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On the resolution of balance #1:
Balance, as a concept, reminds me of how states of matter function. To achieve balance in a state, there must be constant movement and adjustment, yet at any point in time, a state will display as a balanced event. Solid, liquid and gas objects, even in the exceptional states (such as traffic, or coffee flowing down pipes, that can act at different times either as liquids or solids) represent pivotal points of balance. Identifying the material state will fix the range of behaviours an object will demonstrate to maintain that state, to achieve balance.
That I am fast approaching the point where risk is the main determinate in decisions, seems somehow a failure of process. Having focussed logic and process, somehow the wheels have come off the bus and neither of these is strong enough to survive the headwind. The reason: not all processes are sustainable. What I need to think about are the dynamics of self-correction, where the process is not only effective in the short term but endures and renews and adjusts according to the conditions encountered. The process needs to address the pattern and rhythm of change, not react to extremes.
I awoke early recently, a rare event on these hot days and breathless nights, and on that morning felt a sense of having had an insight, a glimpse behind the veil, a moment of revelation while my mind was at rest. There was some kernel of wisdom I had stumbled over during a restless night of half-sleep and impenetrable dreams. Yet, as I became more conscious, I could feel the thought, the idea, the intuitive knowledge escaping my mind, even as I grasped for it. That unspoken thought disappeared silently and all I retain is a memory of its existence.
Today, on the brink of a new year, I am finding it hard to gather my thoughts on the road ahead. Let me be clearer: this year will have challenges, ones that potentially will reduce my quality of life. At this point everything is speculation, but early preparation is my usual method and I cannot resile from that, even if the prospects are bleak. There is a superstitious, a peasant logic, at play here warning me off. An undercurrent in this bazaar and irrational thinking suggests that if I plan for the dangers, then what I fear will become real.
They loom out of the smoke like sentinels as you approach, armed with an aura of urgency; heralds, they hold the key to your future and come armed as they rise eagerly from the ground through the clouds of floating sediments and ash. If you heed their message, they can guide you on to Eden or save you from the many fissures and fears ahead. But you travel on and each signpost appears and fades away in turn. Even when you know them to be placards scrawled with symbols and numbers You feel them turn and watch as you pass.
Life as documentary #20:
In archaeology, taphonomy is the study of fossilisation, measuring how long it takes artefacts, geological structures and formations, flora and fauna, to decay, scatter, disintegrate and become interred. Scientists on location watching roadkill, observe scavenging predators, bone distributed, and track the length of time for debris to become obscured, buried. In Canberra, with the air pollution measured as the worst in the world, I can’t see through the grit and dust suspended in the air, but I can see it settling on the ground, collecting in paths and coating windows, as nature hurries to bury us.
Finished a slim book today that has taken a week to read and was left disappointed. I saw the book new on a rare visit to a bookshop and, even though there are mountains of unread books waiting at home, I impulsively bought it and I allowed it to jump the queue of those I had waiting to be read. I have followed this author for years. My first response was relief at finally having finished. Though there was a cleverness to it, I cannot shake off my disappointment at this attempted ghost story riddled with spite and graceless revenge.
‘How do you feel about that, Charles? A nice poached egg with today’s special? You can break the egg over to make a creamy dressing for the salad.’
‘I need salt.’
‘We can do that. What would you like with your salt? I recommend the lunch special.’
At what point in this exchange do you get the feeling that the sales person is a program who is stringing lines just to make a sale? And when do you understand that the customer is without social training and may be alien? Then again. Would an alien parent name their offspring Charles?
‘The magnitude of charge is a problem.’ Electricity was making her hair stand on end: she frantically ran her fingers through and flicked them out, releasing sparks.
The monitors showed anxiety snaking across her face, the aura drew my attention, even as she repelled our advances. This tough little girl act was enthralling but the plan was committed. We were active.
‘To begin with, calling it a problem is a problem,’ I said. ‘We’re just here to finish the job.’
‘Don’t misunderstand,’ she said. ‘Go away; we’ve got this.’
On descent the built-up static arced and our engines cut out.
I would like to draw attention to the use of “hello” as an expression of surprise or disbelief. Hello seems to mark a separation or stepping back from events, or to forestall a response. The word’s syllables have a cantering rhythm. Of equal weight achieved by stretching the ‘o’ sound, both syllables are the same length, the final tone is uprising, questioning. I am uncertain if this usage is colloquial, only having heard it from one person, but said several times. It occurs when questioned on conversation, or when observing strangers. The expression is possibly a restrained expletive.
Thinking about single-use and single-purpose objects, I see there is a difference: a single-use item is usually to pacify or nurture and emotional need; a single-purpose object fulfils our human short-attention span and need for instant gratification. A wedding dress is a single-use object that logically you could hire. But a hired dress has been worn by others and emotionally is unsuitable. An heirloom artefact is bought instead. The groom’s wedding outfit is a single-purpose of formal wear suitable to wear on other occasions. It would be an investment to own, yet is more likely to be hired.
One brother is slightly more socially acceptable than the other, although they both pull their weight financially. Social situations rely on a suite of skills that most people assume people are born with but, really, these are habits acquired from hard work and persistence. It takes time and repetition to be able to remember names. There is no name retaining predetermined gene or part of the brain that is missing in some: the facility is acquired through repetition and habit. Simon remembers, Paul repeatedly feigns ignorance, and people warm to Simon when introduced when he calls them by their name.
He gave the appearance of smiling. His was not a smile triggered by circumstances, but one purposefully generated, evoked to induce a friendly response. The muscles in the face knew to pull and push his features into a credible likeness of friendliness after hours of practice before a mirror. And the exact temperature of the emotions he evoked was by design. Too much or too wide a smile would expose the mechanics at work; this expression needed a little timidity. It should stretch to fullness and certainty only when a response was seen, a moving closer, an open hand extended.
The evidence of experience #19:
The metaphor of time slipping away like sand is a misrepresentation: you can’t feel time, can’t measure the length or breadth or weight of remaining time, and we can’t grasp how much has been expended. Sand is physical and will build up into dunes, foothills, and mountains if left unmanaged, left to accrete. Sand has a history: to get here, it comes from somewhere but, unlike time, after today it doesn’t vanish but shifts and transforms. This metaphor, tightly tied to an archaic hourglass representation, gives little insight into the mechanics and mutability of time.
Why don’t we hear more about Denise Johnson’s,
Tree of Smoke
? I came across it only after reading his short stories,
, where his characters seemed to leap off the page with their unique stories. I had just read his novel,
, and found
Tree of Smoke
in my pile of waiting books. This is a post-modern gem, a masterpiece of inuendo and malice that lifts the reality he is immersing his readers in to a mythic place, a place where only evil can grow in the minds of his characters. He buries us in this post-truth vision.
Language draws me in; words can evoke ideas outside concrete and immediate felt experiences; they capture my imagination and make me question assumptions about a common, shared reality. Yet, I believe in a collective memory and have felt it congeal around shared experiences and behaviours. These memories are like the primordial ooze we evolved out of; the ooze that fed us nutrients and the chemicals we encapsulate in our bodies today. Could this collective understanding be just an echo, an archetype of an idealised form of the nutrient-rich soup that held us together, that nurtured us, that gave us life?
Depression is where I find myself paraphrasing, re-stating, asserting what is already agreed or ignored everywhere. I despair I will I ever be original or shake up the world with a new idea. As the world crumbles around me, I seem to grasp only what is known and certain: Why do I not challenge the questions and the default answers? Philosophers have told us that we should not be looking for the answer, but the right questions. What we need are more questions and questions that elicit more questions: questioning opens paths to new thought where new answers are waiting.
‘It is challenging me.’ He stood before me rocking. ‘And why, and why, and why …’ On the ‘and’ he jerked backwards and with the ‘why’ forwards, like a fast running second hand on a clock, while his hands grasped either side of his head. There was a long sigh, then stopping, he opened his eyes. ‘This shouldn’t be happening.’
‘There is no one answer. There isn’t just one problem.’
‘Give me them all.’ The pupils of his eyes seemed to spin. ‘Tell me what I’m to do. It took all I had just to get out of the house.’
‘Cut it.’ She faced away, unwilling to make eye contact or maybe she was shouting a curse out to the universe and had forgotten I was there.
‘Don’t move.’ I don’t know who was more frightened; I knew who was bravest. All I had to worry about was to make the knife sterile and hot enough to cauterise the wound it would make. ‘How much do you want me to take?’
Her skin, except for the purple welts where the tourniquet cut in deeply, looked sweaty and ashen. She drew everything she had deep inside, stopped breathing. Then there was silence.
‘Do you have the wherewithal?’
‘What are you talking about? Do they want money?’
‘Probably: the filthy lucre, the glad hand, the means to an end. Do you have any?’
‘I’m uncomfortable discussing a bribe. We are strangers here and this might be misinterpreted.’
‘What will be misinterpreted is if we don’t make some gesture. Maybe they would like your shoes? I’ve seen the tall one looking at them. Do you want me to make the offer?’
‘What about your shoes? I can’t walk without something on my feet. I certainly couldn’t run barefoot and we may need to, soon.’
I want to be happy, to think happy thoughts and not see the visions of doom and gloom that surround me. There is a contagious hysteria at the moment that overpowers conversations. It makes us all serious so that we confess only dystopian futures. Where are the happy people? Are they on holiday cavorting with their cognoscenti, those other happy people, frolicking in the sunlight? Even these cynical, sneering questions put me outside the pale of happiness. Would I recognise happiness if I saw it, or would I pull any happy thought down, cynically labelling it a delusion, an aberration?
The holidays have me drifting in a living death: no plans, no expectations, no wishes, no dreams. I am outside the information super-highway and no new information seeps into my daily life. On television, there are only repeat and while I am filling in the blanks of previously missed episodes of often repeated programs, even these bring no respite as the content circles around the same characters, the same actions, the same outcomes. In this slow new season, where sports stories outweigh the thirty-second sound bites of world news filled with padded stories of recycled events and experiences, lacking novelty.
With her shadow lightening, she covered her skin with ink. Is it enough to replace what is becoming transparent and insubstantial with a facsimile, or was this just her attempt to mark a memory, to draw her existence back into the world? It has no impact, it cannot be held or captured yet, a shadow is proof you exist, proof of solidity, evidence that you block light. When her shadow started to fade, she tattooed her skin patterns of light and shade, and brandishing her inked limbs, swooped down on unwary travellers like a bird of prey, trapping her quarry.
I only opened the window. If only I had paid attention then, at that moment, none of this would have happened. A moment of inattention has crystallised my future. If only; two words that are sharp as knives: the first pierces like bright hope, the second slices deeply like a moan. Together they are as blunt as nails hammered into my feet, pinning me down. Now I am unable to leap and escape the consequences; escape the future that flattens and shrinks to a single point on the horizon, to an outcome without options and one that cannot be avoided.
Can they be windows if you cannot see through them? Definitely works of art, the panels grow in luminescence, thick coloured glass letting through filtered daylight. There are patterns filled with warm colours and others where cool colours surround and frame the brightness. In one panel, the warm shapes radiate out from the centre, like the sun, surrounded by greens and purples that cool the edges. In another panel, move warm coloured patterns resembling fantastic creatures that swim though streams of blue and green, in waves and skies. These panels are set a wall that faces the setting sun outside.
Reflecting on how most of daily life goes unrecorded, I see patterns that blur into insignificance. Memory is reserved for primary events, for periods of time when meaning is laid down and the narrative understood. Here significance is assigned. Days, weeks, months of inattention can occur between memories. And our lives seamlessly mesh together, without these blank moments, into contiguous stories we tell about ourselves and what we do. I have to document the forgotten details; how I know to hold the bannister for when my left hip gives on the third step down and I always pause a moment.
‘Show us striving. Give examples that put everything into perspective and reveal the nature of progress and how we have overcome great odds to achieve what we have today.’
‘In my lifetime, when I look back to past reports and agendas, there was an assumption that we would be ahead of ourselves by now. All this progress just seems to have turned us onto different paths. I am not sure that back then this is where were wanted to go. And now the future is dire.’
‘Do not get discouraged. Haven’t we always shown that any problem can be overcome?’
‘You’re commissioning a series of adverts to attempt to make sense of life and show young people, your future voters, that the future is positive. I understand that. There is a lot of anxiety among this cohort and they’re becoming very politicised. What I can’t reconcile … what is concerning me about your message … is the overarching questions you want to answer and the future you want to display.’
‘Don’t worry about that. The message is that everything is under control and that there is nothing to worry about.’
‘You realise, just saying “trust me” isn’t enough, don’t you?’
Conflating truisms subtracts truth. We live in a world where most people want to live in peace but where a majority of citizens feel that peace needs to be defended. These ideas pull us in two directions: countries that focus on an armed response to defend peace give this option too much weight, they undermine faith in reconciliation and debate to resolve issues. These ideas need to be pulled apart. The army is not a peace-keeping force. Armies are trained to be suspicious and to act aggressively when a situation is unclear. How then can people speak up for peace?
I would like to draw your attention to how the word “all” is drawn into conversations and discussions in a weaponised way. Almost always now, all implies a threat or risk; rarely is it used in situations to apply a communal or collaborative balm. All implies some enforcement or harnessing of resources. In spite of the definitional diffusiveness, all can infer limitations or restrictions, a bounded area; it can minimise quantities, repel guilty associations. When I say, “All I said was …”, what I am asking you to hear is that I have left out what was controversial.
A summer cold has drawn me up with crusting in my eyes, a snotty nose, and a dire humour. Drifting into sleep alternates with increasing agoraphobia and no appetite. Carrying this germ-filled malaise, I cried off the annual lunch with my book-club friends where we relax, leisurely review the past year’s books, and share personal stories with wine and indulge in rich food and deserts in a shady garden. Even though we meet monthly, our talk rarely extends past the books and casual gossip, or in divulging the burdens of our health. This year I had no stomach for it.
The Tip Jar