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On the movement of static things #14:
Experiencing change from one beat to the next is ironically a means to reach a stationary state. Constant change, random and irregular motion, disorder and chaos, force us to search for patterns, and we will find patterns even where they donít exist. The pattern we find is what we hold onto, against all logic and judgement. The pattern allows us to stop looking so we can suppress uncertainty, ignore the feeling that we are out of control. The illusionary pattern becomes the ground on which we stand to push back against the unknown.
I have material to use: all the phrases and sentence cut and culled from the final submitted assignment. Those words found sitting there, not pulling their weight, not pushing along the story, not strong and unmissable. Fillers, like plaster, covering flaws, faking smoothness in a wall riddled with cracks. Each time I stumble across Ďwantí and Ďmustí and Ďneedí, in my writing I cringe dreading, that I will be revealed as a fraud, that this will be read by others. These words say nothing: I must break down that wall, claw off the plaster, expose the real lack of skill.
Gifts are strange objects that enforce social behaviours and responses. The exuberance of responses is also socially dictated: the greater the expense, the more the acceptability or socially appropriate the gift, the greater the expression of pleasure required. On the whole, I prefer gifts that are transient, that do not have to be held and owned forever, or proffered and exhibited along with my personal effects. In accepting gifts of this sort, you relinquish authorial rights to your personal narrative, and you cede personal space to a foreign object. Social mores should allow refusal without censure or punishment.
My memory rooms surround me, each holding a memory of times and places where lives a hope, a desire, or an immutable, truth-filled certainty. These rooms tell me I was whole at one time, that I was an embodied entity who behaved ethically, upheld strong values and morals, and had determination. Those times made me whole; my certainty has gone. I have been fractured by pragmatics and compromise, driven by forces beyond my control, and unable to mend fissures wedged into my spirit, that bend my will. When I look into these rooms, I donít recognise what I have become.
In life, itís randomness that saves me. Maybe I need to explain saving: there are occasions when saving is a blessing, other times itís a curse. When you are all wrapped up in your own business you need a benign spirit to reach in and save you. Providence will pull you out of the zone that mirrors back to you how wonderful you are and shows you what you are missing in the world. Sometimes you are let down in nicely. Other times, you are taken up by the heels and shaken; then you might land hard on your deficits.
As they are ripped from the bud, the naked shoulders of rose petals are slipped between sheets and pressed. They imprint their perfume on the holding pages, released when the book is picked up and scrolled through. These relics sit with a ticket, a stamp, a photo smiling back, to mark pages. They are the ephemeral notes to events and cast meaning on the pages. The petals, lost in the pages, lose their colour and flatten to wafers as they dry, yet hold their secrets, even as other artefacts open out and explore scenes and opportunities, revealing their superficial history.
Gaps appear around every corner, gaps that extend out to the horizon. My reality is discontinuous, my vision untrustworthy. I look and see vacuums and spaces as if colours have been removed. Looking at the paths I have just crossed, they are filled with gaps and elides, and I donít understand how I have scooted over, moved past, avoided these gaps, not seen these absences. What am I missing? Is this inevitable, the wash as you move past to the future you focus on, that reality unknits around you when to the exclusion of all else, you want the future?
Life as documentary #18:
Arguments about money interest me. There is something buried in these confrontations, something not said or acknowledged. These arguments are rarely about the money, which is a petty and debased resource, but reveal more about shared priorities and values of the parties. They have the power to break apart friends and families, are used as reasons for expelling people from communities and groups, causing untold damage. Having been a lifelong dedicated saver, even when the habit was not politically correct or financially beneficial, I have to ask if I have used my habit to cause harm.
There are many details about the manís story and request I should have picked up on but, basking in euphoria from finding my bank balance greater than expected, the absence of my natural cynicism and scepticism left me vulnerable. I had just handed over five dollars for an Anzac poppy badge and had a very pleasant conversation with the badge stallholder. Buying the badge followed a good feeling about having money in the bank and the money I subsequently gave to the man, after hearing his unbelievable hard-luck story, just flowed naturally from the feeling of being generous and charitable.
On all sides, in the material of your life, are objects and animates you are moment-to-moment oblivious of, yet these are what enable you to pursue the life you want. These objects and entities that you trampled as you rush past to a better future, facilitate your life. They make the world around you soft so there is a place for you to rest when you want to stop; they make it hard and flat and contoured for you to canter along and build up speed; they provide shade, water and sustenance; they will provide for you in your future.
Letters #27: I would like to draw your attention to the things we carry and that surround us; the artefacts of culture and miscellanea we acquire deliberately, or that just accumulate and stick to us throughout life. These are what makes us who we are and what we are. This collective body of things, each has a physical presence, that repels or attracts, influences or deflects, and amongst this collection, there is a centre, a space into which we form. Is the lesson here to disinter and divest ourselves from this accretion, or is the best choice, to select wisely?
What he was talking about was an unachievable perfection. Even trying to reverse engineer and disassemble his vision to unpack the moving parts, was not possible. This was a thought bubble not unlike what people imagined when they describe their idea of utopia. And this is why we would fail; nothing could be done here. Already the aim was too high, what he wanted was a persisting state of perfection for what was essentially a living breathing system, with moving parts and process-driven choice algorithms. For one day, one hour it wouldnít be achieved, let alone into an unending future.
Paper surrounds me on all side, some pages come alive when I look at them and they tempt me to pick them up and be diverted by words and numbers. There is a guilt now in the mountains of paper that surround me, each represents a tree whose life has ended. Yet, this guilt born of knowledge is tinged with desire. I am emotionally attached to papers arriving by mail and other hand-held books and pages. These I read at leisure, I scribble on them, cull them, come back to, they are tangible and accessible, and are needed.
The broomís straw bristles whisked across the wet verandah tiles. The regular motion, her arms moving backwards and forwards, soothed her and she felt calm, at least calmer than she when she answered the door moments ago. There had been three angry, sharp raps on the door, repeated immediately like a summons. No-one she knew would knock like that, so she opened it, cautiously, broom in hand. She was glad the broom was there, just the thing to use to threaten the salesperson, as he pushed forward, his foot in the door, already looking into the house over her shoulder.
As the salesperson ran down the footpath, brushing straw from his jacket where her broom had landed, she wasnít thinking about what he was selling. She didnít have to listen to people who pushed her about, those people only listen when you push back. She saw her neighbour, Hilda, looking out of her window and laughing. If he tried Hildaís door next, he would be sent packing too. Hilda was no pushover either. They had talked about belongings and both realised that as you got older you needed less, not more. They certainly didnít need salespeople badgering them at home.
I have a friend, although she has never been more than an acquaintance, who loves fitting people into stereotypes and plastering them with all the limitations, weaknesses and foibles that these socially accepted, bounded labels imply. It has been only recently that started to think about why she did this and why this strategy gives her joy. Common and gross assumptions, such as the one she uses, strip individuals of any humanity and judgement, turn them into plastic or cartoon creatures at best, yet once they are covered with a label, there is nothing they can do to redeem themselves.
If experience has taught me anything, then it should qualify me to write about how to come back from a bad review. Before I go any further, I need to qualify what I mean by a bad review: a bad review is a criticism or judgement that stands you on your head and takes the breath from your mouth. It is bad form to rely on metaphors to describe a real experience; most people are drawn to concrete examples and avoid abstracts, but bad reviews have so many ways of being realised that one concrete example would just be irrelevant.
If you are told of a crack in the pavement that you might trip you, the sensible path is to avoid the crack. A bad review is like a crack, but the solution is not to run away or hide. What the reviewer has identified as a crack that you will trip over, what they have made you see, is only there because you put it there. Think about this another way: think of the crack as a happy accident, not there to show how flawed you are, but to give you an opportunity to rise up to greater heights.
There is peace in ruin, in the relaxed indifference to stress and strain in the gradual dissolution of life. Ruin exudes an essence, an aura of mellow fecundity, a richness. What could be better than to relax the tension that guilt requires and enjoy and experience without regret? My life has been driven by a puritanical need to achieve, to accomplish, to continue to pursue life, as though life is something you need to catch and aspire to, to want. This is all life, this soup of emotions and feeling that surround us, and it nourishes us in many ways.
While sitting in a shopping mall, drinking coffee and lazily deleting emails accumulated in my accounts, when the first Christmas carol jingled its way past, my epiphany was that this isnít the season of giving. No matter what the marketers would have us think, tempting us with gifts and treasures, this is the season of asking. My inbox was filled with requests for voluntary contributions to this charity and for that public service and cause. Everything comes with a financial penalty that if I renege or try to avoid, will have me wearing sackcloth and ashes for months to come.
The death of ideas, probably a seasonal occurrence that comes with the advent of heat and fire, the longer days with nothing to do. That doesnít mean that there is nothing to do, it just means there arenít drop-dead due dates, or do-or-you-die deadlines, life is only conditional upon breathing. Yet, in this silted place, a backwater really to reality, is visceral evidence of death. Here, under vegetation bowed down by heat, in every pause before the next breath is caught, one finds death waiting. Death gives depth and texture to life for those who stumble past and find him.
Learning relies on strategies that substantiate the production of knowledge. A beautiful sentence, one I wish I had written. There is in history a common trope of the self-aggrandizing scholar who pushes their barrow of knowledge along the cloistered and hallowed streets, shouting out about the quality and unique characteristics of their wares. Then again, resorting to homilies and previously parsed phrases does have a cushioning effect, as long as you bellow loudly enough and fill your oxygen-rich words before landing and bouncing around on them. What else is a previously aired thought except the production of piss and wind.
When the holiday approaches, and decorated trees and wreaths appear, so do images of seasides and holidays. Living inland, the seaside for me is foreign territory, I wouldnít know how to live on the seaside year long. In fact, I only like the seaside when there are violent weather events and each day is different from the next. Living at the seaside in summer, even seeing images, when there are unending days of clear sky and blue seas, and people at leisure wearing casual clothes just doesnít draw me there. For other reasons, summer must be tormenting for locals too.
Imagine being a local, living at the seaside all year round, and with the good comes swarms, nay plagues, of holidaymakers just there to soak in the sea and sun, fill the carparks, take over the local eateries and watering holes, and leaving no space to move. When the holidays draw near, the only sentiment locals must feel is dread and gloom. The longer days when it should be possible to be productive and gather the fecund produce growing everywhere is littered with the debris of the blow-ins and sanity is only found in hidden sanctuaries and behind fenced retreats.
Holidays I view with dread. There seems to be a lot of dread around this time of year. Mine is triggered by the need to keep awake and stop my brain from dissolving Ė I believe having endless unstructured time kills brain cells. So, this time of year I shore up my resolve to read and study and follow clues and the library becomes my best friend and sanctuary. Where else can I find endless information, cool and quiet spaces to work, coffee on tap, and solitude? In my two months holiday, my challenge is to plot and plan a novel.
You are told to prepare and anticipate, to smile and be open, but those on the other side of the table at interviews expect to challenge and unsettle. How do you prepare for the unexpected? There is no point in having an interview if it turns into set speeches with standard answers. At some point, the interviewers need to see thought and process in action, yet when the questions are the same for every applicant, the person being interviewed has a challenge: somehow answers must be memorable and differentiate a candidate from the masses, in a way that showed promise.
Original or not, the answer was all I could come up with. Yet, when I looked back on what was say, I could see how often the truth, or my interpretation at the time, seemed blunt and inflexible. That was not the impression to convey, I was here to make friends and to appear useful. Coming up with absolutes and benchmark moves reduces the room to manoeuvre. I am a black and white person but I recognise the grey decision-making spaces where others move to negotiate. Having an immovable line marked can seems not helpful, more like an overt criticism.
Later than usual, I am still working on November. I thought about not completing, but still find more value in continuing. On long days when being outside is unpleasant, when I have started a new project and I have thinking to do but very little concrete outcomes are achieved or evidenced from what I am working on, this seems like a small light in the darkness Ė a simple achievable task with clear indications of whether it has been completed or not. The best part of this task is that it is no more than practice: on completion, success is guaranteed.
This summer is filled with the tinkling up-beats and jangling of honky-tonk music that seemed to walk towards you over the intercom as you promenaded through the shopping centres and follow you out as you left. The music was catching and soothing, the rhythm weaving into the pace you kept, helped you move through without stopping in a way that triggered memories of dancing, yet there was no partner here. The sense of dancing made your steps bounce, it reminded you of a time when you glided across the dancefloor towards the girl you had been looking at all evening.
The uncanny valley between life and memory, where all the gauche and unpractised actions are smoothed out and made shiny again, and what you intended rises up pure and unsullied as the record of events. You donít remember leaning left and weaving in a slightly boozy lurch towards April and how as you approached, her expression changed from hopeful anticipation to dread, or how the vector of your path changed when the planned meeting point moved. But then, on your approach, everyone standing on that side of the room shifted sideways leaving only the wall to halt your precipitous progress.
The Tip Jar