17 June 2018

On Not Acting My Age (Because I Don't Know It)

I don’t get it, this getting older thing. Chronologically, yes. But state of mind? Personal aesthetics? Outside interests? No. Rather, I’m not sure. I don’t know how I am supposed to act, or exactly what it is I supposedly like now that I have survived five decades on Earth. My head and heart are caught in a tug of war between the dorky punk I used to be and the curmudgeon into which I am morphing. The tension is real and bizarre.

Routines are much more part of life these days. It is an afternoon habit of mine to have a tea or coffee break at this coffee shop near my office. I do not recall how it started, but almost every day I am there, hopefully perched in a window seat. People watching, daydreaming, writing such follies as this. Near to this shop is the campus of a liberal arts college. As such, the place has its share of students as customers and quite likely as baristas. This shop does not have Muzak or programmed piped music. Proof that there is mercy in the universe, sometimes. But what happens is that the employees typically hook up their smartphones or MP3 players to the shop speakers. Consequently I get to hear a broad spectrum of music, much of which I either know little of or have never heard.

The other day in the shop I was sipping tea and listening to the music. It was otherwise quiet so I was getting a good earful. Deciding I liked what I was hearing I opened the music identification app on my phone and let it cogitate. The result came back for a band of which I had heard the name but not the tune. Cool, I’m thinking I might have to get it. I research it only to find out that the song is an album that was released in 1992.

1992. Twenty-six frickin’ years ago. Blood rushed to my head, then swiftly drained out. Twenty six years is half my life ago.

See, herein lies the problem. I love music from the standpoint of an enthusiastic listener. I used to have a strong sense of time and place when I listened to it. I could orient myself quite well. But these days music is not so much bound by context and location. Also, between having listened to music for decades, the ubiquity of listening devices, and the widespread distribution of music wherever I go, I am simultaneously bored and fascinated by it all.

A consequence of that is I hear old stuff that sounds new and new stuff that sounds old, to my ears. I honestly don’t know what I am hearing sometimes. I just know I like it. Mostly. Recent adventures in music have taken me into rap, hip-hop, a little dub, neo-psychedelic rock, and even electronic dance music. There is much undiscovered country in music, for me, most of which is far away from my formative years in becoming a music lover.

On any given day the music I hear makes me feel old, young, and ageless. That can be a good thing. It can be dizzy-making, too. It feels odd to me to realize I am fan-boying over music that people much younger than me are considering to be the shit. Music is music, right, and age don’t matter to the ear of the open-minded listener, right? So why this mixing up with the issue of my years on earth?

This is a problem in that the onset of summer already has me disoriented and detached from life. My dizziness is only increasing from the influence of this musical curiosity of mine. Music has been by turns exhilarating and exhausting, uplifting and depressing. My head is unable to give direction and my heart is feeling oh so lost. Consequently I am at a loss as to how to behave in my life. “Act your age” is a shopworn bromide I have heard before. But what do you do when you cannot pin that down? The music is helping me to feel something, at least, even if it isn’t helping me think. That might be a good thing.

10 June 2018

In the Quiet Box

Silence expands to fill the available volume regardless of the total. This is knowledge gained as a collateral effect of living. It could take decades before one notices what is happening. Different cities, different containers, different boxes all experiencing the same result. The silence is loudest in the night, in those moments before another bedtime. Silence haunts.

Amusingly enough the silence is not without a soundtrack. The noises heard tend to be generated in places other than the throat or head. The click of a kitchen light switch morphs into a rifle shot. An air conditioner fan takes on a near corporeal presence, a machine-age analogue of a waterfall coursing over a brim of rocks. Low hum punctuated by the pouring of rain outside the windows that surges in when the conditioner unit cuts off. The abrupt absence of a sound like that tricks the mind into thinking it is losing its balance. Living in a quiet box it is an easily acquired habit of leaning into sound because it offers support.

Support in the form of distractions from the vacuum of a life unrealized. Absences. Connections not formed, or frayed to the point of unviability. Projects uncompleted, or worse, never started because the attention was absorbed by some other thing in life and the mind failed to grasp the threads it should have followed. Funny how the hollow clattering of a butter knife into a sink (which was cleaned earlier in a fit of anxiety-induced housekeeping) can knock the mind from one track into another. A metallic thud serving as an accidental rin chime signaling the beginning of involuntary meditation in the temple of the head.

The knife lies still in the sink. Stillness broken by the hum and whirr of domestic machineries within, wind and rain without. The body reacts by pacing around the quiet box of its apartment. It cannot be helped that the mind is flooded with memories and regrets and the helplessness wrought by the realization that not enough has been done to find security in an unstable universe. In the stream of silences the head and the heart cannot escape the notion that so much potential appears to have been wasted or unrealized. Picture the tap on the barrel of water that was supposed to have enabled the successful crossing of a desert. Unbeknownst to all this tap was not secured before embarking. Miles of trudging through the heat and sand engendering thirst beyond measure, not to be slaked because the water dripped away.

Desperate discoveries occur in the silences of the quiet box. The stomach knows because it drops. No amount of pacing truly eradicates the gnawing sensation, but the motion can ease some of the discomfort. Discomfort? Do we really mean fear? Fear of having missed out on a cosmic scale and now not understanding how to get something back? Ah, this is it. Of course it is fear. A nipping at the heels brought about by a late-night revelation that you may not know what you are doing. Ever.

But you should know this by now. If you do not, surely that would be irrefutable evidence of the ineffectuality that you believe to be your shackles. It is this ineffectuality that howls the loudest in the midnight of the quiet box. Ineffectuality is the diamond-eyed beast that prowls the undergrowth just outside the dying circle of light. Growl and moan, rustle and snort, the impression is one of power that does not care how bright the fire you build. It will get what it wants. It will feed.

Living a life of balance is draining, in the face of knowing the universe does not need an excuse to eat you alive. The prime directive of that life is to find something, or better yet, someone with whom to share the quiet box of life. By such good fortune the beast will be kept at bay.

03 June 2018

Heliotrope

Earth pirouettes in black velvet. The terminator glides over the crust like God’s inshave scraping the face of the world with light. Whether high or low, all things, all creatures acknowledge the presence of the light. Not all themselves are noticed or remembered when the darkness comes again, but they continue to hope. It is that, or cloak themselves in a shroud of numbness while waiting. This is the way of the world.

Growth often stretches out over years before the connection between the presence of love and the presence of life become clear to the heart. With light comes energy and awakening. The numb darkness is forgotten (or better, never having been known) when the terminator crosses the line of the soul. A certain voice, a phrase, a face seen across the room sets the soft machineries in motion. It is bliss. It is joy. Circulation returns and the limbs infuse with warmth. In the heady scent of a new spring, it is no surprise that the arctic winter fades from consciousness. What veins would not desire such rebirth?

The proof is reaction in the presence of love, of kinship, and connection. To experience the triad is to know great blessings down to the level of the cells. Watch what happens when love walks into the room. A body twists while the face leans towards the light. Suddenly, all is warm, all is light. What a sensation to feel the abrupt lightness of limbs when the shackles fall away!

The living know this intimately, the gadabout perhaps more so than the recluse. Does one know it more keenly than the other? That may depend on the voluntariness of their choice to be out there or undercover. A recluse may not want to be a recluse, but lives under the belief that life is too contrary in its rewards. Tolerance for pain is not infinite, even amongst the most optimistic.

A recluse can know the joy of light, though. Memory knows what it is to feel the surge of electricity in the nerves upon witnessing the sunrise. Or love walking into the room. There can be doubt. The heart thrums. The body awakens. Witness the turning of the face to the source of life, cheeks aglow from the scraping passage of the terminator bringing about a rebirth of the human inside us all. The fields rustle and hum when life turns towards the sun.

Are those fields fallow or sterile? Darkness renders this knowledge difficult to obtain. If the eyes cannot see the ground, they cannot see that which may sprout from it. From the darkness comes the sorcerer Unknown and his familiar, Unease. The first plays tricks on the mind and heart. The second figure-eights around the ankles in the guise of seeking affection, but really is there to trip the body up. Falling down is distressingly easy when the ground is unseen.

Hope and the memory of warmth lead the heart to believe the fields are merely fallow. This belief is necessary for survival. Sterility would mean the death of hope, of blood ceasing to flow, and humanity leaching away into the alkali fields of a mind that has lost its way to connection. The task is thusly defined as the need to hold on until the light returns. Keep the heartbeat going, however feeble, even if it means emotional stasis. It is in this way that love can be rediscovered.

Time dilates. Earth pirouettes, it is clear. The body follows along a highway of diamonds, strewn along the sable cloak of the universe. Battered hearts cross the terminator into light, scraped anew, and the soul awakens. Faces feel the warmth as they turn to a new source of life. This is love.