After the Envy of Old Strangers


I had so much to say, and now there is not much to say at all.

A quietness is the need of the moment.

I used to walk so quickly, everywhere, for any reason, for no reason.

And now it is SLOW. So… slow.

I think it’s learned.

The days of racing around, sweating, killing myself for a buck every night. It had become a habit that spilled over into everything. The pace of stress, of urgency.

A state of panic was normal.

But we can also trace that back to a sad childhood. A university education can teach you skills, but it can’t teach you that you deserve to use them.

Those days are another life. This life is different.

It’s a Friday night and I could be the one to go out. I used to envy those who had the luxury. I’m not going to but I feel so lucky.

This is my own kitchen table, by the window with the view of the hills, the neighbors’ yards and rooftops, a tall pine tree, fog rolling in over the evening. I can watch the sky go dark.

A flat of nectarines in front of me. A half-glass of wine.

Fish, rice, cauliflower – not much in the fridge right now but it’s enough for dinner.

I don’t need as much of everything as I used to. Too much, was routine. I don’t need to devour everything. I can just exist with it.

This didn’t happen overnight. It took two and a half years to begin to settle in.

Nothing is particularly urgent anymore, unless I want it to be. Emergency is no longer routine.

Emergency is no longer a lifestyle.

It’s so much more enjoyable. But mostly I am surprised by it.

I didn’t know it could be this way.

I never knew how anyone could be so calm.

I am grateful to be bored.






Noon

A gorgeous melody breaks out into the overcast air on an otherwise quiet Sunday. Outside, from the church tower. Melancholy but absolutely perfect, in some minor key, filling the whole neighborhood. There’s a sense of complexity in it, an old-world maturity.

I have to stop what I’m doing and stare out the window at the bluish-grey glowing skies and rooftops and tall trees, listening. The beautiful view from my second floor apartment.

Long after the music quits and the birds tune in, so light underneath that bolder frequency, I still hear it over and over. The feeling resonates.

What would life be without music?

Maybe we would never be able to remember ourselves.

Our true selves.

Bad Writing

I rarely used to write as candidly as I’ve done on certain recent occasions. Breaking the rules of what I’ve felt would be a better thing to write. A more worthy thing. Not sure how long it will last. I’ve felt the impulse waning, and the writing shifts into other topics. But that’s partly a diversion from my tolerance level for my own stories, which aren’t always so comfortable. Although, I’m a little bit of the mind that one’s own story is the most (perhaps the only) quasi-honest thing that they’ll ever have to offer. Writing involves persona, but a persona does have roots.

When venturing into the darker places, I’ve thought “am I making myself look bad?” Aside from the heart-to-heart with close friends, I try to be more enjoyable than that in real life. I try to avoid subjecting people to actual reality. It’s the polite thing to do, right? But this is a blog. On the internet people have a choice to tune you in or turn you off, or just turn your page to a better day. A more productive, enlightened, insightful, less self-indulgent, more palatable day.

I’m inclined to get personal because I’ve wanted to see more of it around and the brand of truth that it offers. And because people like to say things in life aren’t personal, even though sometimes they damn well are. And because some like to say that you shouldn’t write about the personal, and especially that you shouldn’t blog about the personal. Why not? I do it because I don’t want to be a vegetable. Because I am not an emotional zombie. Because nobody is.

Nobody is any of these things, and yet with current trends of cancel culture, conspiracy violence, and a revolving door of media-corrupted and debased relationships underscored by apps treating people as a pizza to be ordered, a mounting loss of respect for basic humanity is upon us. To write the personal is, in a way, to stand for humanity.

It seems tragic to have to remind ourselves that humanity itself is intrinsically worth something. And that it deserves respect on this basis alone. And that humanity is why we are doing what we are doing — everything we do. Because of love. Because of need. Humanity is everything to us in fact — even when we forget this. And we were not put on this earth merely to exist as an extension of somebody else’s agenda, or for whatever our value is or isn’t to them.

So how can the personal be so offensive? Does it seem too… feminine maybe? Too low? Too self-important, unless you’re a celebrity whose stories are automatically more valid than yours because they are rich and famous and you aren’t? And so everyone wants to hear their story, but only for the tabloids to take them down later also? For their humanity. Or is the personal just too real, as if we are not even grown up enough to handle that? What exactly do we need to reject about it? Don’t write about yourself, we’re told. Don’t talk about yourself. Why not?

We have stories. Why not tell them? What exactly is so offensive about a first-person narrative now? Is it really that much more “selfish” than anything else? Or is it just that it doesn’t sell as well as a how-to? Is it less practical and functional? Is it less… “good business”? Maybe even less…. bullshit? Does everything have to be monetized to have any kind of value? Does human experience have no value? Obviously that’s all total nonsense.

To understand humanity one has to get personal. To piece together a complete picture of history, even, we study people’s letters and diaries. Women’s history would hardly even exist without such accounts. Without the surviving poetry of World War I and II veterans, that entire front-line perspective of the very real horrors and consequence and the human cost of those wars would be missing. What about works like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass? We’d just never know. All the history we’d have then is “big history.” Only life’s biggest winners — the most powerful and influential. And thus grossly incomplete. The personal does have its place — even in research.

Everyone has their take on what’s going on in the world. Everyone has their take on what’s going on with another person, with groups. To write the personal is almost more responsible, because one presumes only to know oneself. Of course we do not really know others, much as we like to think so. We can only theorize. Yet if you write yourself and pretend that the writing is of others — of characters or even real players — it would seem more respectable to forge that little white lie.

Shouldn’t we pretend to be “above it all” to help our career and reputation? I struggle with my own cowardice. To write the personal is to actually share. To allow oneself to be seen, beyond hiding behind signifiers that would elevate our status. But to write the personal is also to subject oneself to something as fraught and complex as the ideology of our own existence. And as fraught and complex as the admission of ourselves as sensory and emotional beings. In doing this, our stories propel us all into bridging the gaps of our differences. Enabling myths to be dispelled and theories to evolve and opinions to expand. Is this why the personal can seem so offensive in theory? Is it too demanding to step into another person’s experience, or even to dive more deeply into our own? The personal can be as antagonistic to core beliefs, as much as it can be seductive for its intimacy. Does its seductive quality make it too easy?

In the darker times I’ve had the thought, would I be writing like this if I were happier? Perhaps no. But I would still be writing something if I were happier. So do I just pretend this current reality of my humanity doesn’t exist? What good will that do? Convince or encourage more people to sit alone on the couch by themselves crying in their own worst moments, thinking no one understands and fearing what will happen if anyone discovers their grotesque vulnerability? That’s no great service either. Will I ever be happy again? I assume so or can only hope. For now, I will at least do something with whatever is going on in the moment. What could I give, as an artist, more than these diverse momentary truths of my existence?

To worry so much about saving face is to never be free. And, I would argue, to worry so much about saving face is to limit what you have to give. To worry too much about saving face — maybe that’s the true self-serving disease.


Life Support III

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At a certain point, there’s only so much that can be done.

I’m far from the first one to think that our situation now should be no surprise. We’ve been recklessly asphyxiating, mowing, crowding, disrespecting, neglecting, destroying the planet for generations.  Now nature is taking over.  Science could never move as fast.  Nature is in charge.

Nobody IRL wants to be the one to say it, or even think it.  What fools we are.  How self-important we have been as humans.  The unchecked egocentrism comes now to this. Of course, it is our moral and ethical duty to provide people with the best chance that they can have at survival.  We sacrifice for the sake of one another.  We value lives.

Why then does our true primary source of life, our environment, the earth, get left out of the equation so often in our daily political and economic consciousness?  This has been a permanent conflict of interest.  Our growing population and extended life spans, without any truly impactful or sustained attempt to mitigate its burden on our environment, the earth from which we are largely alienated.  Nature becomes something to visit and vacation, rather than to take as part of ourselves.

As much as we see and value ourselves, our society, our culture, we must too turn an eye towards this earth as our real and ultimate life support.

Now each one of us, any one of us, could die.  We experience this die-off just as whole swaths of species have died at our inattention, our neglect.  Few want to recognize how we ourselves have created so many of our disasters.  It’s easy to get busy and look the other way.

We must learn more reverence for that which is old, which has already come before us, and in this case, the one true elder.  We must care for it, above and beyond our own self-interests.  Nobody wants to say these things out loud, not me either.  How uncomfortable we are with nature doing the job that it does, to the extent we must do whatever it takes to regain control over it.  How uncomfortable we are as a culture with death, dying, aging, changing — not just in this instance but with the natural cycle of life, as we rebel more and more against these inconvenient truths.

Which brings us to the most difficult question of all. Are we even responsible enough, to extend our own lives? And what exactly would be the point, if we can not even breathe the air, drink the water, draw nutrition from soil, or exist without intermittent unprecedented calamities anymore?

Who wants to sit down and take the time, a long time, to regard nature with the respect it deserves?  Because ultimately we are not in charge.  The river is in charge, the glaciers are in charge, the ocean is in charge, the mountain is in charge, microorganisms are in charge.  Everything is different now as we can not pretend that’s not true.

We can not ignore another kind of science – climate science, environmental science.  So I don’t really want to hear them talk about science, until they’re ready to talk about that.

March 23, 2020 – March 31, 2020
(links added)


(Lockdown Journals Part VII, FINAL THOUGHT, II)

Intermissions For Thought Police (Lockdown Journals I, II)


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The 2,700 words of lockdown/pandemic journals written between May and Dec 2020 and posted here, are removed because I don’t want them here anymore. Except for this piece of it. I’ll be reposting the rest somewhere else. Plz contact if interested.

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Part II

GRANDMA

Friends can be like family, but it is also not quite the same thing.  I find myself thinking about my mother, and other people’s mothers.  I know the multitude of reasons why I didn’t have a family of my own, which is why I have this lifestyle now.  To begin with, my childhood family story is a bit of a riot.  I still turned out ok, but there are consequences to such a story that take a long time to escape.

I have two wonderful grandmothers who are still alive today so I’m very lucky in that way.  When I was a teenager I think, a younger teenager, I remember visiting one of my  grandmothers.  I walked in to the big kitchen and felt nervous being there.  She said, “Would you like a tuna sandwich, honey?” Her voice so calm and tone so sweet but I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know if I was hungry.  I probably was but couldn’t be sure.  I didn’t want to disappoint her.  I didn’t want to make her make me the sandwich, but maybe she wanted me to eat it.  I didn’t know.

“Ok.”  I agreed to the sandwich.  So I sat down on the long polished wood bench at the gigantic kitchen table made of the same polished wood and I stared at the colorful woven oval placemats and felt awkward.  The dining room table was even larger and it had its very own room.  The silverware solid, heavy, shiny.  When she set down the clear plastic plate with the swirly designs popping from its surface in front of me, something about the experience felt alien.  I think I was supposed to feel comforted.  The sandwich looked cute on the plate.  Fluffy.   Carefully centered.  Placed so as to avoid crushing the bread or patting down the mini peaks and valleys of tuna salad, so that the whole thing puffed up and out a little.  Grandma knew how to make it special.  How to make something so simple look like it had a personality.  I stared at it, and I didn’t understand something but I wasn’t sure what.  I ate it amid a mixture of odd and uncomfortable feelings.  I ate it; even though I am not so wild about lots of mayonnaise, tuna was still a favorite.

I wasn’t feeling that great though.  I think I was supposed to feel at home.  But I didn’t.  I felt bad.  The adult word for that feeling is guilty.  Grandma was doing all this, for me.  Grandma works so hard all the time, for everyone.  But I didn’t know that I deserved to be cared for.  I actually did not know.

She’d have to do the dishes, I thought, so maybe I should do them instead.  But there are a lot of dishes over there, from some other meal.  Should I do all of those?  I do not know what to do as I sit eating my sandwich.  I want to be a good kid.  But I am tired, so tired.  So tired.

Grandma’s beds so poofy like white and beige clouds I don’t know what will happen if I try to sleep in one, would I sink in too much and feel weird.  Anyway, nobody should be sleeping right now.  I shouldn’t fall asleep on the couch.  I shouldn’t be rude.

There is a concept of what family is “supposed to be” like, in a general sense of at least meeting and maintaining a certain standard.   If your concept of family is warped by tragedy, your concept of love may also be warped for a while.  For a while, but not necessarily forever.   Old wounds can heal.  Other people teach us things beyond the scope of the original family.

Ideas start changing, shifting, and feelings also.  Occasionally in leaps.  You might’ve managed essentially alone for a very long time, in the same way you’d always done because you did not know any different.  Until you do not want it to be that way anymore.  And know that it doesn’t have to be, and it won’t be.  Change might be too scary to welcome without a fight, but it finds you anyway because that is what is supposed to happen.  Especially if that’s exactly what you aim for.

I do not blame my mother, with whom I grew up, for the flaws she found impossible to overcome.  The alcohol, the violence, the homelessness, the intermittent chaos.  While she is accountable for certain things, I do not blame her for anything I could not do now, either, as the present is what I am accountable for.  I was the oldest child and things were harder to hide from me.  I do not know what it is like to be my mother.  Despite everything, she did give me gifts for which I am grateful, many of them unintended gifts.  Just because someone does not know how to love properly, or “normally,” does not necessarily mean that they don’t love.  Just because we do not get what we want from someone, does not mean that we should look down on them, nail them to the cross.  Even when it feels needed, it’s probably not even worth it.

Writing and reflecting about Grandma, her house, her homemaking, I realize I feel a different emotion than the way this whole situation has made me feel, even a different emotion than the way I used to feel during some of our visits.  Comforted. 

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Everyone is dealing with this crisis in their own way.  Some people want to be alone.  But we have to keep in mind that others need us too.

We must keep in mind that it is one thing to say to someone that you are there, but it is another thing to actually be there.

It is also another thing to genuinely want to be there, but truly not be able to.  And this is really felt, or not felt.

Who is present?

Who is listening to us?

Who is holding us dear, in a crisis?

And who are we holding dear?  I recall some wise words Dad had shared.  He said, “Somebody told me once.  You know what, man?  If you want a friend, BE a friend.”

Connection is probably more important than ever, and we probably ought to insist on it above and beyond all else in whatever way we can accomplish it.  Even as I too struggle to live up to my own ideals.

May 16 – May 17, 2020

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Life Support II

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THE LONG, SLOW SCENE

There’s a reason why, in popular movies, it’s rarely the moneymaker…

Time is work now, so time needs a reason.  One way to sell the long, slow, or quiet is to use the word meditative, as if to assign a proper function to the act or experience.   Otherwise the word used is boring.  Meditation – an intentional act of focused attention – has a functional purpose, and more than that, an exciting one.  Self-improvement, personal growth, etc.

For its existence to make sense, to have some value.

April 9, 2020

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ART

There needs to be a point.  What’s the point?

Well what’s the point of anything, really.  Can’t anything be considered pointless, from one perspective or another?  How much is cheap, superficial, manipulative, etc., but is also entertaining?  How much is considered valid, is considered a success, just because it makes money?  Is that a good point to make?

If someone chooses writing poetry over television in the evening, if someone almost never watches television, are they just being an elitist asshole?

Who decides what is really valuable – the group, or the individual?  It is a real question to ask, and difficult to answer.  I speak for myself on clashing with enough stress and anxiety over the group, about being a worker among workers and the other roles I play, daughter, girlfriend, associate, fellow and etc, about not causing offense, I have to talk myself into being an individual also.  That this is not only ok, but essential.  This individual, the closet poet.

As an artist or writer, of course, function should not have to be the biggest consideration.  Nor simply placating – another form of mere survival, of utility.  This is part of the whole point of making art.  If anything it is helpful to resist functionality which culture already boasts well enough of.  Because there is more to life than functioning, plain and simple.  There is more to life than spending time, energy, and effort only on practical considerations.

It seems obvious, until you have to fight for it.

May 12, 2020 – May 15, 2020

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SELF-ABSORPTION, SELF-PITY AND BEING SPECIAL

  1. Reflected in cultural values via consumption or covert invalidation.
  2. Natural to the human experience in phases, as is generosity of spirit, understanding, kindness, caring, and empathy.
  3. Escalated by rejection, marginalization, and isolation.
  4. Add one of two words, for giggles: HYSTERIA or EGOTISTICAL.
  5. Things people say to dismiss certain temperaments, occupations, or situations that they don’t value or don’t understand.
  6. Things people say when they feel superior to certain emotions, occupations, or predicaments.
  7. Things people say when they disown aspects of themselves.
  8. Toxic or counterproductive when overapplied.  Unless it’s the basis for a whole career, then it could be a success.  See #1.

May 14, 2020

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The obvious part is the absolutely majestic creature gliding in the wind over the dark bay cliffs, rising and falling gracefully, confidently.  Then there’s the subtle part.  The feathers opening and closing slightly at times, partly by the wind, but partly, it seems, for personality, for fun, like dancing.  Delicate details that need to be observed very closely to be seen.  Or it might as well be a garden-variety bird in the sky.  Kinda cool, nothing special.  Nothing unique.

The time it took.  The sense of space it created in the moment.  I felt a brief sense of reverence, before going back to my urban life where I survive like anyone else by way of destruction of the natural because I’m no different in that way.  Maybe I just take more time than the average person to watch, to see, to take in — before joining the crowds once again to the disposable lifestyle of take-out containers, fast fashion, high-volume traffic, smartphone apps.  We won’t be getting away with this unchecked, as we’ve already begun to reluctantly note.

Now is the perfect time to regard nature, to recover a sense of respect for it within this sudden struggle to now survive the elements that we can not control.  Now is the perfect time, because we actually have time, to observe and be with the subtleties in life if we want to, not just gloss over everything.  Plenty of time.  To appreciate its delicate elements.

We have been the most interesting species, to ourselves.  The most worthy of survival, at any cost.  Even at our own peril, we are too precious.  This sounds harsh but isn’t it true?

Sustained attention to nature is more important now than ever.  Nature has more than a functional purpose for us.  It is more than just a physical resource, which most of us know, but we need to start acting like it.

May 2, 2020

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_E_F-A_SOR_TIO_, SELF-P_T_ AND BEI_G _PE_IAL

  1. Ozone layer of collective consciousness.
  2. Amnesia of self as culture, ideology.
  3. Disaster versus appeal.
  4. Mirrors.

May 18, 2020

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That flap of roof

Curled up

Just like a quail

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Life Support

 

 

September 2, 2019

 

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I want someone

to linger

with me.

 

May 13, 2020

 

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AFTER THE SHOCK

Long, meditative, simple, slow, mesmerizing scenes.  This windy cell phone clip was just a spur-of-the-moment snapshot from real life, but I’ve always admired the often-dreamy or poignant motif when used in actual movies.  I’d love to see even more movies daring to decelerate.  To conduct more subtle representations.  Daring to prioritize the art of the film over and above other considerations.  Daring to embrace less lucrative choices.

Daring, just by their existence, to subvert ACTION.

Lingering, sustained scenes that extend a moment out in time and space.  Like a poem can do – maybe that’s what’s so appealing.  Asking for attention to be held.  Attention held on a moment.  A moment easily overlooked, easily taken for granted, a moment to be experienced more intensively.

Scenes to yield into.  To take a kind of refuge in.  Akin to stretching muscles after a long sleep.  Or scenes to be challenged by, too.

This is not elitist.  This is about the quiet things.

Quiet things need time, space, and attention to be let in.  To be let in.  Because they are not attention seeking.  Versus the rather violent presence of that which does grab our attention, demand it, steal it, and in a way, corrupt it…

 

April 3, 2020

 

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SIXTY-FIVE SECONDS

The hawk.  Something about all this reminded me of it from months ago, and I dug it up again.  And I’d like to post the video.  But WordPress doesn’t allow for posting it in the format I want.  As I intermittently avoid the issue amidst the other chaos, then venture to search again for a workaround, I keep thinking about it, writing about it.  I am lingering on this a bit longer than I’d like, but maybe that is just the point.  To linger.  To slow down.

I do not work in the movie industry, I am just someone with a camera and a perspective, who happens to also make money with cameras, who happened to have only a cell phone on hand on the day I encountered the bird.

“It’s a bit LONG,” someone said.  Yeah.

But I like that.

 

April 16, 2020

 

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