Here's the thing: I am not only a creature of civilization, I'm an asthmatic person. I will only live so long as I have stockpiled the proper inhalers. I'm effectively a cyborg. You know how in Jurassic Park, they bred those dinosaurs with the lysine deficiencies, so if they ever got off the island, they'd die? That's me.
The traditional writer is a sensitive only child, asthmatic, who sits on the window seat watching the drops of rain slide down the pane, very introspective. I'm not inward-looking. I would never go to a shrink. I don't want to know what I'm thinking. I don't really like discussions in my family. It may be an avoidance thing.
YOU'RE RELIGIOUS, SCREAMING FOR YOUR SAVIOUR I'M ASTHMATIC CLUTCHING MY INHALER THIS CITY AIR IS KILLING ME NOW I'M BECOME JUST WHAT I WAS MEANT TO BE WELL IT MIGHT SEEM HARD NOW BUT I'LL HOLD ON TO THE END AND WE'RE NOT REALLY ENEMIES COZ I'M YOUR ONLY FRIEND AND YOU AND ME TOGETHER WE'LL KILL THE NIGHT AWAY WE'LL KILL THE NIGHT AWAY KILL THEM ALL AWAY
From the first page of the book...[Roosevelt's] life reads like a movie that requires a big bag of popcorn, ... We start at 25, as he begins to transform himself through sheer force of will from this asthmatic, nearsighted 125-pounder to this Sherman tank of a man so tough that he once got shot on the way to make a speech and completed his talk, bleeding with a bullet in his chest.
I used many times to touch my own chest and feel, under its asthmatic quiver, the engine of the heart and lungs and blood and feel amazed at what I sensed was the enormity of the power I possessed. Not magical power, but real power. The power simply to go on, the power to endure, that is power enough, but I felt I had also the power to create, to add, to delight, to amaze and to transform.
My stay in Camp Betty was the longest I'd been without drink or drugs in my adult life. [...] At first, they put me in a room with a guy who owned a bowling alley, but he snored like an asthmatic horse, so I moved and ended up with a depressive mortician. [...] The mortician snored even louder than the bowling alley guy - he was like a moose with a tracheotomy.
NOW I'M BACK AGAIN ON THIS TRACK AGAIN FINALLY MADE IT PUSHED TO THE LIMITS CAN'T LIVE WITHIN IT CAN'T DO WITHOUT IT WHERE'S THE SUPRISE? SHARP EDGES CUT AT ME, THEY MAKE ME BLEED I'VE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY, NEVER FELT SO FREE AND STRANGERS PUSH ME, FORCE ME TO BE HARD THESE NIGHTS I'M LONELY, LUCKY I'M SO SCARRED. SHE'S GOT ME, SO I DON'T NEED YOU YOU WANT ME, YOU JUST DON'T KNOW YOU DO I TRY TO LOVE YOU WHILE YOU'RE SPITTING IN MY FACE I PUT YOU ON A PEDASTAL - YOU PUT ME IN MY PLACE WE PAY TO BE TOLD WHAT OUR TINY FUTURES HOLD YOURS LOOKS BRIGHT AND MINE IS BLACK I WANT MY MONEY BACK YOU'RE RELIGIOUS, SCREAMING FOR YOUR SAVIOUR I'M ASTHMATIC CLUTCHING MY INHALER THIS CITY AIR IS KILLING ME NOW I'M BECOME JUST WHAT I WAS MEANT TO BE WELL IT MIGHT SEEM HARD NOW BUT I'LL HOLD ON TO THE END AND WE'RE NOT REALLY ENEMIES COZ I'M YOUR ONLY FRIEND AND YOU AND ME TOGETHER WE'LL KILL THE NIGHT AWAY WE'LL KILL THE NIGHT AWAY KILL THEM ALL AWAY WHY'S IT SO HARD TO REMEMBER ALL THE GOOD TIMES WE HAD ..AND WHY'S IT SO MUCH EASIER TO FEEL SO FUCKING BAD I KNOW I HAD SOME DREAMS THEN BUT ALL OF THEM FELL THROUGH I WANTED TO HAVE EVERYTHING I CAN'T EVEN HAVE YOU WELL I'M SO FUCKING FACELESS YOU MIGHT AS WELL ERASE US I'LL TAKE ALL YOU CAN GIVE ME DON'T NEED YOU TO FORGIVE ME I'LL KILL YOUR FUCKING JESUS I'M NOT SOME FUCKING RHESUS I ONLY WANT TO FUCK YOU TO OUT-EVOLVED YOUR WEAKNESS
We are dealing, then, with an absurdity that is not a quirk or an accident, but is fundamental to our character as people. The split between what we think and what we do is profound. It is not just possible, it is altogether to be expected, that our society would produce conservationists who invest in strip-mining companies, just as it must inevitably produce asthmatic executives whose industries pollute the air and vice-presidents of pesticide corporations whose children are dying of cancer. And these people will tell you that this is the way the "real world" works. The will pride themselves on their sacrifices for "our standard of living." They will call themselves "practical men" and "hardheaded realists." And they will have their justifications in abundance from intellectuals, college professors, clergymen, politicians. The viciousness of a mentality that can look complacently upon disease as "part of the cost" would be obvious to any child. But this is the "realism" of millions of modern adults. There is no use pretending that the contradiction between what we think or say and what we do is a limited phenomenon. There is no group of the extra-intelligent or extra-concerned or extra-virtuous that is exempt. I cannot think of any American whom I know or have heard of, who is not contributing in some way to destruction. The reason is simple: to live undestructively in an economy that is overwhelmingly destructive would require of any one of us, or of any small group of us, a great deal more work than we have yet been able to do. How could we divorce ourselves completely and yet responsibly from the technologies and powers that are destroying our planet? The answer is not yet thinkable, and it will not be thinkable for some time - even though there are now groups and families and persons everywhere in the country who have begun the labor of thinking it. And so we are by no means divided, or readily divisible, into environmental saints and sinners. But there are legitimate distinctions that need to be made. These are distinctions of degree and of consciousness. Some people are less destructive than others, and some are more conscious of their destructiveness than others. For some, their involvement in pollution, soil depletion, strip-mining, deforestation, industrial and commercial waste is simply a "practical" compromise, a necessary "reality, " the price of modern comfort and convenience. For others, this list of involvements is an agenda for thought and work that will produce remedies. People who thus set their lives against destruction have necessarily confronted in themselves the absurdity that they have recognized in their society. They have first observed the tendency of modern organizations to perform in opposition to their stated purposes. They have seen governments that exploit and oppress the people they are sworn to serve and protect, medical procedures that produce ill health, schools that preserve ignorance, methods of transportation that, as Ivan Illich says, have 'created more distances than they... bridge.' And they have seen that these public absurdities are, and can be, no more than the aggregate result of private absurdities; the corruption of community has its source in the corruption of character. This realization has become the typical moral crisis of our time. Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live.