An effort to stay afloat while determining which way is up

Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Epidemic

It appears to me that there is an epidemic sweeping my fine nation which no one is willing to address head-on, and for once in our lives, it has zero to do with obesity.

Gaaaaaaaah…

I know its hard to look at.  Just remember to keep breathing in and out and go to a calm place in your mind.This, caring reader, is a morph suit, and according to Party City ads, its the new big thing to wear to all of your social gatherings.  All of them.

It started innocently enough with Halloween.  The commercials showed them in line with all their other costumes and Halloween garb on display at low low prices.  It was new and strange and even welcome then.  I’m all for anything that can get us away from the costume genre of “slutty-insert random noun”  And hey, I can’t imagine meeting anyone creepier or scarier at a Halloween party than the man inside that suit, more than likely asking all the ladies to put the lotion on their skin.  He belongs in Halloween.

But as usual, the problem with terror is keeping it from bleeding into the rest of the world.  A mere two months after Halloween, while caught totally off guard, we meet this guy:

The Gimp moonlights as Santa for extra cash.

There’s little to no chance that this image is not haunting children’s nightmares as we speak.  I’m pretty sure if you asked anyone what the absolute worst rendition of Santa would be they would mention the following three things:  1) his package is out on display; 2) he’s in head-to-toe skin-tight lycra; and 3) he looks like he crawled out of the most violent and disturbing scene in Pulp Fiction.  On a side note, I’m pretty sure that trash bag is filled with severed limbs and the screams of children.

Then we came to Valentines Day…

“Hey, sometimes ladies’ kidneys just go missing. It’s nobody’s fault, really…”

And St. Patrick’s Day…

I would be much more impressed if this was what he had driven out of Ireland.

And now, graduation parties!

The girls appear to be frozen in screams, whereas the boy is currently bargaining with his god for a few extra minutes of life with all his limbs and appendages.

This picture is from the Party City website, whose ad on television promotes these for graduations “from kindergarten to college.”  Really, Party City?  We want the giant anthropomorphic condom to be congratulating our kids on learning their shapes and colors?  The only reason I can see for this is to teach children early on in their academic career that the real world is a freaky, twisted place, so you’d better get used to it now.  Let this terror haunt and motivate you.  Happy graduation Jimmy.

It doesn’t look like this trend will be stopping anytime soon.  They’re already putting out American flag suits for Fourth of July horrors.  My only option to escape the grasp of this face-less, gender-less mass of creepy is to defect to the UK and…

Well, shit.

Utopian View of the Day

There are few relics of magic remaining after age twelve.  On the eve of the thirteenth birthday, magic packs its bags to depart, so it says, for sunny Aruba and a nice retirement.  It says this to spare our feelings, but we know the truth; it must leave to accompany another child fortunate enough to be born in a time and place which allows it such a luxury as a magical start to life.  After this departure, we only see reminders scattered here and there of the magical world we once knew, but one relic which never fails to re-inspire the mind into magical thinking is music.  If it is in fact possible for anything to be holy or magical in this reality, symphonies are the most magical things I know.

There has never been a time in my life when symphonies were not present.  My father is a professional musician, and some of my earliest memories involve sitting in on one of his rehearsals in huge, vaulted rooms filled with intricate and imposing instruments; or otherwise attending performances of one of the several orchestras he’s been involved in, huddled together with my family in the dusk-lit grass of some amphitheater.  Back when my sister and I shared a bedroom, we could only agree on one issue: it seemed we could only manage to fall asleep when floating above the current of the sounds of Aaron Copeland, or sometimes the Planets Suite.  As children, we knew well the near-supernatural power of music, and this attitude has persisted in my mind ever since.

The magic of symphonic music comes from its physical simplicity.  At its most basic level, it is merely a series of vibrations, layered together like a French pastry,  which goes travelling through the air.  Without the human presence, it would just be a bit of math come to life, only to dissipate seconds later without anyone noticing.  But when there is an ear and a mind to listen, those minimal vibrations can open hearts impossibly complex and worlds unceasingly amazing.

I believe the beauty which these vibrations possess has a definite, physical existence whether it is recognized by the human ear or not, and it is this idea which brings me my utopian view of existence.  I like to think that if string theory were true and sub-atomic particles were composed of vibrating strings, each and every one of these micro-vibrations would harmonize and work together in the same way their macro-cousin-symphonic vibrations do.  Just think if that were true; any place in the universe with any amount of matter would be absolutely filled with all this life-altering beauty stacked and layered into innumerable levels surpassing the most complicated fugue, but so miniscule we remain unconscious of its presence. Nevertheless it would be inescapably there, enveloping us and very truly existing as a part of us.

Continuing this idea, just as most orchestral compositions are incomplete if missing the brass section, or the lead violins, or anything baritone, so the music of existence would be truly incomplete without everything we see and feel being present to contribute to the symphony.  Everything on Earth would have a definite purpose. We, ourselves, as a part of this music of being, would have a definite purpose.

And what if I extrapolated this scenario further?  What if we all moved unconsciously to the vibrations of this molecular orchestra, feeling its effects even when we can’t hear it?  Every movement secretly meaningful.  Every person on Earth dancing unconsciously to the vibrations of existence; to a beauty they’ve never heard but they’ve always felt.

It would be truly magical.

The Shapes of Thoughts

Something is different.  Something has definitely changed, and worst of all, the change has come on so incrementally that I didn’t notice it until fairly late in the game.  The cathedral I once inhabited, with its Gothic arches flying up toward the center to meet harmoniously at the apex; with its centrally enormous but not-quite-gaudy red-velvet throne; with its hundreds of trap doors hidden by millions of cardboard boxes all labeled in Sharpie with my own large, untidy handwriting; this place, which was once my university, courtroom, playground, and sanctuary all rolled into one, now seems hazy and unclear.  I seem to have lost uninhibited access to the inner spaces of my mind.

As a child, I constructed my mind as a lofty, vaulted dome encircled by small arched windows.  Oddly, the only piece of furniture it contained was the European-style mahogany and red-velvet throne, raised on a small platform near the center of the back.  This was where my Self took residence, deciding important issues and operating the controls to reality.  Every one of my real actions in the outside world originated from that spot.  Other than that chair, the rest of the room was simply filled with boxes of information and memories, as if someone had just recently moved into the space.  The system of keeping everything encased in cardboard and strewn about the room may have seemed disorganized to the casual observer, but it was always adequate for finding whatever you needed.  The only other defining feature of the space was a relatively thin column at the exact center of the space.  This served as an anchor in times of need.  Whenever I had to memorize large amounts of information for tests, information which could be discarded after use, I freed up space for the temporary information by connecting some of my boxes to the center column with a long rope, and then throwing them out of the windows.  The everyday thoughts and memories would dangle freely out of the mind-space while the temporary information was stored in their place.  After the test, that information could be discarded, and the boxes hauled safely back inside.

The space also had advocates to help me see all sides of any issue and make my decisions wisely.  One was an advocate for logic and reason, the other for impulse and spontaneity.  They would each argue their case in front of the Self’s throne, and a decision would be reached accordingly.  They were identical in appearance, so Impulse and Spontaneity was tinted green, while Logic and Reason was tinted blue to tell them apart.  Honestly, Logic and Reason would win more than its share of the arguments, but no one was bitter about it.

This was how my mind operated for years, and I was thoroughly proud of the system.  However, in the past year or so, something has changed which I have only recently become aware of.  It is a bit difficult to explain.  It is as if the place I once saw so vividly, the place I essentially lived in, is now faded and unfocused.  The colors aren’t as saturated.  The room feels smaller.  The voices of the advocates have become muffled and almost unintelligible.  It’s like seeing a photo rather than being there in person.  It’s like dreaming about something rather than living it.

I want to know what has happened, and how I can get back.

I’ve come up with some possible theories.  My first thought is that it’s simply a result of the march toward inevitable adulthood.  Doubtless, imagination is required for the upkeep of such a place, and maybe only a few lucky adults get to retain their imagination throughout life.  Maybe as mine wanes with each passing day, my Self gets pushed further and further to the extremities of the space, until finally it’s on the outside looking in through the foggy glass of one of the windows.  Or perhaps I simply need to set aside time to exercise my imagination more; I’ll admit it hasn’t had too much excess play time during this last year’s bid to simply not fail at life.  It is possible that my Self’s eyes have been staring at the controls of reality so long and so intently that when they look up from their work, they are unable to focus anymore.

Another possible reason for this change occurs to me.  Could it be that, as I have become increasingly uncertain of what my life should be here on Earth, my mind is simply reflecting my nebulous state?  After all, if I am uncertain of my role in this world, how can my mind be certain of its role in me?  Perhaps the whole space and everything in it will continue morphing until I can decide who I need to be.

There is a third viable possibility to consider.  What if the fault is not in my space, but in my Self?  What if my Self is only seeing things as muffled and distorted because it is stricken ill, poisoned by the year of turmoil and self-loathing? In the past year especially, I have been internally reiterating how much of a failure I think I am because I’m not where I thought I would be by now.  It is not much of a stretch to think that this kind of mantra could turn poisonous to anyone exposed.  It could be that my miasma of negativity, initially meant for motivational means, has finally caught up with me.  Could my Self ever recover from the handicaps imposed by such toxic thinking?

In each of these scenarios, I can hold out slight hope for a return to the old ways.  I can try to strengthen the mind, to heal the self, to allow my space to redefine itself as necessary.  Or if I can never return it to what it once was, maybe I can construct something new to take its place.  Regardless of what happens, there is always hope.  With that thought alone, the colors become marginally more vivid, and the shapes of thoughts just a bit sharper than before.

In Transit

Image

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a certain tendency which I don’t find in many other people.  I’m always most content while I’m in transit between two places.   Almost to the point that I dread ever reaching my destination.  When I was young I would live for long car rides, and, like the effects of any gateway drug worth its salt, this caused me to later move on to  buses and trains and air planes and anything else I could get my hands on.  In Niger I spent half an hour on a donkey cart just going from one end of town to the other, and I loved every second of it.

There’s something beautiful about trains that no other form of transportation possesses.  Standing on deserted train tracks, you can look in either direction and see your way almost to infinity.  The simple, unalterable path of the train reflects the unalterable progression of time, or , at least, time as I perceive it.  I tell myself there are no symbols in real life, but a train seems too close an analogue to living to ignore.

Sometimes while in motion I feel very strongly that I’m falling sideways.  That my movement is not my own choice, but the result of an external force acting upon me.  Making my third trip between Denver and Phoenix across all that flat, shadowless land, the heights from which I was falling were almost nauseating.  Perhaps that’s why I find it comforting.  It reminds me that I’ll never be as big as the forces of physics acting on me.  It’s like being hugged by math.

In a practical sense, you could say that I find transportation to be comforting because it means that wherever I’m going, I still have a chance to prove myself.  Until I’ve arrived at my destination, I have a blank slate to work with and all the potential in the world to be or do something great.  The longer the trip, the more the potential.  However, as soon as I arrive at whatever destination I’m headed to, any action I take immediately rules out others that I could have taken, and already my potential is diminished.  I’m happy being in transit because it is the time when I am the least defined.

And in a far less practical sense, I can explain my love of transporting myself between locations with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.  As I understand it, the more you know about a particle’s velocity, the less you know about its location.  Therefore, if I know and I can feel exactly how fast I am moving between points, maybe eventually I’ll have no location at all.  I’ll be nowhere and everywhere all at once.  Something about this idea greatly appeals to me.  I know its probably scientifically unsound to extrapolate the laws of physics like that, but it’s a beautiful thought, anyway, so I’ll keep it.

If anything, my biggest problem with the life I have now is that there’s not enough transit time.  I’m stuck in one city, and none of my daily commutes allow me enough time to really think.  That’s the draw of transportation after all.  It’s an enclosed system where you’re allowed to sit quietly for long periods of time while simultaneously being able to see and participate in the world around you.  The unspoken rules of society allow for you to keep to yourself unless you desire otherwise, so you can just sit and think quietly while images of landscapes bombard you like warm, heavy rain.  Entire stories blur past the window and continue without you, but at least you were a part of them for a split second.  You were a part of something.

This lack of transit time is reflected in my current state of mind.  Until I receive word that I will have the opportunity to move to France next fall, I will be stuck still, my direction chosen but no momentum to take me there, a broken train car on an abandoned track looking toward infinity, hoping to one day see the end.  So far, I haven’t been able to think of a proper contingency plan if I never hear from the French program, which, I guess, would mean that my train car would be left on that abandoned plain between two lives and allowed to rust and rot.  Every few years some wild animal might come to steal the stuffing from the seat cushions. The wheels would sag on their axles and the window panes would fall out after their wooden frames finally rot to nothing.  The unrelenting sun would chip the aquamarine lacquer on the outside of the hull, while inside the patterned carpets fade to a uniform grey.  And all this time its singular passenger would sit quietly and stare out the window, suitcase by her side and gloved hands folded in her lap, waiting for the day the landscapes will once again fall past her, or she past them.