being alone

You see, you are not educated to be alone. Do you ever go out for a walk by yourself? It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree—not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself—and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed.

Krishnamurti, This Matter of Culture, p 89

‘to reduce the fever of feeling’

Outside the wind howls. Inside a trio of snowmen converse in the vicinity of a conference of paper birds. Last night the ‘artsy’ neighbors continued their grand tradition of slamming doors and other unidentifiable objects against floors and walls for several hours between approximately midnight and the archetypal 3 AM hour. Result: current state of apathetic grogginess. Desire for absence of shared walls swells with each passing night of lost sleep.

Days less measureless than before. Crystalline structure of incipient routines inches out beyond the borders of a now worn and tarnished impersonation of L.B. in Rear Window. Except there never was anything even vaguely menacing to observe, only a sea of moment-waves rocking gently against the fragile hull of this origami sailboat.

Return to Pessoa’s words: no novelty in the universal, no comprehensibility in the individual. The old ruse of intentional obfuscation falls flat. But still the urge to fit words together roils inside. Maybe to do it, like Pessoa says, ‘to reduce the fever of feeling.’ Yet if all is unimportant (which it is), why bother describing any version of it. Unless perhaps to merely locate and handle the words themselves. To dive to the bottom, seeking words buried deep in a consciousness whose mirrored surface rests fathoms above undisturbed layers of sediment. Yes, perhaps it is for that reason: to extract anything worth contemplating from the granular level, to slip some small truth from the interstices and examine it from all sides, even if only to then return it unseen.

kafka: ‘in a different realm’

“It is conceivable for a writer to take the pulse of his era and make it come alive in language and images, yet still be out of his depth when it comes to palpable engagement with the world, although this constellation is exceedingly rare. Far more often someone who is truly at home in two worlds is misunderstood as being ‘out of touch’ in the public, social cosmos, which he shapes and endures in combination with others, and in an interior psychic space dominated by feelings, dreams, fantasies, associations, and ideas, which he inhabits alone. Anyone whose experience inside his head offers as vast and constant a stream of impressions as the world outside cannot stay focused on the here and now. But where is he then? In a different realm.

An individual who appears to be out of touch with reality is rarely in the privileged position of being able to open and close the subtle locks between inside and outside at will. The vortex pulling him inside his head is always palpable, but the reality principle demands that he remain perpetually alert; people expect him to limit himself to things that can be communicated. Anyone who starts talking about daydreams on the street, in a store, or at the workplace alienates people, no matter how intense and meaningful those daydreams are. He remains alien because he understands and acknowledges a second world, and for the most part, and to his detriment, he remains just as alien in that interior world for the same reason. He is present, but neither here nor there.

That condition can culminate in insanity, and Kafka justifiably feared winding up insane throughout his life. But it has little to do with the accomplishment society expects of the individual. Someone who is alienated from the world might function perfectly well as a craftsman, attorney, teacher, or politician, or as a vice secretary of an insurance institute, and his struggle to balance himself—poised like a man with one foot off the ground—can easily remain hidden from view, without a trace, as it probably has in thousands upon thousands of brains.”

Reiner Stach, Kafka: The Years of Insight

a profound wakefulness

Kafka: The Decisive Years“Kafka missed nothing, forgot nothing. There is little evidence of the absentmindedness and boredom he always complained about; on the contrary, his incessant presence of mind is almost painful to witness, because it renders him unapproachable. Someone must stay awake, but this wakefulness deprived him of a sense of home and alienated him from the world and from people, in a mundane and sometimes comical sense. Nabokov’s novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, which highlights the impossibility of writing an adequate biography, expresses the suffering associated with profound wakefulness from the point of view of someone experiencing it:

[…] in my case all the shutters and lids and doors of the mind would be open at once at all times of the day. Most brains have their Sundays, mine was even refused a half-holiday. That state of constant wakefulness was extremely painful not only in itself, but in its direct results. Every ordinary act which, as a matter of course, I had to perform, took on such a complicated appearance, provoked such a multitude of associative ideas in my mind, and these associations were so tricky and obscure, so utterly useless for practical application, that I would either shirk the business at hand or else make a mess of it out of sheer nervousness.

This statement applies to Kafka word for word. It is astonishing how little he ‘made a mess of’ in spite of everything: wherever his life took him, he stood the test, as a pupil, student, and official. But nothing came easily to him; every decision, even the most trivial, had to be wrenched from that stream of associations. He once wrote, ‘Everything sets me thinking’. Everything set him writing. But first he had to translate life.”

Reiner Stach, Kafka: The Decisive Years

unfinished studies in probability

I am trying to determine how it is possible that I never see my immediate neighbors. We literally share walls. And I am out in the streets at least twice a day walking Farley. Yet I never encounter them. How is this possible. What are the odds of me seeing even one of them? That’s what I’d like to know, though I’m not at all a gambling man, just a curious one. Is it because I leave at random times, and they also leave at random times, making our odds of intersection quite low? Or is it because I leave at random times and they leave at the same times, also making our odds of encountering each other low. I know that I never leave at the same time, so perhaps I am the reason we never meet. My erratic behavior may be the cause of our never meeting. However, some people in the neighborhood I see quite often, even though they don’t even live on my street. Why them, I ask, why not the ones so close by. This I don’t understand.

Sometimes I look out a window and I see my immediate neighbors but they appear so far away, like they are in another dimension, another world even, or as if in a dream, and I consider that I may never know them for it is too late, too much time has passed and so we are destined to remain strangers. Somehow, in some hidden unreachable part of my insides, I think I know this is true, and for some reason it saddens me, though I don’t quite know why, but I think it may have to do with how I have created personalities and lives for all of them and the stories of their lives in my head are ongoing and can grow quite elaborate at times, and for reality to now impose on these stories would ruin them and probably depress me.

Meanwhile, the other day as I approached the revolving door at work from outside, someone also approached it from inside, and we pushed simultaneously and the door swung with ease, depositing each of us in places opposite of where we had been, and this was pleasing to me, for it rarely happens, and in general I am ambivalent to revolving doors, yet when serendipity such as this occurs I am reminded of their occasional magic, leaving me with a lingering sense of connection to my partner in door-pushing whom I didn’t know and didn’t speak to nor do I want to know or ever speak to.

christmas eve

It’s snowing here. Imagine cold white puffs falling slanty, clinging to many a surface. I’m taking a picture with my mind and sending it to you through the Aether. Note the female cardinal in the boughs of the cherry tree, a little south of center. She blends in well so you really need to squint. There is also a blanketing of sound that I’m afraid the picture cannot convey. But if you stop listening you may hear it.

I feel a sense of peace today. I hope it’s catching.

digging in the shade of the vowel tree

Sylvia Plath wrote of
intolerable vowels
entering her heart
but what of ruthless
consonants headed
to our brains.

We all know about a-e-i-o-u and sometimes y. They may be intolerable but their numbers are small. And they are more easily made to do our bidding. The consonants, in contrast, are legion and their rigidity stifles. Perhaps the only way to harness their true power is to one-by-one start taking them away.

Anna Kavan wrote:

I had only learnt how to be friends with shadows; it might be too late to learn the way of friendship in the sun.

Friendship in the sun is a mirage. The way to it is false. The sun fades color and one day it will kill us all. Shadows make easy friends: we pass through them as they do through us. Few stay long. It is their nature. Sometimes it feels like it is in all our natures to expand and contract, pull away and grow close, like a squeezebox played by a jittery ghost.

Kafka wrote:

No one will want to lie in clouds of mist with me, and even if someone did, I couldn’t expel the mist from my head.

This gets at the heart of the problem, I think. One feels an isolation and maybe a desire to connect, sometimes even a desperate mania. But who can share a dreamy solitude? By definition, no one. And if it was at all even possible, the mist remains. How could we find each other. How could one’s dream self operate in reality? The pilot seat in your head is unlike the one outside of it. Out there, we cannot twist the knobs, adjust the instruments without consultation, without repercussions, without the sun blinding us. In the shadows, the mist, these difficulties melt away.

Jung wrote:

A man can hope for satisfaction and fulfillment only in what he does not yet possess; he cannot find pleasure in something of which he already had too much.

Yikes, Carl, that’s bleak, even by my admittedly generous standards. In fairness, on the next page of Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung also states: “The needs and necessities of individuals vary. What sets one free is for another a prison.” So I guess one could argue that for some people overindulgence sets them free, although I don’t think that’s his point with the former quote. I think it is about anticipation. Jung is talking about this concept in the context of the development of analytical psychology, and yet it stands out in the text as such a sweeping statement. But I don’t think this aphorism or whatever you want to call it can be universally applied. Certainly competitive eaters don’t find pleasure in the 18th hot dog in a row that they’ve shoved down their throats. But can Jung honestly think that attaining the love of another person does not lead to satisfaction and fulfillment? I mean, I will grant him that unrequited love is an exquisite thing, and possibly more intense on the whole than many long-term relationships. But no satisfaction and fulfillment for those in love? I don’t know, maybe he is not including love or other emotions here. Maybe he is referring strictly to material things, in which case I willingly concede his point.

Édouard Levé wrote:

The full weight of depression comes on between 1-5 PM, particularly when I am home by myself. Mornings and night are more filled with promise.

Filled with promise. Is that what we are after? Moments filled with promise? Is it merely the anticipation we crave, what Jung says we can find satisfaction and fulfillment in? Anticipation can be tantalizing, I’ll admit. But how. How can we be satisfied with mere promise. Inherent in promise is a pledge to fulfill at some point in the future, not at the moment of the promise. Like an IOU. Is it the step we take to accept the promise that is meant to satisfy? Is it the mental and/or emotional trust fall we allow ourselves to take? If so, what of broken promises. Do those negate the previous gain in fulfillment? Well, do they, Jung? If he were here, I’d have more than a few questions for him.

Levé also wrote: “Above a certain height I like what I see. Below it I don’t.” I suppose we can read this on a literal or a metaphorical level. What is the certain height. And is it a chronological point, a philosophical one, a spiritual one. Who knows. I think we can safely say, though, that whatever the certain height represents, it changes between individuals. Remember how Jung said what sets one person free is another person’s prison.  Some people don’t like what they see above a certain height, while others crane their necks for a peek. Some spend their lives craning for that view, but some are content to not look. They don’t want to know…they look away in fear, shame, embarrassment, whatever.

So what is the conclusion. Is Kafka’s mist the same as Carson’s foam? Sometimes it’s a strain to make all the connections. Certainly reading and writing are key decoder rings. Endless battles, ceasefires, sneak attacks, and truces with the vowel and consonant armies. And maybe the ladder stretches high enough to see above the mist. I think others have ladders high enough, too. If we squint hard enough we can probably see each other, mouths flecked with foam, across the scorched battlefield strewn with bloody words and mangled sentences. Hello there! I do not have rabies. I am merely seeking the sublime. Perhaps you’d care to meet in the mist and discuss for a few moments. I’ll be waiting.

inside a person another one

this life in parallel there’s always been, inside a person another one, what do others do, deny it i guess, or maybe it’s not there, for them it’s not there, and i see it all before me what will never come but what has happened, what is happening, inside a person another one, it’s been there all along, and it keeps growing, keeps expanding, so many layers, painstakingly detailed scenes, every time some spark strikes, the line of tinder crackles, the fuse is lit, i can’t put it out, i could never put it out, there are ways to try, and i know some other ways i’ve seen others try, each one ends the same way, we all know how it does, yes, we do, and do you know how when you’ve done things so often, day in and day out, and then one day you do something a little different and it throws you off, it pushes you off onto another track, but not enough to shift you into the parallel life, no, not that far, just enough to make you stop for a minute and think about it all, about that other life and where it’s going, the people in it, the way they’ve come into being, likely so different than how they are in this life, the way you act, the way they act, whatever happens, and what if the two converged even for a day or just an hour, what then, what then for the person inside the person, the two people now, who looms larger, a dried-out husk of aloofness wraps around the hot soldering iron trapped inside, look out, fire hazard, i smell smoke, i’ve seen the others burn themselves up, i know how it all ends, it’s near halfway and i see the hazy shapes down below resting on the sea floor, so many split halves, so many discarded broken parts, a graveyard of misshapen lives.

we cut our visions with two eyes

I do get bored, I get bored
In the flat field
I get bored, I do get bored
In the flat field

Observe the subject with one hand covering the right eye. There is no movement. Not a flicker. Nothing. Whatever is inside leaks out, gurgling, gargling, a choked-up phlegmy mess. A valve would be…useful. Or would…it. There are many emails. Please refrain from using Reply All, people, for the love of Peter, Paul, & Mary (not my love, mind you, but still). So many pointless useless emails. A flood, if you will. And I delete them. But this is not what I am talking about with the leaking and the choked-up mess (though I can see cause for confusion there). No, that was just an aside. Let me tell you a story. A long, long time ago, it seems like maybe it never happened or it was someone else, I was lying on my bed and I was making discoveries that I knew were important. Altering the trajectory of a lifetime of troubled thinking, of inward pointing. It’s hard to say, yes, it’s hard to say what exactly altered the arc de développement. [Now I don’t really know much French, but I love words of all persuasions…I do not discriminate…I am not a word racist {internal note: that doesn’t even make sense given the meaning of these words (words are not classed by race, although they are classed by class, a different kind of class from that which is sometimes tied to race, though, with less political overtones, perhaps), but that’s okay…consider it a colloquial use…or something…and I see that I am falling into ellipses again]. Anyway, as the breeze blew my curtains around and my red carpet screamed up at me, why am I red, oh, why am I red, what sudden alarming effect am I having on the growth of this boy into a man-something, I wrapped my head in paper, poked holes in it near my ear-holes, and opened them to new exciting sounds. Inside of me often felt weird and funny and I knew, I knew there was something there. Something only I could touch.

And in the words of S.E. Hinton, whom we should all know and love, that was then, this is now. I am alone here. No one comes to visit. My superior is away and suddenly I realize she is one of few who visits. I’m not doing anything. I am lost. I don’t know what to do. This is not groundbreaking research, mind you. No one is selling this nonsense to the corporations and getting rich, I assure you. We’ve been through this before. I just wandered off into the weeds somewhere back there, maybe 20 years ago or so. Or was it 20 minutes. My years and minutes frolic together. What really happened in 20 years, or 20 minutes. Very little. A lot of touching the thing inside. That’s about it. And now it is spilling out, sort of like slippery entrails only people on the fringes savor. I cannot stop it. But you should know that nothing remains the same. I’m in here changing the words around. Everything is in flux. Parenthetically, flux is a good word. I like flux. Marty McFly reports the flux capacitor is fluxing. Marty, you bastard. I am old. Where is my red carpet.

I find it exhilarating to erase my own words. Huge swaths of thoughts I may have deliberated over for hours, gone just like that…I am giddy over this. Maybe there are too many words in the world. And taking them away is important somehow. Everywhere people are vomiting up words and few people are listening. They may listen for a bit here and a bit there, but they move on. The news cycle is like REM sleep. Eyelids flickering, your lips shuddering, no noise emitted, no recollections of what went down. I feel sick from it all, gagging on dry word chunks clogging my throat.

We are at large. That came into my head, just now. It’s like they say, the suspect is at large. But really, we are at large. We are out there in the world, large. We are bloated, like the giant helium balloons floating above a parade. There we are, large, waddling down the streets, a few feet off the ground, full of ourselves. Other smaller people, in other countries perhaps, are running with sticks below us, propping us up, praying that we don’t deflate.

At work the IT team eats in the lunchroom. Very few people eat in the lunchroom, I think. Well, they are in there being all rowdy, expressing their opinions loudly to each other. This is not how they are while embedded. Only amongst themselves do they feel free to expound on their theories about Kanye West, for example. In meetings, they are meek, quiet, often sullen. In the hallways they nod, perhaps say “Hey” but nothing more. None of the effusiveness displayed in the lunchroom. None of that. They save that only for each other. How nice it is to belong, isn’t it?

Yes, indeed. Now the time has come for me to hurl myself outdoors to forage for cookies. Please leave a message at the beep. [Psst…I’m back. It smelled like mulch outside.]

In my yearn for some cerebral fix
Transfer me to that solid plain
Moulding shapes no shame to waste
Moulding shapes no shame to waste
And drag me there with deafening haste

*Title from Misfits “Cough/Cool.” Prelude and postlude from Bauhaus “In The Flat Field.”

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.

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