why does this channel play such a peculiar strain of white noise

Your shoulders bend forward to keep out the world. I see it. What is the point. Why do we insist on throwing ourselves out into the fray. Retreat! Climb onto this liferaft I have constructed from a few termite-riddled planks bound together with the discarded hairs from your head. It’s all different but the same. Longing and self-denial: our life’s work, the unrequitable nectar from which we feed, desperate fools that we are. I can’t bear to look.

Today I took Farley to Spiderweb City. I heard a Black-billed Cuckoo, a bird I identify with. Common but secretive? Rumored to predict rain? Maybe not. I came home, ran around inside the house with my paint bucket, sweating, the futility of it all welling up inside, allegro. Mainlining futility, hoping someday for the pure uncut junk that blows your mind.

Later: party time. An invitation not refused. Perhaps the strangest party I have yet attended in a lifetime of suffering strange parties. Now here I sit, a party of one. Freebasing dictionaries and dreaming of foreign scents. The window is open to let in the rare cool night air. The city crickets patch together their ragged symphony. I am restless with the other music, but not drowning out the crickets. The stage is set for insomnia. Cue white noise…aaand, ACTION.

Observer versus participant in the steel cage match of life. Who wins. I wish I knew. Not that it would matter. I can’t change now. I feel like a bad character actor playing myself when I go out in public. The superficial bumbler. Kafka talks about being alone and how it restores himself to himself. How he comes alive when alone. The noise in his head quiets. He says, “Being alone has a power over me that never fails. My interior dissolves […] and is ready to release what lies deeper.” When two people are together in aloneness it is a curious thing. In some ways it is liberating. I think it may be the best we can hope for, but I still can’t see how it ends.

So we are afloat on this rotten raft held together by your hair. And I reach to pull your shoulders back but they no longer move. Like my spine they are stuck out of place. It’s dark now and the sea grows rough. I know the morning will come, but what does that even mean. At what point did the day really end. Some weeks stretch like taffy. Others make Friday the pin on this grenade and you’re stretching your long thin arm to it all week but it’s always out of reach until all of a sudden you’re yanking the pin out and it all blows up in your face. Or it’s a dud. Either way you lose another seven days. The box of grenades is not bottomless.

The rain is falling now, again. Like the cuckoo sang it would. Rain crow, rain crow, sing us a shower. This bird is killed by pesticides; this bird collides with TV towers, with tall buildings that house banks and corporate overlords. Let us all share the blame for killing a bird that sings when it is about to rain. For there are few sounds so soothing as gently falling rain.

hold this empty box

Tonight I watched Box of Moonlight. I cannot believe it took me so long to find this film [thanks to a respected Goodreads user for mentioning it in a comment thread]. It came out in 1996, while I was deep into my cultural blackout period. Lord knows what else I missed during that time. But I wouldn’t trade those halcyon days of shooting pellet guns at the abandoned van in the gravel parking lot of my hut down by the river. Or maybe I would. Depends on the price. Regardless, it’s all part of who I am now. When you watch a film from 1996 on DVD, the movie starts right up without any previews or pushing any buttons on the remote. It’s nice. I like John Turturro and Sam Rockwell and Catherine Keener. They are all good people in the movies. This is a film that the orbs would hate. Only strange people like films like this. People are smart in different ways. I wish this was universally understood. One person can’t know everything. People think in different ways. This leads to exceptional behavior in one avenue for one person, and a different avenue for another person. What this means is we each can learn from another, from anyone. People are so hard on themselves. It’s unnecessary. We can only do the best that we can.

So there’s this zine called Miranda and the editor, Kate Haas, writes a regular column in it called “Motel of Lost Companions,” where in each issue she spotlights some person from her past she’s no longer in touch with and talks about the significance of this person in her life at the time. This has always resonated with me, for my past is littered with lost companions. Where they all are now is anyone’s guess. I suppose I could get a Facebook account and try to find them, but what would be the point. Likely to be a depressing and futile exercise. I’m sure most are married with kids now…so boring and predictable. Although I suspect some of them aren’t even on Facebook at all. Some of them are probably living desperate lives in basements or roominghouses, struggling to get by and largely failing. Those are the ones I’d probably like to have a conversation with but could never find.

The current moon phase is 47% of full. I hate the internet for telling me that. It would be a tough night to gather moonlight in a box, especially in the city. When I went out, the air felt cool and clean at least. I thought about lost companions and the few that still remain. I thought about Joy Division’s song “In A Lonely Place” and how it haunts me. It’s tied to someone lost, then found, now in limbo. The needle on the vinyl in that room so long ago, caressing the marble and stone, the blinds drawn against our futures.

There are lost companions everywhere, some of them lost before they’re even found. And we’ll never meet because the world is so big. I guess that’s okay, although it sometimes still bothers me. We are all of us in lonely places, after all, but the ones inside us we cannot leave.

a philalethe and a panmnesiac walk into a bar

Scripturient fugues scrape at this summer torment, as I sit saccadic in my seat, genuflecting to twin telescreens, the slim dark overlords of these waking hours. Glistering dreams spawn from stem and cortex under cloak of darkness; if not coaxed out quick, consciousness crucifies them upon the day’s brutal y-axis.

Late at night I hail the sidewalk slugs, grown fat on summer’s bounty, no longer convening, but navigating solo in their slow deliberate way, yearning perhaps for a more saltigrade life. I try to lead Farley’s falling paws away from their soft yielding bodies, but theirs is forever a doomed existence in this urban setting. I can only do so much.

Revulsion spawns in less innocent corners, as I perceive the proboscis of humanity probing at inappropriate places. Get thee away, proboscis! See how your callous actions rub salt in your own wounds, spinning on until one day you’ll all lie screaming, salted strips of dried-out flesh stretched on a burning hot bed of asphalt. Or something…ahem.

Never mind, it’s time to molt this dacrygelotic husk. It’s time to cram these junked-out hours in a dirty suitcase and hurl it in the harbor. The air is like bathwater and I will yet swim in it, for I have no choice. And yet the psithurism of the autumnal approach beckons. I still hear it, muted and steam-wrapped as it is.

subject to unmeasured confounders and biases*

Inside it’s freezing cold. Outside it’s blazing hot. I walk out there into the world and my arms remain cold to the touch for a time. After that passes, my hair follicles feel like they are burning in my scalp. My coworker is back visiting from Dhaka, where she reports it is hot, crowded, and smelly, so not much different from Baltimore in summer. I forgot my music today. I don’t even have headphones. This pains me. I also forgot my ID badge. I have no identity. I am no one. I am all of the things we don’t say. And that is a lot. If we even knew them, whatever would we do. A thing occurs and it causes effects and those effects affect you and you wish the thing never occurred even though you made it occur and you could have not made it occur. That was your choice. But you took a stand, for better or for worse. And now there’s just this sort of empty place. Anyway, I read a book and it was the Collected Stories of Carson McCullers and I wrote a long review of it over on Goodreads, but I want to mention it here because I loved it so. I read a lot of it in the cabin when I should probably have been talking to people but I wasn’t, because that is how I am and I know I won’t change and I don’t even want to change, so there. And this book included the novel The Member of the Wedding and it was sad and dark in the way many good books are and it placed me even more in awe of Carson McCullers than I had been before. Growing up is hard and life is not very kind to adolescents and then suddenly you are an adult and what the hell is that. I mean, it’s hard being an adult, too, but maybe not as hard as being a teenager because at least when you are an adult your youthful idealism has been wiped away instead of still in the process of being stomped on by the awakening realities of life and the human condition. I feel strange today, but not in the way I felt strange last week. Perhaps it is the heat, perhaps it is how today is my only day of work this week and it’s odd to me that tomorrow is Friday already. It seems like it should be Monday. And it just keeps getting hotter and hotter and I fear we all may explode like ants under a magnifying glass. But the tomatoes and jalapeños are ripening and new cucumbers are growing, so I guess a few more of them were fertilized after all. The heat is good for that, but not for my mental state. The radio tells me this heat may last well into August and if that is so, I very well may lose my mind. I will lock myself in my room like Kurtz and plot and read and scratch out words and maybe something good will come out of it. But first there is this and that of which I don’t feel like doing on account of my awfulness, and so I will sit here and brood over my jasmine tea for I am into brooding these days and perhaps the tea will warm me up.

Note:  In the American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd edition, the third definition of brood reads as follows:  a) To be deep in thought; meditate.  b) To focus the attention on a subject persistently and moodily; worry.  c) To be depressed.

I am thrilled that this definition of brood offers such a varied and expansive range of what I do so often. I can use this term broadly and no one will know if I am actually worrying, depressed, or just deeply in thought. Some words are so convenient.

*Title of post lifted from a random journal article I saw in a list of search results

my thoughts dried up so i wrote this instead

When you isolate yourself, you have no one else to blame when things go awry. There is some small comfort in this. It is possible to go days without talking to anyone. This can be a magical combination of your own self-imposed silence and a general indifference on the part of others. Together we can make it work. The woman in the alley enjoys screaming hateful words at her grandson but she is sweet as pie when I say hello. This dichotomy hurts my brain. The alley is loud in the summer. The ladies across the way gun their motorcycles at all hours. The level of their inconsideration for people living together in a confined space staggers me. Small children yell and sing and talk like adults. I brood at the kitchen table. If it weren’t for the swatch of overgrown vegetation threatening to engulf my porch, I would have to see, as well as hear, the denizens of the alley and that I could not bear. Meanwhile, in the plus column, the city installed four solar-powered compacting trash cans on a main street in the neighborhood. I was overjoyed to throw my dog’s poop in them. Then they took one away. It was the most conveniently located one. Why. On another street near my house the city erected an expensive-looking fence in the median. A few weeks later they removed it. Why. Every day I see the thousands of dollars I pay in property taxes hemorrhage out onto the streets in the form of Kafkaesque activities such as this. It pains me. I could make much better use of those thousands of dollars than by funding the erecting and dismantling of fences. Segueing into the employment realm, it’s summertime at work which results in a curious laissez faire attitude toward attendance. I like it but it confuses me. I am always suspicious of it. Yet there is a natural relaxed cadence I cannot ignore, and so I allow it to carry me in its wake. When I feel agitated, I look at the little pictures in the dictionary and this soothes me. Last night I had a pleasant time in dreamland, but I forgot most of it upon waking. I don’t like that. I need to remember my dreams or waking life seems vacant. Do you ever wonder about the nature of friendships? They are curious things. Coming and going, rarely staying. Sometimes they wane; sometimes they wither. Sometimes they fail over the stupidest things. And you wonder if it could have been avoided, but in reality if it was a strong friendship it should have been able to withstand most of the nonsense we manage to self-generate. Which then begs the question of why the friendship existed in the first place. Convenience, perhaps. Boredom. Desperation for human contact [see: possibility of going for days without speaking to anyone, as outlined above]. I have had many friendships through the years, for all of these listed reasons and more. Not many have lasted, but the tiny few that have are worth more than gold. The question is then, do I now need more friends? What purpose would they serve? It gets harder to make friends as you get older. It’s horrible but I find myself more judgmental than I used to be of people when considering them as potential friends. I am also perhaps even more guarded now. Friendship requires time and effort, both valuable resources that I don’t expend lightly. How can you know if it’s worth it. Most of the time I am content to be by myself. I also have a dog now. The ultimate friend. Always dependable, always happy to see you. Can’t go to the bathroom without your help, which is a little weird. Doesn’t talk, which is both good and bad. Sometimes I wish he’d talk, just a little. See, even though I am content by myself, I have this annoying urge to reach out sometimes. It’s irrepressible. Sometimes everything can’t be found in books. Or nature. Most things, yes. But not all. This is the curse of human nature. We are not 100% autonomous. And I am so restless. This incessant unease shadows my every move. The panic. The urge to drop out. The crushing confinement of your own mind. We’re all so spread out. Held together by weakening links. I trip over my own shallow roots and fall face-down in a mucky bog. Roll around and let the clay harden on your skin. Let it cover all that you see as wrong. It feels so good.

some words from j. krishnamurti

seen on www.atheistmemebase.com/

When it comes to philosophy and spirituality, I am an anti-ideologue. I like to sift through it all and take only the pieces that fit into my own puzzle. However, from what I have read of his work, J. Krishnamurti is one of the few thinkers that comes into the closest alignment with my outlook on life. Perhaps it was his own volatile distaste for organized religion and organization in general that endears him to me. Having been co-opted at an early age by prominent Theosophists to serve as the predicted leader of a new organization called The Order of the Star in the East, Krishnamurti renounced this role while still a young man, dissolved the Order, and returned all the money that had been donated for its work. He then went around the world talking to people for the rest of his life.

Much of what is considered New Age thinking has its roots in Krishnamurti’s ideas (which in turn were perhaps somewhat informed by the Buddha’s). Ironically, many New Age teachers who were inspired by him seem to have glossed over some of his key points opposing organization, formalizing and branding their own cobbled-together philosophies in order to capitalize (both monetarily and ego-massagingly [note: not an actual word]) on the spiritual seeking behavior so endemic to human beings.

Enough of my words, though, here are some of Krishnamurti’s:

“As I was saying, if we do not understand the nature of effort, all action is limiting. Effort creates its own frontiers, its own objectives, its own limitations. Effort has the time-binding quality. You say, ‘I must meditate, I must make an effort to control my mind’. That very effort to control puts a limit on your mind. Do watch this, do think it out with me. To live with effort is evil; to me it is an abomination, if I may use a strong word. And if you observe, you will realize that from childhood on we are conditioned to make an effort. In our so-called education, in all the work we do, we struggle to improve ourselves, to become something. Everything we undertake is based on effort; and the more effort we make, the duller the mind becomes. Where there is effort, there is an objective; where there is effort, there is a limitation on attention and on action. To do good in the wrong direction is to do evil. Do you understand? For centuries we have done ‘good’ in the wrong direction by assuming that we must be this, we must not be that, and so on, which only creates further conflict.” – Collected Works, Vol. XI,229,Action

observing a person

Reviewing web analytics can be fun. One recent visitor to my site arrived there via a search for “observing a person.” I tried replicating this search in a few search engines and did not come upon my site, but perhaps this searcher traveled much deeper into the results than I did. Regardless, it made me think about how we humans observe each other. And whether some of us do at all. I was recently talking to a friend who said her OCD tendencies allow her to immediately notice changes in her environment. This extends to people, too, of course. New haircuts are duly noted, as are unusual clothing items. I, too, closely observe the people around me, although depending on my relationship to them, I may not comment on any changes in their appearance. Awkward situations for me arise when I recognize someone but I can’t tell if they recognize me. Do I comment on this? Do I say I believe we’ve met? Or, I’ve noticed you standing outside my building in the early afternoon every day for the past 5 years? It really depends on the situation. The most awkward situations are when I’m positive that I’ve had interactions with a person and yet the person shows no indication of recognition toward me. Is it possible this person really doesn’t recognize or remember me? It boggles my mind but I suppose it can be true. What also confuses me is when there is no sign of recognition until you bring up a previous encounter. And then the person is like, “Oh, yeah, you’re so-and-so. I remember.” Is the person lying? Or just didn’t want to acknowledge me until I initiated it? I don’t get it. I guess I am just a bit obsessed with what is going on in other people’s brains. Are they observing other people as closely as I am, but just not mentioning it? Are they completely clueless and walking around in a total fog? What do you notice first about a person? Does it depend on whether it’s a man or a woman? What warrants a comment, and in what circumstances? Am I just crazy for thinking about stuff like this? Please advise.

shadow forecaster

The wind rises and scatters my attention span. How to greet a late January day warmed to the low 60s on the Fahrenheit scale? I feel a twinge of guilt enjoying it, knowing how unnatural it is and wondering much of this is our fault. Birds are migrating sooner, only to find food not yet abundant in their summer haunts. Southern insects are expanding their ranges northward. [Gardeners, take note!] Mother Nature’s long-established cues are failing her denizens. Are these little and not-so-little signs of impending ecological collapse? Perhaps. It would make sense. And surely we deserve it. Too long have we moved at the speed of profit, with blinders plastered to our fat heads. Our slavering consumerist jaws know no bounds. We think with our wallets, and we don’t remember any other way. We forgot how to mend and learned instead how to slide cards through readers. The problem is colossal in scale. The solutions too little, too late. So maybe all we can do now is pull up some chairs and wait for the end of this chapter of life on our planet. Bleak, perhaps, but it could just be my shadow speaking out again. Some days I let it do all my talking for me, and I just sit back and stare at the clouds.

time…again

My coworker cracks me up because she is so strictly punctual. I always knew it but now that she’s moved into the office next door, I am reminded of it constantly. I know she comes in at the same time every morning (even though it’s well before I arrive…I just know it).  I see her leave at 4:30 on the dot every evening. And if she doesn’t get to start her lunch right at noon, look out! We used to have a meeting on Tuesday from 11-12. One day when the meeting was running over, she got caught by a previous crazy manager for looking at the clock. While she was certainly embarrassed, she was no less indignant afterward that her lunchtime had been postponed.

I bring this up because I have been thinking about time again. Long-time readers of this blog in its many incarnations (all one, possibly two, of you) will perhaps recall that I have railed against time often in the past. It bothers me what human society has done with time: assigning monetary value to it, breaking it down into chargeable chunks, using it to create arbitrary deadlines and artificial windows of opportunity.

Anyone who has paid a bit of attention to time knows that it has a curious elastic quality to it. How fast it seems to go by depends heavily on what you are doing within it. Sometimes it depends on what substances you have consumed. The part of the day can affect this elasticity, too; a morning will seem endless, an evening brief. Often this has to do with the amount of available light. And certainly age also plays a factor. As we get older, years seem to slither by at an alarming rate.

So, what to do about time. I know I am most content when unencumbered by my awareness of time’s passing. Smash the alarm clocks! Abolish workday schedules! Don’t think about how much time something takes and judge it based on that alone. Shortcuts spring from a flawed thinking. There is no way to “save time.” It’s a delusion. Why are we trying to do things faster, anyway? It implies that what is happening right now is somehow not good enough, not “worth our time” and so we must get past it faster, faster, on to the “better” things that are more worth our time. But in the end, we just shortchange ourselves, because we have arbitrarily assigned “worth” when in fact every moment of life is valuable and should not be rushed through.

We are living in a frightening period of history. An entire generation is growing up with the expectation that instant gratification is the norm. People’s thresholds for waiting have diminished to a granular level. Impatience is ingrained within us. We are in a rush to get everywhere in our stupid cars. We get food in less than a minute, from a microwave or from a drive-thru window. Information is available 24 hours a day from the internet, from palm-sized devices we carry around with us everywhere, even into the bathroom. News travels faster than ever before. When we have to wait, we get indignant. Why should we have to wait? It’s not fair.

The whole situation has gotten so bad that there is now an entire slow movement. I don’t know much about it, but I think it started with Slow Food and snowballed from there. Clearly others are concerned about the speed at which society travels these days. I suppose making a conscious decision to try to slow down is a good thing. But I am more interested in how we got to where we are and why. Are we really more impatient today than we used to be? Is it technology’s fault? What is driving this desire and expectation for everything to be instantly available? Why do people drive so fast? What the hell is wrong with us?

Of course I don’t have answers for these questions. But I think about them constantly. I wonder why I feel so alienated. I know others do, as well. It makes me wonder if anyone would have an answer to the question of why they are in such a rush. Maybe they’ve just stopped thinking, and if they started again they would realize the absurdity of their actions. Perhaps we have all just become dulled to the point that we don’t know what we’re doing or why anymore. Maybe we have just each become a mere collection of tics: foot on the gas, fingers on the keypads, logging in and clicking around, spitting out to each other the words we’ve just heard and read and watched…never stopping to think for ourselves.

from a room with slanted ceilings

In another place, for once.  These walls blue instead of yellow, yet the likeness remains.  A window from which to gaze, at treetops, at sky and clouds.  What we endure like some concrete mix plastered to our outsides, layering on another wall between what we feel and what we show to the others.  The talking we do, so careful, so orchestrated, a hackneyed script whittled down to nothing.  But today is not a mere trailing on of yesterday.  No, today is a rope tossed back to us, its intricate knotted fibers there for fingers to grasp and pull us forward to lighter times, when we are who we are and we do what we are here to do.

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