the relation is one of minimum Self to maximum Other... We each need a full universe. Weight Watchers and their allies would have us systematically decrease the Self-component of the universe, so that the great Other-set will be physically attracted to the now more physically attractive Self, and rush in to fill the void caused by that diminution of Self. Certainly not incorrect, but just as certainly only half of the range of valid solutions to the full-universe problem... Is my drift getting palpable? Just as in genetic engineering... There is always more than one solution... An autonomously full universe... Rather than diminishing Self to entice Other to fill our universe, we may also of course obviously choose to fill the universe with Self... Yes. I plan to grow to infinite size... There will of course eventually cease to be room for anyone else in the universe at all.

~ David Foster Wallace