I forgot the words I wrote today. I can’t recall the topics I kneaded over. It’s not yet midnight and the day feels like a tunnel of content spitting me out like a waterslide. But all gray content, basic beyond belief. I haven’t thought of the world this way since the commercials between daytime television shows.
I before E except after C. Short vowels followed by one consonant. Phonetics boiled down to state mandated curriculum. Is it really true that every syllable of every word must have at least one vowel? Doesn’t that seem like homogenized milk to you? Or Styrofoam? My grade school lunch money is coming back to haunt me.
I heard an interview years ago with the poet Charles Wright. He claimed he didn’t know what iambic pentameter was until his thirties – in so many words. I certainly didn’t blame him at the time. The things we don’t realize about language make up inches of invariable white space between the words – added up.
I machine out web copy every day, just so I can barely pay the bills. I’m nothing but a silent advertiser, an invisible scribe of gross product. Writer of today’s white noise. The little buzz of light what is words.
I was thinking about magnets. The way they pull towards each other and then push away when you turn them over. The physical manifestation of positive and negative. But in a magnet, there is no good or bad like there is in the human world of consequence.
When I wake up and the magnet has turned to the negative, all effort that I have inside is tied up in a duffel bag. This effort, set loose, would be used to make the day a successful attempt at honest life. Instead, all decisions have at least three or four dead solutions. Every attempt at hopeful thought is weighed down by a cancerous residue. There is simply nothing but the object. No basis behind anything. There are only the wrongs of men to account for the way the world looks on these mornings.
One of the hardest aspects of the manic-depressive state is waking from a previous day of mania to find the depressive cloud has returned. Then the quick realization that your hyper-efforts the day before were outside the realm of logic. It’s the close memory of how elated you felt the day before – getting things done – pulling the entire train back on to the track.
What I’ll do is spare a little time for meditation in the evening. To hopefully center the mind and let it remember the middle ground, the place it needs to live. But how hard it is sometimes when all the critters of modern life come scratching across the mind. At times, I remain awake in bed, thinking the faucet drip is the universe being dismantled one inch at a time. And then the realization that it’s only me being dismantled by my own shadow.
Mania is an internal state. Everything in the external world becomes stuck inside this covert perceptive static. You become the noise between stations, the dissonant pulse of modernity. It’s easier to just say, “I feel like shit today,” but my paid leave has run out.
New Year’s Eve hasn’t meant much to me in quite some time. Probably because for years, I went to the same party with the same friends and each year the countdown to midnight felt more like a sigh of relief that our beds were a little closer. That we could soon say goodbye and get on with the next year.
I moved to a different city and stopped doing much of anything on New Year’s Eve. One or two friends maybe. Someone notices that it’s 12:03 and we all raise a glass and forget. It seems now that at the end of each year, we’re looking harder into a wind that’s coming from far away. Along with the stale hangover, I feel a little rougher each year. A little more raw on the outside and cornered on the inside.
In 2018, I’ll laugh a little less. I’ll smile less too, but make each one count. I’ll think about problems simply, as if the candlelight shows only two courses of action. I’m gonna eat less and build more fibrous muscle. I’m going to perfect the art of solitude. I’m going to look out at my city and the country around it and see the imbalance. I’m going to align myself with the imbalance.
It’s funny, the sorts of things we find productive. Some of us simply have to walk fast to feel like we’re getting things done. It’s the pumping of blood that does it. Urgency alone is all some of us need.
Others need to stay very still and try their hardest to look into the distance where inevitable nothingness lives. Thirty minutes of this and they feel they’ve done a good days work.
Some poor souls need to fuck or spike a vein or empty a bottle to feel any sense of achievement. Everything else feels like a mess if they’re not doing one of these. But in fact it’s the other way around.
As for me, I think doing the dishes is getting something done. Or cleaning up the office before sitting down to write a few inconsequential words. Making money does little for me.
But I like to watch people make money. Or go the grocery store to see what foods people buy. That’s the residual information I need.
The homeless folks were all gathered under the bridge downtown last weekend. Some were sprawled out in a faraway limbo. Others were helping each other with their pity. The afternoon seemed to mean very little to them. Another Sunday.
A life like Siddhartha’s always appealed to me. But the western world snuck in and gave me some kind of pre-birth cancer. I’ve been trying to make something productive out of it ever since.
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.