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On achieving momentum #2:
Having momentum and giving in to entropy is the spectrum upon we exist and this spectrum is a measure we use to determine life. These forces pull in directions that can conflict and counteract, and that requires change and adaptation of everything in the world, including the geological and other non-living elements in the physical world. Granite, for instance, is not standing still. Over time boulders of granite will rise out of the earth and as they surface and the pressure compressing them lessens, they expand. The force of entropy makes mountains move before our eyes.
Reading a dusty second-hand novel recently I came across a previous owner’s edits and comments and on the preface page, this cryptic note: Well, I can’t blame anyone but myself. I knew better. Don’t get me wrong on this one. It’s very good. Just not my style, to quote Mr Casey. In all edits, without exception, I preferred the writer’s original rather than the critic's suggestions. For instance, the phrase ‘… as bored as …’ was changed to ‘… so bored as …’, indicating the critic’s first language might not have been English. But who was Mr Casey?
Memory isn’t something I’ve paid attention to in the past. Memories are subjective and emotional, unreliable, not factual. Memories cannot be used as collateral and can get you into serious trouble. As a child, if you tell someone what you remember, you’re not believed and are even accused of being imaginative (as if that is something bad) and everything you say afterwards is treated as fiction. Children can easily be dismissed or ignored. As adults we turn memories into stories, heavily laden with messages, morals and warnings. We carelessly discard and abuse our memories and the feeling they encapsulate.
I remember sitting on the front seat of the car in the days before cars had bucket seats and seatbelts when there was a straight bench seat where three of four people could slide in. My father was driving into a rising sun that glinted off the windscreen as the clouds parted ahead. It was then that I saw the flying saucer and pointed. When I looked at my father, I knew he saw it too. I saw the surprise on his face. But he then said that optical illusions can explain most phenomenon. He had rationalised it away instantly.
My mind might have been receptive to the idea of seeing flying saucers: being young was one factor, as was my love of reading science fiction stories. Neither of these caused the actual sighting of the unknown object, they just made my mind open to the possibility. The flying object appeared through the clouds, closer than an aeroplane and too far away to be a bird. There was a metallic flash before it disappeared. It moved too quickly to be a natural or man-made object. My father thought maybe a weather balloon or trick of the light due to thermals.
Practised at listening, I considered how my father explained away the phenomenon I’d witnessed. I was well-read and had opinions and questioned everything but I understood, even then, how adults manage what they didn’t understand, or didn’t want to consider. When controversial solutions were proposed, one method is to elide and overlook the unacceptable suggestions. Another trick is sleight-of-hand, side-stepping issues without getting involved. Yet a third way is to introduce possibilities outside my understanding, ones I couldn’t evaluate. Due to my ignorance and lack of experience, I was frequently outplayed and deferred to his judgement but my memories persist.
There is no joy in going through life short-sighted but now, when wearing glasses isn’t essential - over time my eyesight has improved – I don’t even look. Not wearing glasses seems to give me licence to stay in my daydreams and not pay attention to what is happening around me. All I think about is not bumping into solid objects. When I am out and about, I can walk past and not see people I know because I don’t think to look. This is a learned blindness; I believe my glasses, not my eyes, enable me to see.
‘One hundred per cent curve-ball. None of us expected that.’
Just that sound bite heard in passing and I know who she is – a bubble gum chewing, mouth breathing, air-head whose opinion is an opportunity to pout and expose her cleavage, basking in the attention. These days curve balls are always expected as the tactic demonstrates professional skill. And performers are expected to practice and respond appropriately. We should not shower sympathy on those who are unprepared. There aren’t any longer roles for women who need to be sheltered and protected, and who cry when they lose and are relegated.
Thinking about a dawn chorus birdcall I came across a website with multiple sound clips and from then on, my isolation was orchestrated. I continued to work and I listened to these liquid symphonies and it seemed that the birds might have been singing to themselves as much as sending messages to one another. The calls of small birds are light and those of larger birds deeper and more resonant yet the songs from different species are still distinctive. I think I could become a bird watcher and follow these flighty creatures as they live their lives without a care.
Following a night of no sleep and waiting for the long day to end and the evening to arrive, I feel impeded as if pushing through heavy tides with my muscles weakening, making no headway. The muscle that is weakening is my mind. There is a loss of attention, a fuzziness, and a dilution of concentration. Lack of sleep is dangerous. At any moment I might doze off yet because I am attentive to my state of mind, I remain wide awake and restless. I want to turn away from consciousness and feel the slow descent and calm of sleep.
‘If you’re looking, most people pass by the Drop-in cafe. Set yourself up there and eventually, you’ll find who you’re looking for. And you’ll hear all the gossip from Sue.’
‘Sounds like a place to start. Where can I find it?’
‘You can’t be serious Fred. He’s risking his life going there.’
‘It’s on Frisk Street. Turn left there and take the road that goes up towards Mount Taylor. Tell Sue I sent you.’
‘Unmissable. It’s known by the locals as the Drop-in, stagger out and die around the corner.’
‘Yes; decent breakfast but I’d give the pies a miss.’
I don’t have a bucket list of things I want to do, instead I have a list of things I have a wish list of things I don’t want to do again. On this list are: to not have to go to the supermarket, or cook and wash up, or buy new clothes and shoes, or get a haircut. I am waiting for the last time I have to do any of these. Then, like living on the starship enterprise, I could just spend my time exploring what is happening in the universe and being kind to those around me.
Listening to the poem ‘Blessings’ by David Whyte has left me transported. Without calling on one or other religion, this poem is an ecstatic prayer to the eternal blessings given to us with the senses of hearing and sight. Hearing is how we connect with the world. The sound of a bicycle passing nearby as you wake and make tea brings the outside world to you. Light surrounds and presents the world to us in an ever-new way. And all of it is compiled in the moment. All you need to do is go out into the world and notice.
Life as documentary #34:
This is the instant generation where everything has to happen now and the next minute it is forgotten and they’ve moved on to another shiny trinket. But it’s worse than that; when asked if they need help with a problem, if there is some hesitation, the answer is always no, even if it is clear that they don’t know what they’re doing. What they should have said was: wait, let me work this out myself. And when they make mistakes, they deny that it’s their fault. How can this generation ever learn anything that needs skill?
My son constantly tries to debate hypothetical scenarios with me. Last night it was about what would constitute a representative sample of ethnic diversity. Not a subject I wanted to talk about at 9 pm while engrossed in a particularly lurid crime drama on television. I thought he was provoked by the new series of tourism adverts where the visitors shown were all white, middle-aged, affluent, well dressed and healthy, and walking through lush scenery. He denied this. My position was that the answer must be context-specific and basically, it boiled down to reducing the quotient of white, middle-aged men.
Hypothetical scenarios are an opportunity to interpret facts and manipulate data to support any and every theory. The flaw of this strategy is that all solutions become indefensible and irrefutable. As a way to break down routine and habitual thinking, there is merit, but as a method to arrive at real-world solutions, this method is fatally flawed. I don’t believe in one truth that rules them all – there are always many answers to any question and this is why context is essential. At the individual, familial, community or nation levels, multiple solutions will be effective, and all can be valid.
How easy it is for confidence to slip away like sand leaking out of a stuffed toy. It starts slowly at first but when you need to be strong and forceful all you find is you have the constitution of a limp rag doll. And then words fail. It feels as if it is entirely my fault and I feel so weak, I can hardly stand. Except, I remember back to before when the little slights, the niggly comments; I see how the jokes pierce and undercut and dismiss me even as my stuffing is knocked out and everyone laughs.
Even when I see the joke and laugh, I feel separate as if I’m floating above looking down and watching. This laughter should bring us together but it makes me feel more apart. My sense of humour is out of sync; their jokes bounce off me sharply. Not that they joke about me personally, it’s just that all women are used as material for humour. There is an unwritten rule here that women can’t tell jokes and I usually comply. I did tell a joke once and in trying not to laugh one guy snorted beer out of his nose.
At some point virtual started to mean ubiquitous. There is a virtual world that surrounds us at all times. It is within reach through devices and advertising, and we pretend to ignore that it invades our surroundings, even our private space. This is how virtual became ubiquitous: it became necessary to us. We no longer travel as independent beings using our own initiative; now we trail behind us our lives in search histories and likes. We are like galleons journeying through the open sea, our virtual histories trail behind us like seaweed under the waterline, holding us back.
The evidence of experience #35:
It is probably obvious to most people, but new to me, that to cook a recipe using new ingredients – in this case, squid – a certain level of energy and enthusiasm is needed. I had the squid but not all the other ingredients but mostly I lacked the will to clean and prepare this food. My son bought these creatures having seen them in the fishmongers and was curious. He didn’t offer to cook. For me, cooking is a challenge. There are several recipes I like and prepare often; anything new and hesitancy overwhelms my appetite.
My brain and I seem to be parting company too often these days. Ideas arrive at inconvenient times – lost thoughts that had been wandering astray but not quite forgotten – but when I try to pin down the memory, what happens is that the activity I was engaged in before being disturbed comes back into focus and the thought absconds again, slipping out through some keyhole. One specific idea has done this several times and I am tired of following the breadcrumbs and trying to chase it down. The most memorable part of this idea is likely to be its illusiveness.
The never-ending whittering of children at the far end of the library has worn me down like a dripping tap that is always there reminding me that something is broken and needs fixing. And always there is that one querulous tone that rises above the others – from a child complaining about a teacher who didn’t let them get away with something or criticised her work. I am probably old fashioned in this assumption. More likely they are complaining about their parents or siblings or peers or that they are deprived of the single object that gives meaning to their existence.
Where do we get our sense of self? It formed at the beginning of life so there has never been a time when I was without it. It is complete, packaged in an understanding of where I am and the place I hold in the world – my half of the sky, as it were. It has always been a dependent capability, depending on support and recognition from others, and on the elements that make continuation of life possible. Do we hand this back when we die? Is there some gateway through which we move where we leave this burden behind?
My favourite place to write is in the library and now I know why. A recent scientific paper researched stochastic resonance, the phenomena where background sounds, noise really, slightly distracts from the task at hand. Counterintuitively, these “ambient stimuli” boost the ability for abstract thinking. Writers sitting in coffee shops, where background distractions are muted, already know this. In silence, the brain quietly goes to sleep but if there are recognisable but irregular sounds around us, we focus and think sharper, we come alive. Now that libraries have returned to pre-COVID-19 opening times I feel my ability to write return.
‘Hold on, pace yourself. This isn’t going to go away just yet. I have to get this right.’
Anxiety held back by mere words. I don’t think so. And where is my trust? I am anxious because I have no control, because I need to wait for the process to complete. And being is making me feel irrelevant and guilty.
‘Hold that and keep still. I’m trying to focus and you keep blocking my light.’
Ironic that my shadow is leaping up the wall when I’m not moving. How can I control its movement if I break under this pressure?
With chilli and ginger the vegetable medley for dinner was a success. In a kitchen warmed by cooking I feel my tongue and lips tingling from the spices and here, amid the lingering aromas of the meal, I feel completely satiated. The changing season is bringing in cooler mornings and evenings and already I am anticipating dark nights filled with meals of warm soups and stews, richly perfumed with spices, sufficient to satisfy any lentil craving. As a cold-blooded person it feels that I am returning to my natural state as I wait for the many foggy frosty days ahead.
There are times to tighten your resolve and push through and then other times when everything can be thrown to the wall and you can just walk away. The problem is that when a decision is made, there can be no certainty that it's the right decision but everything changes. There are no trial runs for life, no do-overs. The choices we make dictate what futures we can have. If we weight up our choices and consider what we might regret, then the option of push on and finish seems more positive. In finishing, at least some action was taken.
‘Finished, finally. Do you want to have a look?’
He steps back but I don’t know what he wants me to see. He has been engrossed in what he was doing for the last six days and I had left him to it. Now, on the grand reveal, I don’t know what to say.
‘What do you want me to look at?’
‘Here, here,’ he says pointing and I look. ‘What do you think?’
‘I think you need to use your words. What am I looking at?’
‘I don’t know why I waste my time. It’s what you asked for.’
The Tip Jar