An introvert’s reminder

Arrogance is bad. Arrogance grounded in ignorance is even worse.

Independence may be a defense from the truth, a form of self-righteousness and silent arrogance.

Don’t seal yourself from the world, and claim superiority.

We may be our own worst (or forgiving) judges, yet removed from the tempering wisdom found only in human contact, our judgments lack facts.

A mind turned inward fails to recognize its reflection in the arena of social interaction.

The eye can’t see itself.

No one is an island.

The switch

The mind has made a switch,

From days inward searching spent,

To heed the call of assumed responsibilities,

And rejoin the careening wheels of society.

The mind has made a switch,

And slides sadly into this communal pit.

…rhyming Homer with Homer…

Insight my mind has not brought!

Endless loops with doubt fraught!

Infinite thoughts pitifully caught!

Stagnation has only wrought rot!

The war of the obsessed mind

With my fingernails broken I scratch,

Every single hidden crevice and patch,

Until I, tediously excavating the last,

Finally from this space move past.

 

And yet with doubt constantly plagued,

Trapped wild beast mercilessly caged,

In my head the war bloodily waged,

Inane, insane, engulfed, enraged.

 

Have you yourself lost in loops been?

Thoughts’ ends and beginnings unseen?

Round they wrap choking tendrils keen,

Life to degrade, destroy, demean.

 

Life is suffering, so I might as well

Live my life in this self-made hell.

Your head may shake, yet can you tell

If your four walls aren’t but a cell?

 

Catharsis

I’m not reaching out. I’m not playing the victim. I’m not drowning in self-pity (though my knees are definitely wet).

I’m reaching inward. I am fighting. I may be drowning in tears of frustration, sadness, hope, joy. I am suffering, but I am not only suffering. I am healing. Slowly, methodically, not always patiently, always hopefully.

I am reaching deep within. There is a drain that needs unclogging, a blockage that needs removing. It doesn’t flow. It doesn’t flow.

What doesn’t?

It. My breath, my optimism, my confidence, my self-esteem, my thoughts, my life. In short: my essence. It is laboured, shallow, unclear, overgrown.

It doesn’t flow.

I reach inward to purge myself of the undergrowth, the overgrowth, the malignant growth. I pull out all the doubt, the fear, the regret, the neglect, the loathing, the contempt, the anger and hate and jealousy. I excise the insecurity, the arrogance, the apathy, the dregs of my soul.

I pull it all out and assess it honestly; laid out before me, splayed and dissected and arranged in subjective orders only my mind can fully comprehend, I reward myself the final judgment.

GUILTY!

For crimes against my person – death.

Now GET OUT! GET THE FUCK OUT!

And after the stinking fetid shit – the rotting carcasses of my demons – is carted away,  buried in pages and posts and amateur journals, covered in virtual soils of obscurity and indifference, I can finally breathe. In, out, in, out, free, with ease, the soothing airs of health and optimism.

Quote #7

Healing doesn’t have to look magical or pretty. Real healing is hard, exhausting and draining. Let yourself go through it. Don’t try to paint it as anything other than what it is. Be there for yourself with no judgement. – Floating around Twitter and Facebook

An old soul

I am an old soul.

I weep at the beauty of woodland paths,

of slanted sunbeams breaking through autumn canopies,

and falling, twirling, dancing leaves of red, orange, yellow and brown.

I love this world.

And my existence.

The animals in the forest,

I know they are there. And that suffices.

The trees, the streams, the moss wreathing jutting rocks of granite.

Birds. Deer. Mice.

Insects and worms and peeping frogs.

Paths. Worn, fresh, or to be made.

Blue skies.

White clouds.

The breeze. Wind and rain and sleet.

Gently softly falling snow.

The cold.

Flowers and grass and reeds and the call of the blackbird in the swamp.

The distant ovenbird and piercing screech of the hawk.

Fences, new and broken. Barbed-wire tacked to ancient trees overgrown by gnarled trunks.

Time.

Passing days and months and years.

The ticking clock on lazy Sunday afternoons curled up warmly in the silent comfort of Grandma’s house.

Feeling safe. Secured. Loved. Complete.

I am an old soul.

Lyrics #6 – Beggars by Thrice

Check song and lyrics out here.

Beggars

All you great men of power, you who boast of your feats
Politicians and entrepreneurs
Can you safeguard your breath in the night while you sleep?
Keep your heart beating steady and sure?
As you lie in your bed does the thought haunt your head
That you’re really rather small?
If there’s one thing I know in this life, we are beggars all.

All you champions of science and rulers of men
Can you summon the sun from it’s sleep?
Does the earth seek your counsel on how fast to spin?
Can you shut up the gates of the deep?
Don’t you know that all things hang as if by a string over darkness, poised to fall?
If there’s one thing I know in this life, we are beggars all.

All you big shots that swagger and stride with conceit
Did you devise how your frame would be formed?
If you’d be raised in a palace or left out on the streets?
Or choose the place or the hour you’d be born?
Tell me, what can you claim? Not a thing, not your name
Tell me if you can recall just one thing, not a gift, in this life.

Can you hear what’s been said?
Can you see now that everything’s grace after all?
If there’s one thing I know in this life
We are beggars all.

Conversations with myself – #2

Stop feeding off my pain. I cannot take it any longer. The burden, the weight, is far too great. I am no longer your scapegoat, your bearer of misfortune. My pain cannot heal you. I am not your savior.

Though I love you,

I need my strength for me. For me and for them.

(When my son hurts I care for him. I tend his wound, soothe his ailing body. How is it I know what to do?

What of his inner pain? How do I care for that?

When he cries out in pain, I hold him. When he can’t sleep for fear, I reassure him. When he looks down at his feet, reluctant to face the world, I cup his chin in my hand and lift his face toward mine. When he needs me, I am there for him. But even he…even he must someday care for himself.)

I avoid what should be done.

What must be done? What must be done?

(And by must I mean should, as should demands a moral choice: No other choices have meaning. To live with meaning, then, one must choose what should be chosen).

Care for myself as I would my son.

Not so deep within lives a little boy. And when he is afraid, he screams out so loud. A deafening, piercing wail. Screams to be saved.

Silent now. Do you hear him?

The fear of pain becomes the pain.

Fear of loss, of regret. Fear of mistakes. Fear of making an active, as opposed to a reactive, choice.

Through all this. Thirty-five years six months and four days later. That seems to be what I have learned. It all comes down to this: becoming a mature adult man, father and husband and citizen of this world, requires a choice.

Make a choice! Shoulder responsibility, or, rather, make responsibility my own.

I have avoided choices. Certain painful choices. Particularly risky choices. I fear an uncertain future. I sacrifice my present to the morning, but the morning never comes.

I fear an uncertain future, and the morning never comes.

Day in. Day out. Month after monotonous month.

The autumn breeze blows in winter’s chill. Melting ice reveals nodding snow bells, bowing to summer’s rising sun. Around, and around, and around this globe turns in its celestial ellipse. And I, my childlike existence, twirling and spinning and twisting limbs akimbo, orbiting my hard choices, year after bloody year.

(There are only so many seasons the flowers will bloom before these lights go out, and I feed the roots of next spring’s annuals).

I hover in childlike existence. I wait for someone to make the choice. To take it. To move the waltz along. I am not yet finished the dance, the high school wonder. I haven’t yet the courage to take her hand; or to turn my back. I haven’t the fortitude to say yes, to say no. Or anything much, at all.

Days into months, seasons into years; and there it is, nonchalant, uncaring, oblivious. Passing, turning, passing and turning.

Oh how the days pass me by, and the seasons turn their back on me.

And aging.

Thirty, Thirty-one, Thirty-two, Thirty-three. Now thirty-five. Now thirty-five and six months. Now thirty-five and six months and four days.

And it, nonchalant and uncaring, passing and turning. The seasons of my life, orbiting the hard choices, my choices, waiting for someone to make them.

Waiting for me to take them.

I only move if you push me

It is slowing down.

The letters, the words,

only now a trickle.

A sign of change.

Healing, optimism? Or the opposite:

resignation?

This….this is my life.

This is my life?

Resignation.


Someone, oh someone pick me up!

Bathe and clothe and nurture me.

Point the way, or better yet, take me there.

Oh, someone please pick me up!

(I scream into the Abyss and only I can hear).


I have shed a million tears. And I am still right here.

I only move if you push me.

I will shed a million more. Fill this room to overflowing.

And I will not swim.

And I will sink.

And I will be right here.

Lyrics #5 – Dear Coach’s Corner – Propagandhi

Check song and lyrics out here.

Dear Ron MacLean. Dear Coach’s Corner. I’m writing in order for someone to explain to my niece the distinction between these mandatory pre-game group rites of submission and the rallies at Nuremburg. Specifically the function the ritual serves in conjunction with what everybody knows is in the end a kid’s game. I’m just appealing to your sense of fair play when I say she’s puzzled by the incessant pressure for her to not defy the collective will, and yellow ribboned lapels, as the soldiers inexplicably rappel down from the arena rafters (which, if not so insane, would be grounds for screaming laughter). Dear Ron MacLean, I wouldn’t bother with these questions if I didn’t sense some spiritual connection. We may not be the same but it’s not like we’re from different planets: we both love this game so much we can hardly fucking stand it. Alberta-born and prairie-raised. Seems like there ain’t a sheet of ice north of Fargo I ain’t played. From Penhold to the Gatineau, every fond memory of childhood that I know is somehow connected to the culture of this game. I can’t just let it go. But I guess it comes down to what kind of world you want to live in, and if diversity is disagreement, and disagreement is treason, well don’t be surprised if we find ourselves reaping a strange and bitter fruit that sad old man beside you keeps feeding to young minds as virtue. It takes a village to raise a child but just a flag to raze the children until they’re nothing more than ballast for fulfilling a madman’s dream of a paradise where complexity is reduced to black and white. How do I protect her from this cult of death?

Quote #6

It takes a village to raise a child, a flag to raze the children. – Chris Hannah

Conversations with myself – #1

I can’t force the parts of me to emerge, to come out from hiding.

That is one of the paradoxes here: set the mind to let go of control, make that a goal, and the mind automatically elects an executor, gives it the label ‘I’, and sets to work.

But by that very act, the goal itself becomes unattainable.

Letting go cannot be consciously willed.


There is a thought here about OCD. Something fleeting, out of reach. It has to do with an intuition, and the realization that explaining, arguing, defending the intuition with logic and reason, would in and of itself be all the argument I would need. The very act of arguing is itself the argument.

OCD needs control. Intuitions are suspect.


Consciousness from a distance, perhaps consciousness unclouded or uninfluenced by emotion or expectation or assumption, by narrative – perhaps that is dissociation. Viewing oneself as from the outside, and realizing that ‘oneself’ is not in fact one, is not a unified essence, but rather an association of multiple parts and systems subsumed by consciousness, abstracted under the simplified label ‘I’.

The brain abstracts. This is a fact. Is it any surprise, that once consciousness emerged, the brain abstracted itself? It has awoken to itself and given itself a name.

Just as the abstraction ‘tree’ denotes the concept of a tree, the abstraction ‘I’ denotes something, and not another thing. But what is that something?

Subsumed by the concept ‘tree’ are many types, forms, varieties. There exists a spectrum of entities with ‘treeish’ qualities. But, Plato aside, there is no form of a perfect tree, of which all actual trees are mere approximations.

No. At the extremes of the set of all possible trees will be trees that, for example, could arguably be classified as ‘shrub’. That classification would be a matter of arbitrary boundaries, imposed by humans on an evolved spectrum of entities.

What about the concept ‘I’? I know what I am not. I am neither ‘rock’, nor ‘tree’. But am I a unified entity as I sense myself to be, most of the time? Am I the actual ‘I’ in this sentence? What does that even mean? Does the question make sense?

In my more introspective, more passive moments, when I refuse or am exhausted from interaction with this world, I intuit I am an illusion.

I exist, and can be defined, only as concretely (if that!) as the concept ‘tree’. At the extremes of defining myself, I find a blurring of the me and the not me, and it becomes impossible to identify a clear boundary. It is experiencing this boundary, directly and clearly through introspection, that the illusion of a defined, unified ‘I’ becomes apparent.

This illusion is belied by the intuition of being united and disjoint, sad and happy, clear and muddied, young and old, wise and naive, SIMULTANEOUSLY! These are not sequential observations apprehended by the mind in quick succession; these qualities exist at the same time, in the same person.


Something unified, whole, one, cannot, in the strictest sense, contain contradictory parts. Show me a truly unified country. Show me any organization that doesn’t contain inherent oppositions. In reality, no amalgamation of disparate entities and divergent qualities is whole, is one, in the strictest sense. Harmony is constantly fought for, is hard-won, is at perpetual risk of collapse. Simple abstractions such as ‘I’, ‘Canada’, ‘United Nations’, masks these facts.


We could redefine the commonsense label ‘I’ to include all these disjointed, multiple systems and parts. We could do that at the risk of being misunderstood. Or we could speak with clarity, and say the person is a conglomeration of contradictions and strained relationships, that manage to coexist and, often, cooperate toward some greater end, such as reproduction,  democracy, world peace. Perhaps the simplification, the abstraction, performed by the mind on itself is a useful trick, a rule of thumb, to operate more effectively in a complex world.


Consider again the contradictory qualities apprehended by consciousness. I am inclined to say that these qualities, in fact, constitute consciousness. Consciousness and the ‘objects’ of consciousness are one and the same. Self-awareness then is a special case of consciousness taking itself as the object of consciousness.


‘I’, like ‘tree’, properly understood, must fall on a spectrum, if we insist on keeping the term at all. It is a useful term in fact. It does seem to denote something, that is, as opposed to nothing, or anything.

But the illusory ‘I’, the executor of your ‘free’ will (another illusion), does not exist as you think it does. It is a simplification, a useful abstraction, no doubt, but also potentially dangerous. It demands and often commands too much respect. It often weds the ego, or simply is the ego, and takes a life of its own. The illusory ‘I’, like the body it inhabits, refuses to die (which is perhaps beneficial to the body). But once its usefulness has been exhausted, it still clings to life, clings to the illusion it requires to exist.

To me, my ‘I’ represents the dictator of my life, is addicted to control, needs exactitude and axiomatic precision. Not only does it insist I be a certain way, demanding strict obedience to its dictates, but that reality be a certain way as well. Oh the arrogance! Conformity of reality to my boundaries ensures my deepest fears never become actualized (or, more precisely, I blind myself to their actualization), never bubble to the surface of consciousness, where they would need to be dealt with.


In a world of total control the substance of fear cannot form, cannot organize, cannot act. In a world of total control, fear is banished and forbidden to enter. The illusion of control: that is the reason my ‘I’ is so reluctant to die.

Quote #5

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Dissociation

Stop that grasping,

and just let it go.

I don’t exist,

and never have.

This body, this mind,

these cells of bone, muscle, nerves and skin.

I am an illusion,

emerging from a neural network,

unifying through gross abstraction,

these multiple, interacting, embedded parts.

I am and I am not.

I am here, but I am elsewhere.

I feel anger, but simultaneous joy; pessimism and optimism; strength and weakness. I am both heavy and light.

These are no mere metaphors,

turns of phrase,

figures of speech.

In no way am I speaking in analogy; it is not as if I don’t exist; it is not as if I am multiple yet one; it is not as if I speak to myself across infinitesimal chasms in my mind.

‘I’ and ‘me’ and ‘myself’, as descriptors, do not suffice.

There exists no single point, no central hub, no captain’s chair, where I take the helm and direct the show. But instead, there is system and sub-system feeding into itself and into the other; system within system of inter-networked biochemistry and electrical spikes. The sense, the illusion of self emerging from this near infinite complexity and potential.

Stop that grasping, that clinging, that clutching, that hoarding;

Stop that pining, that longing, that needing, that demanding;

Stop that storytelling, that narrating, that ascribing, that moralizing;

and let the illusion go.

Words do not suffice.

Let it go.

 

Bus station ecology

Outside a café by the central bus station.

Wasps. A gentle breeze stalling their forward propulsion. They hover, drawn to the foamed milk and cocoa powder topping my cappuccino.

Enlightening places: central transportation hubs. A congregation of humanity’s diversity: addicts; homeless; drunkards clasping and gulping bottles of warm beer; schoolkids travelling home from school; workers in dirty work pants and black heavy-soled boots; housewives pushing carriages of napping babies; immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe; bikers and walkers and taxi-cab drivers; old retirees in white Velcro sneakers and dated threadbare dress pants and sport jackets; the low, the lower middle, the middle classes; the working classes; students; artists; the down-trodden; the hopeful; the resigned. All jostling, vibrating, moving lives and lifetimes, stories, criss-crossing, weaving paths back and forth and back again on the concrete canvas.

And me. Another node of carbon-based molecules connected by infinite invisible threads to the world around. Inhaling. Exhaling. Respiring the same gas as the drug-addict missing her two front teeth; as the Arab hairdresser speaking a strange tongue to a friend on the threshold of his shop. Shooing wasps from my drink. Smiling inwardly at the too-fat pigeon waddling underfoot for crumbs.

A crippled man passes. The click-clack of a cane. And a woman on an old cellular phone.

Here’s one with cigarette in hand, shawl wrapped warmly, multi-coloured polyester handbag fit snugly into elbow’s crook, texting all the while, as she pauses briefly at my table, puts her bag – still looped over her texting arm – down on the seat, cigarette pressed between lips, and rummages through.

Do they know? Do they know I see them? I really observe them? I study them? I think of them? I remember them? For now. For today. And perhaps longer still. Do they know, they have become a part of me?

Now two ancient nodes have joined my table. Prehistoric lovers. His teeth perfectly pearly white. She wearing rouge on her once flawlessly beautiful, now wrinkled, and still beautiful cheeks. Wedding rings. Umbrellas. He making jokes. She barely smiling, barely giving an inch, but still giving that inch: yes, she’s heard them all before. Two ancient prehistoric lovers.

The pigeon waddles past. The breeze becoming a wind forces the hovering wasps to the eaves. Overhead a flock of city birds circles. Rested, the two stand, hand in hand, and depart.

 

Twenty-four fountains

Twenty-four fountains. Spitting vertical spouts of clear water a foot high. Each stream pulled down on itself by gravity; unfurling liquid ferns held together by surface tension. At the tip of each transparent crystal frond quickly accelerating towards Earth’s center, fracturing and division as multiple single droplets break free; the droplets pit patting, pit patting, pit…pit…patting, the grey concrete paving stones. Tapping out a plot, a rhythm rich in meaning, just for me.

Twenty-four transient translucent authors, communicating amidst the jostling bustling hive of unaware humanity. Secretly, just to me.

Lyrics #4 – Treaty – by Leonard Cohen

Check song out here.

Treaty

I’ve seen you change the water into wine
I’ve seen you change it back to water too
I sit at your table every night
I try but I just don’t get high with you
I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes this bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine
They’re dancing in the street, it’s Jubilee
We sold ourselves for love but now we’re free
I’m sorry for the ghost I made you be
Only one of us was real and that was me
I haven’t said a word since you’ve been gone
That any liar couldn’t say as well
I just can’t believe the static coming on
You were my ground, my safe and sound
You were my aerial
The fields are crying out, it’s Jubilee
We sold ourselves for love but now we’re free
I’m sorry for the ghost I made you be
Only one of us was real and that was me
I heard the snake was baffled by his sin
He shed his scales to find the snake within
But born again is born without a skin
The poison enters into everything
And I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes this bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine

Lyrics #3 – Goner – by Twenty One Pilots

Check song out here.
Goner
I’m a goner
Somebody catch my breath
I’m a goner
Somebody catch my breath
I wanna be known by you
I wanna be known by you
I’m a goner
Somebody catch my breath
I’m a goner
Somebody catch my breath
I wanna be known by you
I wanna be known by you
Though I’m weak
Beaten down
I’ll slip away
Into the sound
The ghost of you
Is close to me
I’m inside out
You’re underneath
I’ve got two faces
Blurry’s the one I’m not
I’ve got two faces
Blurry’s the one I’m not
I need your help to
Take him out
I need your help to
Take him out
Though I’m weak
And beaten down
I’ll slip away
Into the sound
The ghost of you
Is close to me
I’m inside out
You’re underneath
Though I’m weak
And beaten down
I’ll slip away
Into the sound
The ghost of you
Is close to me
I’m inside out
You’re underneath
Don’t let me be gone
Don’t let me be gone
Don’t let me be gone
Don’t let me be gone
Don’t let me be!
Don’t let me be!
Ah
Yeah
I’m a goner
Somebody catch my breath
I’m a goner
Somebody catch my breath
I wanna be known by you
I wanna be known by you

How to end a conversation before it begins

‘How are you?’ ‘How are you?’ she said.

In a floating transitional state, waiting for the cosmos to give me the sign. Where are my legs? And gravity?

In a hyper-(ir)rational state. Am I sure of my arithmetic? Who says the world is logical? Logic to prove logic seems, well, ill-logical.

I am tense. But that is not my tension. My muscles vibrate with anxious intent. But they are not controlled by me. My hair is thick (yet thinning on top). But that hair crowns another man’s scalp.


Through the windows of the eyes, in the place where a soul might be, staring back in the mirror, something unborn, non-existent, flickers. Possessing a living host, it digs a tiny hollow, one fingernail scraping at a time. Piece by agonizing piece it widens its enclosure, allowing fresh air and light to fill the concave spaces around it.

As the cocoon about shudders and frets and lurches this way and that, the weightless non-entity bounces and spins freely in padded enclosures, thick organic walls of muscle and bone, pliable, absorbing the shocks of a chaotic existence.


‘How are you?’ ‘How are you?’ she said.

‘Oh, me, well I’m fine,’ would have been the reply, the sound carried reflexively up the throat, rolling over the tongue, out the lying mouth.

A colossal misunderstanding, and we both must be excused. In this universe the laws of arithmetic don’t always hold; but how could she have known? And I am tired of lies.

‘Oh, me, well I don’t exist. But thanks for asking.’