• Joshua Aaron Crook

Anti-Positivity as a Mode

One of the biggest drawbacks of being an American citizen, other than our supreme diplomat being a fluff-headed fuckwad, is this epidemic of positivity, this incessant need for everything to be good and happy and wonderful. I hate to break it to the world, but everything fucking sucks.


There's a concept called anti-natalism. Julio Cabrera, an Argentine philosopher, puts forth the concept of "negative ethics" and the ethical conundrum of procreation in suggesting that we're bringing people into "manipulation and harm, a unilateral and non-consensual sending of a human being into a painful, dangerous and morally impeding situation." The political climate is perhaps the worst it's been since World War II, with populist threats arising in countries that have, in the past, seemed securely democratic. The oceans are warming and we're passing a point of no return (full-sail, by the way), promising forced migrations, humanitarian crises, bouts of famine and sickness, racism and nationalism in response to the forced movements, genocide and maybe even war. An entire generation has untethered the security of those that have come after them, gripping ignorance in the face of overwhelming evidence, and it becomes clearer and clearer every day that the human species is nothing more than a shit stain on the underwear of the universe. So why the fuck are we constantly pressured to feel good about things?


If it's all feeling a bit Kantian by this point, allow me to pivot. I tweeted this out today:

This is about finding love and beauty in the darkness. This is like being churned beneath the current and bursting into oxygen and sunlight in small moments, exasperated and terrified. But alive.


I find myself gravitating toward the "darklings" of Twitter (and the world in general), those teetering on the edge of funny and cringy, batting eyelashes at the macabre, or to quote a beautiful line from Hozier, those that are "the giggle at a funeral." Where I can lament the failings of people as a whole, there's such an amazing outpouring of light from those that transcend the madness. But it's more than that—when we can stare at our sadness and cover ourselves beneath our torment and wear it like a weighted blanket, we can be cognizant and clear and practical about the weight of this world while still having happiness. Yes, we're complex, emotional creatures.


If I have a persona in writing or on social media, it's one that puts the poker to positivity. I follow some of the most positive bright-lights on social media. What a rife environment for their efforts: the writing culture in 2019 seems to be one of depression, anxiety, imposter-syndromes, attention-deficits, and personal struggles. That's just what we contend with ourselves. Enter a cynical world: writers are dreamers, hopeless artists, impractical, short-sighted, selfish anachronisms despite writing being a part of nearly everything we encounter in the civilized world. I don't admire those that focus only on bringing light to other writers or to the process of writing. In fact, those that do nothing other than propagandize positivity are typically blocked because they're fraudulent. Because writing isn't a positive process, by nature. It's a hammer to the anvil, a soul-crushing, spirit-bending, tear-evoking spew from the deepest parts of ourselves and the archetypes that have knit thousands of years of cultures together with unsterilized plague-needles and today, in our little personal moments between us and a cursor, all that contrast, we affix a sentence to humanity's corkboard. It's not glamorous. It's masochistic, because someday when the lights go out, none of it is going to matter. There's no immortality. All we can do stave off "pain, discouragement, and the intrinsic evil of humanity" (Cabrera). We can create our own worlds. We can kill the gods and become one ourselves. Writing is about power. It's about one moment of control in a universe that is purely chaotic.


Some of you may walk away from this with a lump in your throat. And some of you will walk away with a small grin. To the first group, sincerely: 🤷‍♂️


To the latter folks: I love you. Pluck your star from the sky and toss it like a motherfucking grenade into a world already on fire. You'll be dead soon enough anyway. There's no immortality.


I leave with you Aubade by Philip Larkin:


I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.

Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.

In time the curtain-edges will grow light.

Till then I see what’s really always there:

Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,

Making all thought impossible but how

And where and when I shall myself die.

Arid interrogation: yet the dread

Of dying, and being dead,

Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.


The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse

—The good not done, the love not given, time

Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because

An only life can take so long to climb

Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;

But at the total emptiness for ever,

The sure extinction that we travel to

And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,

Not to be anywhere,

And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.


This is a special way of being afraid

No trick dispels. Religion used to try,

That vast moth-eaten musical brocade

Created to pretend we never die,

And specious stuff that says No rational being

Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing

That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,

No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,

Nothing to love or link with,

The anaesthetic from which none come round.


And so it stays just on the edge of vision,

A small unfocused blur, a standing chill

That slows each impulse down to indecision.

Most things may never happen: this one will,

And realisation of it rages out

In furnace-fear when we are caught without

People or drink. Courage is no good:

It means not scaring others. Being brave

Lets no one off the grave.

Death is no different whined at than withstood.


Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.

It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,

Have always known, know that we can’t escape,

Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.

Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring

In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring

Intricate rented world begins to rouse.

The sky is white as clay, with no sun.

Work has to be done.

Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

“Antinatalism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, December 28, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinatalism.


Larkin, Philip. “Aubade by Philip Larkin.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. Accessed December 30, 2019. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48422/aubade-56d229a6e2f07.

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© 2020 Joshua Aaron Crook (I probably don't have the money to sue you.)