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On the resolution of balance #9:
Just doing my job is a balancing act, like walking across a wire tied between two high-rise buildings. Any job straddles realities of conflicting attraction. In this reality the wire could be as flexible as a bungy rope for all that it straddles; it is more of a moving force where each side pulls and pushes with equal force. The ripples waving back and forth make every effort to unbalance as I move between the two paradigms. Only with skill and predictive judgement, applying intuition and Bayesian analysis, can progress be made at all.
My head turned just as a blue balloon flew by over the rooves of my neighbours’ houses, and the first thing I thought of was how non-biodegradable it was. That’s not strictly true: I admired the decorative and festive object sprinkled in glitter and trailing a ribbon floating by. It is just that this is purposeless, affluent pollution, especially when air-filled and tightly knotted and let loose. In years to come, the carcasses of these plastic bodies will be found hanging in trees, across telephone wires, lying like litter in pristine wildernesses, bloated and floating or washed up on beaches.
Lampshades are strange objects – if the purpose of a lamp is to shed light, then a shade only reduces the output. And yet, a lamp without a shade seems naked and unfinished. Overhead lights give off a blank and unflattering effect; they light up a room even as they cast shadows and accentuate flaws and wrinkles. But lamps shed a softer light that blurs edges, illuminating with warmth. Lampshades, angled upwards or down, make the light reach into corners and pool, so someone can walk into a room and be seen, or sit pooled in light to read.
‘If it bleeds it leads and the more names of locals or their kids, the better. You ready? Let’s take a stab at writing this up then. OK what have you got so far?’
‘Well, they were all there when it happened, the local under-ten football teams, girls and boys. Every family is going to buy a paper when this story runs.’
‘Good. But they weren’t involved, were they?’
‘Witnesses all; innocent bystanders. The umpire rang emergency services.’
‘We’ll make a note, for later. Now, what is the meat and potatoes: what’s your lead?’
‘You mean, show you the body?’
Life as documentary #29:
Have you thought about the rules we were taught as children; I mean those rules we can hold our hand to our heart and say are true? Recently, when stumbling over the spelling of spontaneity—I had swapped the ‘a’ and ‘e’—and when correcting this frequently made mistake, I automatically applied the rule: ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’. At times, nursery rhyme rules have allowed me to laud it over those who had not been blessed with these eternal wisdoms yet, it did not work. In reverting to rote, I felt like a fool.
There was a little tick that raised a tiny cloud of dust. Unwatched you would have missed the tiny cloud of particles rising and falling but might still have sneezed as you walked past; dust lingers when it gets airborne. Over time the tick, that small blip, over long intervals, continued. The dust had settled over many months, the result of late summer pollen and dust kicked up in high winds and carried over the dried fields to land on this body. The lifeline of nearly static relics is indefinite, enduring. Over time, even with no movement, a heartbeat remains.
Words can reveal cultural and social clues about speakers, and this is true of the use of the word, candy. Candy works as both a noun and a verb: recipes frequently list candied fruits, sugary encrustation of the fruit; but there is also candying used to describe embalming, or encrusting, or candying up something when trying to sweeten up what is unpalatable. I prefer the second usage, the bitter and dark meanings, the contrast. Using candy makes the speaker sound American, where only the sweet shell is important and seems over-sweet. This word has more layers to reveal.
Each day as the sun rises, with the light the sky opens out and fades into blue showing the vast eternity above, we wait. To have life confirmed is the prize; then everything else follows on and the circle turns. We wait here breathless in anticipation for the leap from dark to light, the bump that makes our blood run faster, the thump of the heart as we take the day on. This is when we can breathe again and awake to what is new around us, to see the trees breaking out in leaf and bulbs pushing through weeds.
Finding the heartbeat in houses, bringing back to the surface of old houses worn down by time and disinterest, is a sideline interest. The most valued experiences are when houses, thrown on the scrapheap and left to moulder on their stumps are resurrected back to a functional and stable capacity that gives them a useful life into the future. I am sure that buildings live but this is only true when they are lived in when people stop and look out of the windows and stand at bookshelves perusing, or stop on the stairs to listen to the house breathing.
Thinking that renovation is putting in new to replace worn and damaged features, implanting modern facilities and standards, is gilding over the bones. Renovating where the changes damage and distort the original do not bring a house to life. You need to find the heartbeat of the house and pushing through and modernising, where the benefits of restoration outweigh the price, may be a poor compromise, a cheap solution, that only bury the outdated style. The effect can be brutalising, where destruction of a niche feature or functional attribute, replaced by the latest, casual fashion, only animates a lifeless prop.
The evidence of experience #27:
There are bounded and constrained stages in life. I know this because recently I moved from one stage into another. This sounds like a positive experience, both my recognition and acceptance, but is not so: I was forcefully removed from a stage that immediately became history; expelled and cast adrift into the next without preparation or support. It was not unexpected– I had been coasting along on former glory, not making any effort and drifting into apathy. But, being unprepared for the next stage of life is unacceptable. I am responsible for my own future.
A change, evidence of movement, is why we wait. The pitch drop experiment started tracking the viscosity of pitch in 1930, monitoring the movement of pitch through a funnel to the point where it forms drop that falls. Pitch is a substance that if hit with a hammer will shatter like glass but, if left to precipitate, will run and flow like liquid and drip, albeit very slowly. After 90 years of continuous observation, only nine drops have fallen with the next anticipated to fall during the 2020 decade. Due to glitches, no-one has seen a drop fall in real-time.
The Hardenbergia is in flower, rampant as it climbs up trees and trails along the ground. The vibrant purple-blue blossoms are bright against the tree litter. There is something magical about blue flowers, I should say alien and unnatural. In full sun the flowers open completely, each turn to follow the sun and the two yellow stamen like eyes turn to watch those passing by. As warm weather arrives, the mobility of plants eerily allows them to creep out of the undergrowth and trail across paths and over rockeries. I have seen people detour, preserving the passage of these travellers.
There are logic strings that thread together assumptions and biases that must be questioned and unravelled. A long-held belief is that only male birds sing and that the reason for singing had to do with the mating ritual and attracting a mate. This assumption, not based on research or evidence, dates back to the writing of Darwin. Research has since disproven this behaviour finding that both sexes of birds sing, but that in some species the female has lost the ability and then the question asked is again, why do birds sing? Listening to birdsong, I have never questioned why.
The evidence of experience #28:
We are grieving our losses -- loss of contact, of connection; our disconnection has resolved into social isolation and loneliness. The pandemic is an unequalled and unremitting challenge: all assurances and insurances, every plan, every bulwark implemented to forestall any future catastrophe has failed and we flounder in the wake of this crisis. What we have learned in this pandemic is our fragility and lack of foresight, even as for years science heralded the danger. Now, cut off from a point of retreat, we are left with no vision of the future we move towards.
Walking up Red Hill today to the observatory and then down again, the climb felt like a punishment for letting my fitness go and I struggled. I used to walk up and down this hill regularly and other hills. The path wends up mysteriously through uncleared woodlands, a challenging climb, steeply stepped. At each bend, my progress to the top was obscured but looking back more of the valley and lake were revealed until I could see in all directions, even over the surrounding range of mountains. It was an anticlimax: my lack of fitness overwhelmed any sense of achievement.
My attention draws to the word ‘jar’ and how it cloaks itself to many scenarios, yet admits a draft. I’m impressed with how it unsettles and disturbs the air. A noun, of course, for a specific type of wide-mouthed container of possibly glass or pottery; then various flavours of verbs, not to mention the slang and colloquial usages appended that have little relation to the original: jarhead prime among them. I am waylaid by the jokes that arise: when is a door not a door? And the cryptic allusions: cracked a bit; a bit cracked? Made for riddles.
I don’t think about birds except when they flying by, or I hear birdsong or one lands near. Then my attention is caught and I classify: thinking about species, what I know of their behaviours, their colouring. And I remember how free birds are. Yet my memories of birds are transient: they fly away with no sense of being there at all. It is my wish that one day I will be reborn as a bird. A bird’s life is fragile and unsheltered, yet I envy how lightly they touch the world, how freely they live their lives, their freedom.
When characters in modern novels hold conversations, it is rare that they do anything else. Possibly the idea is not to distract the reader with miscellaneous or adjunct events or actions, but the result is a bland, seamless unremitting flow of speech. The characters are described as looking at each other, usually without moving, although as appropriate to the context, occasionally tea can be poured and drunk, or one actor waves to a bartender to refill drinks. This uniform landscape with a distinct lack of depth thrives in modern literature, it is not just overspilling from pulp and genre fiction.
I have a new fountain pen, a strangely nostalgic investment. Beautifully designed, the pen is thin and light and can be refilled from a bottle of ink. I bought black ink too. The nib glides effortlessly, although the written line seems a bit thick. My next purchase, and I know there will be one, must have a narrower nib. The scent of the ink, from filling the pen and the ink smudges on my fingers, remind me of school when inkwells were filled and we dipped our pens and, concentrating on form and scripting, we blotted our books.
At some point an idea becomes an absolute certainty, passing effortlessly past that milestone of when you believe you can convince another of its truth. That seems to be when an idea becomes more than a personal belief and turns into a global truth, an unmistakable element that has universal acceptance. The saying is that first you are alone and everyone thinks you are crazy, then you are just redundantly saying what everyone knows and was never in doubt. No wonder no-one thinks there are any new ideas when the start of every idea happens when you are not believed.
‘They lack job security. Everyone’s hanging on to what they have and hoping it is there tomorrow. Jobs are scarce; when you hear about a vacancy you know it'll be gone by the time you turn up. When the network breaks down and news slows, workers are screwed.
There is no way to change to jobs and no-one can just quit.’
‘What about the owners? They’re having a hard time now too.’
‘Wouldn’t it make life easier if owners had workers who really wanted to be there, who were happy with their work?’
‘Probably not. Too much effort; little reward.’
A jarring pain made me hesitate and misspeak and, as my attention pulled itself adrift, the speech prompt I was reading from lapsed and slowed. The practised pauses and emphases littered across the prepared oration un-synced as I struggled and without warning deeply buried ballast shifted and rose like the bodies of drowned sailors. When I focussed again on my talk, I looked into the crowd and saw a room filled with eyes flooded in doubt or glinting with predatory candor. Here I was no longer swimming freely, almost a fish out of water, I was ready to be landed.
‘We could change that.’
‘Don’t make promises you can’t keep. A history of doing that will slow you down and in later life will probably kill you.’
‘This is a learning curve; I’m just on the uphill journey and here you are, talking as if I’m an old man about to stall.’
‘Just healthy advice. Bad habits are easy to pick up and you head in that direction too often: easy is what attracts you. I know I don’t trust you, let alone trust you with something I value.’
‘This is new. There’s an opportunity here. We can change everything.’
Strange lights hurtle across the night sky and all I do is react, pulling the steering wheel sharply left and right so the headlights flare against trees and fences on either side. Stopping is far from my mind even as I realise there is nowhere to go, but then I do: I stop the car, still staring at the beautiful spectacle above. The lights appear like a vomited chemical reaction as they race from the east, evolving and spreading in crystalline mosaic patterns. What looked like a fluorescent mirage emits textural clues that it is shiny and spikey and solid.
Why I didn’t find the crack in the wall was because it was all crack and no wall. The wall was an illusion, comprised of skeins of ideas that reflected back to the viewer what they wanted and expected to see. Each traveller looked and each saw something different. With practice, the wall became an exercise in the possible, challenging viewers to go to new places not based on base expectations and assumptions and to see hopeful futures. Those who came unprepared or who believed we had failed saw a difficult path that always led back to where they started.
In search of Never-never land today I caught a fleeting glimpse of a lost soul disappearing down a path that led to infinity, to where the perspective drew parallel lines together into a point. This soul had drifted about half-way there, yet was looking backwards with longing. My attention was caught by this solitary waif; who seemed familiar even when viewed momentarily out of the corner of my eye and I turned to watch. The road the creature travelled hadn’t been visible when I’d walked past it; it was only as the path of this waif that it became defined.
I am here to calm the waters and restore confidence, so settle down. I want you to know that the world is safe and is not going to spin off its axis and ruin everything. We are talking here about business as usual. And, to establish certainty, all you need to do is to stand here and grasp this guy rope. Just keep the tension tight and we will all feel safer, and we can stand here knowing that everyone is doing the same. We are marshalling every resource to put up this façade; I hope you appreciate the effort.
There are some things we talk about that we are never going to achieve: closure, reaching the end of anything, performing a last action, achieving satisfaction, knowing peace in our time. These among others come to mind like a list of vain wishes. These expectations drive our behaviours, trigger actions we would not jump to without strong motivation, but we never reach them. In retrospect, it’s possible to identify times that these things might have happened, but by then we have lost interest in how these goals were achieved, the causes have evaporated, the energy spent and no-one is noticing.
My smile has not been painted on on a whim; there is method to this parody. This façade provides camouflage and is an enabling tool, forming my smile when I want to bare my teeth as a threat. Dressed like the fauna, where focus and attention are needed to survive, I blend in and can move easily. This is the hunting ground, the arena where all battles are fought. I coast on the emotional waves, flutter and float with the rising and falling tides through the day, waiting. The habit already rewarded; I know the predator will return here again.
The Tip Jar