I thought that maybe it would help me to look at a picture of my ancestors each morning before starting my day. That it would help with the dull anxiety that comes with trying to figure out the roadways of this modern life. The current-cy that opened up and engulfed the planet. A flower that opened and bloomed an angry pollen onto us. Looking into the sepia eyes of my ancestors, the polaroid smiles, the itchy clothes, the dirt under their shoes. It does me some good to see evidence of life lived as a grinding away of tangible minutes. The things in front of them were all that needed to be seen.
Behind the photographer a town so small against the world and yet so fierce in its momentum within itself. An old town built like a film set – an old theater and a drug store soda fountain that in 2017 hasn’t changed much since the 50s. The Sunday church bell rings as I stand outside my great grandmother’s old home. A beat up Honda in the front lawn, some bags of trash on the porch and only supposition behind tattered mini-blinds.
The Catholic graveyard in the corner of town is wrapped tightly by run down houses. A square field, time being marked by the names of the dead. Last names – flagships of each small plot. The faces of headstones stare up and out into the sky. They no longer care about the changing world. They live encapsulated in history.
I try to halt momentum by looking at a blotched and fading photo of someone who once lived in that little town. Able now to live again, but only within the wind, the shadows, the falling leaves. I look at that picture and it’s all I need. It is a tangible minute handed to me across decades by someone unknowingly posing for a photograph.
We’re always hearing that the end is near. We wait like penguins and nothing happens. When I was about eighteen it was predicted that Jesus was to appear at a certain time on a certain dead channel on all television sets. Me and my friends ran to the electronics section of a department store and stood in front of white static, waiting and laughing at the absurdity of it. If someone had asked us what we believed, we’d have said blindly, that we were atheists. At any rate, Jesus never appeared on T.V. that night.
I always assumed too much when it came to faith. Loose facts about the blood and triumph of Christianity. Vague glimpses of history to recite and base a belief system on. So much points to a lack of fortitude, principle unwound and scattered on my bottom shelf, upper-middle-class childhood bedroom floor. A generalized thought formation spun out of an American suburb – the antennas calling us home for dinner. As a kid, I threw belief at anything that made me feel outside the bubble of my small city.
Growing up out of that environment, I started to wish that the world would end and that everything would get washed clean, including perspective. I recently saw a quote by the writer Haruki Murakami. He said, “Everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.” This may be true today. Is that the way it’s always been?
I have trouble with atheism for the same reason I have trouble not believing in ghosts or aliens.
I’m tired of hearing that the end is near. The vision toward the end is sightless. The end is never there. There is never anywhere.
Sometimes our friends commodify themselves. They become, like defective products that must be returned, disappointments threaded into the fabric of our dutiful lives. This shouldn’t be the case, but this is far from Utopia and we are, more each year, becoming the lame, black sheep of the universe. Our relationships now glide over the surface of things, as superficial as reality T.V. Even human emotion and compassion has been commercialized.
It wasn’t this way when we were younger, no doubt. The idealism of our youth bound us to each other and preserved a sense of loyalty that has disintegrated with age. We became, more and more, figures that must fit into the plaster casts of what we think we’re supposed to be. No more time for depth. Certainly no time for sober, afternoon contemplation with one another. No time for the true idea of friendship.
The internal, slow panic that comes with the aging process has tricked us into living with less meaning and making false meaning out of simple pleasures. The angles we believe we’ve achieved are fleeting moments of half thought – stillborn ideas. They pay us no mind.
When the child returns, we’ll be too old to enjoy each other like we once did. Friends will have expired or will have gone on to other reaches. Maybe one will show up one day to enjoy the afternoon light and talk with truth about the simplest things.
All the worms light up in the mind. All the things that could potentially keep a person awake rise in the night and start working rhythmically in uniform operation with each other. The drip coming from the bathroom. Another drip coming from the ceiling and creaks in the walls that feel like the falling sky of every day. The building blocks of expected (standard) life are being held together by the silly putty of the mind.
It’s better to live out-from-under all these worms. See a system that breaks you down and get out from under it and into the slightly insane forefront of atypical living. We have to use insanity to our benefit, it being such a blunt foundation for modern living. The sick meditation of thought at the end of the day, your partner beside you asleep and their breathing – another of the worms lit up hot and betraying. Get out from under the blankets holding us down.
I’ve seen myself a victim of the drowning middle class, choking on fast food burgers and piss-smelling waiting rooms. Remember those multicolored ball pits we used to play in as children? Those balls are coming into my living room and only my head’s above the surface now. The balls of America. But they don’t ever cover me up completely, don’t ever finally end it for me. I can still hear the drip coming from the bathroom and the foundation shaking under my feet. I can still see the outside coming in to get me – and the new air we breathe has been manufactured and was not here when the dinosaurs woke rested.
Why do words pop into our heads unprovoked? As I lay by the pool on a dark Fourth of July, “troglodyte,” for no reason, shot into my mind with a mountain of depth and seemingly personal historic meaning behind it. I had heard the word many times in the past and had most definitely, though temporarily, known it’s meaning at one time. But now, as little insects and faunal debris skimmed across the top of the pool surface, I couldn’t reckon it’s definition. But there was something behind the word that made its way through my mind over and over as I stared up at the sky, a warrior of the wasted day.
I felt as though the meaning, whatever it was, was being held up by countless generations of struggling humanity. That’s a strange thing to feel for no reason. There was a beast below the surface of the word and as I lay by the pool, my whole attitude, my whole perception of the day, changed. My footsteps were now troglodyte. My breath was troglodyte. The way I spoke was troglodyte. I had to accept this and I was more than willing.
Inside, I found my phone and looked up the word. Reading the several definitions was pleasing as I confirmed to myself that I had once known at least one. Beyond that, the definition was a confirmation of the feeling that had arrived with the word. The prehistory of everything before had skirted in on the breath of that word sent to me by some man lost in time. An un-speaking man. A man who’s existence I can only suppose. I was now troglodyte. And now I could start to live.
There is a chaos that lives inside me. I don’t know how it got there, but when I turn my back to you in bed, it’s not because I feel a disconnect in my affection for you. It’s because the dark chaos has compelled me to turn away from everything and be with it, serve it with my feeble will and dying hope. It likes to draw me back to the confusion of being. It likes to show me that I am an insect with a high regard for life.
Last night I felt it pulling at my heart. Not the heart of emotion and glory and love and pain, but the heart of the artery, the rhythmic thing inside my ribcage. That lump of muscle – gold under flesh. The dark chaos was saying things to me that must go unspoken. It was working as a doctor would work. It was hiding important things from me. It knew more about my body and breathing life than I ever could without the use of Buddhism or deep trance mastery.
We envision ourselves changed after the larger milestones in life are reached. We see what we want to become and say that once we achieve the important things (the married life, the procreation, the career) that we will have reached the new development of self. That we will live a new life as a different person.
What the chaos was showing me as it tugged on my leash was that fundamentally, I’ll never change. There will always be a private room where I bounce off the walls alone and stare out the window at the ever rotating world. And that everyone has a room of their own, some quiet in design and peacefully containing, others rabid and free with anxiety.
Last night I dreamt the shadows of what I had seen online the day before. Nothing interesting, just the residue of the internet, the images behind a thin veil, set as dreams. The repetition of content, too much for one mind. Too much for the billions of minds. I woke up indifferent and unknowing of the day or time. Our world is so timed it’s becoming hauntingly timeless. We are below time’s gaze.
I wonder if children today dream in digital life. I was born before the pounding repetition set in on this world and I remember the color of summer in my nose. The enlightening neighborhood around me, a piece of some human nature I couldn’t quite describe. And then inside my family home, the sun through the glass, the sound of distant phones ringing on walls and a lonely television somewhere.
We say, this is just a part of getting older. We say, this is what happens to every generation. We don’t understand the changes set in reverse on the youth of our time. They are coming too fast, like the daily world news shot at us from every direction. The film strip of our dreams is thickening. The plot is far away.
I seem to cloak everything in code. The meaning is always underneath what is actually showing. I only indicate signals, and I’m the only person who understands the code. So essentially, I’m always writing to myself. I am my own audience. I seem to be ostracizing the rest of world.
This is all an attempt to ward off the ever-imposing inevitability that I have nothing to write about by treating the act of writing like doing reps of push-ups. I’ve made this reference before. In a poem I think. Writing in this manner is easy because the story of nothing is ever-playing in my mind. It takes no algebra, no crafting of plot, no decisions with regard to aesthetic or originality. These headaches can remain neglected.
It’s easier to speak in code to oneself, to try then to decode in order to better understand the mutation that begins at birth and entraps the soul at adulthood. What if we could fully understand the purity of every impure thought?
– Make codes out of speech. Make the language of your mind turn ever inward and your thoughts windmill inside yourself.
I thought to myself, after getting home from another shift, after driving the same route home over the isolated graveyard streets, I thought to myself, why is the the world so sick? Such a vast and yet common thing to think. An idea so thought upon by history. Why is the world so sick? And I knew it was the human race that had to be responsible. There’s no other way.
So then I thought, why is the human race so sick? And that seemed better. And the world is taxed with the sickness of us and must be the backdrop (the beauty of its physiology), for illness to play out. And then I thought, what do we do about it? And came to nothing other than writing it down. And that has done nothing but turn the pages into a backdrop. The trees that the pages were made from. The plastic of the pen, of the billions of pens. The factory smoke of pens. The background of exploitation in factories. The electric light that lets me see my way over the lines, across the rummaging of thought.
And then back to the gas used to shuttle me across the dead night streets. And back to my own exploitation. My engine always being run so a business can run. The darkness it brings to light. But I sit here now in embrace of hatred. My questions have no answers, only the acknowledgement of the rising sun now just hours away.
I make fun of myself for fictional things. The other day, I was laughing at the idea of keeping a dream journal or a work journal. I was telling a co-worker after being asked how my shift went, that I was going home to write about it in my work journal. In my head, it had been a long and arduous shift. I laughed at my response as I waited at a red light listening to Tejano music on the radio.
I’ve begun to gauge my successes based on make-believe situations. In my mind, I’m frequently being interviewed about things I only hope to accomplish but in reality, never start. “Tell us how you came up with the idea. Explain your process.” The photographic negative of myself is very prolific. It taunts my textural self from the shadowed dimension just out of reach. That dimension is the measure of hope or longing or disgrace or a million versions of suicide considered.
Though the finite moments experienced by us stack up like a skyscraper, the things that will never happen define the upper atmosphere of modern life. This seems to be the diseased condition of my mind. I’m seeing a universe of moments only in my head. They will never enter the textural world. I’m threading the needle of a running illusion. This function of my imagination seems flawed and malevolent.
I’ve begun to focus only on simple tasks and the base execution of them. I do push-ups and sit-ups in order to feel a vague physical relationship with my cells and blood-rush. Order is now a path to reason and the eternal evidence of reality. It holds my photographic negative self at bay and lets me live out this temporary permanence.