I am going to divide this essay into sections. This won't be a professional essay. It won't have an 'angle' or 'thesis,' but just many things I want to type about. I will title each section. I'm doing it this way so it will be more factual and less rhetorical and so I won't feel obligated to contrive to 'segue' from section to section and then come to a 'revelatory conclusion,' or something.
I also want to say that I feel sympathy with Cho Seung-Hui because I feel it naturally, because he was a person who suffered (I'm talking about his life), but also, and mostly, because anger, hatred, indifference, 'shock,' 'horror,' 'disbelief,' happiness, excitement, and any other 'state' I can think of would not do anything to prevent future situations (most of those I listed would probably cause more killing rampages) while sympathy, I think, is something that reduces pain and suffering, in the world, in any situation.
When I say I feel sympathy that does not mean I am glad he went on a killing rampage. It does not mean I promote killing rampages. It means I feel very sad that he suffered so much and had so little to enjoy in life and became so alienated that he viewed other human beings as things he could kill and decided to go on a killing rampage and commit suicide.
Cho Seung-Hui probably felt severe loneliness, depression, and despair for most of his life due to his extreme difficulties with communicating with people. Based on what I've read he talked a lot less than I did in high school. In my high school I knew maybe two or three people in the entire school, of about 2,000 people, who talked as little as me. I didn't talk not because I hated people, was evil, or was 'content' to be alone and not communicate with anyone. I didn't talk because looking at someone's eyes and speaking words, for me, was extremely difficult. It made me dizzy, my neck and eyes tremor, voice stutter and become weak, not have control over my body or face, feel very bad emotions, etc. I cried in bed sometimes alone and even in college. Listening to music and reading lyrics by people who felt the same way, and reading books by people who felt the same way, made me feel better and able to 'keep on going.' A few times I thought about killing myself but during those times my self-pity was so powerful that it was almost exciting, and I didn't want to kill myself. I had many friends in elementary school and middle school that Cho Seung-Hui probably did not. I had some friends in high school and college. Cho Seung-Hui probably did not.
I don't feel bad for Kurt Vonnegut. I have never felt bad for Kurt Vonnegut. I didn't feel anything when he died. I feel like he was capable of doing what he wanted with his life, and that even if he felt severe depression he felt it self-consciously, in a way like he was always a little outside of the severe depression, and talking shit about it. I don't feel bad for myself, either, as I am right now, because I feel capable of doing what I want with my life. I also feel I am capable of being detached to some degree no matter how terrible I feel. I am never completely 'inside' anything like 'despair,' 'depression,' etc. I feel capable of accepting whatever happens to me. Death, severe depression, crippling loneliness, multiple amputations, terminal illness, etc. To me I am already dead. Death is assumed. It isn't something that I want to allow to have the power to make me sad. Death is not painful and it is not 'suffering.' I want pain and suffering to have the power to make me sad. Because pain and suffering can be reduced and avoided, while death cannot. Sadness about death is 'meaningless,' while sadness about 'pain and suffering' can compel a person (by way of causing the person to want to reduce its own sadness) to do things in concrete reality in order to reduce pain and suffering.
Death would only be sad if someone died whose physical presence in the world affected my life. For example if someone I liked to touch and look at every day died I would feel sad, because I would not be able to touch or look at them anymore. Kurt Vonnegut still exists for me 99.99999% as much as he did a month ago. Feeling sad at Kurt Vonnegut's death is the same, for me, and anyone who is not affected by his physical presence, in the world, as feeling sad that, say, Haruki Murakami is taking a plane from America to Japan.
People felt sad automatically when Kurt Vonnegut died.
The sadness in that situation does not compel any physical action in the world that reduces pain and suffering. It doesn't affect people to do anything concrete in the world about reducing pain and suffering. Because the sadness is a cliche. It is automatic and unselfconscious. A person cannot say, "I feel sad that Kurt Vonnegut died. To fix this I am going to resurrect Kurt Vonnegut. Resurrecting Kurt Vonnegut will 'cure' my sadness." A person cannot seriously say that because Kurt Vonnegut will still die, even if he is resurrected; death is a fact. Sadness about death, especially if it's the death of a person who has no physical affect on your life, is 'meaningless' and therefore nihilistic. It ignores pain and suffering and places value on abstractions and illogical patterns of thought.
Feeling sad for the people Cho Seung-Hui killed is similar. Feeling 'sadness' for the person in the weaker, more oppressed, and more long-termed suffering position is helpful if you want to stop killing rampages. Maybe it is the only helpful emotion to feel in a situation like this. Because for a person to reduce its feeling of that kind of sadness would require not the categorization of Cho Seung-Hui (making him an 'other'; someone who is 'insane,' 'mentally-ill,' 'evil,' 'not human,' etc.) but the assimilation of him, by way of eliminating the concepts or factual existence of 'weaker,' 'oppressed,' etc.
Cho Seung-Hui felt pain and suffering therefore I feel sad, but only as a means to reduce pain and suffering. That is the ideal definition of sadness to me, I think. An emotion that indicates pain and suffering exists. The people who died and their friends and family also felt pain and suffering therefore I also feel sad 'for them,' which means I would want to reduce their pain and suffering.
I think anger is wanting to destroy something in concrete reality. People's bodies exist in concrete reality but abstractions do not. 'Pain' and 'suffering' do not exist in concrete reality, as things that can be destroyed, killed, or 'locked away.' Destroying a person does not do anything to 'pain' and 'suffering.'
Many more people than 33 people die each day. Many more people suffer a lot more than did from being shot and dying, within hours. I'm not saying "Why does it matter if 33 people die if thousands of people die each day?" I'm saying that a person who is serious about reducing pain and suffering in the world should almost always ignore what is being in the mainstream media and instead focus on numbers, facts, etc., as a computer would. The mainstream, 'for-profit' media will focus on whatever is most sensational, new, 'interesting,' whatever will get the most people to watch TV. I'm not being 'cynical,' that is just a fact. It is a fact that corporations are funded by investors, who buy stock in a corporation, who 'invest' money in order to make more money. The corporation itself is the means with which the investors increase their money.
Therefore a person who is serious about pain and suffering should almost always ignore what is being reported by CNN, NBC, etc. For example, billions of dollars invested in stem cell research can possibly save, I don't know, thousands of people from degenerative spinal diseases. But billions of dollars in clean water, infrastructure, and sustainable farms, or whatever, can save probably hundreds of thousands of people from entire lives of pain and suffering, and also save further generations from entire lives of pain and suffering. Does that mean, for the person serious about reducing pain and suffering, that stem cell research should be discontinued? Yes, it does. Making decisions based on numbers will save the most people, not making decisions based on emotions, CNN, pictures of cute babies or animals, or Al Gore.
Factually, the person who wants to reduce pain and suffering in the world should ignore killing rampages completely. How many people in the history of the world have died because of a killing rampage? Probably less than a thousand. The amount of money, time, and attention devoted to killing rampages probably could have saved millions of lives. Anyone who felt 'horror' at what happened has been manipulated by the mainstream media, society, their parents, their friends, or whoever, and, if they are seriously about reducing pain and suffering in the world, should sit down and think about things clearly, maybe by writing down their thoughts and examining the words and making sure every word has meaning.
From the perspective of a person who includes 'non human animals' in their context of 'reduce pain and suffering' almost any focus on human deaths or human pain and suffering is like diverting billions of dollars from billions of 'things included in the context of reducing the pain and suffering of' in order to save one 'thing included in the context of reducing the pain and suffering of.'
Some people 'freak out' when they see a PETA video and feel sad for maybe ten or twenty minutes. Some vegans watch a PETA video and feel sad for ten or twenty minutes. The person who is serious about reducing pain and suffering in the world should internalize the pain and suffering that is happening, and also train themselves to not be more affected by things they can see, especially to not be more affected by 'cute' things than 'ugly' things, but be equally affected by what they can see and what they cannot see. For example, the person who is serious about reducing pain and suffering would not stop jogging if they saw one rabbit on the side of the road that was just run over by a car but still alive. That is one rabbit. The person can better use its time to save hundreds of thousands of chickens by spending thousands of dollars on organic vegetables, or something. The emotion should be resisted. Letting oneself feel sad about one rabbit is selfish, mathematically and factually, because feeling sad at one rabbit would prevent oneself from reducing pain and suffering in the world more effectively, if only for two rabbits somewhere else not in sight.
CLICHES AND GENERALIZATIONS AND ABSTRACTIONS
Cho Seung-Hui used many cliches, etc., in what he said in his video to CNN. He said things like, "Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off." He said things against "Rich kids." "Rich kids" is not something that exists in concrete reality.
If someone forced Cho Seung-Hui to explain specifically what he was doing, why he was doing it, and what the specific causes and effects, in concrete reality, were, of what he was doing, I don't think he would have done it. His brain would not have allowed his body to do it, or would have resisted a certain amount.
Being around people who speak in cliches, etc., can affect a person to think and speak in cliches and generalizations. I am not sure how to eliminate cliches and generalizations from people's lives. Many newspapers have specific and concrete writing. Articles by The Associated Press
are mostly detached, unemotional, specific, and concrete. I think TV where the person is allowed to speak on whatever it wants has many cliches and generalizations. A lot of fiction I've read has many generalizations and cliches. Poetry I've read has many generalizations and cliches and abstractions.
INTOLERANCE OF ART
If you think someone else's writing is 'shitty,' 'terrible,' or 'bad' and you think this seriously, as if the writing were objectively 'shitty' or 'terrible' (which means you believe if anyone likes the writing they themselves are 'shitty' and 'terrible'), your existence is a distortion of the universe that causes more pain and suffering. Many people like Gary Lutz. Many people like Stephen King. If you type, "I dislike Stephen King," that is a fact. If you type, "Stephen King is horrible," that is not a fact, it isn't anything; it's you saying either, "I am the only person who exists and my opinions are actually facts," or "I am the entire universe and the universe is not indifferent but actually makes value judgments on specific things within itself without defining a context and a goal."
A person's writing comes from their brain. It is who they are. Some people have very sad facial expressions and when they talk their voices tremble and maybe they have a deep voice or respond mostly with one-syllable answers or maybe they don't speak and don't make eye contact. That is who they are, most people would say. If you met that person you wouldn't say, "Your facial expression and voice are horrible, you have no talent. You have no talent for the pitch of your voice. You are talentless and horrible and unoriginal. Your voice and facial expression are very bad. You should stop doing those things and releasing your terrible shit onto the world. Maybe you should try something else, instead of existing. Maybe you would be good at something else, like not existing." Most of you would not say that about a person's idiosyncrasies, a person's 'personality,' etc. But most of you would say those things about a person's writing, if you didn't like it.
A person's effect on the world is their 'art,' that is who they are. How they move, release noises, arrange their room, write their sentences, give their poems line breaks, etc.
People laughed at Cho Seung-Hui's voice and other people (and people currently, on the internet) said (are saying) his writing was 'horrible,' 'talentless,' 'embarrassing,' etc.
"You have no talent," means "I am the only perspective that exists and I judge you and you are not good," which is a meaningless statement if a context and a goal is not defined.
CONTEXT AND GOALS
Fiction writing has no universally agreed upon purpose, or even agreed upon purpose between two people. Something without a goal cannot be 'good' or 'bad.' It can only be 'liked' or 'disliked,' though even those are not completely accurate. Something without a goal, accurately, causes physical reactions, and that is what can be said about it. Someone can accurately say, "Stephen King's writing makes my face feel like a giant pancake," or "This sentence by Stephen King caused my heart rate to go up 2 beats per minute," or something.
People who say things like, "This novel is the best novel of 2007," or anything like that, to me, are increasing pain and suffering in the world. It is a very circuitous and difficult-to-trace way of increasing pain and suffering, and so is often ignored, in the same way that a person will eat veal or spend money at Wal-Mart or smoke cigarettes in the presence of other people; the effects are not immediate, cannot be seen, and cannot be traced back to their source (the affected are not able to know what specifically caused its suffering) and so are often ignored.
Some people talk very little and don't make eye contact and maybe don't speak and don't 'hang out' much.
Those are facts, they aren't good or bad. Some people prefer to be around people who talk a lot and make eye contact. Some people prefer to be around people who talk very little and make no eye contact.
In the context of a person who wants to talk more, make more eye contact, and have more friends, 'talking very little,' 'not making eye contact,' etc., are 'bad.'
People are different. All people are different. Not good or bad just different. Writing is different. All writing is different, etc.
EXTREME SHYNESS IN AN ENVIRONMENT INTOLERANT TO ART
The extremely shy person who is in an environment intolerant to art (the person itself) has no way to communicate reciprocally with other human beings. When a human cannot communicate with other humans other humans become something different. Like a rock or a tree. Humans mostly do not feel they have the ability to communicate with rocks or trees. If I am walking I don't feel bad, most of the time, for kicking a rock or throwing it. If I viewed other human beings as things that I could not communicate with and who could not communicate with me I would not hesitate to do whatever I want to them as means for other things, for example to relieve boredom, exercise, see what happens, etc. For example I would kick a rock to feel amused at how it moves through the air.
"YOU AREN'T GOING TO DEFEND CHO SEUNG-HUI ARE YOU?"
Facts do not defend anything. A person can use facts to either defend something or defend its opposite, but only if they introduce a context and a goal. It is impossible, I think, for a powerful brain to defend or condemn Cho Seung-Hui unless the context has been reduced to something like .00000000001% of the universe, .00000000001% of time, and a goal like "Eliminate killing rampages where more than 15 people die on a college campus."
What if a person's context was "The Solar System from 2000-3000 a.d.," and goal was to "reduce pain and suffering of human beings (which excludes animals but includes people in Argentina and Tasmania who the person has never met and does not know of, even abstractly, as a number, on a TV screen, as much as possible." In that context is it 'good' or 'bad' what Cho Seung-Hui did? One would have to study Cho's effect on the media, the relocation of charity funds, of media attention, etc., to begin to study whether it was 'good' or 'bad' because the death of 33 people in a relatively painless event is like .00000000000001% of the pain and suffering that occurs each day, in that context, of "The Solar System." I would take a very powerful brain to conclude whether or not what Cho did was 'good' or 'bad' from that perspective (that context and goal), which is a common perspective.
If a teacher censors writing or expresses 'concern' about a person's writing that is the same as censoring someone's existence or expressing 'concern' about the validity of a person's existence.
If Cho Seung-Hui was in my writing class and wrote a story like this: "Cho Seung-Hui woke up and picked up a knife and followed Tao Lin into the bathroom and stabbed Tao Lin in the ass and ass-raped Tao Lin, then put Tao Lin in a bag, brought Tao Lin home, and ate Tao Lin's corpse," I wouldn't 'report' him for counseling. I would treat the story like any other story. I would probably like the story because those are all things I have thought myself. I have thought about killing people, etc.
Then we would both be less lonely. Cho Seung-Hui would feel that human beings were more like him, and that he was also a human being, which is a thing that feels pain and seeks pleasure, that wants to be happy and not feel bad emotions. He would want to die less, and if things like that kept happening, where he felt less lonely, he would eventually not want to die anymore, and would not go on a killing-rampage.
Fiction exists in a person's brain, not in concrete reality. Applying concrete reality's laws, of cause and effect and pain and suffering, onto the metaphysical world is not logical, but censors thought, and therefore censors people existentially.
In middle school I talked to people. We talked about how we would kill the most white people if we were Native Americans. We talked about flying over the Superbowl in a helicopter and dropping grenades and things like that. Those things did not actually happen, because the things that get talked about, written about, and thought about exist not in concrete reality but in a 'place' with no cause and effect, pain, or suffering. (Without concrete reality there is just one thing, what many religions and philosophies describe as 'oneness' or 'the world of noumenon,' and when everything is just one thing, and experienced as such, there is no desire, and where there is no desire there is no suffering).
Thinking something is not doing something.
Noah Cicero wrote a story
about someone who consoles himself, or makes himself feel better, by eating expensive ice cream, a giant pizza, watching movies, and not answering the phone. Instead of doing those things, for one instance at least, Noah Cicero wrote the story. Instead of eating ice cream to feel better Noah wrote the story to feel better.
Now other people can read the story to feel better instead of eating ice cream and a giant pizza. What happened in Noah's story is not real. It also does not condone eating ice cream or not answering the phone as ways to feel better.
That is one function of a 'depressing story.' It is a life-affirming function, though the story itself, if read as rhetoric, is not life-affirming, since it shows a person doing something that will make it die faster and not connect with other alive things as much, but reading Noah's story as rhetorical is a distortion of the story; the story does not tell you to do what happens in the story, it only tells the story.
The person who views the story as rhetoric and therefore is 'against' the story (wants to censor it) is distorting the story. Distortions make unclear causes and effects. The person who wants to censor should learn to not distort things, if it wants to reduce pain and suffering in the world, instead of 'blaming' the story.
Thoughts and stories are not the same thing as concrete reality and are not rhetorical.
DENYING THE INDIVIDUAL
Abstractions are only a temporary solution to loneliness. Joining an Asian Society or something can make a person feel like they 'belong,' but not in a way that is permanent, sustainable for all people, or existentially constant (for example what if the Asian Society disbanded?).
Feeling 'proud' of one's heritage, attacking 'rich people,' speaking of 'class rage,' joining a political party, identifying oneself based on race, ethnicity, location, etc.
Literature where the characters feel bad emotions, existential despair, and are in terrible situations (and react with passivity, acceptance, indifference; or ineffectual rage, ineffectual counteractions, ineffectual solutions, etc.) have, I think, caused me to be more accepting. The following books and writers have me better at accepting things: Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys, Kafka, Kobo Abe, Kafka, Richard Yates, Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie, Todd Hasak-Lowy, Matthew Rohrer, Michael Earl Craig, Lydia Davis, Joy Williams, Like Life by Lorrie Moore, and others.
By 'accept' I mean less likely to feel anger, blame others, or complain (and more likely to react calmly and rationally) when disappointed, in an unfair situation, or in a situation of unrequited emotions or crippling loneliness. And also less likely to kill myself. To have anger toward myself, or the universe. But to just accept what happens to me. If everyone around me is talking shit about me I am more likely to accept, focus elsewhere, or begin to view the shit-talking not as a 'bad' thing but neutrally, just as a 'thing,' and not go on a killing rampage.
Much of my own writing is written to help myself accept existential things like death, limited-time, the mystery of being and existence, arbitrary universe, etc., but also things like shyness, loneliness, 'not getting what I want,' depression, etc.
After I read Mr. Brownstone
by Cho Seung-Hui I felt like I was a little more prepared to accept whatever would happen in my life in concrete reality. The characters in the play get ass-raped by their math teacher and suffer other oppressions from the math teacher. In the end the characters win five million dollars, and are happy, but then the math teacher comes and tells lies and gets the five million dollars. The characters do not attack and destroy the math teacher or ass-rape the math teacher for revenge.
The play does not end with a scene where the math teacher's lies are found out or where the math teacher 'gets what he deserves' for ass-raping his students and lying to get the students' five million dollars.
The play ends with the characters about to go to jail, without the five million dollars they won. It is an unfair situation, and it ends like that.
I felt like Cho Seung-Hui wrote that to try to help himself accept.