“Life’s but a walking shadow…”

walking shadow

Okay, well, I expect this will be a relatively short posting today, because I don’t have any particular specific topic to discuss.  Who knows, maybe that’ll end up making it a longer post.  I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

Obviously, I’m not ready to begin my series on my favorite villains, and for that I apologize, in case anyone has been waiting eagerly for it.  Probably not.  Still, I do intend to do it, but I’ve just frankly been distracted and exhausted for the past few weeks.

Of course, one enervating event was that I published “The Chasm and the Collision.”  This was a good thing, of course, but even good things can be exhausting; ask anyone who has planned and carried out a wedding, or even a large birthday party.  Then, of course right at that same time, my mother became much more ill and died.  Hard to exaggerate the stress level that entails.  And, following on right after that, just as I was leaving for home on my 33-hour bus ride, I developed an ear infection in my right ear that perforated my eardrum.  I’ve taken antibiotics for that, and decongestants, and it’s almost on the mend—my tinnitus is still at maximum volume, unfortunately, but the right side of the world feels like it’s under slightly shallower water.

Then, this last week, a friend of mine at work died of what I consider a semi-deliberate drug overdose.  This was a real tragedy, because he was quite intelligent, and a good person.  He was reading “Son of Man,” and liking it, so I had given him a copy of “The Chasm and the Collision” when it came out, and he seemed excited about it.  But I kind of knew he had some mood problems—he had even mentioned to me that, in the past, he had occasionally had troubling, self-destructive thoughts.  I sympathized, having struggled with such things myself for more years than I can say, but apparently, I didn’t recognize that he was in danger…not that kind of danger, anyway, though I knew he had struggled with a drug problem on and off.

Occasionally—when I’m feeling stupid and irrational—I entertain the notion that my creative efforts carry some sort of curse.  I know it isn’t true, and is a just matter of confirmation bias, or some similar cognitive illusion, but it can be troubling.  I’ve always liked to sing, for instance, but normally I only do so in private (or while driving).  However, years ago I was briefly convinced to give an impromptu performance in front of my now-ex-wife’s family and neighbors.  It was very well received (I’ve been singing since I was about 4, so I’ve had a lot of practice), but the three people who were most effusive about my singing, including my father-in-law, and a friend of my mother-in-law (this person asked me to make a tape), all died within the following year.  And now, of course, the two people most enthusiastically interested in the release of “The Chasm and the Collision” have died in short order.

I know this is nonsense, of course; don’t be concerned about that.  I recognize that we only notice things when coincidence is striking, not all the oodles of other times when it isn’t.  Richard Feynman had a famous little joke he’d pull:  he’d race up to a friend or an acquaintance and say, “You’ll never believe what happened to me, today!”  When they asked him what had happened, he would reply, “Nothing.  Nothing at all.”  The law of large numbers dictates that there will inevitably be startling coincidences if we live through enough moments, and there are an astounding number of moments in the world.  Still, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of spooky notions, and it certainly does sound like something I might write about in a horror story:  a person with a certain level of creative gifts, but everyone who truly loves his work dies.  Let’s hope such a person never creates an international best seller!

So, anyway, I’ve been a little down, as you can probably imagine, so my writing on this and my other blog (Iterations of Zero) has been less interesting than it might be.  In fact, I’ve been struggling with a new post for IoZ, but have been rewriting and editing it over and over again, because I’m not that happy with the form it’s in.  I have still been writing steadily and daily on “Unanimity,” except on days that I write a blog post, and it’s proceeding at a good pace.  I won’t say I’ve quite kept up my average of 1700 words a day or so, but on my worst day I wrote 800 words, and usually it’s been more like 1200 to 1500.  So, not bad.  My trick is, I tell myself that I’m going to write at least one page, then I can stop.  One page is pretty easy for me, and doesn’t take a hell of a lot of time.  But, of course, once you get going, one page turns into two, then to three, then to four, and ultimately, it’s only the constraints of time and fatigue that set the limits.

I think a lot of things in life are like this.  It’s the activation energy that’s the difficult hurdle to clear, and once we get started, many things tend to proceed almost automatically.  The key is to get ourselves over that activation barrier, which I do by telling myself that I’m going to just write one page.  As you can tell from reading this, which was supposed to be a short post, once I get going I just tend to carry on.

That being said (or written, really), I’m not sure that I have much more to deal with today.  Though writing does come more naturally than speaking to me, at least in most cases, I really am very emotionally fatigued.  I feel like I could use about three or four straight days (or years) of sleep, and then I might actually feel like I’m coming out the far end of this.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be in the offing; it never does, does it?  Small wonder that sometimes people contemplate the inevitable prospect of death, if not with longing, then at least with some equanimity.  Oblivion can seem paradisiacal in comparison to having to drag oneself through day after dreary day.  “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time…when he could his quietus make with a bare bodkin?”

Alas, no one ever returns from that undiscovered country, so conscience does indeed make cowards of us all.  Or maybe to continue to endure is actually bravery, not timidity.  It certainly seems like the more challenging choice on many occasions.  What a conundrum.  Anyway, it’s a choice that gets take out of each of our hands, eventually.

And on that happy note, that’s enough for this week.



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