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On the resolution of balance #8:
Balance can be achieved where a point of resistance meets an obdurate force and cancel each other out. A case in point is when the inactivity of procrastination meets the drive and will to complete a task with a fixed deadline. Not moving or thinking can hold firm and resist any attempt to work on and finish what is waiting to be done. Procrastination may seem like passive inactivity, but it is an active agent that repels with equal force and effort to engender forward movement. The greater the force the more the resistance.
The evidence of experience #26:
Even remembering crowds, a visceral, tactile sensation awakens and with those memories of heat and salt and sweat exchanged in a packed mob, a latent static electricity awakens and raises the hairs on my arms. In crowds, there grows a ‘hive mind’, a ‘group persona’ that acts instead of the individuals involved. We are taken over in crowds, our natural responses are suppressed, replaced by a collective animal responsiveness and we all move together, roar out as in one voice, coalesce around shared goals. The crowd takes power and becomes brings change like a contagion.
‘Hi, Jack. Have you been waiting long?’ I’m not sure how confrontational that sounds: a direct question. There is no room to deflect, yet he does.
‘Not working today?’ He proffers a note, three words. ‘I was just dropping this off.’
‘Well, we can talk now. Maybe you can stretch that missive out to a sentence, even a paragraph; provide context or add a little social grace. I have five minutes.’
Again, when I don’t reach out and take the note, he doesn’t react but stands there holding out his hand, impenetrable as a deep pool in a quiet forest.
Recently while reading a pretty average spy thriller, a new meaning to the word legend was revealed, where a legend is the cover story spies use when they are undercover, engaged in nefarious deeds. This wrinkle on the standard interpretation led me to the ask: in life, are the legends the Clark Kent’s or the Superheros? Answering my own rhetorical question, I came down on the side of the everyman and everywoman personas, the Kents. When you think of superheroes, they are one-dimensional; everyday life requires nuanced effort and attention to detail to hold together a seamless narrative.
Now here is an object-like entity we are all seeking, normalcy. We hear constantly about a ‘sense or state of normalcy’, the ‘longing for a return to normalcy’ indicating we are outside and separated from what is normal. We can look back to normalcy, preserved as in a glass jar; out of reach. Yet, normalcy is also an aspirational goal a gift, held up like a carrot that we move towards and one that can only be achieved if we all behave, buckle down and pull together. But what if the old normalcy is not what we want?
Empty. All my sentences are empty. I haven’t a thought to pin my words on, so words fly around evading me, leaving me absent in my presence in front of a blank page. When there is no idea that strings the words together, they just fly about, just out of reach. I need a hook, like a shepherd’s crook, to catch them, drag them down and stop they running away by tying them together. Roping them in an orderly file, one after the other, and leading so they trail along behind me as I look for a place to start.
Life as documentary #28:
Only irony is read into captions inserted where there is no speech, there to replace music and other atmospheric sounds in films layered as sensory components to build atmosphere and create tension. Those captions, between bookmarked dollars—eerie music swells, distant bells—or to represent noises dropped in as narrative clues—distant coughing, a doorbell—foretelling a hidden actor, an entrance. These days, pauses are few and speeches are shortened to fit across the screen but what we don’t realise, is that gestures are complete in themselves; reading gestures can tell all you need to know.
Insect trilling, owls hooting softly; the sounds of a summer night when we see a sweaty cowboy sculking out of town to avoid a dawn shootout is waylaid by the hero. Just him and him and the wildlife pull the filmic scene together. The languid voice of the hero croons alongside the clenched-jaw staccato sounds made by the deserter; but what roles do the insects and the owl play? Is this verisimilitude or does the owl represents the hero and the insects the villain in a deliberate juxtaposition? Now that I have made the association it is hard to discount.
See chickens, read cackling; see dog, read barking. I must be mad when I know the words have more obvious meaning to me than actions. Have I been so alienated from life, it has been years since I heard a living chicken or a dog, that I cannot recognise spontaneous sound and actions? I observe the world through subtitles, superimposing a fictive narrative overlay onto whatever I see. This is a learned behaviour, learned from hours and days and years of movies and television, even radio; learned from packaged and tailored stories, not from experiencing life in the real world.
Walking in a dark forest it isn’t only the path ahead that I think of but the rustling in the foliage on the side, in the thick weeds and hedges, under the trees where I can’t see, and what might only be a breeze suddenly, as I feel a sweat erupting and a chill run down my spine, I can believe in something I can’t see and can’t touch but that is out to cause me harm. Here my life does not depend on evidence and logic, but on reactions and reactivity, on the ability to escape to defend myself.
I am not aggressive, most would describe me as passive and conciliatory, but caught unawares I cannot guarantee my reaction won’t be violent. Even now, at home and at peace, without provocation, I can feel, in the shiver along my arms and across my shoulders, this reaction tied up tightly like a spring ready to be released. And I doubt my self-control; I question my independence and even whether my decision-making faculties are completely under my own control. What I want is not to remove this option, but not to have this as the automatic or default response to uncertainty.
Silky ripples tremble across her cheeks as if a breeze had briefly caught her making her papery skin drift. What transpired, he realised, was a smile; a ghostly shadow that crossed her face and darkened her eyes. For the shortest moment he thought an eye tooth glinted, but on glancing back, could neither confirm nor deny it. He believed her transformed in that moment from a helpless victim to a craterous hag and felt his eyes had betrayed him. To see her so old and frail, yet with dark malice and wickedness behind this facade, made him doubt his judgement.
It’s all about comparisons. We gauge our emotions only comparing them to what happened yesterday or last week, or in a previous remembered version of our lives that we might have invented. Thinking this way helps us know how happy we feel or how unhappy and it’s generally the latter. I know this from hearing people talk about all they have left behind and how strange and changeable everything is now. I can’t see it, myself. Today and yesterday aren’t different. Even the weather’s mostly the same, unless it rains and then it’s like a holiday, because no-one says anything.
The flood of the released emotions carried my vanity swiftly along with an intensity that I found both energising and invigorating. I felt humbled as the wave of praise raised me to pinnacles I’d not yet achieved in all my previous life. To be so near the source of elemental danger and to survive due to a theory I’d plucked out of the air, a last-minute long-shot, could only evoke pride. Alone I was the agent who had pulled us out of the fire. Hearing praise from those who engineered and built this community was overwhelming, yet it felt sincere.
‘Yes, that’s very funny.’ ‘Don’t get me wrong, I meant it as a joke.’
They were silent as they followed the path rounded to where they stood looking down into a valley. With their different moods, they might have been walking alone.
‘Now that makes it worthwhile.’
From their lookout, the valley opened out below them, misting into blue. Yet, they might have been standing on different sides of this valley, shouting at each other.
What wasn’t being said weighed heavily between them. Maybe alcohol and disco lights might have ratcheted off the rust and loosened them up.
Each sought companionship, but mostly they each wanted someone to listen and sympathise with them about cruel fortune and how trapped they felt, how despairing of the future, they felt. Neither was interested in listening; they were only wanted to talk about themselves and how miserable life.
‘Fancy a walk to that pub? By the time we get down there, I will be very thirsty.’ This wasn’t a question; the speaker hadn’t waited for a response but had turned and, following a small track leading down to the village below, was striding away.
Maybe, thought the companion, this is goodbye.
You don’t hear autumn but the sound is there and stays there, ringing like an echo, until winter sweeps in like a brisk broom. Whispering and rustlings tell you there is a breeze, and it blows stronger, but that is just a symptom of autumn. By the time you hear the crackling and snap of leaves, autumn has already arrived, and you are shivering in your boots. Seeing falling leaves, and it is here, although sweeping and gathering them to lie as compost on garden beds keeps you warm outside. The sound of autumn is silence, as the birds depart.
I would like to draw your attention to the word ‘far’, mainly to how it is used in expressions like ‘far worse’ and ‘far better’, or even, ‘far out’. These expressions, recall physical places, real places and even imaginary futures, and attempt to elicit emotional rather than critical responses from readers. This nostalgic appeal, asks readers to recall distant places, better places, places we are going from or towards and where, in our hearts and minds, we would rather be. Far takes us away from our immediate reality by reminding us of imagined heartfelt places and safer times.
You start along a logical path, reasoning through, intending to reveal facts and evidence and find there is no end to what will unravel, what rock-solid truths will shift underfoot. Reasoning blurs separating past and future — we take what we need from the past to understand what will happen next and label this pattern as truth: we might be moving across a fast running river called reality, only stepping where there are stones underfoot, placed there to carry us across out of danger. With reason, the intent is a process of reconfirmation; the conclusion we accept must shore up certainty.
In the sun, I watched walkers and joggers pass by. I was early and there were few people about; everyone rugged up and hatted, hunkering down as if walking into a stiff breeze, squinting into bright sunlight. I left the house with snow flurried flying about, melting into droplets as they hit the windscreen. The sky had cleared as I sat down to journal about the day and fill in time until the coffee arrived, watching people. This is my habit, the pattern of my days. My time passed slowly, those passing by moved quickly, and the dark clouds returned.
Two down, two to go. The problem with having to catch up is that it takes twice the effort and is half the fun. Catching up feels like running on a treadmill where everywhere else is uphill and endlessly repeating. If you are on flat ground looking ahead, the camber of the earth is such that you see a slight incline and 14.5kms ahead. On a treadmill, the uphill increases until you can only see where you need to put your foot next. Not only that but with every step, as you slow down, the treadmill seems to speed up.
‘Reasonable? He’s uncontrollable.’
When you’ve said too much, you’ve said too much: but, why stop there. If these brain-dead bureaucrats were given all the evidence, it might whip them up into a storm of indignation.
‘I don’t know what you’ve been told, but there are other options here.’ They looked unconvinced, no change there, but at least they were listening. ‘There may be other ways to fix this and merit in exploring a different strategy. Reputations can be made here; none of us wants to lose everything.’
‘You now propose risk management? Can you control your client? We doubt that.’
Something happened. A shift of mood was recalled by many when interviewed about the evening. They remarked that it felt like a spirit was passing through, of a haunting shiver on an arm, a neck, or a flickering of light, brief darkening in shadows. Conversations lagged, people shifted restlessly in their chairs, women slowly drew shawls across bare shoulders. Some remembered looking nervously around startled when they made eye contact with the strangers around them. What happened to start this change, no-one said and when staff started moving, and conversations and the tinkling of cutlery replaced the silence, it ended.
The silence called out to them, called them in, made them wait. They heard without out paying attention and it stopped them, trapped them, caught them cold. Remembering made them want to hear it again, that tone or the accent, they heard a foreign language yet it was familiar. Those sitting closest were infected first, became anxious and the fear spread. They were reaching out; they wanted to hear it again, to understand, to remember. In silence they waited, atoning for the time they had ignored and not listened, for when they laughed and ridiculed, denied there was meaning there.
Just walking can be dangerous, even when there are people about because no-one is paying attention, they are just getting on with what they do and thinking about nothing. I knew he would cruise up in his car and find me. For weeks now he had been close, had driven past and waved. Premeditation was definitely in the wind but these interludes passed and life continued. This is the problem with habits, the regular walk to the store or the library and the predators come out to play.
‘Come out and play, Annie. We only want to talk to you.’
The shout left me wondering what the correct action should be. I can hop, and leap, and jump, but this explicit instruction left me at a loss on how to respond appropriately.
‘Where are you going?’
Why hopping, what could hopping do that simply walking over and climbing into the car didn’t fulfil? Maybe it assumed the authority of ‘hop to it’ – a dictate that meant hurry up or you’ll be sorry. Both carried an authority, implying the suggestion should not be ignored.
‘Come on, hop to it. I’ll give you a lift.’
Is this fool a threat?
A theory proposes that victims are as much to blame for crimes as perpetrators; that both parties contribute and make the crime happen. Being defensive can trigger an attack; fleeing can precipitate a chase; acting frightened causes another to act more fearfully; resisting prompts aggression. It seems either one can blame the other for making them do what they did. Not that I am using that as an excuse. Lifting and point the gun was an act of self-defence. I didn’t know he would run at me because he was afraid. I was scared and fired to make him stop.
Shrinking back into conservancy – hold your horses, that isn’t the image that should be let loose to fly over the houses -- let me start again. It’s all in how you tell it. This feels more like an unwinding then shrinking. The movement seems to flow along contours, an unwrapping, unfurling; like peeling an onion where the tears seem to be a welcome release. There are always tear, and loss, this unwinding does not reveal truth, only leaves nerves exposed. Then more hard work to pull everything together again, that takes you out on a long plank over deep water.
Working like a machine and feel good; building up a head of steam as if I’m getting back to normal. Though there’s a lot of talk of feelings that takes me right out of my comfort zone. It’s all about how things feel, not about what I am doing. I would rather be working on something about fish with green luminous eyes and worlds that to me are wonderous where these exotic creatures thrive. Instead, I am working, writing, but nothing I am producing has any quality. This is just plodding practice. I’m waiting until I have something to say.
Reading a poem, I was struck by the words called upon and the suggested connections between them, of trust and insincerity, moving through, alternating between the two. Strict and rigorous followed by describing the soul as smooth and ‘not to be trusted’. There was disbelief, in radio waves, in isolation in absence. The message conveyed. The words called out textural sensations as unreliable, science as untrustworthy, sounds as meaningless and disconnected until a speeding train wakes him at night. The poet recalls thinking ais nonsense, says that thoughts are stupid and only one book and one poem tie reality down.
So much for rewilding, I have routine to burn and am running out of time to burn it. I’ve been boxing every day this week and am punch drunk and tired of the twists and turns. All this aggravation and all I seem to do is build up more for tomorrow. Nowhere to move, not even dreams to escape into; nowhere to go. My dreams alone are worth escaping from. In dreams, I am plagued with finding myself in public eating cakes, in my nightdress and dressing gown and even occasionally wearing large, strangely-shaped piratical hats made out of felt.
The Tip Jar