About my aversion to amusement parks, + deep appreciation for Fielding and Dostoyevsky

I have never, ever been particularly amused by amusement parks. When I do go to amusement parks, even when I pay for them myself as opposed to being dragged along for free as part of a group bonding activity in which I have no desire to participate, my default activity is people watching. I survey hulking families and their poorly behaved spawn gallumphing about the park’s bounds, stuffing faces with fried dough and Dippin’ Dots, deploying ferociously awful grammar as though it were entirely acceptable, and yelling over other roaming herds of monolothic Americans. It’s fun at first, but gets pretty grim pretty fast. Also, I find it usually results in sunburn.

But it isn’t for the crowds that I dislike amusement parks. See, I’m not a gigantic fan of thrill rides–least of all roller coasters. Why do people love the terrifying ascent of each hill and attendant anticipation of a great fall, then that horrible, sick, rising feeling in the gut as you plummet towards earth? And they love it enough to sustain it multiple times in one ride, no less! See, call me crazy, but none of that appeals to me. I don’t choose to take myself  on physical adventures that can make me feel so horrible. Happily enough, today I concluded that I have no need to do so, because I can induce these very same sensations all by myself, free of charge, without standing in line and sweating, running the risk of contracting some sort of awful staph infection from the seat belt or being puked upon by someone three seats above me on the ferris wheel. This week has been one big fucking roller coaster ride. I’m up! I’ve down! Then, oh god! I’m flatlining! Oh shit, down again! Then without warning I’m retching out psychic and emotional illness over heart-wrenching, gut-hollowing images of what it must have been like every time he took her home. I’m sickest, however, over the knowledge that maybe I loved someone I didn’t know at all. Maybe I loved someone who, as he once intimated, didn’t really know how to love or be compassionate. Maybe for two years I’ve simply been an experiment, used as a template for how one acts when one deeply cares. Maybe I don’t know anything at all.

Maybe I’m going to go be sick again. Fuck.

(Service announcemet: Okay. That concludes the angsty portion of this entry. Now. Read on to get a dose of lit’rature)

To combat the sickness and my own unattractive descent into misery, I’d like to share a few literary snippets. The first comes from Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, an 18th Century novel initially received with some fierce contumely for its amorality, but which is now canonized for its exquisite attention to human manners. In this scene Squire Allworthy, the novel’s figure of goodness and virtue, has a stern talking to Jenny Jones, the strumpet who’s left her bastard infant in his home in hopes that he’ll care for it out of beneficence. Allworthy initially lays into Jones for the opprobrious situation into which she’s delivered them all, but in short order turns his invective upon her unknown violator. Specifically, Allworthy fulminates men who achieve empty use of women as fucktoys by professing to love them. I adored this selection because I think it’s exceptionally well written and exceptionally incisive. Here’s some of Allworthy’s speech:

“Love, however barbarously we may corrupt and pervert its meaning, as it is a laudable, is a rational passion, and can never be violent but when reciprocal; for though the Scripture bid us love our enemies, it means not with that fervent love which we naturally bear towards our friends; much less that we should sacrifice to them our lives, and what ought be dearer to us our innocence. Now in what light, but that of an enemy, can a reasonable woman regard the man who solicits her to entail on herself all the misery I have described to you, and who would purchase to himself a short, trivial, contemptible pleasure, so greatly at her expense! For, by the laws of custom, the whole shame, with all its dreadful consequences, falls entirely upon her. Can love, which always seeks the good of its object, attempt to betray a woman into a bargain where she is so greatly to be the loser? If such corrupter, therefore, should have the impudence to pretend a real affection for her, ought not the woman to regeard him not only as an enemy, but as the worst of all enemies, a false, designing, treacherous, pretended friend, who intends not only to debauch her body, but her understanding at the same time?” (Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, p. 53, super class Barnes & Noble Classic edition)

Researching for the Literature in English GRE, I’ve been doing some overview-ish reading about the works and lives of the many non-British authors with whom I’m embarrassingly unfamiliar. During today’s exploration of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, I learned about Anna Karenina (which is DEFINITELY next on my reading list) Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and just a few moments ago, Notes From Underground by the big D. man himself. Notes From Underground is widely regarded as the first ever existentialist text, so naturally it has its depressing undercurrents of determinism and ennui. Yay! Anyhow–here’s something that struck a chord with me (yes, this is harvested from Wikipedia. Yes, I DO feel dirty, thank you).

“He (the Man Underground) states that despite humanity’s attempt to create the “Crystal Palace,” a reference to a famous symbol of utopianism in Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s What Is to Be Done?, one cannot avoid the simple fact that anyone at any time can decide to act against what is considered good, and some will do so simply to validate their existence and to protest that they exist as individuals.”

This made me feel remarkably free and, for a moment, quieted my brain chatter. Really? I wondered. You mean that sometimes, things are just horrible and there is no deep reason to undergird or explain it? Maybe that’s just the case, and maybe that conclusion saves me a lot of wondering for tonight. From my heart to yours, Fyodor, thanks.

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2 thoughts on “About my aversion to amusement parks, + deep appreciation for Fielding and Dostoyevsky

  1. i love this post because a) you quoted TOM JONES!! (i don’t know anyone who’s read the whole thing all the way through…i’m assuming you have because that makes me feel good and i need to be feeling good) and b) this: “Maybe I loved someone who, as he once intimated, didn’t really know how to love or be compassionate. Maybe for two years I’ve simply been an experiment, used as a template for how one acts when one deeply cares. Maybe I don’t know anything at all.”

    i think that last part sucks the most, the questioning of everything that you have ever known. hope you get off the roller coaster soon.

  2. Yay Adeline!
    I’ve actually not yet completed Tom Jones in its entirety–I’m about 1/3 of the way through and totally loving it. I hope that doesn’t succeed in making you feel less good because I agree–you need to be feeling good.

    The questioning does suck, but you know what? History is so very much up to the mind of its keeper. I’ve come to peace with the fact that I’ll never know what happened or what the past two years has meant, even if I asked him, and even if he told me. As such, it’s up to me to decide upon a version of the truth and accept it.

    I can accept that he was invested in his own way, but it might not have been the ways in which I’d assumed it was–it might not have been my definition of “love” or “investment.” No–he might not have “been in love” with me–he’s questioned whether he knows what that means–but I have to trust that he did what he knew how to, for as long as he could.

    In conclusion, all I can do now is be thankful for what I’ve learned and move past him without expecting him to care about what he’s wrought or be thankful for what we had. You can’t, after all, blame someone for failing to thank you for tendering them services or care for which they never asked.

    Anyhow–I think that I’m off the big rollercoaster now and have downgraded to a kiddy sized version. I feel pretty good. I feel pretty much like me. I’m picking up the pieces, one by one, and I hope you’re doing the same. 🙂

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