From an old posting, life.
Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Tell me a story and make it quick. I cannot hang on much longer. Tell me a story to lift me away, to make wings of my leaden limbs, and to make, of my stinging tears, a single trembling summer star. Oh give me, please, a sentinel of love; a guide for this poor heart to find its home, a light to lead the lover out of hate and call the tender out from hiding behind the rocks and thorns. Under such a star—on a beach, perhaps, or even just outside a rowdy bar—lightly touch my lips again, as you once did, with a given kiss, not stolen, and this time I will not run away. Let me finally see the joy for which I came so far.

life

Maybe it is time to review this beast.
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

I used to use a calendar.  Now I use an N900.

As part of the excitement of getting the N900, way back in February 2010, I discovered that Ovi.com had a very cool online calendar feature; or maybe I discovered that in May, after I resumed using my beloved E71, rebounding from the initial heartbreak of the N900.  In any case, on returning to the N900–the un-recovered abuse victim inevitably returns to the abuser–I discovered that Ovi.com does not sync with the N900.  !  Well, nevermind, thought I, we will make do.  Except then there is this other issue with the so-called complex recurring entries in the calendar.  Don’t look here for detail on how to remedy that issue.  Come here only to abandon hope. 

In a nutshell, let’s say someone wants to enter all their regular work shifts as recurring entries, but then wants to change one–only one–of those future entries, for a day off let’s say.  Not on the N900.  Can’t be done.  Recurring entries can only exist on the N900 if they are all identical.  Welcome to my nightmare.  And if you want something as exotic as editing each day as it passes to keep a record of events (like, to record the actual hours that you worked?) give up.  There are alternatives; for example you could enter everything individually.  One.  By.  One.  But the best workaround I found was just going back to my E71. 

The failure of the calendar on the N900 is so dismal–it wouldn’t even pass muster as a programming project for school–that it overshadows some of the device’s other failures.  No MMS (except via the hack of fMMS, which does work, I guess, but only after tons of tweaking and arcane configuration, and even then never works in an integrated way with the phone).  Or spluttering MfE (Mail for Exchange) performance.  I got it to work.  A couple times.  And only for calendar synchronization.  And when MfE did work, it wasn’t of much use.  I’m not sure if this is because a synchronized crippled calendar, is still a crippled calendar, or because MfE sync with Google is unreliable; apparently Google chooses to work poorly with Open Source products.  (Unless they are Open Source in name only, like Android.)  😉

The camera is good.  The camera software is not.  This may change with the now-extant PR1.3 upgrade, but that appears unlikely from early reports from those who have succeeded in upgrading–I can’t upgrade right now, but we’ll get to that.  The hardware for the camera, and for the whole phone for that matter, is really very good.  The software chooses to focus using the entire frame, which is good for some types of pictures, but not for all, and makes it almost unusable for macros (for which the phone has a specific setting).  For macros the software should reduce the focus area to the center of the frame only–in fact it should do this for all images, since that would work as well for landscapes as for close-ups, and the N900 team does seem to have a deep aversion for making such things selectable. 

Also, the camera software tries too hard with dark images; it over-amplifies dark pixels, creating low-light images that are very noisy.  This works if you want to record your trip (the drug-induced kind) but only if you see a purple haze when the lights go down.  It doesn’t do rainbows or kaleidoscopes.  Only purple haze. 

One other small complaint with the camera software.  When a picture is taken, the phone allows you to share it right from the camera app.  Unless you close the lens cover.  And when I want to share a picture, I stop treating the phone like a camera (taking care not to smudge–or heaven forbid! scratch–the lens) and I start treating the phone like a keyboard, since I am going to type some things about the photo I want to share.  Holding the phone like a keyboard, but not touching the camera lens, are mutually unlikely, if not exclusive.  So when I start to type, I close the lens cover.  But then the camera app closes, taking with it that intended-to-be-convenient feature of sharing right from the camera app!  Jeesh. 

I keep the E71 close.  One of these days I am going to fling the N900 with great vigor against a hard surface.  I won’t enjoy seeing it in pieces (though that will be interesting).  And I won’t be happy to lose its lovely screen, along with its sometimes-fabulous camera.  But then I can start keeping an accurate calendar again.  One thing the N900 has taught me though; I don’t really need an accurate calendar.  It has also taught me that I don’t really need it or the E71. 

I almost forgot.  I did mention the PR1.3 upgrade.  Which I can’t get. 

One of the things I do really like about the N900 is my ability to interact with it through Linux-based programs, like ssh and sftp.  One thing which unlocked Nokia devices have always been good about is not corralling you into a limited feature set; they have always allowed wide latitude in accessing their devices’ many capabilities, most of those capabilities under-promoted.  Or not promoted at all, like the streaming radio app on the E71.  I don’t think Nokia ever promoted it.  And it was separate from the media player, a detail which made it possible to listen to the local police radio stream, while simultaneously listening to The Doors.  But I digress. 

I often ssh into the N900, which is more preferable than using the onerous Application Manager on the phone.  And, it seems, different at times.  The AppManager will often not tell me of upgrades which are available via “apt-get upgrade”.  And using apt-get tells me more on the command line.  I sometimes need to know the things apt-get tells me because Nokia has chosen with the N900 to keep the most useful apps in the extras-devel repository.  I know all the very cautious reasons for this, and all the horror stories of all the bricks (that from some dire reports seem to be raining down on us) as a result of people recklessly enabling extras-devel.  My point is that Nokia could themselves have developed some of these essential programs instead of leaving them for independent developers to produce, sometimes poorly, and always slowly.  As a result, most of the people pursuing the promise that the N900 holds, will inevitably enable the extras-devel (and the -testing) repositories. 

This has had a side effect, at least in my experience.  AppManager knew nothing of yesterday’s PR1.3 release, and still knows nothing of it today.  Apt-get however told a very different story, and led me along a very different path, the painful details of which I will omit here.  I discovered that apt-get will fail to do a dist-upgrade on my phone with the extras-devel repository enabled.  It will not fail if extras-devel is disabled.  But there is no upgrade available right now on my phone via apt-get dist-upgrade!  What is interesting, however, is that yesterday, when everyone else was “upgrading flawlessly”, my phone did a HUGE regular upgrade (a plain “apt-get upgrade” not “dist-upgrade”), and by huge I mean close to if not over a thousand packages upgraded.  As far as I can tell, my phone now has all of the meager improvements that PR1.3 offers, yet my “About Product” applet in Settings manager still says, “version 10.2010.19-1.002,” which is the PR1.2 version. 

But this is all speculation.  For all I know, if I ever get it, the PR1.3 upgrade may make of my N900 the perfect companion for which I have always pined.  Ha!  I just can’t get the upgrade because I made the phone do (by enabling extras-devel and -testing) what they promised it would do when I bought it.  😐

So that is my story with the N900.  I love it and I hate it.  I am not sure I even want to be bothered with tracking down why it won’t “oficially” upgrade.  That is just another example of the tedious arabesque odysseys this phone forces me to take all the time.  I do so miss the completeness of the non-touch Symbian operating system.  The N900 was the best thing that ever happened to my E71. 

But I do like the camera.  Kinda.  I’m going to go take some drugs now. 

gently
Friday, October 8th, 2010

I let a moth go. I noticed it last night, fluttering around the light over the oven, dancing and flitting above the little billows of steam as I boiled spaghetti.

When I was a little kid, with baby-soft skin and invincible curiosity, I concluded that the large brown moth was the gentlest creature on earth, perfectly benign, soft, and–as far as a little boy could tell–kind. She never bit or stung, and she never seemed afraid of me. But I learned that she was terribly vulnerable, sometimes tragically so; the moth’s tiny soul is often incompatible with human bone and muscle. Sometimes even a child’s gentle touch can be too much. But her delicate steps across my little hand always felt like love.

I have a friend whose ex-wife was near death two days ago. She may already be dead as I write this. My friend has loved his ex-wife dearly since they were married thirty-five years ago, and all through the twenty years they raised their only son together his love for her grew, but her love for him did not. Or maybe her love for him did grow, and maybe she felt more vulnerable than she could bear. My friend’s ex-wife hasn’t let him near her in years.

And now she is vulnerable again. They told her after she was admitted to the hospital last week that she would not be going home. She still will not let my friend see her.

I saw the moth when I went to bed last night. It startled me, but it was asleep–if that is what moths do. It was dormant, and clinging to the tile in the corner of the kitchen. The decorations on its wings looked like two tiny brown eyes, watching me. I thought, I may never see it again. It may die, and dry up, and next time I clean–three months from now–it may be swept away, unnoticed.

But she greeted me this morning, fluttering in the light as I retrieved the whistling teapot. I reached; she landed on my hand. But she would not be held. I caught her between my hand and a giant plastic cup, and as she bounced around trying to find the space between my fingers, I dashed to the bathroom window. I raised the blinds with one hand, and tried to raise the sash without losing her. But I dropped the cup and she landed on the window sill. I raised the sash and the two storm windows as quickly as I could while she fluttered–either joyful, or terrified–in the warm sunlight. She stayed with me for a moment, flitting and fluttering as we felt the warmer-than-usual September air come in through the window. I think she was happy. She flew around the edge of the window opening and, gently, she was gone.

Well, anyway
Monday, October 4th, 2010

The rope is a nice diversion.  Anything is, really.  Usually it is the computer, and its multifarious machinations, that provide me with diversion.  Check e-mail.  What’s up on twitter? Check the bank balance.  And PayPal, too.  Search for a Chrome browser extension to enable auto-filling of password fields; I just switched from Firefox to Chrome and am still annoyed by some of their differences.  How about a bookmark extension? And I am almost out of disk space, so I need to find a way to re-compress a bunch of .avi files.  As cheap as hard drives are, I can’t afford to buy ice cream, much less a two-terabyte hard drive.  And flickr, it has about 22 million diversions per minute, I have to check there. 

And when all that is not enough (which has been the case for about two weeks) then only the rope suffices. 

Its image, its texture, its scent, its feel…  I roll in it, caress it, breathe it into myself, rub and embrace it, taste it.  Figuratively, of course.  I never actually touch the rope when I am so focussed on what it represents.  To do so would be to repudiate it when I eventually have to put it away.  Unless, of course, I use it.  And I don’t want to do either.  It is my catnip; certainly not an addiction, but definitely an irresistible diversion from time to time. 

I remember a lot the activities of a more youthful body; an inevitable symptom of age.  I don’t dwell on them.  Well, I do dwell on them occasionally, but for the most part I just observe.  Sometimes I fear that something absolute has been lost, that I am only now realizing that at some moment long ago the root of joy was irrevocably severed from my life.  But really I know; many other things have been cut off, but not that.  I have always substituted something in the place of joy of course–sex, athleticism, camping, skiing, mountain-biking, shopping–because joy is too imperative, it brings with it all the rest of reality.  And reality can only be controlled by exclusion.  And control, for some reason, is the be-all and end-all of my existence.  Who the fuck taught me that?

In the end, we are buoyed on a sea of joy.  It rolls and rises in dimensions beyond our senses.  The properties of that sea are not like those of any sea we have ever known.  Nothing sinks.  Nothing drowns.  Even if drowning in a familiar sea, we are yet uplifted by that greater sea, supported and caressed in ways which all comparisons–even this one–fail to apprehend.  And we cannot be divided from it.  It is the fluid of our origins, from which we can never be expelled, as so it seemed at birth.  It is the juice of life, and its gushing abundance lifts and maintains your life even as you read this word. 

In such a sea, can there be anything but “yes”, a universal, absolute, exultant affirmation? Isn’t any artificial self not made mute before this truth, not also false? Whatever we think we are, whatever we think is right or wrong, and no matter what else there may be within our limited consciousnesses, the source and the solution, the final link connecting all the loops and diversions back to the beginning is this thing that cannot be named, is not known to us, and can only be roughly perceived by us as joy.  And contained within such a “yes”, can there exist a “no”? Can any part of the universal whole exclude itself, and thereby make the whole now incomplete?

Such a “no” is like a boulder stuck in a swiftly moving mountain stream, it cannot impede its flow, but only creates a slight diversion and a brief turbulence which is quickly forgiven by the sparkling flow.  And if this metaphor were perfect, the stream would eventually cease to be water, and the boulder would eventually cease to be stone, and they would both become the wholeness that includes all streams and boulders, includes all seas and all sand, and includes all “no’s”. 

I hope this didn’t make any sense at all.  And now I am hungry.  Bye.

Seize me
Friday, September 10th, 2010

I am, as I write this, in the process of ‘aborting a seizure’ as my neurologist calls it. You are joining us in the middle of the process. To recap, I woke with an unidentifiable restlessness. After drifting around the margin of sleep for a while, hoping to recover a dream state that was not broken. Dreams in this pre-seizure state (named that because it always has led to a seizure without the intervention of ativan), those dreams do not float effortlessly and insightfully through the landscape of dreams, but tend to move erratically and crash into and drag against the thoughts and memories that hang like spectators around the walls of the dream space, they catch on these things and get stuck. They can’t progress. The underlying dysfunction is causing a persistent anxiety that won’t pass away into resumed sleep. The dream state is unable to function, clogged and congested with snagged and crashed dreams that litter the dreamway.

Caused by the same underlying dysfunction that messed up the dreams, are the physiologic manifestations producing an imperitive to void both the bowels and the stomach. The insistence and urgency of this physiological response modulates in direct match to the degree of underlying CNS disfunction. On rare occasions the shit and vomit came totally involuntarily and instantly in whatever situation I found myself; usually in bed.

That did not happen this time. Not in Bed.

Back to recapping todays events, when it became clear that today’s mild episode was was escalating, I took 4 0.5mg of Ativan sublingual. This constituted throwing a wet blanket on those clearly misbehaving elements in my brain. This agitated the misbehaving ones even more. Eventually, the underlying seizure activity increased rather than decreased–focal seizures I think they are called-. As they seemed likely to break through that first wet blanker, I placed another wet blanket of 4 Ativan 0.5mg on top, which left them mostly grumbling but resigned for now. And am close to nodding off uncontrolably, and the connection to my motor controls is no longer broadband speed, but now is more like a 14.4 dialup

This is probably the point at which the abortive attempt is complete. I am getting groggy, have difficulty typing the right letters, and am basically no more useful than if I’d actually had a seizure, except I didn’t lose consciousness, didn’t void uncontrollably from either end, And didn’t dislocate my left shoulder (which it wants to do whenever I seize). Not to menmtion all the muscles, and I mean ALL the muscles that each would have been strained beyond its limits, leaving large amounts of adenosine triphosphate loaded in the muscle tissue, causing pain for days, some damage to the tissue, and oddly enough, also causing new muscle growth.

Now safe from a seizure, but semiconscious, I will retire to the bed. And the dreams are finding their way unencumbered once again.

I tried.

The Limitless
Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Being enlightened is a heavy burden, you know.  I mean, everybody wants to know, and the instant you start to say something enlightened, all the attention swings over toward you.  Like a million watts (or so it seems) of spotlighting focuses on your ‘shy’ little ego and, loving attention, your ego barges into the spotlight all loud and obnoxious.  In a breath, the enlightenment is swept away. 

And then it is gone. 

It is gone so fast that even you do not know for sure that you ‘had it’.  It is only through permanent isolation that you ever get an inkling that you are, in fact, enlightened.  This may be why ascetic monks were so ascetic.  It kept others away.  It maintained isolation, denying attention to the voraciously attention-seeking ego.  But that just made them unhappy.  Worse, it defeated the purpose; the ego became the center of dark instead of bright attention.  The ego was still the center. 

So enlightenment becomes not a state of joy, but the opressively stuffy and overbearing presence of the ego, penetrated only by rare and faint breaths of joy, just to remind you that the air is nice—somewhere else. 

It happens at parties.  You feel a need to go off alone with your drink, onto a porch or patio away from the crowd.  The stars.  The lesser noise.  Something stirs, rises.  It begins to awaken, recovering from its deep sleep.  It is still, watching.  Present. 

And then someone joins you.  People do this almost instinctively.  They see one separating from the group, wandering off alone, and something in them detects the possibility of enlightenment emerging from its ego-imposed opression.  They are drawn to this in their soul.  But also, their own egos seek to dominate that emerging enlightenment.  Enlightenment anywhere is a threat to the ego everywhere. 

I do not know what may happen next.  I only know what has always happened everytime I have been there.  The ego reasserts itself, and reality—as we know it, through our egos—resumes its disinterested opression of the limitless.  Sometimes, if alcohol is being consumed for example, it takes the ego a few moments to regain control.  From the interim some evidences may be remembered of what else there might be beyond what the ego allows.  Finally, enlightenment is reinterred, stomped firmly down by the obnoxious ego, until some other random opportunity comes for it to emerge. 

But this I know; the limitless waits.  Eternally opressed and abused, it holds no grudges.  It asserts itself never.  It waits to be called, and it never fails to respond.  That call is going out always, from somewhere deep inside, where the ego cannot go.  The limitless is, really, all there is. 

The heart in the camera
Monday, August 16th, 2010

I live on exactly every single cent that I make.  No wiggle room, no Certificates of Deposit, not even enough savings to pay for dinner at a fine restaurant. 

So it is perhaps symptomatic of something ominous that I just paid for an item on ebay an amount equal to dinner at a fine restaurant, for two, plus the cost of many drinks of really good Irish Whiskey, for two.  Plus the cost of a several snifters of B&B. 

I could so use a drink right now. 

Explaining how I reached this consumer climax would probably be just as dull as describing the climax itself, which is, like too many climaxes, turning out to be somewhat less than the foreplay had promised.  To be sure, some climaxes in my personal ancient history—like from the late 80’s—exceeded expectations, astoundingly so.  Those events…  or rather that one event, if I am to be honest, since only one comes to mind at the moment, came unbidden, had not been hoped for nor anticipated.  I had never for a moment suspected such ecstasy could come to me, or through me. 

So far this climax is not like that one. 

I pretend to be a photographer, much like I pretend to be a writer, though I do not even do the pretending very well.  Thus, I have acquired a number of cameras in the past, much like my acquisition of the paraphernalia of the writer; notebooks, then typewriters, and eventually word processors back when a word processor was actually a discreet physical object rather than merely expensive software on a disc.  Come to think of it now, that first word processor was about the same time as that unanticipated climax, too. 

Well anyway, in my fascination with photographs, I stumbled upon, and then viewed every single image in Sergei Chaparin’s photostream.  I was specifically impressed with this photo.  Considered in the context of Sergei’s huge photographic collection, that photo embodies some things from which I have both always fled, and always missed.  Affection.  Family.  A shared and remembered history.  It appears to me that what is behind his camera is profoundly kind and generous.  And that sparked something in the dry tinder of my desolation. 

As I have always done throughout my life when confronted with the nebulous world of soul and emotion, I focused instead on the gadgets.  As a little kid, I had a fascination, and an aptitude, for all things machinelike.  Gadgets are the manifestations of the ingenuity, the creativity, and even of the love that human beings have within themselves.  And as humans have always been confounding for me to relate to, the gadgets they made were for me the next best thing.  That camera in Sergei’s picture is, I think, a Rolleiflex 2.8f K7F (Type 1).  A gorgeous example of human ingenuity and craftsmanship.  That Rolleiflex was perfectly irresistible for me in the middle of that photograph which reminded me of something I could have become a long, long time ago; a humane and emotionally rich person.  Something which I now fear I may never become. 

The Rolleiflex is a Twin Lens Reflex camera.  I once had a TLR, though a cheap one by Kodak, when I was young and still not so far removed from life as I am now.  Sergei’s Rolleiflex reminded me of that younger me, and that time.  He is gone, and that time has passed.  But I didn’t try to find out where he went, nor did I try to undo the deceptions and evasions that he wrought during forty years of flight from his own humanity, a humanity similar to the one I longingly recognized in Sergei’s photography.  Instead I focused on something else—the camera. 

Trying to find an example on the Internet of an old Kodak camera shouldn’t be too difficult, I thought.  And until today, I could not find an example of the camera that I had in the late 1960’s.  I didn’t know it’s name; I wasn’t even sure it was a Kodak.  I needed a picture of it, and though Google was some help, revealing Kodak cameras which looked very similar to the one I had, I needed more.  The sentiment attached was very strong, so I was driven toward the only rescue available to me when inundated by emotions—obsession with the gadget involved.  Google had led me to ebay, and some images there of cameras.  I looked up examples similar to Sergei’s Rolleiflex.  Nice.  Expensive.  But the way of ebay, especially for me, is like a casino for a gambling addict.  Soon I had forgotten the little Kodak and all the associated bittersweet memories of my past failures to connect emotionally with life, and instead I was researching every type of old film camera.  TLR’s initially; Yashica-Mat 124G’s, Mamiya C330’s, all medium format cameras, yielding a 6×6 cm negative.  As a slave to my addiction, and to fear, I bid on a couple, losing in the last seconds of each auction. 

A Bronica S2A

Impulse buying of anything that is more than thirty years old seems supremely ludicrous.  So, of course, it is extremely active on ebay.  By this time, the photo of Sergei and his brother represented to me not the hope of something longed for, but the disappointment of something I would never have.  And when hope for what is human is lost, the gadget becomes all. 

After closely watching the climaxes of dozens of auctions, and researching other more ‘interesting’ classic cameras, I finally bit, and bit hard.  I don’t know if it is gauche to reveal bidding strategies, but the amount I bid was more than twice the amount I paid for the camera which I finally won.  On ebay one sets a maximum bid, which is not usually the amount you pay.  Even though I bid over $300.00, the amount I paid was just a small increment over the next highest bidder, in this case $155.00.  The camera I got may or may not be worth what I paid, much less what I bid.  But at that moment, the diversion provided from reality was worth every cent I paid and every cent I bid, and then some. 

This is elementary for those who are selling, but a revelation for those of us who buy; people will buy anything, and the reasons have nothing to do with the item on sale, in this case a camera.  Purchasing the gadget is an excuse, the real objective is escape. 

I wasn’t participating in life, when I was 12, with my Kodak Brownie Starflex.  I was desperately trying to stop all those gorgeous, glorious, love-filled, light-filled moments from slipping irretrievably past.  In the Summers and the Winters and the Springs and the Falls of my youth, at the birthday celebrations of family members and friends, at Thanksgivings and Christmases and vacations and Boy Scout camp, I took hundreds of photographs.  And now they are all lost just like that elusive is-ness of being present within every moment, an intangible which I lamely sought to photograph instead of feel. 

The lens is an implacable eye, it tells us nothing.  Through it we see, if at all, darkly.  And through it we capture not a moment from the past, but rather, we capture something from somewhere else.  If we are really good, and really present in the moment and fully conscious, we might retrieve something invisible from the future and hold it hidden within the film, encoded within the visible image, decipherable only by that encounter toward which it was bound, where it was always meant to go, and there to touch a single human heart. 

What’s new
Friday, July 30th, 2010

Nothing. 

The imperative is to say ‘yes’ to life.  Accept now.  Embrace the present, whole heartedly, loving the precise quality of what is. 

Why do I do this?  Why am I stuck on this tune?  It is grating to my ego, torture to the little self that creates the artificial fantasy in which I exist.  He would much rather contemplate suicide, imagine some future of escape, wallow in the suggestion of perplexity that such an ‘untimely’ end might create among those around me.  Or, somewhat less drastically, he would love to get enmeshed in the depression he creates, the endless wailing, the never ending swell and fall of dread and despair that my journal has so tediously documented.  And it implies the end of this; no more familiar cyclical moodiness, the end of the illusion in which I have invested my whole life up to this point.  The end of him. 

Can I surrender all that?  Am I capable of that much surrender?  Can I endure the removal of the ‘core’ of me, the substance I have become?  Can I relinquish this fond little mottled clay sculpture to which I have been adding bit after bit for over fifty years, in the hopes of finally, one day, becoming something? 

Walk into the wilderness.  Leave the roads and paths behind.  Veer away, flee the light pollution, head into the night, find stars. 

I ask myself, “You want a revolution?  Want to change the world?”  I accuse myself, “You just want to talk about it.  Full of shit.” 

Well, I think, at least half of that’s OK; full is good.  Shit is not so good. 

“You wear your cowardice like a badge, you wallow in your cream and sugar existence like that is all there is.  And if you say so, then it will be.  But you know that is not what you really want.  There is an un-discardable kernel in you, and no matter how much you coat it thickly, pave it over, bury it under distraction—it can still be heard; you feel it.  It feels you.” 

“It is you.” 

Hm.  So, to survive, to go on as-is, denial is the only option.  And it has been denial all the way up until now.  A masquerade of living.  I have been pretending to be alive.  It doesn’t matter why, really, but it is probably because it all just scares me so much.  And it all waits for me.  And I either face it now, or at the end. 

But if I know all this, if I am aware of the denial, it cannot remain denial.  It becomes a willful lie. 

<Sigh>

It sucks to be me right now.  Either that, or it is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. 

January 29, 2003
Monday, July 26th, 2010

Been rummaging in the archives again.  Shoot me. 

war

I am depressed.  The fresh-face and bright-eyes of youth have given way to hairy ears and bad skin.  My faith and optimism from another time is now dark doubt and cynicism.  I may have chosen incrementally to make it so, but I don’t like it.  The beautiful earth is more paved and more poisoned than when I came.  The vale and stream, mountain and forest where once I met the Spirit is inaccessible to me now.  The trees and rocks are still there.  The clear, cold streams still flow and the air, on good days, is still fresh and pure.  But the things I have learned in life have left me inconsolable even in the presence of the Spirit, even in the gentlest, most tender hollows of Spiritplace.

I am a lover.  As my beloved physical life deteriorates, soon to hang in ragged shreds, it thus reveals an invisible structure that never decays, which has always supported all that lives.  There is a memory of the pure, unsullied flesh, but everything tells me to let it go, that it is not the true object of my desire for it will one day be gone.  I love eternally, therefore the object of my love, once found, will be outside of time.  It will remain after these rocks and stones have ceased their song.  It will remain when this dear earth and all its blue beauty exists no more.

And so not only can I tolerate, but I can participate in all the follies that life presents, both those caused by me as well as those inflicted by others upon me, for they cannot obstruct my contact to what really matters.  There are no obstacles, only distractions.  I need to write this down, for in the face of the horrors in which I participate today, I need the reassurrance of these words. 

And the comments from that post.  (There once were comments!)

Bad day
Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Is this depression?  I do not think it meets the clinical criteria for Major Depression, and besides, I am fairly suspicious of the validity of those criteria anyway.  I get up, move, approach things I hate (workplace), evade oncoming traffic when crossing the street, maintain vegetative functions, and resume an unsatisfying sleep without too much difficulty, nor a whole lot of drugs, either.

I suspect there may be some who feel now an urge to educate me about what depression is, and how it can manifest.  Thanks.  I appreciate your concern.  But (and I think this may be included in the aforementioned criteria), I don’t care.

Can I just be alone?  That is not really an option, you know.  Yeah, sure, there are in this and other cultures examples of the hermit, the solitary meditant, the mystic.  But drawing back from the ideal for a moment, and landing squarely in the middle of a dirty kitchen floor, with laundry to be done, a broken bike to fix and bills to pay, then such romantic vapors dissipate quite completely.

And being alone is not really what I want anyway; I just do not want to sacrifice conscious awareness of that which cannot be known, and I do not want to sever connection with that which cannot be found, both of which are prerequisite conditions for almost every ego-based interpersonal transaction.  And discounting and discarding such prerequisites tends to make others view one as ‘weird’ or in extreme cases, even as insane.  We relate as egos, it is required by friends, lovers, family members.  “Get in costume will you!  Stop being so lazy!  Stop being such a dolt!”

What are you, nuts?

It’s phony.  And we know it.  But we just shrug as if it doesn’t matter, and move on.    Maybe we think it is the best we can do.  And maybe it is.  That is truly tragic.  What I am and what you are is infinitely more than that psychological entity we call ego.  In reducing ourselves to that level as a prerequisite for relating, we lose almost everything.  Losses of that magnitude might well result in something that might qualify, according to our crass metrics, as depression.

So, it’s a bad day.  I am stuck between two untenables.  I don’t want to engage in the artificial pretense, don the mask, and play the game that costs so much—too much for me.  But I am also too afraid to disarm completely, drop the shields, the masks, and once and for all discard the ego.  A good day is when I play the game and everybody buys it, and I don’t care how much it costs; that is a ‘good’ day.  A bad day is when I know the truth, know how much it costs, and know how impenetrably terrified I am.

Today was a bad day.

Closer to nothing
Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

I started to write something here.  I’m way over due.  But whenever I come back to this blog, I re-read so much, that days pass before I press a key on my keyboard, and weeks pass before I finish any hesitantly started entries.  In the weeks since I started to write this entry, I’ve read at least a couple books-worth of my own writing in this blog.  I don’t think it is healthy to re-read oneself, just as mind and ego are unhealthy places in which to dwell.  But I never made any of my lovers use a rubber; I don’t do ‘healthy’ well. 

In the endless maze of revisiting ten years of my own mind—from which I have miraculously returned—I found something that said better exactly what I had half-started to write.  It seems I haven’t made much progress in eight years.  I wrote this in September of 2002:

castle keep

I’m afraid of you people.  Don’t you know that?  No.  How could you?  I think I hide it pretty well, and I almost never admit it.  In fact, most of the time I deny it, even when nobody’s asking.  Just by being whole, functioning human beings, you scare me.  And even if you are not whole and functioning, you still look like you are to me, so you still scare me.  If you reveal that you care, that you’ve invested even a pennie’s worth of emotion in me, then you scare me more.  How am I supposed to handle what you’ve given me?  How am I supposed to give you anything back?—or maybe I am not supposed to treat it like an exchange, or am I?  And if you are an authority figure, if you’re a cop, or a boss, or bigger than me, or more scared than me, or as angry as me, then I’m going to start out so terrified that I’m going to have to hate you just to hold myself together. 

And if you never notice the panic that I’m in, and never see the hysteria that I hide inside, and if you treat me like the whole and functioning human being I pretend to be, instead of the trembling, quaking, crumbling, sandcastle that I am, then I’ll try and make you go away.  I can’t disintergrate, I just can’t.  So I’ll try and make you go away, even though I don’t want to, because I don’t know what else to do. 

I’m sorry. 

Where to go now?  One wonders, when tied to the bow of a ship, like a giant tanker moving swiftly through the swelling sea, things like “What direction am I going?” or, “What port will I see next?” or, “Will they inadvertently plow through something floating in the sea, some debris insignificant against the steel hull but terribly significant against my tiny, tender, un-steel-like form, thereby reducing me to a smear of red and pink on the rusted hull?” 

Where to go now? 

More immediately, and with a somewhat less expansive scope, one instead wonders how to escape the overwhelming rush of sea into one’s face.  One wonders how to breathe.  One sees one’s life gurgling by in the tiny little reflective universes that are the bubbles all about as one plunges into and out of and into again the relentless sea.  That is where I find myself now; quite overwhelmed, quite helpless.  Quite afraid. 

A moment ago, I sat upright on the edge of my chair, un-reclined, with back straight, in a proper typing posture for the first time this year.  It was a position I adopted every day when I wrote a journal faithfully, a position my now worn-out chair is all but incapable of maintaining, it has been reclined for so long.  That moment was one of those reflective bubbles of my past life, long lost, passing before my eyes. 

There has been progress, though it chills me to admit it.  My question of a moment ago, “Where to go now?” is just what I imagine the sailor about to be keel-hauled would ask himself right after being pushed off the front of the ship, as he bobs and chokes near the crest of the plunging bow before being dragged under.  I, like he, am closer now to nothing.  Nothing is where I need to go.  I have a book by Ayya Khema, the title of which captures what I am trying to say; Being Nobody, Going Nowhere, Meditations on the Buddhist path.  Presence—consciousness beyond form—is the goal.  And ego appears to be the enemy.  So writing is a poor crutch to help me on my pilgrimage.  Like eating chocolate to lose weight. 

But that is consistent, the incongruity, I mean.  I alternate (when not writing, which is all the time lately) between listening to recordings of Eckhart Tolle, and watching porn.  One encourages me to be conscious, present in the moment, and say, “Yes”. The other is pictures of porn stars saying, “Yes”, discourages consciousness, and facilitates escape from the moment. It seems ludicrous that porn and Tolle are in the same sentence, but characterized as diametrically opposed, which they are, I can’t help but see this conflict—this manic switching from one to the other and back again—as making perfect sense.  One is presence, the other is escape.  One is awareness, the other is unconsciousness.  One offers freedom from form, the other is obsession with form.  And while there are some truly wonderful forms visible in porn, there is a whole lot of really bad porn out there.  I know; I’ve been looking. 

I’ll spare you the pearls that come from the naked boys, and instead share with you the wisdom of Eckhart Tolle:  “The purpose of life is to die before you die.”  Now, relax your definitions a bit, and try to understand.  There is a difference between losing form, which is the death of the body, and letting go of form, which is deliberately releasing our death-grip on that which is physical, and willfully embracing that which is formless, that which is the enemy of the mind.  Letting go of form is conscious death, that is to say, death which is experienced consciously.  The trick is to let go without physically dying. 

Letting go is something your mind does not want you to do.  It wants to stay in control, it wants to keep you subservient.  It is what it is supposed to do; it is mind and that is its nature.  It will make you think you are dying in an effort to make you grasp and cling.  The trick is that when it makes you think you are dying—let go completely.  Quite a trick.  That is dying before you die. 

Anyone who knows me knows I have been saying it most of my life:  “I want to die.”  Maybe I knew of more than I was aware, because physical death was never what I really wanted.  Letting go is what I came here to do.  It will happen when the physical form goes.  Or, if I wake up sooner, it will happen before that.  And whether it happens or not?  It doesn’t matter.  Consciousness is all that matters, and consciousness is indestructible.  If I wake up now, consciousness will be there; if I wake up on my deathbed, consciousness will be there then. 

And if I never wake up at all, consciousness will still be there. 

Here, there, and everywhere.
Monday, September 21st, 2009

I’m getting old. Stop the world I want to get off. Are we there yet? This isn’t fun anymore. Isn’t this show over YET?

I thought I wanted to stay until things really changed, you know, until the end of the Mayan calendar, until Time Wave Zero ends in December 2012, or thereabouts. But that’s just the same old line as always. I want to stay until I (insert way-marker here). Get laid. Am old enough to drink. Get my driver’s license. Meet the love of my life. Lose weight. Do Europe. See the world. Find God. Achieve world peace. It could be anything. And getting there is just as arbitrary as any other moment in life. I don’t think those moments—the ones we conventionally call significant—are necessarily mundane. It could be that all the mundane moments are actually just as magnificent as any one of our best moments.

I could do all those things, and a million more, and where would I be? Here. Sure, ‘here’ might be in a different country, and I might have different things, and be with different people. Maybe I’d even speak another language. But here is where I’d be, nonetheless.

Here is all there is. But, get the rope and suddenly everything becomes an unsustainable loss. Everywhere becomes a ‘here’ which I absolutely must visit before I dangle. And in that moment, ‘here’, the place where the rope is waiting, becomes nowhere, an inverted reality in which ‘here’ is utterly drained of magnificence, and everywhere else—every single other possible existence—becomes unspeakably glorious. Is it this awareness that the suicidal mind lacks?

So, some cheap tears are shed, and some trite trinket is snatched from the bargain bin of insight, and the rope gets put away. But the magnificence that returns to ‘here’ is never as magnificent as it was when it was ‘there’. In that dark limbo, standing on the chair with the rope, all the world, everywhere else but here, every single moment in every spot throughout all the whole fucking universe and beyond, all of it shone like a thousand Suns. And all of it was intricate beyond belief. And beautiful.

There is no ‘here’ in ‘nowhere’. Here is all there is.

Are we there yet?

Toys Over the Crib
Sunday, September 20th, 2009

This is an illusion.

Everything you see and hear are merely toys over the crib, maintained by some not-so-benevolent daddy, assisted by a subservient mommy, and passed off to us as all we need to know. There is an ever widening gap between what people perceive as their influence over their governments and what governments actually do. In fact, people have no influence over their governments, and probably haven’t had for a very long time, and governments have actively (though somewhat covertly) been engaged in acclimating people to the reality that they are completely out of the loop. Once the people accept it, then the governments—or rather the people manipulating the governments—can stop maintaining the facade, which I suspect occupies more of their time and energy than will ultimately be necessary.

This illusion has many layers, none of them real. As an illusion, it disguises itself as an illusion hiding a deeper reality, which is also an illusion. Beyond all of the layers to which we have relatively easy access—many of which we believe are the absolute truth—are threatening dark forms, vanishingly un-graspable, and visible only as a rumored suggestion in our minds. Some of them are real, and some of them are also manufactured illusions.

We are being prepared for the removal of all illusions. This takes some time. To say that beyond the illusions it is not a pretty sight is a childish oversimplification. The revelation of what is hidden will be a dimensional shift, an expansion of those dimensions within which we have always perceived everything. The trauma of that transition will be greater than merely physical. and I suspect that many will not survive. There is nothing which leads me to believe these transitions harbor any compassion whatsoever.

The quality of light
Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

The truth is that I have never been isolated, either from others or from ‘the self.’ The truth may be that my earliest experiences were too intense, too rich, too extreme, and too early in life to ever be repeated. As a reuslt, my life since those early intensities pales in comparison, leaving the impression of disconectedness, muffled sound and muted light.

Standing in the quiet fog…

Me, myself, and saving the world.
Monday, August 31st, 2009

I don’t want a lover. The fact that I do not want a lover makes me angry. And as I review some past would-be lovers—people who threatened me with intimacy in addition to sex—I see that this has always been the case. In the past, I have pursued sex with extremely attractive young men to the exclusion of intimacy. Sex—the pretense of intimacy—took the place of the genuine article. Intimacy? Who needs it? I don’t want a lover.

This state of affairs (no pun intended) does not immunize me against loneliness. Indeed, considering all the risks involved in intimacy, if we could discard loneliness, then we would have no motivation to risk intimacy. Loneliness is a gift. Like hunger. Without hunger, we would starve to death without ever knowing what was wrong. And so it is with loneliness; it drives us to the essential.

We can survive on very little. I learned this when I first abstained from overeating thirty years ago. Then, I achieved a balance between a little hunger and a little food. Hunger, like loneliness, can never be banished. They both are ever-present, as they should be. They are not negative. They are not our enemy. But it is folly to pander to them. Excess is just another means of avoidance. If a child complains to his overwhelmed mother that he is too hot, throwing him overboard into the sea a thousand feet deep is excessive, and constitutes avoidance. On the other hand, finding a shady place on deck for him to rest, and gently mopping his brow with a cool cloth is far less extreme, and far more intimate.

I have discovered that the opposite of intimacy is avoidance. Therefore, like hunger urges me to eat, loneliness urges me to stop avoiding. Now, this idea of pursuing non-avoidance can be as slippery as a peeled grape. For example, confronting strangers in the street would be a type of non-avoidance, but it is, at best, a clumsy way to approach intimacy. Rather like attempting a tooth extraction using a baseball bat.

Long ago, I was told, and recognized intuitively, that a significant part of loneliness is isolation from oneself. If one is fragmented and alienated from oneself, one has no route to the other. This gets very existential-ey and bullshit-ey sounding, but experience bears it out as truth; it is only through the self that we touch another. Likewise, self is the conduit through which others touch us. Therefore, isolation from others, for whatever reason—past trauma, anxiety, fear—is most effectively accomplished by isolation from self. Cut-off the conduit, and I cut off all the perceived threats from others. I am as safe as a bug in a rug. Only I’m lonely.

Now, I can examine you quite closely. I can inhale your scent from the surface of your skin. I can explore the texture of your lips with my own. I can count your eyelashes from an inch away. Focusing on you is easy, but this focal point on the self is making me kind of cross-eyed. I can get close to you, but how do I get close to me?

Robert Ericson, a therapist who conducts a recovery group in Worcester for male survivors of sexual child abuse, says “In order to survive, the child has this sort of vertical splitting in the ego where they compartmentalize and seal off aspects of the self.” This fracturing in the self-structure is probably the most difficult damage to heal, says Ericson, and continues to cripple the survivor decades after the abuse has ended. He lists some problems which typically affect victims, “…a predisposition to all kinds of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, inability to trust, problems in relationships and intimacy, sexual dysfunction…” Victims are not only unable to trust others, he says, but unable to trust themselves – their own judgments and instincts.

That’s from an article I wrote, published fifteen years ago. What I have been doing since then is ignoring what I wrote.

Avoidance is an unrelenting erosion of awareness, like the sea against the shore. Giving in is easy. Fighting that tide is infinitely difficult, but the reward is great. The entire world has been lost to me because my contact to everything, through the self, has been broken. Reuniting with this thing I call ‘the self’ will result in nothing less than saving the entire world.