darkness to light

‘Darkness to Light’ was the title of a heavy metal song that a high school friend of mine proposed writing, though never to my knowledge expanded beyond the chorus:

Darkness to light, darkness to light
Darkness to light, darkness to light

which he would sometimes lean over and emphatically whisper-sing to me and one of our other friends in the middle of Biology II class, much to the consternation of Ms. Geyer.

For a heavy metal song its message is uncharacteristically optimistic. Perhaps that’s why it’s become one of those automatic memory shards that frequently ricochets around in my head so many years later.

Who knows what triggers these recollections. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, course through my brain each year. Effluvia of the past, often with no clear relevance to the present or the future. And yet, still they persist in bubbling up and clumping together, forming a glut in the cerebral soup slopping around inside my skull.

The past always retains a strong magnetism, sometimes merely by virtue of its sudden incongruous intrusions into the conscious mind. Upon encountering this detritus, a natural inclination arises to ponder its significance—to sift through and separate the individual elements, perhaps searching for answers to some present conundrum.

The key, though, seems to be not holding on for too long. Each moment spent dwelling on/in the past lures one away from now and down into proverbial rabbit warrens. It feels safer to scan what surfaces with a neutral eye, then let it fall away and dissolve back into the unconscious. Its ultimate significance lies only in whatever self-imposed layers grow over it, all of which are no doubt discursive in nature and the inspection of which leads to nothing helpful whatsoever.

10-point plan to make america great again

  1. Establish a colony for alt-right white supremacists and their apologists in the Texas/Oklahoma region. Evacuate the existing liberals (mostly urban-dwelling) and erect a 20-foot wall around the entire territory. The alt-righters will then be free to establish martial law, shoot their guns, maintain their genetic purity, etc.
  2. Legalize marijuana in the remainder of the country. Immediately establish a network of public-private partnership clinics to transition opioid-addicted indiviuals over to marijuana use, with an eye toward eventual tapering off the marijuana. Exceptions to this tapering process will be made for those with legitimate chronic physical pain and those in need of palliative care due to chronic disease such as cancer, glaucoma, etc.
  3. Release all incarcerated drug offenders with only nonviolent convictions on their records from prison. Use the billions of dollars in cost savings to establish comprehensive re-entry programs for these individuals.
  4. Establish a review board system to examine cases of all remaining incarcerated individuals. Those approved for release will be transitioned through a network of rehabilitative programs in rural areas employing a variety of agricultural and animal therapy techniques, with the eventual goal of reintegration into society. Note: It is expected that a certain percentage of individuals will remain incarcerated. This would include those who show no remorse at all for their crimes and no potential for rehabilitation, and instead display a strong inclination to harm others again.
  5. Create training programs within the now-burgeoning legal marijuana industry for all individuals involved in the illicit drug trade and any interested ex-offenders. Opportunities will be available at all stages: growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping, sales and marketing, as well as in peripheral businesses such as creation and sale of edibles, paraphernalia, etc.
  6. Gut the vacant prisons and jails and renovate them into free housing for people without homes, complete with community gardens and on-site health clinics.
  7. Using tax revenues generated from the marijuana industry in combination with more of the enormous savings from closing most jails and prisons, establish free and easily accessible health care to all those who need it.
  8. Institute a robust nationwide program to divert edible food “waste” from landfills and instead use it to prepare meals to feed those who are hungry.
  9. Restore all ancestral lands to remaining Native American tribes. Form partnerships between newly resettled indigenous Americans and current residents with a long-term goal of restoring the natural balance between humans and the environment.
  10. Initiate planning process to dismantle capitalism in favor of a cashless barter economy, thus releasing the country’s citizens from the bonds of corporate control established and maintained via the insidious promotion and facilitation of mindless consumerism.

prettyboy reservoir

Prettyboy Reservoir, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Clouds near Prettyboy Reservoir, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

1946 short film on despotism

 

Sources: Public Domain Review and Internet Archive

(‘It is happening again…‘)

early morning people

The city can seem cold and unfeeling. Thus, the temptation arises to shoehorn the masses into roles limited to acrimony or apathy, simply based on random anecdotal experiences.

Early morning is the best time to mitigate this wrong perception. Early morning people are different. They spontaneously greet each other and show consideration. Kind words are exchanged and eyes, for once, are not averted.

After 9 AM there begins a slow shift for the worse. The late risers trickle to the streets, leaking poison into the day’s veins. By noon, one might as well return to bed and wait for the next morning in order to continue bending this perception back into the right shape.

bruno schulz and the need for connections

“Recently, I have been calling almost daily at the office. It sometimes happens that someone is sick and they allow me to work in his place. Or somebody has something urgent to do in town and lets me deputize for him. Unfortunately, this is not regular work. It is pleasant to have, even for a few hours, a chair of one’s own with a leather cushion, one’s own rulers, pencils, and pens. It is pleasant to run into or even be rebuked by one’s fellow workers. Someone addresses you, makes a joke, pulls your leg, and you blossom forth for a moment. You rub against somebody, attach your homelessness and nothingness to something alive and warm. The other person walks away and does not feel your burden, does not notice that he is carrying you on his shoulders, that like a parasite you cling momentarily to his life…”

Bruno Schulz, “The Old Age Pensioner” in Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass

so are you in or are you out

For a long time nothing happens and then something happens. The something can be good, bad, or neutral. The something can also be large, small, or medium. Furthermore, the space between somethings can be short, long, or in-between. Infinite permutations of this scheme occur and reoccur over a finite expanse of time. Tornadoes of frenetic activity tempered by vast plains of incremental movement. Hurried descents down spiral shadow staircases. Careful crawling across gleaming parquet floors. Hoarse screaming from the tops of turrets. Nothing is happening. Everything is happening. Synchronicity! Coincidence! Randomness! Chance! Snowflakes! Mollusks! Drifting sand dunes! Pointlessness. Pointilism. Your face as a series of points inside a frame on the wall. Don’t move, there are a few more points to fill in. Early morning purity dissolves into a sooty smudge of horror hours. I’m pulling up mandrake roots and delivering ornate twig bundles to your front porch by the light of a blue moon. You’ll thank me later, I’m sure. Tractor beams. (We’re veering off-course.) [You’re steering, of course.] The Periodic Table is, what, sometimes a chair… Electron clouds swarming with blue-gray gnatcatchers. Mechanical ants marching toward your workplace. Abort mission, stat.

Nothing is just nothing. Something is always happening. But is it happening again. Has it already occurred. How does it compare to, say, nothing. Can we try it on for size. The universe is a dressing room with no doors. No recording is allowed. Over-sized objects make us laugh. Tiny things make us weep with joy, crinkle our faces and speak in strange nonsensical babbling tones. It’s why so many of us collect miniatures. The pleasures of total control, the power to rearrange the tableau at will. Meanwhile, think about a giant foam cowboy hat. Why does it exist. What purpose does it serve. Who wears these things, anyway. It doesn’t matter because it’s hilarious. Its mere existence inspires drollery. Put the hat on and caper around a bit. See, don’t you feel better. You’re in the center of the vortex now. Look out, you’re pulsing with radioactive humor. But wait. Now you’re a homunculus in a jar, placed on a shelf, with the late afternoon sun hitting the embalming fluid just right. You could be an actor. The range of emotions you have mastered is simply stunning. They wrote this role just for you, and they so rarely do that these days. Have your lines tattooed onto your body and report to the set at half-past the chimney swift’s flight pattern on the sixth Thornsday of our evasive thirteenth month. We may need to trephine, though rest assured that we only ever use Stan and he’s the best. Check the clause in the contract due to arrive soon at your doorstep, tucked inside the front pouch of a wallaby. It will be a grand play, like no other, replicating the many permutations of the earlier scheme. Each act will be called something or nothing. Intermission will be long, short, or in-between. The entire thing will last until the end. So are you in or are you out.

seaside

At times I can go back to St Ives more completely than I can this morning. I can reach a state where I seem to be watching things happen as if I were there.

Now if this is so, is it not possible—I often wonder—that things we have felt with great intensity have an existence independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence?

—Virginia Woolf, “A Sketch of the Past”

I stood in the grass, breathing in stories of stunted pitch pines. The house, grey clapboard weathered in sea air, loomed behind me. I remember walking on zigzagged boardwalks over brackish marsh. Jigsaw puzzles in yellow afternoon light, pouring across the floor like liquid pollen of no real substance. I still hold this yellow light. The stretch and scrape of the screen door spring as it opens, the loud slam as it shuts. Riding bikes down sand-strewn streets. Comic books and chewing gum. Beach grass swaying in salty breezes. The rising dunes in purple evening light.

more on mist

I have been reading Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse and yesterday evening I came across this passage:

It was odd, she thought, how if one was alone, one leant to inanimate things; trees, streams, flowers; felt they expressed one; felt they became one; felt they knew one, in a sense were one; felt an irrational tenderness thus (she looked at that long steady light) as for oneself. There rose, and she looked and looked with her needles suspended, there curled up off the floor of the mind, rose from the lake of one’s being, a mist, a bride to meet her lover.

Naturally I wondered if this was the same mist Kafka writes about not being able to expel from his head. He says that no one will want to lie there with him in those clouds of mist. Woolf’s speaker, Mrs. Ramsay, is troubled by this mist, by her inner life. She is at odds with it, and feels uncomfortable when her husband witnesses her in the throes of it:

Had she known that he was looking at her, she thought, she would not have let herself sit there, thinking. She disliked anything that reminded her that she had been seen sitting thinking.

And yet Mrs. Ramsay’s inner life seems extremely rich and rewarding. She maintains a special relationship with the third stroke of the Lighthouse beacon (the long steady light she refers to in the first quoted passage above):

Watching it with fascination, hypnotised, as if it were stroking with its silver fingers some sealed vessel in her brain whose bursting would flood her with delight, she had known happiness, exquisite happiness, intense happiness, and it silvered the rough waves a little more brightly, as daylight faded, and the blue went out of the sea and it rolled in waves of pure lemon which curved and swelled and broke upon the beach and the ecstasy burst in her eyes and waves of pure delight raced over the floor of her mind and she felt, It is enough! It is enough!

Her husband sees a beauty emanating from her while she is in this ecstatic state and feels he cannot approach or interrupt her, and yet his interpretation of her state is flawed:

She was aloof from him now in her beauty, in her sadness. He would let her be, and he passed her without a word, though it hurt him that she should look so distant, and he could not reach her, he could do nothing to help her.

The novel clearly portrays Mrs. Ramsay and Mr. Ramsay as being at odds with both themselves and each other. She snatches moments to wade into the mist of her mind and yet feels guilty about her indulgence, not wanting her husband to see her in such a state. Mr. Ramsay, on the other hand, mistakenly interprets this state as distress or sadness. Perhaps he cannot conceive of his wife wanting time to think to herself? Either this underlines a fundamental misunderstanding between the two, bitterly lampooning a superficiality characteristic of many societal interactions (even among spouses), or it lays bare what Kafka concluded, that the mist itself prevents the necessary connection from being made between two people. This connection being one that would allow sharing of one’s most private inner ecstasies with another.

One theory I’ve considered is that the mist may not be translatable into language. Perhaps that is the problem. And yet, the mist may also be related to Jung’s collective unconscious; it may be the shared ecstasy we all feel from time to time, something primal that humans have always known but are unable to adequately express to each other. If that is the case, we may indeed share that connection, but only by sensing it in each other, not by communicating it with words.

news from dream life

Last night I had a dream where, in answering someone’s question, I referred to a place that to my knowledge only exists in my own dream life. The place is a park with a campground that was the setting for an epic dream of many months before. This is the first time I can recall this happening and I woke up feeling exhilarated over this advancement in my dream explorations. I think it represents real progress. I have been reading Anna Kavan’s book Sleep Has His House at night before I go to sleep and I now wonder if it is influencing my night-time life.

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