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On the movement of static things #10:
We perceive ageing erratically, self-imposing a form of denial, making time stand still. We put aside any evidence of ageing, protecting the sense of self, thinking that the unique identity we perceive as us, is a static entity. Unless our perception is disrupted by external forces, we’ll believe that we haven’t aged. We live with an impression of constancy, with our status an unchanging state, believing we control movement or change and can avoid it. Can we be the same in the morning after a night of dreaming that made every wish possible?
Tired and another limp and late assignment submitted. This endless, peerless, paltry pastime is losing my interest; the downside ramps precipitously and before I know I have washed out, been strewn or extruded, it doesn’t really matter which, I have no idea where I am or what I am. It would make a difference if I could see change, or a path, or progress, but even walking these ideas around, my head is lost in some cloud looking for a distraction to get me out of this hell. And I write, and wait, for a message reminding me to reboot.
Strange to go from a paperclip to water: can water be an object? Somehow the idea seems to breach rules of evidence or is counter-intuitive in frames surrounding categories. Water is a collective concept and does not easily hold a singular: you can have less water, not fewer. The logical of "a water" is hard to grasp unless you are referring to a defined quantity, such as a bottle of water. As an object, water has few characteristics that make it specific, or ownable, yet ‘my water’ is that which I carry with me to quench my thirst.
Seriously, it’s long and tedious, but centuries fly by and you will never get them back. You don’t see what’s happening, then all of a sudden you look back and realise your life has become a blur, everything blended into habit and ritual and performance, and you are unable to separate out events into the years, or months, or days, or hours, or minutes and then each second seems precious. When last did you have an experience that changed you? As you blindly plough through your life, ticking the boxes and smiling, when did you decide to live like this?
Retirement is a narrowing path that ends in death, littered with the bones of abilities and options stripped from you, scored deeply with scars of regrets. And yet so many people, people I once thought were interesting and original, are counting down to when the life they really want can start: sixty-three months, my friend Liz told me. When I asked if she will be pleased then, would she have something to show for her time and the effort she has put in now, she said she had already done enough; that all she’s waiting for is her retirement date.
One more dash and I will have caught up, but this episode feels wrong; talking about myself when my style is to rend and hack as the fabric of life and reality, create out-of-this-world visions of other lives, other choices, puts me in the firing line. For all my flaws and imperfections, I don’t want my work to appear factitious or histrionics: it is not about me. Writing is my interface with reality, any misinterpretations and disinclinations are for drama and tension; any gliding over, or ignorance of social rules and conventions, is a writer’s choice. Writing isn’t about me.
I would like to draw your attention to how in mathematics, methods of calculation influence finding a central point. There are three basic methods: mean, by summing numbers in an arithmetical set and dividing by the number in the set; medium, the point at which fifty percent of the total is below and above; and mode, the value that appears most often in the set. Each method is contentious and, any method can result in a different answer. In any situation, two out of three answers, while being defensible, can put you at a disadvantage and appear biased.
Adrift in space, on this insignificant blue dot, we look for certainty. In astrophysics, where everything moves, a centre and points of reference are calculated: the measure is a barycentre, that calculates a relative point between two or more solar bodies, using mass and motion. When you can pin down found objects to a path and a pattern, and track how their path interacts with other objects, definitions of relationships are determined based on the mode of their orbits. Then by a wobble, we know suns and planets, planets and moons, the parent, the child, the orphans, from their behaviours.
Perception of space is relative: even in the fairest of families, personal space is defended with force; most forcibly against relatives and those who are so close that a shadow can hardly strike between them. And we wonder how we can be so cruel, so vicious, to those we love when it is the strength of the bonds that give us power. Strong attraction becomes painful, and then only the thought to repel and escape survives. We are in a race searching for oblivion only to find there that we are reduced to nothing and have lost everything but regret.
What can be admitted to, or at least what can be flown up as a status or conviction, is highly indefensible. We are in control of changes and growth only by the weight of our presence: seeing what we perceive as progress and we take it as true and inevitable, where in reality images present through a convex lens that is focused on us and what we don’t understand, we don’t see. Evidence shows that we are easily deluded, that we hold distorted views when we trust our senses, that we are manipulated in our dreams by what we want.
The evidence of experience #14:
New knowledge or facts and information acquired or absorbed through third party processes and not processed through critical or analytical faculties, or even the natural sensors, has a rawness, an uneven and inflexible texture, that doesn’t blend easily into frequently traversed narrative pathways. These elements insert themselves, lacking confidence or trust factors they seem to hit wrong notes, drawing attention to themselves. They wear a rote or ritualistic armour as they enter the story; they are not there to make friends, but in defending their position they charge and rend what stands in their way.
Having more salt seems to abate the headaches; as a temporary measure, this reduces my distress, caused mostly by feeling out of control and unable to manage life effectively. Having a plan and go-to action is helpful, even if all it does is give me something to do. I hold distraction as high as the curative properties of placebos, both have served me well in the past and will be used again. Headaches may have other causes, some leading to my end game. The next treatment candidate, another remediation strategy, is to move more: distraction, with a change of scenery.
Sitting at my computer does aggravate my neck and I feel tense muscles and hear bones that creak and crack when I move my head. Maybe this is from the build-up of salt in my joints, it sounds like crystals sheering and crushing when my head tilts and rotates. When I shake my head, saying no, no, no, I can almost feel the liquid in my brain washing backwards and forwards, bringing tears to my eyes and the sound of sea tides rising in my ears. All I need is to hear seagulls crying and the illusion would be complete.
She flew out, almost knocking him over as he rounded the corner. Driving up to the place, it looked deserted.
Except for the intermittent creak of the windmill, there wasn’t a sound when he stepped out of the car; nothing moved. A feeling of dense tranquillity and peace settled over him as he approached the house and he found himself envying the people who lived here.
When she ran out, her feathers ruffled and tea-towel flapping, she was on him and talking before the screen door behind her had time to slap shut.
‘Des said he’d sort it,’ she said.
‘I told him,’ she said. ‘But he hasn’t, has he? And it’s too late now. He’ll just have to live with it.’
I had a name but came into this conversation cold. If I was at the right place, I assumed Desmond Finch was the ‘he’ she railed at. No reply came to mind as Des’s faults were exposed as public knowledge. Introductions also seemed unnecessary.
‘Come in,’ she said and turned towards the house. ‘I saw your dust over the hill as the scones went into the oven. It’s not often we get visitors. I’ll just call Des in.’
‘You need to find out what the point of the book is,’ he said.
I have an unprovable belief that people present conceptual problems only when they are sure of their own footing; when they can lean into an argument.
‘What do you think the point is?’ I asked.
Avoidance is a childish response, defensive and slightly aggressive, but I was tired of this conversation and how he kept trying to lead me and give advice. And, if I react like a child, it is, strangely enough, to stop me reaching out and grabbing his throat to stop him talking.
Life as documentary #14: Weather has a special place in my world, not only does a world impacted by weather look and feel new and inspiring, but there is a sense of constant renewal. Each day I wake to see landscapes transformed, vistas of novelty and surprise, repainted, revealed. By weather, I mean changing weather. I do not go to a beach and expects constant sun and heat; at the beach I want to see turbulent storms and raging tides, beaches littered by flotsam and draped in tossed seaweed; where humanity, leaning into headwinds, is there to brace elemental forces.
Fire brings rain in a natural cycle and new growth rises from the ashes in the following months. Into the wind, the fire’s path can be tracked; the turns and banks, the burned bark crusting to charcoal scales on the approach side, the ley-side untouched, as the consuming force ran through. High in the hills, looking down, the fire’s path made random patterns that interlaced like tattoos on the undulating surface: unburnt areas were edged crisply with sculpted webs of black spiralling, scrolling paths, tracking where the fire raced through, then guttered and revived, before spinning off in new directions.
Trees explode where the fire burns hottest and heated air pushes sparks along, picking up grit and debris, funnelling smoke clouds through the valley ahead of the fire. The wind now has a voice: sounds rise as the heat and flames, catching the temper of the storm, run towards you. When the foothills catch, the sound as the fire climbs is a full-throated roar rearing out of the valley behind black clouds that dim sunlight into smudged orange and red patches. As the fire banks by a cliff, the wind shifts north, leaving smouldering blackened trunks and settling soft ash.
The sound of the firestorm was unsettling, both then and now. As I reflect on the events of that day and my escape, the sound of the storm is what I remember. The howl haunts me in the quiet evening hours. In the silence, I hear carried within that memory a threat: there is something unfinished, a sense of interruption, of a delay rather than an end, a presence waiting. My memory recalls more than an echo: what I hear is animated and lives, it has the power to rise up and overwhelm my judgement. I cannot stop the sound.
Fizzing golden light emanates from her like a halo, the static sending her curled ringlets, flying loosely around her, emitting eerie sparking, static charges. Even the frills on her starched white apron stand out stiffly: like palmettes cresting on her shoulders, the pattern flows in an etched frieze, down the length of her body. She stands her palms raised towards me.
In this haze, in this heat and dust and sunlight, she glows. Bounded in radiance she hovers above me, unreachable. Only her dark eyes, her look that says she knows me, stops me from crying out in awe.
‘Shut the fuck up,’ she says. ‘It’s time to go.’
‘Now you are just being emotional. There is no need for that language. We are just coming to an arrangement, aren’t we?’
‘I am not emotional,’ she said. ‘This is anger. Clear out now: I want you and your team to leave.’
‘We can’t leave,’ he said. ‘There's the matter of your wages. We’ve been here a full three days.’
‘I had no arrangement with you. I allowed you to rest and fed you, but you’ve done no work.’
‘We’re protecting you, lady,’ he said. ‘That must be worth something.’
Even knowing I had asked the right questions and had the weight of argument on my side, I lost faith. Before his voice, the intonation and rhythm, the threat from a look, I tremble. He watches me without blinking, drawing out in one long breath a word until, devoid of context, the sound becomes meaningless, noise. A “yes” from him would hint at a query, drift onto a cloud of “maybe’s” and dissolve in a wash of “maybe not now’s” and before the ss’s had faded into silence, my question would be swallowed by his outrageously cavernous smile and forgotten.
The memory starts with gusts blowing through trees. The wind might bring a cool change to this heat but instead, I sense crackling and popping, sparks landing, of trees crashing and exploding in the distance. The storm approaches. Grit and sand hit the windows and doors in gusts. I smell smoke and know the wind is carrying a fire here.
I rest before it comes, and listen to the radio as I prepare to sleep, planning how I will stand and fight tomorrow. In my dreams, I see a wild animal, out of control, running blindly towards me, breathing fire.
Orchestrate my dreams: sing to me, play strings and ring bells, let me hear the music of time. And talk to me, reveal shrouded mysteries, explore the unknown, bring me back to that moment when knowledge failed, when exposed paradigms expand exponentially and I can see paths to the future that radiate out like feathers on wings. Let me see that the horizon is a stepping stone to the future and that I am free now to create a new narrative from the knocked down building blocks littered around me, that previously defined and limited my view of timeless infinity.
Failure and a new understanding arrived at, like a shipwrecked survivor on a foreign seashore, that I cannot write on demand about any subject, using pre-determined persuasive style tropes, to mercilessly argue and sway opinions. When left on my own I haven’t the resolve, the skills, to overcome my reluctance and just do what is needed to get it done. I resist, resile, regret and defend my lack of output, posing it as a strength of will, when in my bones I wish to run away from delivering emotional and emotive writing just to influence the judgement of an audience.
What do I make of this? Light wraps around, holds me in view, seems to peer into my face, as I take the letter and hold it up. My eyes read the words written but I am too conscious of being observed; I cannot grasp their meaning. The paper is aged and fragile, a true artefact; I can almost see the makers fingerprints in the textured imperfections and other prints, possibly from an author or reader, in the stained ovals along the edges where the page would be held. Embedded in the broken wax seal, I see a partial thumbprint.
Now, when data and information are selected and streamed to us individually, what does it mean that this object appeared? Was it by chance and who knows and watches me as I hold the page to the light to read the message? I don’t understand accident or arbitrary coincidence; these types of interruptions have mostly been removed with metadata and targeted messages streamed in digital form. For physical objects other rules apply: rarely accessed, these are digitised and never touched. This object was placed before me as if delivered. About to walk past, I felt I was drawn towards it.
This is a testament but for whom and for what cause, I have no clue. There is no information about who left it behind or what purpose it played in their lives, yet there is a heaviness, a seriousness ingrained here. I sense that this document turned up to speak to me. Just saying that, even to myself, tells me how this situation and my current precarious circumstances are impacting my objectivity and circumventing my trained logic. I am here to work, not to wallow in personal curiosity. This is an interruption, there is no value in pursuing these questions.
‘You want my reaction?’ she said. ‘Now, here’s the thing, obstacle: you’ve tried to push me around and distract me, and now you want me to tell you how I feel? Get lost. I’ll go through you if you don’t fade out.’
‘It is my greatest wish that your needs are met.’
Who wrote these sentences, she thought, and more to the point, who paid any attention to them? Early programmers used to install popups in events, then tracked the dummies who clicked on the boxes. A form of humour, or irony, maybe; or just to create mayhem and irritate.
Having started I might as well continue. Lifting momentum from nothing to something is hard work, especially when there is a history of failure behind me, but it reflects my eternal optimism even if I characterise my most defining feature as pragmatism. I have a very critical self-reflective streak that has the effect of weakening endeavours and curtailing my commitment to the pursuit of self-improvement. That I have started, if only to resist entropy for a while, is not assigning this action the value of progress; this start just kicks against the forces that seek universal thwarting and inevitable deletion.
The Tip Jar