Conversations with myself – #3

What did you want to be as a kid? I ask you – myself – what did you want to be as a kid?

Did you want to be a slave to your obsessions? To your insecurities? Did you want to feel trapped inside your own mind? Did you pine to be, just simply long to be, an outsider, misunderstood by others, misunderstanding them in turn? Did you wish to lose yourself?

If not these noble dreams, then what?

Maybe you didn’t formulate it. Maybe you failed to think it through. Think of it at all.

Youth was great. We were the lucky ones. I was a lucky one.

Strength of spirit and endless optimism and boundless hope. Enjoying life as it came, sharing experiences with friends and family.

Games.

Hikes and canoe trips and watching TV on Mom’s bed.

Oh, the antics and joyful shit devised with friends!

Christmas.

Shooting hoops outside and swimming in freezing pools. We didn’t need vacation. I didn’t need vacation. It was all – all – right there.


Well…

not all.

No. Not all.


I remember like yesterday walking my street alone, or with a buddy, in the early morn, on the way home. Sometimes drunk, yet always completely sober. And dreaming of nothing, and of everything. This, this whole world was mine, and I loved it, and it loved me.

The stars were so bright on these nights. And when not, then only for the light of the full moon, lighting the gray road and loose stones of the shoulder.

Yellow dashed and solid lines. Black threads of tar filling cracks. Can you feel it? The roughness of the asphalt and the gummy tar and the smooth paint of the dividing line as you slowly jog barefoot down the middle of the road?

This was my road, illuminated by my stars, and the moon, the moon was my deepest friend, my….confidant. And I was so aware, so very aware, of myself, and my feet on the solid ground.

Optimism.

Unbridled hope.

The houses housed guests asleep in my world. I was content they were there. Live and let live. And they let me live.

As did my mother. She let me live. And my father. He let me live.  Hell, they encouraged it…life…and me, in whom they had faith. And my sister too. Perhaps she came to see I was a viciously free spirit, stubborn, passionate. Arrogant. Oh so arrogant! Not with aggression, nor malice, nor sickening self-pride.

But arrogance in my optimism and self-confidence. And why not? For me, I was the king of my world, this sleeping, trodden street.

On my road. On my road. Arrogant happiness and naivety. Walking on my road. Ask me anything. ‘What would I like to be?’ HAHA. What a silly question. Can’t you see, I am content right here?


What did you want to be as a kid?

In all honesty: nothing precise. Nothing defined. The wind perhaps. Yes, that’ll do.

I wanted but to remain in that blissful state, forever.

It was all right there.

And yet…

it wasn’t.


And now the roads are all foreign. The stars, well they don’t shine as bright. And my feet don’t trust the shifting ground.

I say live and let live, but I don’t understand the rules of life.

And I have a family, kids, a wife. I have a job, a car, responsibilities.

Birthdays.

Graduations.

Report cards.

Football games and bush-craft.

Laughter.

Tears.

And I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

Well, maybe one thing: to have it all as I have it now, but to have me included. Yes. Me included.

But who am I? I am here, in this form, behind these walls, writing these words. But a part of me is back there. On that road. Where it all made sense.

A part of me walks that road every single night.

A part of me has never left.

Optimism. Unbridled hope.

What do I want to be?

My answer: nothing. But to have that peace again, in whole. To see those stars again, as bright. To be guided by that moon again, back home. To find me again, barefoot, on solid ground.

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.

Venting

Don’t hide behind clichés to justify yourself. Don’t blame the craziness of this world for your crazy actions. Take some goddamned responsibility.

Yeah, this life is crazy! Simply acknowledging that does not excuse your craziness, does not give it justification, does not clear the path to forgiveness and understanding.

Let me tell you, you don’t bring order to a chaotic world by increasing the chaos. There is no second law of social thermodynamics, wherein your personal order is attained at the expense of increasing social disorder.

You decrease overall chaos by first dealing with your personal chaos; get your own house in order before throwing yourself into the gears of the universe.

See it for what it is. That is the first step. Selfishness. Insecurity. Anger. Aggression. Weakness. Immorality. Willing blindness. Self-deception. Denial. Deceit. Lying. Obstruction. See it for what it is.

What is your role? Take the lead in judgement upon yourself. Develop some moral fortitude. Admit and attempt to remedy your mistakes. Few of us are so far gone that we can’t be pulled back from the abyss. Give yourself that first helping hand. Surely you must know, if anyone does, your actions are wrong, hurtful, dangerous, destabilizing. You simply have to ask yourself: ‘how would I feel?’

How would I feel?

How would you feel?

Bring some order to this chaotic world, and with humility and honesty, answer that question.

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!

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.

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 #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.’

Ego metamorphosis

Trapped in this skin,

A developed presence trying to break free,

From the lower back, up along the edges of the spine, over and around the middle of the head: a pulling, wrenching pressure.

Something long dormant has awoken,

Cracking the thick, drying skin,

Snapping the taught sinew and corded muscle,

Breaking brittle bone, relieving tension.

Emerging, curled up, soft and rumpled folds;

A new body, a fresh wisdom and refined ego, stretching and extending, filling this old space with something new, hungry and invigorated.

Quote #4

Hitting bottom isn’t a weekend retreat. It’s not a goddamn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and just let go! LET GO! – Tyler Durden from Fight Club

Quote #3

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – Thomas Stearns Eliot

The fortress nursery

I am a play-acting leader wandering aimlessly,

Trudging up and down each ridge and valley,

Marching headstrong on twisted paths unknowing;

Eager to say ‘Here is the way, follow me.’

 

I set off young, ill-equipped, and eagerly,

To a distant snow-capped peak I aimed to journey,

Heavy burdensome pack filled to overflowing;

Doubt, inexperience, arrogant insecurity.

 

In each palm five tiny digits clasped firmly,

My delightful, loving, innocent responsibility,

Yet cradled deep within another growing;

Swaddled in armoured layers deceptively.

 

I now know I am the king of a fortress nursery,

Revealed to me by their lips curled mockingly,

To veiled contempt, through muffled laughter owing;

They all scorn the child I refused to see.

 

Now too great the burden’s intensity,

A suffocating pack and no hands free,

Foundation’s cracked, there is no more going;

Deep within a child cries desperately.

 

In this storm of clear and urgent necessity,

Heed those mocking faces – growth requires honesty –

King’s garments stripped as the tempest continues blowing;

I, reborn and naked before you, stand awkwardly.