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On the resolution of balance #11:
In a story, I read about observing the balancing of the left and right hands playing the piano and this made me think of another aspect of balance and how it can be achieved. Playing music reveals aspects of balance not yet addressed. Balance doesn’t need to be symmetrical; it can be achieved through sustained momentum. In performance, there are narrative devices used to create art: repetition, motifs and themes, symbolism and structure. Using these techniques, music creates tensity, where together many notes and instruments build tension and finally achieve a balanced composite whole.
She has honed the art of divining and performed as if it is a science. Turning a corner, I was held up by cars were scattered across the road like litter, many parked with their doors ajar. It looked like the site of a disaster, where people had witnessed something that made them flee but that wasn’t the case as they were standing quietly in groups peering ahead. Through the crowd I saw her, dressed in an ethereal costume that draped, resembling wings that on this hot day had caught the thermals and were floating almost causing her to levitate.
Tall grasses are very aristocratic. I love the way they grow so high they wave in the breeze, how they start as a rich, sappy green and gradually dry to gold as the weather warms. The seeds of the grasses appear on strong green shoots that sprout from out of the hearts of twisted and folding long leaves that flatten into ground-covering mats. As the shoots rise, the seed pods appear and the seeds fatten and dry awaiting the wind to blow through to release them and land, to germinate where they in the next warm, wet season.
The event I came across was not advertised. The witnesses, who took their role seriously, each heard about it through local networks and personal contacts. Invitations were handed over individually from trusted sources; the marketing was personal and targeted and very successful, evidenced by the chaos around me. It was clear that the crowd had arrived at speed, willing to drop anything to come here, and they were anxious not to miss anything.
I left the car and walked forward into the group of spectators.
As she lifted into the air, as if with one breath, the scattered crowd sighed.
Well, the voting is done and, after all the partying, what is there to show for it. All around voters are left without anything to do; they are no longer needed and are just waiting around. That is, except for the news media who are interviewing anyone they can buttonhole, asking them questions about their hopes and dreams, but not standing still to listen, really listen. As the microphone comes forward for an answer, the eyes of the journalists are already on the crowd, looking for the next candidate, for someone more interesting, who might have something new to say.
The curtains that run along two sides of the room are a deep blue, matte with a textured weave, backed with a light-reducing lining. The weightiness of the curtains feels rich and luxurious. At night, when they are drawn closed against the night, an intimate and cosy atmosphere descends and the standard lamps pool light onto the chairs set up for reading and shadows are thrown. Each morning as the drapes are opened, a twist is needed to bond and gather the material up as, with a controlled sweep, they are pulled back to reveal the spread of the day.
I don’t know what it is about prime numbers that makes them so alluring? I like the swing of sevenths. Sevenths are hard, unlike twos and threes but once you get the rhythm of sevenths, then it gets easier. Easy enough at least so that the pattern works to even out transitions, even as the pattern is hidden under a convoluted system of handoff and returns. After you have conquered sevens, fives are simple. Fives clip along like a metronome and they tend to speed up when used too often, whereas sevens flow naturally with an almost imperceptible syncopated beat.
Life as documentary #31:
A survey completed recently in a moment of idleness, while hooked by the temptation of a moderate prize, turned out to be enduringly long and tedious but also, strangely illuminating. The information sought was about how I felt in my life and habits and intentions and how they had changed from before, during COVID and what my current feeling were regarding my circumstances and how I now related to the world. About two-thirds of the way through this epic analysis, I began to think they were asking the wrong questions. The questions now should be different.
The eye recognises colour by waves projected from surfaces, where light was absorbed or reflected, transmitted or deflected. These alterations give depth to what can be seen and conveyed information about surface texture. She recalled talk of visible and invisible spectrum, warm and cool tones, and how they might aid perception. As patterns started to appear, she hesitated to jump to conclusions: relying only on visual input to form judgements might prove fatal but was better than being blinded by this terrain. Using trial and error rather than relying on her automatic responses seemed like the best bet going forward.
I am the first named, the first with my name and of the future generations who will bear my name. When we settled, the first of us became leaders, not only because we survived, but because we built communities together with our friends and neighbours. Before we started working together, within a year, many were brought down by the challenges. We learned to share the hard work and the rewards. When history is written, my name will be among the first who came here, the first of the leaders who stood tall and made life grow in this bare soil.
Clichés, and I think about how they tightly wrap up meaning for transmission. The point of denial has passed: a grammatical sentence, yet it sounds unnatural. Or rather, it sounds unclear, as if the message is lost or muddled. Imparting clarity is the power of clichés. Hearing ‘the point of denial has passed’, what we try to hear is ‘past the point of denial’. There are too many questions when we invert the sentence: Who is denying what? Where are we? How did we get here? Clichés, because we have been here before, dull the instinct to question.
‘There are users and losers, and then there is me.’
‘Be serious. Get over here, I need you to watch and then tell me what you see.’
‘I’m always serious. What have you got, user?’
‘Nice to know which side of the ledge you put me on. Pay attention, I’ll run it through and want you to focus.’
‘I’m paid to be here, but thank you for putting on some entertainment. Can you turn the sound up?’
‘There are only these images and we worked hard to scrub them clean. Tell me what you see.’
‘Can I see the original?’
It’s odd to tie a superstition to a specific date and then blame the date for any unwelcome events that play out. I’m having a bad day and it couldn’t be better planned to land on this one day of the year – actually in any year, there is a chance of multiple Friday the thirteenths – to blame the cause of my bad luck. March and November this year both harboured a Friday the thirteenth, yet neither date contained events of unearthly bad luck. But any forecast, in times that are not exactly benign, is enough to call forth bad luck.
The evidence of experience #30:
We think and remember emotions as feelings that we experience alone but maybe they are only what we share or that are given to us by those around us. Emotions are transmissible: we feel a strong emotion and what we feel can shift across to those around us. We constantly share and absorb emotions and float in this sensitive, yet invisible cultural soup. Children express emotions without restraint; early in life they also learn to read and assume the emotional atmosphere around them. Like viral infections, emotions can heat up and inflame already primed situations.
Without electricity, until the battery runs out, I can write and after that, I will have paper and pencil. I could go and sit in a shopping centre where the electricity is still on, but it is late in the day and they will be closing, although I know what will be open at least for the next few hours. Without electricity, I feel the need to congregate with others. As a species, I seem more willing to share bereavements and losses than happiness. Happiness is hard to share, more unfamiliar. This may be just a symptom of old age.
The real game, the one everyone is waiting for, is about to be released. Not discounting current games, the promise is that it is all new and none of the skills we learned yet will work. This will be an immersive experience where the barriers to reality will blur. And we need to jump in; letting front runners get ahead would not be strategic. At the start there will be no advantage, this world is new to everyone and the stories have not been written yet. We need to be there to make it happen and watch the other players.
At the start this might seem real but it is all a game and when you have practised and developed some useful skills, you can be certain that the fun will start. I find games the most convenient mechanism for me to interact with the world. I like the microsecond separation from reality that kicks in in games, the transitions that indicate barriers for some and mark embedded decision trees for others. In the games, that pause, that air-gapped space, enables me to step back from the emotions and static and plan the moves outside any projected and programmed paths.
Most players in the game think I am cold and distant, but what they feel is the draft as I pass by and leave them behind. I have no companions or collaborators; other players in the game are competition and to be defeated. This is not something I have learned, just an observation from previous experience. We are not here to make friends, although at times an ally has been useful. If support continues to be needed, I will make a clone or replica to shadow my path and step up to work with me to defend an exposed position.
Occasionally, a fellow player and I arrive at a point in the game at the same time and have fended off assailants together, but the strategy is short-lived and driven entirely by self-interest. The end game can play out that when the opposition is defeated, then we turn on each other to determine the ultimate winner. Sometimes when we part without the final battle, what looks like compassion is just an unwillingness to pay the price to end the fight. Time is a resource that needs to be conserved. Winning eventually comes down to resources and how you allocate them.
Friendships come in different flavours. I realised this while sitting at a picnic with some friends tonight. One of the women, long since named as my nemesis, bounced up even though she has recently had a double hip operation, with her phone and snapped away. Every time I turned around, I found myself front and centre in the frame. And then tonight, attached to the thank you email sent to those present, were the images in which I heaved and flounder around like a beached whale. This is the friend who has coloured me ungainly and who stood there smirking.
Water is an amazing substance, almost alien in its behaviour, and it is odd how reliant we are on it. Listing waters physical properties only exposes more questions and identifies other odd features. Most elements become denser and heavier as they solidify, whereas water when it turns to ice, expands and becomes lighter so the solid form rises and can float on itself. Theory suggests that without water there would be no life. With water making up ninety percent of our physic, we might intuit the other elements are there simply to keep the water molecules in place.
‘Say that again.’
‘What are you on about? Come here, we need to finish this.’
‘Didn’t you just say something?'
‘What are you talking about? Come, give me a hand.’
‘Every now and again I have a feeling of lots of people moving past, different realities pressing in, and the edges all bleed and blur together. Just now I thought I heard someone talking to me, someone I should know and trust. She was so familiar but I don’t know her. I might have mis-heard but it seemed real, it felt real.’
‘Sometimes dreams feel like that. Hold this still.’
When you want a group of people to agree about anything, the secret is to not give them options. Draw them together and ask one question with one choice and, like a marketing promotion, presenting one option, focusing on that product and only the one outcome. Trample down any questioning stragglers and just get it done. You don’t want anyone worked up because they didn’t have their say, weren’t listened to, or didn’t like something. When everyone agrees, everyone can be happy. And once the decision is made, start a distraction so everyone can quietly move on, not looking back.
There was no disappointment. We agreed without disputes or conflict; the whole process was very amicable. Ask anyone. I don’t know what more I can tell you except we run a democratic process and all decisions were made by the majority voting at the meeting. You are the first person to ask about what happened. It was decided, agreed, and now we are moving on. If there is anything to ask, it is why you are showing so much interest. If this is something that concerns you then you should have been at the meeting and brought it up then.
The rule, and this rule that has been in place for a long time, is that decisions cannot be brought back to the meeting to discuss again, unless there is new information. And I mean there must be definitively new facts to present. There is a limit to the number of times we can sit and discuss the same problem. We have business to get through and need to move on and can’t keep arguing about issues that have been voted on and resolved. The more you make yourself disagreeable about this, the more resistance there will be to change.
The evidence of experience #31:
For humanity to survive, we need to recognise what is essential and forego luxuries. The problem is that we can’t have everything forever. In this era of surfeit, most people don’t choose between what they desire and what they need, they take it all. By having everything now, we are borrowing from the future where there won’t be enough for everyone, only scarcity and deprivation. I am not being judgemental – for some, airline travel is a necessity; for others, it is clean water – I am not saying what is consumed, only that choices are made.
‘Did you ever have the feeling that you are only partially in the world and are missing most of what’s happening?’
‘Not really. I think about work mostly. Hold this while I fix the angle. It’s got to hold until I get the rest of the frame secured.’
‘I don’t even know what you’re building. Do you think you’ll get it finished, whatever it is?’
‘I appreciate your help. It’s coming along but there’s still a way to go. Mind where you put your hands, that’s not dry yet.’
‘So, what do you call this then?’
‘A work in progress.’
‘We call this Duncan’s Folly, full of none of the things anyone needs to survive, just endless doorways and stairwells and passages that end in scaffolding. You change the plans every day. I’ve walked past and seen parts that were finished being pulled down or moved. No-one has a clue what you’re building here.’
‘I’ll give anyone a tour when it’s done but I am not going to stand around explaining it. You need to let me work.’
‘We only ever see you here hammering away. Where do you go when you are not doing this?'
‘I just keep busy.’
‘Who else says that?’
‘I don’t know. What did I say?’
‘Don’t know why I bother. You aren’t listening, not even to yourself. Now I can’t remember what it was.’
‘I’m a little busy. Hold this, please.’
‘If I waited for you to talk, we’d be here all day.’
‘I’ll be here all day if you want to come back.’
‘Are you telling me I’m annoying you? Because I don’t need to be here.’
‘Can you give me a hand here? It’s a job for two people and we can be done in an hour. You’d really be helping me.’
Two cups of coffee and I feel the coffee pulsing through a body that has been without even a memory of caffeine for weeks now. I have been drinking hot water and a pouring yoghurt but should count my blessings – at least the yoghurt was runny and not pouring out in chunks. Not exactly tired but feeling unsettled, I have been staying up late and drifting randomly without interest between distractions. This is so far from what life should be like that I am concerned. I need to find my way back to the routine and ritual of coffee drinking.
The Tip Jar