Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought blog and bids it break.

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and so it’s time for my long-term, usual, weekly Thursday blog post, as contrasted with my newer string of nearly daily blog posts*.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), the reason for the daily blog posts has not changed—I haven’t yet again found any interest in writing fiction, whether on the two stories I have partly completed or on any other stories.  I don’t know if I’m ever going to write any more fiction again.

Similarly, and also unfortunately (or, again, perhaps fortunately), I haven’t had any desire to play (or write) music.  I haven’t even listened to much music, though that’s partly because of the change in my commute; I used to listen to a lot of music on my way to and from work.  But I think I may just give most of my musical stuff to my former housemate.

It seems fair, since he made two of the guitars, and he’s certainly a much better guitar player than I am.  I might give the one I keep at the office** to the son of one of my coworkers, who has ASD, and is probably a bit too young now, but who likes music, and on the few occasions he came into the office with her for a few minutes, he enjoyed strumming it.

I’m probably being silly and sentimental in thinking about doing that.  Probably if I gave him that guitar it would just sit around and gather dust, or it would end up getting sold—which is what I honestly almost hope will happen with the others if they go to my housemate.  He’s on disability (missing left leg below knee and other chronic injuries born from the same accident), so he can usually use a bit of extra money.

None of it is doing much good with me, at least.  Even the thought of picking up and playing, yes even sometimes simply looking at the instruments, makes me feel queasy and dysphoric.  That happened just now, for instance.  It’s a shame, I guess, since I used to find minor respite from such unpleasant feelings in music or writing, but that doesn’t seem to work any longer.

On the good news front, a New Balance walking shoe that has always been a good fit for me, but which had briefly become unavailable, has become available again, and I have a pair on the way.  It wasn’t even expensive, despite the name and the fact that some New Balance shoes have become as absurdly overpriced as Nikes and the like.  So now I’ll have a total of four pairs of decent shoes (with inserts) in which I can walk long distances with minimal trouble.  They’re also all lightweight, which means carrying them with me wouldn’t be an issue.

I haven’t even read any books this week, which is unusual.  Kindle isn’t going to know what to do with itself!  I don’t think I’ve read anything since Saturday, other than online stuff, of course—news and a few blogs I follow.  I did listen to a bit of the audio-book version of Pawn of Prophecy while walking the other day, but the guy reading it has a bit of a thickish accent, and though his reading is in general good and enjoyable, it feels confusing; it’s a book I’ve read many times, and therefore I tend to hear it in my own voice in my head, and my accent is quite different from the narrator’s.

I was also listening to the newer, Andy Serkis narrated Lord of the Rings a month or two ago, but though of course he does a wonderful job—being who he is—he’s quite dramatic, and so the progress of the story takes longer than it does in other audio versions, so I’m caught between loving his reading and yet wanting him to hurry it up a bit so we can get to the next good part.  Anyway, I have since been a bit derailed from that, but it is a good book to hear while walking.

It’s quite nice that, thanks to Kindle and Audible, I can carry a library of dozens of audio books and hundreds of print books in my pocket wherever I go.  I still love the feel and presence of a real, physical book, of course, but even I couldn’t imagine wheeling along a rolling library of nearly five hundred volumes.  And one can always, or nearly always***, buy a book one wants and take delivery of it almost instantly, without killing trees****, and yet the royalties go to the author just as much as if one bought a paper copy, and it even counts toward their sales figures, if that matters to them.

That’s pretty much it for today, I think.  I may shift out from doing near-daily posts to doing a couple or three times a week, but I don’t know, maybe I won’t.  Anyone who has any preferences or suggestions one way or another should please feel free to leave a comment below (NOT on Facebook or Twitter…not if you want me to see it any time soon).

Be good to each other and to yourselves.


desperado oilified

*I almost wrote “podcasts” there, which is very peculiar, though I suppose they aren’t entirely dissimilar things.

**That’s the black Strat I played in my most recent videos.

***It used to be even easier until Google blocked the Kindle app from allowing in-app purchases.  I suppose this is justified as protecting people from themselves, especially from unscrupulous app writers, and it allows them to Google as if they are a morally upright company, but though I admire their products in general very much, and they do better than many big companies, they do not stand on any very impressive moral high ground.  Just ask Tristan Harris.

****Though, to be fair, the trees used for making paper are, I believe, from tree farms, and so more trees are planted as others are harvested.  And once paper is put in a book, it can remain there, on shelves or in hands or various other situations for decades and even—in principle—for centuries.  So, in a way, books may be a highly localized net carbon sink.  It’s something to think about.

Let there be gall enough in thy ink, though thou blog with a goose-pen, no matter.

Hello and good morning.

It’s Thursday again, and so it’s time for my usual, normal, typical weekly blog post.  For those of you who dip in only occasionally to read this weekly post, you should know that I’ve been writing “daily”* blog posts for about the last two and a half weeks, since I have no will or desire or urge to write fiction, or to play guitar, or to do anything else more creative than writing whatever comes into my stream of consciousness for these blogs.

This week, my Monday and Tuesday blog posts were probably a bit gloomy.  I’m never sure how they come across to other people, though—I seem unable to express my feelings in ways that other people even notice, let alone understand**, so I can’t make unqualified assessments.  But yesterday’s was, I think, more lighthearted, since it was the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

I like things like that.

Since I write a lot, I’m often slightly irritated by Word’s grammar checker function.  It frequently makes recommendations or highlights things that, apparently, its algorithm considers cases of incorrect grammar or punctuation.  Maybe half the time, maybe slightly more than that, it’s correct, because I’ve made a typo or was writing too fast on my first draft (or I just was incorrect, which does happen), but the rest of the time it’s simply wrong about its detected “error”.

There’s nothing wrong with that (ha ha); I don’t expect such algorithms to be perfect.  The problem is, when I address the suggestions, Word only gives me the options of changing what I wrote, not checking for that issue at all anymore (which I think would be counterproductive) or ignoring it “once”.  If I choose the latter, which I usually do, but then go back and edit that sentence or paragraph in any way—even if I put the cursor there—it highlights that “error” again, and I then have to choose either to re-right-click on it and tell it to ignore it once, yet again, or just to ignore the little blue double-underline that has clearly been designed to be difficult to ignore.  It’s irritating.

If there are people from Microsoft reading this, especially people who work on programming Word, please note:  I love your work, it’s a brilliant word processor; in many ways it’s The word processor, the standard by which all others are judged, and rightly so.  But can you please give us some other options such as, “ignore this from now on in this document”, and possibly even, “this would-be correction is itself erroneous”, the latter choice perhaps triggering a report to be sent back to Microsoft so the algorithm can be updated when it’s discovered that it’s making erroneous suggestions in certain circumstances.  I wouldn’t expect Word just to take my word for it, so to speak, but if many writers send back such reports on a particular issue, the program can be steadily improved, which would be of benefit to many.

I worry about this not merely because of the minor inconvenience to me which repeats itself several times daily, but also because there are many people out there who don’t seem to have studied grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., since, perhaps, third grade—and I doubt they got a very good grounding in the matters even then—so they learn what they think are rules of spelling and grammar and punctuation and usage from the corrections they are given when they use texting functions and word processors.  Which means they’re learning something incorrect in many cases, assuming they’re trying to learn in the first place, which I’m pretty sure at least some of them are doing.

I know, of course, that language is an evolving structure, and some “rules” are arbitrary and even silly…but not all of them.  Grammar exists because there is a logic to it that allows language consistently and accurately to convey thoughts and ideas in useful ways from one person to another.  Some conventions are no more “natural” than driving on the right side of the road versus the left.  But even in such cases, people need to pick a side of the road for everyone to stick to, even if it’s just arbitrary, or there will be many accidents, and no one will get anywhere.

Some things are real and fundamental—I think Chomsky showed, or at least posited, that there is an inherent grammar or syntax structure built into all human brains—and some things are semi-arbitrary, such as whether “prepositions” come before or after the words they modify, whether it’s even possible to split infinitives***, what symbol one should use to indicate that one is writing what some other person is or was saying, and so on.  These things can be, and are, done differently in different languages, but within a language, communication is better when the conventions are followed, for the most part, by those who actually want to communicate in that language.

When I write fiction, there are times when I will deliberately write ungrammatically, most often when writing dialogue.  But this is not the same as not knowing or caring about grammar and punctuation and related matters.  Language evolves when there are causes for changes, good or bad, but hopefully not just because of laziness and slipshod reliance on automatic spell-checkers and grammar checkers, especially if those are going to give bad recommendations.

Sometimes I despair.  Other times, I’m asleep.

I’m exaggerating a bit how much it bothers me, of course, and I don’t feel any moral outrage toward people who make such mistakes, or toward Word’s programmers for not having produced a program that’s perfect in all its parts.  That would be silly, and not in the way that I’m usually silly.  I just think it would be nice to try to improve the situation a bit to help people who really want to learn the rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling and so on properly****.  And it would be good if Word could be told when its grammatical suggestions are wrong.  Still, when I think about how much I write, even though this happens to me at least once a day, that’s still an awful lot more Word gets correct than it gets wrong, so kudos to those involved!

And to all the rest of you, who’ve now read an unplanned quasi-rant, since I don’t have any fiction writing to discuss, well—please have a good day and a good week and a good month and a good year, l’dor v’dor, ad infinitum.  Try to stay healthy from within and from without, which is a bigger challenge right now in much of the world than it usually seems to be.  Be good to those you love, and be good to those who love you, and if there is significant overlap in those two groups and you get to spend time with the groups’ members—that’s wonderful.  Cherish that fact.  Try to keep things that way if you can.



*In scare quotes because technically I have only been writing on the days that I go to work, so not on Sundays, and not on every Saturday.

**I’ve quoted often the line from Pink Floyd’s song Brain Damage, “And when the cloudbursts thunder in your ear/ you shout, and no one seems to hear” as representing my experience a lot of the time.

***Boldly or otherwise.

****So that, when they do break those rules—as they will, if they write enough—they can do so deliberately, choosing when and where and how they do it, achieving much more reliable results and effects than if they didn’t know what they were doing.  As Picasso is reputed to have said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”  He might not have been the most admirable of people, but he knew his stuff when it came to art.

Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your blogs? your flashes of merriment…

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday (July 14th, 2022), and so it’s time for my normal, usual, regular weekly blog post—as opposed to the semi-daily posts I wrote last Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and this week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday so far, in case anyone reading here today didn’t know I was doing them.  If you read my weekly blog posts, and if you find my writing either entertaining or morbidly fascinating or some other adjective that makes you want to read more, do feel free to check those out.

Heck, while you’re at it, if you like my writing, why not consider buying and reading some of my actual novels or short stories or collections?  You can find all of them on Amazon, and a few of them are also available through Wal-Mart’s website and Books-A-Million as well, I think.  If you do happen to read something of mine, please at least rate it afterwards (if through Amazon, anyway), even if you don’t feel like leaving a review.  Be brutal, be frank, that’s fine, but please rate if you can.

Okay, that’s got that bit of self-promotion out of the way.  Trust me, it’s not an easy thing for me to do.  As I think I’ve said before, I’m not very keen on myself as a person—I don’t like to spend time in my own company, but I don’t have much choice about doing so, though there are choices of sorts—and so I feel rather awkward trying to promote my works.  But I think I’m a decent author.  At least, I like my stories for the most part, and believe me, I’m not prone to be kind to myself.

I like some of my works more than others, but that’s almost inevitable.  If I liked them all equally and unconditionally, it would be hard for me to think I could recommend any of them.  Unconditional love, as I’m fond of saying, is worth what you have to do to earn it.  Or, to paraphrase Dash from The Incredibles, reflexively saying “Everyone’s special” is just another way of saying that no one is.

Of course, it’s possible for everyone to be special but in different ways and to differing degrees among the many ways it’s possible to be special, and this is almost certainly the case in reality.  By genes alone there are many more ways to be human (or whatever species I am) than there have been people who have ever lived, and then there are all the other variables raised by environment and the astonishingly plastic and adaptable and versatile nervous system humans have*, meaning there are many more orders of magnitude of ways for a mind to form even beyond genetic variability.  Frankly, I’m amazed it doesn’t go worse than it does more often.

Despite my own endorsement of my stories, I’m not able to rouse myself to write any fiction for now, so I’ll continue to write daily blog posts for the nonce**.  For all I know, I may never write any more fiction again.  In fact, based on my self-assessment, I would give fairly high odds that I won’t, just as I don’t think these daily blog posts will go on that much longer.  There seems little point in continuing to try to do much of anything in the long run, at least for me.

But who knows?  Maybe I’m wrong.  Prediction is a tricky business, especially about the future***.

I am thinking (very vaguely, to be fair) about reading aloud some more of the chapters of The Chasm and the Collision and sharing them here and on YouTube as “videos” as I’ve done for the first (I think) nine chapters so far, and as I’ve done for some of my short stories.  It always feels a little weird putting up a “video” that’s really just an audio recording accompanied by a single graphic image, but it would feel even weirder to make an actual video of me just reading my story.  Looking at my face while trying to listen to a novel isn’t going to help anyone’s enjoyment.

With that, I think I’ll begin drawing to a close for the day on this, my usual weekly blog post.  There’s nothing much going on other than these blog posts.  I haven’t played guitar in weeks, nor written any fiction, and I don’t see that turning around.  Similarly, I don’t really do anything for fun in the evenings after work, nor on weekends…nor during work hours for that matter.  I have a hard time even finding books that I want to read—when even The Lord of the Rings gets boring to me, I know I’m reaching the end of my resources.  I certainly don’t hang out with anyone; I’m not so cruel a sadist as to inflict my company on other people more than is absolutely necessary.  I’m basically just spending most of my time dilly-dallying near the edge of a bottomless precipice and doing a lot of glancing over and thinking that it doesn’t really look too bad down there.  It’s certainly less dull and dreary than it is up here.


skull drawing

*Yes, I know, sometimes it doesn’t seem that the human nervous system is very adaptable and versatile, to say nothing of being very bright, but on this planet, at least, it’s definitely an outlier with respect to high complexity.  It’s not its fault that most humans make poor use of it.

**Why doesn’t the nonce write its own blog posts, you ask?  Well, the nonce is notoriously lazy but nevertheless noisily demanding.  It’s easier just to write its blog posts so it’ll shut up.

***That’s a quote—or at least a paraphrase.

As you from blogs would pardon’d be, let your indulgence set me free.

Hello and good morning and welcome to Thursday and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  Also, of course, welcome to Summer (in the northern hemisphere, anyway…in the southern one, welcome to Winter).  Tuesday was the Solstice, aka the longest day of the year (in the north), if by “day” you mean the time during which the sun is above the horizon.  Now, as always happens during Summer, the “days” are getting shorter.  That may seem counter-intuitive to some, but when you take a moment to think about it, it’s pretty clearly the case, just as during Winter the “days” are growing longer.  The solstice is the peak (or the nadir) of the sine curve of day length, from which there is nowhere to go but down (or up).

I haven’t written much this week.  Last Friday and then this Tuesday and Wednesday, I only wrote about 700 words each, and on Monday I didn’t write anything at all*.  Nor did I play any guitar.  I just didn’t have the energy for much of anything.  I still don’t have much energy, frankly, but it seems this blog is the place in which I’ll delay longest before slacking off.  It’s the Tom Bombadil of my resistance to the figurative assault by Sauron on my middle-earth…to stretch a metaphor to its breaking point.

I have written a few thousand words on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado this week (go ahead, do the math), but my writing has been so slow that even since last week, the protagonists haven’t formally met with Lucy, the extradimensional demi-god who adores the Beatles.  They’ve traveled through her world a bit more, at least, and I’ve thrown in lots of little references that only Beatles fans will get.  It might be amusing for eventual readers; it also might be irritating.  I suppose it could be both.

As those of you who are paying attention to such things will already know, on Tuesday I uploaded the rest of Outlaw’s Mind that I have written so far.  It stops abruptly during the middle of a scene, because that’s where I was when I took my hiatus from writing it; apologies for that.  As for why I posted the rest—well, I just wanted to get it “over with” up to the current point, in case anything prevents further uploads.  If circumstances permit (and if anyone so much as expresses even the tiniest interest) I may continue with it at some future date.  I doubt anyone will much care, however, one way or the other.

As I said in Tuesday’s pre-story comment, I may soon post what I’ve written so far of The Dark Fairy and the Desperado, though any potential readers should bear in mind that it’s even more of a first draft than Outlaw’s Mind was.  If I do it, I’ll probably just post it all at once, though it’s over 60,000 words so far.  I don’t think there should be any upper limit to the length of a written blog post, though.  After all, even at so many words long, the file is only about 633 K in size, making it much shorter than the average video, even videos that are only a few minutes long.  So, data size at least shouldn’t get in the way.

Speaking of video files, I posted a silly little video last night on YouTube, which I’ll embed here, below.  It was, as I say in the video, a test of the function of using my phone to record and then upload videos to YouTube, and I think it went pretty well…though I suspect that the last few seconds of the video got cut off, just as I was about to stop “filming”.  I didn’t lose any content to speak of, and I wonder if YouTube just does that to such videos, or if the upload process did it (via WiFi, of course), or what exactly happened.  I uploaded it directly to YouTube, rather than, for instance, saving it to Google Drive and then uploading it from a laptop.  It was a trial in case I end up in situations where I want to upload videos but I’m not in good circumstances for using a laptop.

I can’t directly live-stream to YouTube** from my phone currently, because I don’t have enough subscribers to my YouTube channel.  That’s an interesting criterion for people to be able to live-stream from a phone.  I’m sure there was some quasi-logical decision-making process involved in setting the requirement, but I haven’t come up with any good hypotheses for what it might be (I also haven’t tried very hard to do so).  Of course, I could live-stream from a desktop or laptop if I wanted, because anyone can if they have a channel (or so I understand), but that wasn’t the point of my latest video.

Anyway, that’s about all there is to say about the video for now.  I did a few other test videos on two different computers earlier, and I uploaded them, but I haven’t made them public yet, and I may not ever do so.  I’m not sure.  I suppose we shall see.  Here’s the video in question above, though.

Don’t mind the sunglasses and the mask.  I was just playing around with the look, and frankly, I think it’s a lot better than my naked face.  Honestly, I could almost think I looked cool that way, which is a weird thought.  I’ll try not to get used to it.

With that, I don’t have much more to write in this week’s blog post.  Life is boring and unrewarding, and I don’t readily foresee any change to that, though I have something in mind that might do the trick.  Further bulletins on that as events warrant.  In the meantime, though, I hope you all are doing reasonably well—indeed, I would wish for you to be doing as well as it’s possible for you to be doing.  In fact, I will wish for it.  Why not?

There, I did it.

In a certain sense, of course, you already are doing as well as it’s possible for you to be doing right now, because once “now” has happened, it’s not as though you can do a mid-game reset and go back to try to do better.  I don’t know if that’s a comforting thought or a distressing one, though it could be both or either or neither, depending on the person.  But anyway, please try to make your present and your future as good as they can possibly be for you and for those you love.  You might as well—it’s not like you’ve got anything better to do with your time.


summer dawn

*And, of course, I wrote nothing on the “weekend”.  I pretty much did nothing on the weekend.

**From my phone, anyway.

Outlaw’s Mind – the rest so far

[Okay, what follows is the remainder of Outlaw’s Mind as I’ve written it so far.  It’s quite a bit longer than just one section, but I’m tired of posting it weekly, as I am of most things, so here is the rest of what I’ve written so far.  It may well be the rest of all that ever exists of it.  I don’t know that I’ll ever write more of it.  I may also post the entirety of The Dark Fairy and the Desperado as I’ve written it so far, a bit later this week–perhaps tomorrow–with a similar disclaimer.  That will be even longer than this is.  I hope you enjoy it, for what it’s worth.  Sorry if I don’t finish it.]

When Timothy introduced the notion of going to the group meeting the following Saturday to his mother, he wasn’t surprised to see her show relief and amusement.  She told him that she had indeed, as he’d suspected, been wondering what kind of surreptitious thing they could have been discussing that they wouldn’t want Rhonda to overhear.  After laughing a bit, she said that she was fine with the idea if that was what he wanted, but she asked him to be honest in telling her how he really felt about it.

Timothy didn’t have to search his feelings long to be able to honestly reply that, though mildly nervous, he was also excited about the idea.  He told her that he found meditation quite interesting, and enjoyed the process and the experience, and the learning about the landscape of his mind that came with it, and that he thought it might be even more interesting to do it for a longer period of time with the whole group around him.  He didn’t mention Rhonda, not wanting to worry either his mother or himself, but he at least thought that she could hardly be a bother during a group meditation session when everyone was sitting in silence.

Timothy’s mother said that, if he was fine with it, then she thought it was at least a potentially useful thing to do, and if it turned out not to be his cup of tea, well, they could just revert to the current lesson plan as long as Mr. Maclean was willing.  She smiled as she said this, clearly recognizing, as did Timothy, that Mr. Maclean was likely to go along with any reasonable course they desired. Continue reading

For many miles about there’s scarce a blog.

Hi.  Morning.  Thursday.  Blog post.

You get the general idea.

It’s been a relatively unremarkable week, so far, though I did a few mildly atypical things.  On Monday, I posted a selection of recordings of me “practicing” several songs that I like to do (just rhythm guitar and voice, nothing fancy).  I’d recorded them for my own benefit, but I thought I would share to see if anyone thought any of them were worth working into a video.  If you’re interested in that kind of stuff, by all means, feel free to check it out here.

I uploaded a few videos to YouTube that relate to the “black hole” topic below, but then I decided to keep them private for the moment; I don’t know whether or when I’ll ever make them public.  But I also did post a brief, smartphone video of a colony of tadpoles that had hatched in a slow-flowing storm drain behind where I work.  It’s dried up now, sadly, or at least the stuff above the drain has.  I don’t know the fate of the tadpoles, but it was probably dire, which is sad.  Still, they were cute, and it was funny that, for a time, there was an actual ecosystem in the alley there, just because the drain works so poorly.

On Tuesday, I posted the latest section of Outlaw’s Mind.  In it, Timothy is considering joining the Saturday class at the Vipassana Center; he feels that he’s getting a lot out of his early experience of meditation and would like to go further.  We can try to be optimistic on his behalf, but things will not go as he might wish.  If you’re interested in keeping up with that story so far, please check it out at the above link.  If you want to go back to the first section, the “cold opening”, you can find that here.  And if you just want to go to the collection of all the sections of Outlaw’s Mind so far, you can go here, but I think they will show up in reverse order.

I’ve written steadily on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado, though not quite as fast as last week—only about 4200 words since last Friday.  Still, it’s plugging along, for whatever that’s worth.  Our titular characters are now traveling through the realm of the extra-dimensional being named Lucy.  Though they have no context by which to recognize the significance of words being said and characters and settings they encounter there, the author, and hopefully many of the eventual readers, will find many amusing or charming or bizarre references to a certain legendary band, whose music is so amazing that it’s known throughout the Omniverse.

As for other matters…well, I’m currently stuck in a decaying orbit around a rather good-sized black hole.  It must be good sized, possibly even supermassive, because the tidal forces haven’t spaghettified me yet, though I’m steadily drawing closer, and apparently distant observers—all observers are distant from me—haven’t noted any significant tidal or relativistic effects.  Or maybe they have, but I just can’t tell.  I’m definitely feeling the tidal effects, those painful forces that pull me in opposite directions, and that may one day rip me apart, but so far, I haven’t catastrophically come asunder.  That will probably only happen after I’m below the event horizon, but that will depend on the mass of the black hole.

There doesn’t appear to be a significant accretion disk, which is probably why the black hole is invisible to distant observers, and why my orbit is decaying relatively slowly.  But decaying it is, and I suspect it’s by some process beyond simply the radiation of gravitational waves, since that seems too slow to explain the rate at which I’m approaching the horizon.  Maybe not; I’m not sure.

Anyway, whatever the case, I don’t seem to have the necessary propulsion power to pull myself out of my inward/downward spiral toward the horizon and thence to the singularity on my own, so unless someone out there is paying attention and flings out a big, interstellar length (and quite sturdy) rope of some kind, I don’t see myself doing anything but eventually—probably rather soon—passing the event horizon.  Supposedly, that’s something that’s not actually noticeable to the person so passing, at least according to General Relativity, but it would be noticeable from outside if anyone happened to be looking.  I guess I might have crossed the horizon already, now that I think about it.  Maybe that’s why none of the signals I send seem to reach anyone.

Huh.  That’s an interesting thought.

It’s a good question whether any quantum information regarding my state will survive to reach the outside universe, even in principle.  I know there are speculations about wormholes and the like solving the quantum information paradox, but I’m fairly sure that’s not a resolved issue, and it may not be until a full theory of quantum gravity is developed.  In any case, odds are that, even if in principle some traces of me remain in the outside universe, they will amount—in practice—to nothing more than random Hawking radiation, unnoticed by anyone, ever.

The foregoing is all metaphor, of course, though I’ve tried to keep the physics consistent and accurate.  What’s the point of using a weird, esoteric metaphor that only a science geek would use if you’re going to be reckless with your General Relativity?  Being reckless with metaphors is perfectly acceptable, however, and I’ve certainly done that.  That’s my way, I suppose, of effectively sabotaging myself so that no one can really quite grasp what I’m trying to say—or at least they can’t be sure—and so even if there were someone inclined to act, they’ll have reasons and/or excuses not to do so.  Can you blame them?  I can’t.

Anyway, that’s getting closer and closer to all I’ve got to say.  I hope all of you “distant observers” are doing well, and that only planetary and solar scale gravitational effects are impinging on you.  Please take care of yourselves and each other.

TTFNBlack hole

Outlaw’s Mind – Part 17

That Sunday, Timothy meditated for fifteen minutes at a time, three times during the day.  Though it didn’t feel any more like a chore than before—and indeed, if anything, it became more pleasant—he did realize that it was taking more time out of the day.  On Sunday this hardly mattered, since it wasn’t as though he had any close friends with whom to spend his off hours, and he was almost always well on top of his schoolwork.  He knew, though, that during the week it would be different.

With that in mind, he set his alarm ten minutes earlier than usual, so that he could get up in time to meditate before leaving for class.  When he got to school, early as usual, he found that fifteen minutes was going to be about as long as he’d be able to work in before class time and still be able to do the few necessary things he did before first period.  He set that limit for himself with some disappointment, but the fifteen minutes certainly did make him feel more equanimity once classes began.  He suspected that he was paying attention better, and learning better, than usual, but he was aware that this could be an illusion.  He supposed he would have to see if his grades were affected, though that might be difficult, because they always tended to be good.

As for social interactions, Timothy did think he recognized a greater ease with his classmates, and with their socialization.  He was pleased to note that he was able to have polite interactions with the girl to whom he’d been so rude before—well, he thought “rude” was too kind a word for the way he’d spoken to her, but he wasn’t able to find a better one—and he exchanged morning greetings with her on a regular basis.  Similarly, his interactions with his other acquaintances and minor friends felt less strained than before.  He tended always to be a bit nervous and defensive with respect to social interactions, and he especially felt uncomfortable when dealing with people being narrow-minded or snide or cruel in the way they characterized others.  He thought, though, that now he was feeling a little less uptight about it, and maybe—just maybe—reacting less severely to the little irritating things people said and did.

In the mornings and twice in the evenings, Timothy continued to increase his meditation by one minute per session per day.  He’d started increasing it on Tuesday, so by Friday he was up to nineteen minutes instead of twenty, which slightly bothered his sense of smoothness and roundness of numbers.  That, however, he was able to see as a peculiar thought arising within his mind, and he was able to survey it nonjudgmentally before letting it go.

He’d had no altercations since starting meditating, but two weeks was hardly an unusual length of time for him to go without blowing up.  If he’d been prone to explode quite that often, he’d almost certainly have been dead or in the juvenile home already.  He sometimes found it a wonder that he wasn’t.  Still, to know whether his experiment was really working would take a longer time.

He did, though, feel a guarded sense of optimism…which he also recognized as merely a thought arising in his head, and he surveyed it with amusement, allowing himself not to become too attached to it, before letting it go.

The next weekend, he and Mr. Maclean decided, after having a discussion about the thoughts that had occurred to him throughout the week, and about his daily increase in time length, and about his disappointing upper limit on meditation before class, to try for a full half hour.  In the silence of the shop, with the scent of incense and the soothing, guiding voice of Mr. Maclean, Timothy found himself going deeper—if that was the right term—than he thought he’d ever been before.  He felt a strange sense that he was losing his body, that all inputs from it, apart from the sense of breath in his nose, were fading, becoming transparent and intangible.  He was slowly becoming merely a mind, floating in limitless space, a space not entirely equivalent to the physical universe, though embedded within it, perhaps.  Or perhaps it merely coincided with it, overlapped it.  Perhaps, even, it was a space that was larger than the outer universe.  It felt like it might be a larger plane, a greater dimension, of which the ordinary three-dimensional reality was a mere subset, a shadow, like the face of a cube was only one small, lower-dimensional portion of the cube itself.

These thoughts he recognized as arising and was able not to try to hold on to them, but they were intriguing.

This time, he did hear the clock ticking again, at least part of the time, though at first it was unnoticeable.  At one stage, however, its sound became louder, a thunderous and yet not intrusive background noise sweeping through the mindscape in which Timothy existed.

He felt very calm and well when Mr. Maclean brought that session to an end.  He felt very much at one with his body, which seemed ironic, since he had so recently begun to feel that it didn’t exist, but it was an interesting fact that it didn’t seem to clash with his experience.  In his discussion about this with Mr. Maclean, he was told that this was very much a part of the nonduality noted by many types of meditation traditions—that the notion that humans were somehow minds riding around in their bodies, which Mr. Maclean referred to as “Cartesian Dualism,” a term Timothy had never heard before—was an illusion at best, that there was no true separation between mind and body.  And, Mr. Maclean added, there were many traditions that maintained that there was no separation between the human mind and the rest of the universe.  But this was not on as firm ground as was the clear fact that the human mind was very much a part of the human body.

They didn’t really have time to do a separate, second thirty-minute session, but Mr. Maclean did ask Timothy whether he might want to take part in the group meditation class, either that week or the next week.

At this proposal, Timothy felt a curious combination of emotions.  He felt anxiety over the prospect of spending time in the company of a group of adults, all meditating, and at the same time an odd sense of pride and excitement that he seemed to have a bit of a knack for the process, and was being invited into the larger, more advanced group already.  He felt a strange tension when he thought of the face of the woman, Rhonda, who had invited him to join on the previous week.  He wondered whether her invitation had influenced Mr. Maclean.  He didn’t think it probably had, but he couldn’t be sure, and he couldn’t be sure what she might have said later to the instructor after he’d left the previous Saturday.

Still, that wasn’t really all that important, he thought.  Or it shouldn’t be.  He didn’t like to be unduly influenced by other people’s wishes, but he recognized that this was not really that important in coming to a decision.  Still, his immediate sense of minor jitters was at least satisfied in that he was able to give the excuse that, for that week at least, it wasn’t going to be possible, because his mother would be coming to take him home soon.  Mr. Maclean nodded soberly, as though he had expected this, and then he asked about the following week.

Timothy thought about it.  He had really felt that the guided meditation session, lasting a full thirty minutes, had been significantly more beneficial even than his earlier ones, and that though he planned to do half an hour at a time and possibly more at home, it might be nice—it might be useful—to have an even longer session in the presence of others.  He wouldn’t have to worry much about social interactions, since they would be in a group class, and would all be silently meditating.  And it might give the process more impact for him to know, viscerally, that he was not alone.  It might be nice to feel that he was part of something.

After a bit more thought, during which he sensed that Mr. Maclean was wavering toward telling him not to worry about it, that there would be time enough to consider it later, Timothy quickly said, “Okay.  I’ll try it.  I mean, if it’s okay with my mom.”

Mr. Maclean gave his tiny smile and said, “Of course.  Well, that’s good to know.  I think you’ll do well, and I think you’ll get a lot out of it.  But I don’t want you to feel any pressure, either.  If you decide, even at the last minute, that you just aren’t up for it, that’s fine.  It’s no skin off my nose.  I want you to feel completely comfortable with this.”

“Sure,” Timothy said.  Then, realizing that this wasn’t the most appropriate response, he added.  “Thanks.”

“Great,” Mr. Maclean said.  “So, if you decide to come to class next week, I think there’s no need for you to get here quite as early…unless you want to go through a whole private session before the group session.  But the group course is two hours from start to finish, though we don’t spend all of that meditating—we talk a little bit about some of the subjects you and I have been discussing.  Between you and me, you often have deeper and more insightful questions and thoughts than many of the people in my class who are much older than you.  So, try not to embarrass them too much, okay?”

Mr. Maclean’s smile when he said this was almost a wink, as though he meant to convey the fact that he was half-joking, at least about the last request, but Timothy got the impression that the other comments were nevertheless honest and heartfelt.  He felt a warmth rising in his chest beyond even what he’d felt at compliments from Dr. Putnam.  He wanted to guard himself, both against optimism and against attachment with a person he honestly didn’t know all that well, but it was hard not to feel lighter and more positive in response to the man’s words.  He felt tempted to change his mind and take part in the class that day, but his concern for his mother had not been an invention.  She was already giving up her free time to bring him to the center and to wait for him.  He would not spring the possibility of staying on her at the last moment.

So, instead, he simply said, “Thank you.  I’ll try.”

“I’m sure you will,” Mr. Maclean responded.

At that moment, Rhonda came through the door, and with a glance, Timothy saw that she had indeed arrived a full three minutes earlier than she had the previous week.  It was too small a set of times for him to be sure that it was anything other than coincidence, but he had the sense that she was coming early out of curiosity about him.  Part of him felt flattered—he even wondered if she was a woman who might have a thing for younger men, or for teenagers, though he thought this was probably a species of wishful thinking on his part—but part of him felt a bit nervous.  He felt that her attitude toward him seemed to carry a hint of hunger.  And it was not a hunger of a sexual kind, despite whatever proto fantasies his teenage mind might want to conjure.  It was also not physically threatening.  But it still made him wary.

The fact that she looked directly at him before looking at Mr. Maclean as she came through the door didn’t help matters.

“Good morning,” she said in general greeting, and it was hard to tell if she was addressing one or both of them.  “How’s your day been so far?”

“Very productive,” Mr. Maclean replied, taking pressure off Timothy to respond.  Grateful for that intercession, Timothy just forced a smile and said nothing.

Apparently, this wasn’t enough to satisfy Rhonda, who looked more directly at Timothy and asked, “Are you getting used to meditating?  I know it took a while for me to not feel antsy when I was doing it.  Heck, sometimes I still do.”

Mr. Maclean didn’t try to answer this on Timothy’s behalf, which Timothy supposed was a sign of respect—though he didn’t think he would have minded if the pressure were still off.  So, Timothy stammered, “Well, I guess so.  I mean, I’m getting used to it.  I like it…and, well, I guess I’m not really the antsy type.”

“Wow,” Rhonda said, smirking a little too broadly.  “That’s lucky.  When I was a teenager, I think the only time I sat still was when I was asleep or stoned.”  She seemed to catch herself just then, but something in her demeanor made Timothy think her apparent slip, and her following words—“Oops, sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that.  Don’t do drugs, okay?  They’re bad for you, and they’re no substitute for mindfulness”—were very much a deliberate act.

Timothy couldn’t imagine what the point of such an act might be, but it didn’t really matter to him.  His experience of both marijuana and prescription medicine had girded him forcefully against the prospects of getting high.  “Don’t worry,” he said, feeling less tentative than he had before, “I don’t have any interest in drugs.”

He must have conveyed his sentiments well because Rhonda’s eyebrows went up as if she was impressed.  She took a step closer to Timothy and Mr. Maclean, saying, “Whew.  That’s good.  I’d hate to accidentally contribute to anyone’s delinquency.”  She gave a laugh that was obviously meant to be self-deprecating, but it came out a little too loud, Timothy thought.  He found Rhonda just a bit too intense, a bit too pressured—like she was trying too hard to give the impression of casualness, which seemed contradictory to Timothy.  He didn’t have any idea why she might behave that way, but social pressure, he knew, was not a minor thing, and it probably hit everyone a little differently.  He would try not to let the fact that she made him uncomfortable affect his judgment of her character.

When neither Timothy nor Mr. Maclean—who Timothy suspected was just as put off as he was, though he was probably better able to handle it—said anything, Rhonda asked, “So, are you going to be joining the group this week?”

Timothy thought this was the only thing Rhonda had really wanted to say to him from the beginning, and that all her prior words had been an attempt not to be too transparent.  That attempt had failed miserably, as far as Timothy could tell, but he supposed he couldn’t fault her for trying.  Interpersonal interaction wasn’t always easy, and some people were just better at it than others.

This time, Mr. Maclean did intercede on Timothy’s behalf, saying, “Not this week.  Let’s try not to put too much pressure on Timothy if we can.  I want to make sure he goes at whatever pace he’s comfortable with, and he can join the larger group if and when he’s ready.  Or not, if he decides not to.”

Timothy noted that Mr. Maclean had said nothing about their tentative plans for the following week, and he was deeply grateful for that.  He thought Rhonda might have started to drool if she heard such a thing, and though he found that thought amusing, he didn’t want her involved in his decision one way or another.

Rhonda, at least, seemed to have gotten the hint.  With an only slightly exaggerated rueful expression, she said, “Sorry about that.  I don’t mean to make you feel weird.  I just think meditation is great—at least when Bill leads it—so I’m a little too enthusiastic.”  With what now seemed a more honest bit of chagrin, she added, “I guess I still have a lot of work to do in getting control of myself.”

“Don’t we all,” Mr. Maclean replied with a tiny breath of laughter and his little smile.  “Believe me, I’m a long way away from being anyone’s idea of a bodhisattva.”

Rhonda laughed loudly at this comment, but Timothy wasn’t sure what Mr. Maclean meant.  He thought the term Mr. Maclean had used sounded familiar—he probably had encountered it during his personal research on meditation—but he wasn’t sure what it signified.  From context, he thought a bodhisattva must be some kind of master meditator, but something in the way the other two laughed made him suspect something deeper.

He was about to indulge his curiosity and simply ask, but at that moment his mother walked through the front door of the shop.  Timothy thought that she too was just a little bit earlier than she had been on the previous week, but he hadn’t watched the clock then, having been distracted by Rhonda just as much at the time.  Maybe she’d just happened to show up early today because whatever she’d done had taken less time.  Certainly, she wasn’t carrying any shopping bag now.  He wondered, though, if she had sensed Rhonda’s slightly unwholesome interest before and had wanted to be sure to head it off.

“Hello again,” she said, clearly speaking to Mr. Maclean.  “How did everything go today?”

“Very well,” Mr. Maclean replied, his smile broadening.  “Timothy is very dedicated to the process, and I think he has a bit of a knack for it.”  He had pointedly avoided mentioning why Timothy was taking part in the mindfulness training, obviously because Rhonda was right there, and this reinforced Timothy’s already high opinion of him.

He thought his mother felt similarly, because he saw her glance at Rhonda—who hadn’t backed away this time, unlike the previous week—before saying, “Well, that’s good to hear…though it’s no surprise to me, of course.  I’m his mother, so I’ve known him all his life.”  She laughed, a little uncomfortably, Timothy thought.

Her discomfort, it seemed, was warranted, for as soon as a moment of silence came, Rhonda immediately barged into the conversation, saying, “Mrs. Outlaw, I just want to say, I think it’s a great thing you’re doing, bringing Timothy here.  I’ve gone to a few other meditation teachers, but Bill is the best one I’ve met.  I think Timothy is going to get a lot of good out of this.”

Timothy was slightly irritated—tending towards anger—by the presumptuous familiarity Rhonda expressed, referring to him by name and showing off that she knew his surname.  He was, however, able to recognize when the thought and emotion arose in his mind, and to observe it, and not to hold onto it.  It took a bit more mental dexterity to do this with randomly arising thoughts, but he was pleased to accomplish it.  Perhaps he did have a bit of a knack.

His mother, on the other hand, gave clear signs—to Timothy’s trained perceptions—that she was mildly irked, her left eyebrow twitching upward ever so slightly and her lips tightening as she said, “Well…that’s good to hear.”

“I’m Rhonda, by the way,” Rhonda said, waving in a small, girlish way rather than reaching for a handshake.  “I’m a student in Bill’s Saturday class.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Timothy’s mother replied tersely.  It was quite clear that she wasn’t quite speaking the full truth.  At least, it was clear to Timothy.

Now, Timothy expected, having raised the subject, Rhonda would pitch his mother on the idea of having him join the class, perhaps that very weekend.  However, it seemed that Rhonda had more sense than he’d credited her with, for her next words were, “Anyway, sorry to get in the way here.  I get too enthusiastic sometimes, like I was just saying to these two.  Bill, is it alright if I use the restroom?”

“Of course,” Mr. Maclean replied, his relief clear even in his low-key manner.  “You don’t need to ask.”

Rhonda said, “Thanks.  Nice to meet you again,” waving again at Timothy’s mother before heading toward and through the doorway to the back of the store whose front was Mr. Maclean’s classroom.  Timothy watched her until she was out of sight, then turned back to discover that his mother and Mr. Maclean had also been marking Rhonda’s exit, because they all turned back to face each other at once.

Mr. Maclean’s smile looked slightly rueful as he said, “Sorry about that.  Rhonda’s a good person, but she’s very…well, like she said, a bit too enthusiastic.”

“I’ll say,” Timothy’s mother agreed.  “She seems more like a kid than Timothy does.”

Mr. Maclean chuckled, clearly agreeing with that assessment, and he said, “Well, it’s probably one of the things she’s hoping to master with meditation.  Not that enthusiasm is a bad thing, but she sometimes seems a little…well, hypomanic.  Timothy, on the other hand, seems to be a bit of an old soul, as they say, though I don’t mean it literally.”

Timothy was surprised to hear his mother give a quick laugh of relief and obvious agreement.  “Boy, you can say that again,” she replied.  “It can sometimes be hard for me to feel like I’m the parent.  I think he’s wiser than I am in a lot of ways.”

Mr. Maclean smiled more broadly, but Timothy thought he felt a bit guilty that he agreed with her statement so much, though he could have been reading too much into things.

“He’s a good young man,” Mr. Maclean said.  “Which just makes me feel better about our arrangement here even than I already did.  And, speaking of that, Timothy and I discussed something briefly earlier, but I’ll leave it to him to talk over the idea with you.  I’m not too sure how soundproof the bathroom is.  But you still have my phone number, right?”

Timothy’s mother, obviously slightly puzzled, said, “Yes, I do.”

“Good,” Mr. Maclean said.  “Well, after you two talk about it, if you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to call.  I’ll be here at the same time next week no matter what, just in case, so don’t worry about that.”

Timothy’s mother obviously wasn’t sure why Mr. Maclean would give that assurance, but she was also just as obviously aware that he was avoiding saying too much for fear of Rhonda accidentally or deliberately overhearing.  Timothy wondered what his mother must be thinking they had talked about.  She was probably going to be pleasantly surprised that it was such a mundane subject.

“Okay,” she said.  “I’ll do that.”  Then, seeming to relax a bit, she added, “And thank you again for everything.  I don’t know how these kinds of things are measured, but…well, I think it’s already doing Timothy a lot of good.”

Timothy was surprised by this comment—he didn’t see what his mother could possibly have noticed as being any overt benefit so far from his brief practice of meditation.  Mr. Maclean, however, did not seem surprised at all.  His smile was more relaxed still as he replied, “I don’t doubt it.  Like I said, he’s quite dedicated and serious about this, it’s very plain to see.  It’s a privilege to work with him.”

Timothy’s mother blinked in clear surprise, and Timothy felt his face must have shown similar response to such an effusive compliment from such a staid and quiet person as Mr. Maclean.  Plainly scrambling to catch up, his mother said, “Well, I’m sure it’s quite mutual.”

Timothy, feeling the warmth of the compliment and wanting to repay it with as much interest as he could muster, added, “Yeah, seriously.  It’s really great that you’re helping me with this.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Mr. Maclean said, making it sound like simple truth rather than a polite nothing.  Then he turned to look over his shoulder at the doorway through which Rhonda had passed, saying, “Well, I guess I’d better start getting ready for the other Saturday morning students to arrive.  You two have a good trip home and a good week.  And remember, feel free to call me.”

“Thank you, we will,” Timothy’s mother said.  “And I will…if I need to.”

“Yeah, thanks again, Mr. Maclean,” Timothy said.  “See you next week.”

To blog what majesty should be, what duty is, why day is day, night night, and time is time, were nothing but to waste night, day and time.

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for a new edition of my weekly blog post, such as it is.

It’s the second Thursday in June of 2022, which is not particularly interesting.  The 24th of June* might be an interesting and even auspicious or ominous day for me, poised as it is at the halfway point between the 19th (which will be Father’s Day**) and the 29th, which would have been my 31st anniversary***.  Also, 6-24-22 is kind of interesting as a sequence of numbers, since 6 times 4 is 24, and 2 plus 2 is 4, as is 2 times 2 (but you must leave out the “20” portion of 2022 for that even to begin to work).

Anyway, that’s all numerology of some ridiculous kind, though I doubt there is any numerology that is not ridiculous.  There’s nothing inherent in the arbitrary choice of numerical or verbal designations for days.  It’s all stuff made up by humans to keep track of time and events.  That’s useful in and of itself, but people attach silly significance to the numbers and names, especially if thy coincide with something memorable—even if the memories are thoroughly bad, or if the numbers and names commemorate things that are profoundly sad.

Oh, but 19 and 29 are both prime numbers, and though the names we give to numbers, and the way we number our days, are arbitrary, the prime numbers are not.  They are quite real**** and I’m a big fan of them.  I always used to try only to put a prime number of gallons of gas (13 if I could manage it) in whatever car I was driving when I gassed up; that’s how big a fan I am.  Or, at least, that’s the kind of fan I am.

I know, I need help, right?  I really, honestly do.  Seriously.  I’m not joking.  Good luck getting it, though.

I’ve written just shy of another six thousand words again on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado since last Thursday.  I’m at a fairly odd moment in the story.  The two title characters are in the realm the “extra-dimensional” demi-god Lucy, and her realm is…unusual.  I’ve already written over sixty-thousand words on this story, which may not be all that much for me, but still is quite a good chunk in what seems like a short time.

Out of curiosity, as I reached the sixty-thousand mark, I looked up the number of words in an average novel, or at least the average number of words in a novel (it was on Bing, not Google, so take it for what it’s worth), and found the answer quoted to be about ninety-thousand words.  That surprised me.  I can’t easily recall the last time I would have read a “novel” with only ninety-thousand words in it, except for Japanese “light novels”, which are really never complete stories in themselves, but are parts of series, like the manga and anime that are often produced from them.

Otherwise, possibly the last time I read a book that short was when I read Harry Potter book 1, which supposedly only has a bit over 76,000 words.  No wonder I thought that story was so short!  But that was, ostensibly, a book for children, and thankfully, the rest of the series rapidly developed into real novels, with enough space and time for interesting things to develop.

Hell, I’ve written “short stories” that have sixty-thousand words in them.  Admittedly, they really don’t count as true “short stories”, even to me, but it feels pretentious to call them “novellas”.  Still, how many of the truly great novels of all time have been anything close to that short?  What chance would one have to develop memorable characters and build interesting worlds?

Incidentally, The Dark Fairy and the Desperado will probably be no more than ninety-thousand words long, but it’s specifically intended to be the first in a series of books and will have much in common with the light novels I mentioned above.  This isn’t too surprising, since it’s a story I originally conceived as a manga*****.  I’m probably even going to put some of my old illustrations in the story; it would be a shame to waste the opportunity, and I already have the illustrations.

I posted the latest section of Outlaw’s Mind—a story that is already well over ninety-thousand words long—this week.  You can find it here (not at the Hotel California).  If you’re looking for the first section, in case you want to read it but—weirdly enough—would like to start at the beginning, the first section is here.

That’s about it.  There’s literally nothing else worth noting going on with me.  At least, there’s nothing else interesting to me going on with me.  Of course, people I know are doing interesting things and having interesting experiences, and I fully support those and the fact that they are interesting.  But those interesting things would and will go on with or without my knowledge or input, or even my awareness of them, or even my existence.

Such is life.  I cannot unreservedly recommend it.



*Which, I think, is a Friday, not a Thursday, though it would have been a Thursday last year, since the 10th was a Thursday last year.

**Not a very happy day for me; I literally haven’t seen either of my kids (in person) in just shy of ten years.

***And which will mark the anniversary at which I will now for the first time have been divorced for longer than I was married.  What a dubious and lamentable achievement.

****I’m not referring to the real numbers in the mathematical sense, though the prime numbers are members of the “real” numbers.

*****To be fair, Mark Red was also originally conceived as a manga, and it’s well over ninety-thousand words long…more than twice that.  I just checked.

Outlaw’s Mind – Part 16

Timothy didn’t try to meditate during lunch or between classes.  The latter breaks were too brief, and he did have a few other boys with whom he tended to eat lunch.  Though he was relatively taciturn, he took part at least somewhat in their conversations, and he behaved fairly normally.  He’d discovered that keeping separate completely, drawing off into a shell, would be more likely to single him out for just the sort of behavior that might lead to him exploding.  So, he cultivated acquaintances with whom he could interact superficially and briefly, but with whom he resisted becoming closer, not planning to do anything after school or on weekends, saying his family situation wouldn’t allow it.

That night, though, after dinner, he once again set his timer for six minutes, sat in his chair and closed his eyes.

He found that having food in his stomach was a real distraction, because it made his mind feel foggy and groggy, almost stupid.  He had a hard time paying attention to his breathing, even when he tried to use the fact of his full belly as a focus.  Still, he was able at least somewhat to keep himself seated, feeling his breathing, feeling the threatening torpor of a large evening meal.

After that meditation, he decided that he would try in future to wait until well after dinner to do so again or try to get it in before dinner.  Or maybe he should simply try not to eat so much at dinner, or to eat different things.  He wondered what might be the best kind of food to avoid the distracting gloopiness in his body.  Perhaps he would ask Mr. Maclean about it.

On Tuesday, he set his alarm for seven minutes, and he did his breathing first thing in the morning, before classes, and before dinner instead of after.  He considered trying a fourth time after, but he again realized that the feeling of a full stomach—though he’d eaten a little less than the night before—was detrimental.

On Wednesday, he set the alarm for eight minutes, and before class started eight minutes before the bell.  If he kept up the increase, he was soon going to need to come to school a little earlier.  Or maybe he would just hit a practical wall and decide only to do so much before class.  There was never quite as deep a sense of focus in class; he always caught himself being more distracted by his fear of social issues than ever by his own straying thoughts—though when he thought about them, he always finally realized that the perceived social issues really were merely his thoughts, and he hadn’t had any issues with his classmates.  This revelation continued to surprise him and to intrigue him.  This was surely something worth learning about, and a habit worth trying to break.  Anticipating trouble could make it more likely to happen; Timothy was not too young to realize that.

On Thursday his timer was nine minutes.

On Friday it was ten minutes.

He found that it wasn’t really any more onerous to try to focus on his breathing for ten minutes than for five; though he continued to catch himself becoming distracted over and over again, it wasn’t too disheartening, and he was even becoming a little gentler with himself when he did catch it.  And he had never found sitting still to be hard, at least not since he’d been very small.

As Friday evening closed, and Timothy finished a last, extra ten-minute session just before bed, which he found nicely conducive to relaxing for sleep, he was also mildly excited to go visit Mr. Maclean the next morning, despite what he had been through after the meeting the previous week.  In his mind, he did not associate his traumatic oath to his mother with Mr. Maclean, though the man had been a kind of trigger for it.  Instead, he saw it as a mere happenstance, something that might have occurred earlier, if Dr. Putnam had spoken with his mother directly about his thoughts, or later in some other circumstance.  And he noticed this as a fact in his mind, and that in itself was interesting, too.


Timothy’s mother was polite and pleasant with Mr. Maclean when she brought Timothy to the Vipassana Center.  He’d been a bit nervous that she would have a negative impression of the man, and would show it, because Maclean had been the one to reveal to her Timothy’s thoughts that had so horrified her.  However, that didn’t seem to be the case.  In fact, she was more relaxed by a significant margin than she had been on their first meeting, which Timothy supposed made sense.  Perhaps she might even be thankful to Mr. Maclean for having revealed to her such an important piece of information, which Timothy’s doctor had not shared.

Timothy told Mr. Maclean that he’d been increasing his meditation time by a minute a day, which had not been specific to the instructions but hadn’t been forbidden.  If he’d worried that the man would be disapproving, that worry was unrealized.  If anything, Mr. Maclean was impressed and pleased, and he asked Timothy to share with him what, if anything, his experiences had entailed that he thought worthy of sharing.

Timothy told him most excitedly about his recognition that he was the source of his own anxiety about people possibly teasing or bothering him while he doing his meditation before class—such as it was—and how interesting it was to realize that his own thoughts could trigger the feelings he so strongly felt.

Mr. Maclean looked at him intently for several seconds after that revelation, and then with his tiny smile he said, “That’s a really deep insight into what’s going on in your own mind, and after only a few days of meditation.  I’m pretty impressed.  And it’s also quite true.  Many of the sources of our own suffering are purely born of things we imagine or anticipate…of thoughts that arise within our minds.  In fact, the Buddhists say that all suffering is born of such thoughts, attachment in particular, and that the goal of meditation is to become free from attachment and free from suffering because of that.  Of course, then they also say that, if you can do that, you’ll break free of the cycle of karma and rebirth, and will be able to avoid reincarnating, but we don’t need to entertain notions like that to agree that suffering comes from how we think about things, not from the things themselves.  Or, as Shakespeare put it…I think…‘there’s nothing good or ill but thinking makes it so’.  Something like that, anyway.  Or as Milton put it, ‘the mind is its own place, and of itself, can make a Hell of Heaven, a Heaven of Hell’.”

Timothy had heard of Shakespeare, of course, and he thought they were going to be reading one of the man’s plays later that year in his English class, but he wasn’t aware of Milton.  However, something about Mr. Maclean’s words and quotes didn’t quite seem correct to him.

“But…people suffer all the time because of things that they aren’t thinking,” he said.  “I mean…if someone gets sick, or if they get in an accident, or someone beats them up, it’s not because of what they’re thinking.  Unless you think that everything that happens is, like, invited by people because of the way they think, but that doesn’t make sense to me.”

“No, nor to me,” Mr. Maclean replied.  “Though there are forms of the notions of karma that really do claim that all suffering in your current life is because of some kind of karmic debt from a previous life.  But I don’t see any reason to take that assertion seriously.

“But there is a real distinction, certainly in meditation practices, and Buddhism and the like, between pain and suffering.  Pain is a physical thing…it’s a message, sent from one part of our body to our brain, and it’s important.  Pain—and avoiding it—helps keep us alive.  But suffering is a subjective state, and it can happen when the body is not in pain at all…it can happen in the physically healthiest person in the world, in fact.  Surely, you’ve heard of rock stars and successful businesspeople who have every worldly comfort and joy that anyone could possibly hope for, and yet are deeply miserable.  Think of the musicians and movie stars and so on who end up destroying their lives through drugs, who can’t maintain relationships, who make everyone around them miserable.  Some of them even kill themselves, like poor Robin Williams did a few years ago.”

Timothy didn’t like to dwell on the subject of suicide, so he didn’t follow the thread of celebrity self-destruction.  Instead, he asked, “But isn’t pain and suffering really just…two kinds of the same thing?”

“Not necessarily,” Mr. Maclean said.  “Physical pain is a signal of dysfunction, at least when it’s working right, and it’s an important fact.  We’re built not to be able to ignore it easily, and for good reason, but when looked at from outside, it’s just a signal, just a message, being interpreted by the brain.  There are meditators who actually are able to use specific feelings of pain as a focus for their attention in meditation, as you’ve been doing with your breath, and it can—in some of them—even become fascinating.  I wouldn’t want to encourage someone to be too enthralled by pain as a focus of experience, though it is intense, but to be able to see it for what it is, as a state of mind reacting to a state of body, and it can be very interesting.  And that can, sometimes, take much of the actual suffering out of the experience of pain.”

Timothy blinked a few times before saying, “That’s…I think that’s way past anything I could ever do.”

“Maybe,” Mr. Maclean said.  “I certainly don’t find it easy myself, and I’ve spent a lot more time meditating than you have.  But at times, on retreat, you can find yourself sitting and start getting an uncomfortable feeling in your back, or your legs, your knees, your neck, whatever…and if you’re already in the right state, you can find that the discomfort is much less difficult because you’re not fighting it.  Fighting against pain, struggling not to feel it, to push it away, is another kind of attachment, or so the Buddhists would say, and that’s what makes you suffer.”

Timothy, worried about offending the man, said, “You don’t sound like you really believe that all the way.”

Far from being offended, Mr. Maclean smiled more broadly and responded, “Well, I may be expressing a bit of sour grapes in my lack of persuadability on that.  I’ve never quite been able to achieve that level of distance from the fact of my pain, at least not for very long at a time, so I develop automatic arguments against it.  Sort of like someone who’s allergic to cats and so decides that they just don’t like cats, they aren’t a cat person, cats are not good pets, and so on.  It’s justification after the fact.  In actual fact, I do find the statements about attachment and resistance to pain being the source of at least a lot of our suffering when we’re in pain to be convincing.  But it’s a very high hurdle to put that fact into practice and use it.  Maybe if I had some kind of chronic pain—if pain were my ‘normal’ state of being, you could say—I’d get enough practice in that I could reach that point.  But I think I’m just not that skilled.”

Timothy tried to digest the man’s point, which he supposed made sense.  Turning things back to his own case, he asked, “What do you think about…about anger or about rage and meditation, or…or attachment I guess?”

The smile disappeared from Mr. Maclean’s face, and he rubbed his lips with a finger a few times before saying, “That’s an interesting question.  I’ve been thinking a bit more about it since we met, and since Dr. Putnam spoke to me about your situation.  It seems to me that we might take a similar approach to your rage and anger—maybe to rage and anger in general—that we’ve just been talking about with pain.”

Timothy, confused, asked, “What do you mean?”

“Well…in general, I would say that anger, for most people, is the equivalent mentally of suffering, not of pain.  In fact, you could almost say that anger is a kind of suffering.  Most of the time, when people are angry, especially when they stay angry about something, it’s because they’re ruminating on something.  They’re trapped in their thoughts about what made them angry, and they identify with those thoughts, they follow them and repeat them to themselves, replaying the events they see as causing the anger, reminding themselves of whatever the perceived insult or injustice was, all the while not realizing that they are the ones who are making themselves angry…or at least are perpetuating it.  No one can avoid ever getting angry about anything—or so I suspect—but it is possible not to stay angry, if a person can just look at their own thoughts and see the ones arising that are maintaining their anger.  And, as you’ve probably begun to learn at least a little, once you pay attention and recognize a thought as a thought, as something just arising within your consciousness, it loses its persistence.  It floats away along with the feeling of anger, though the physiology of anger can take a little longer to diminish.”

Timothy found this at least mildly interesting, but he didn’t think it applied to his own situation.  His experiences were not ones in which he was ruminating on something and staying angry.  His anger tended to be more like an explosion, something that occurred suddenly and catastrophically, and mulling things over and dwelling on the negative was the least of his problems in those moments.

Mr. Maclean seemed to know this, for he went on, “Now, your situation is rather different from that kind of thing.  I mean, there’s a reason Dr. Putnam thinks it’s a medical problem.  You actually don’t come across as an angry person in general.  I’ve seen and met angry teenagers.  At one point, I probably was one.  You’re not.  There’s not a trace of pouting or grumpiness or ‘bad attitude’ on your face, not since I’ve been interacting with you.  Your posture’s open, your gaze is direct, you’re leaning a bit forward.  You don’t seem like an angry sort of person.”

Timothy, embarrassed to be described in the terms Mr. Maclean was using, and not to have realized the little details of his own expression and seated position, fidgeted a bit, but he decided that to try to change his way of sitting would be silly and even more embarrassing.  Trying to focus instead on what the man was saying, he responded, “Well…I mean, I’ve kind of tried not to be an angry person, you know?”

“Yes, I think I do,” Mr. Maclean said.  “It’s rare to see such a young person who’s obviously been thinking about self-improvement at such a level, but I know your situation, your issue, has made that important to you.  And to go back to what I was saying…I think your ‘rage’, your episodes have more in common with physical pain than they do with suffering in the Buddhist sense.  They seem to be something that arises on its own, in a way, almost like…like a mental cramp, maybe, like seizure of some kind.”

Timothy said, “They checked me for seizures before, though.  I guess I don’t have them.”

“No, of course, I didn’t mean that literally,” Mr. Maclean said with a small laugh.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be unclear.  I just meant that they seem to happen to you, at a different level to the way thoughts just happen, though that is what thoughts do.  Maybe they’re more akin to…to a feeling of nausea, say, when something’s bothering your stomach.  A deep process that intrudes itself, much more so than ordinary thoughts do.  If you want to hear a silly analogy, which probably betrays more of my own nerdy background than I might be wise to share, your situation reminds me just a little bit of The Hulk, the comic book character.  Are you familiar with those comics?”

“Uhh…not with the comics,” Timothy said.  “But I’ve seen some of the movies.  He’s the big, green, super-strong guy, right?”

“Right,” Mr. Maclean said, chuckling in a way that was clearly self-deprecating.  “And though he’s obviously just a fantasy character, there are interesting parallels.  The man, Dr. Banner, is a scientist—pretty level-headed, very smart, all that.  But with the right triggering events, something that makes him particularly upset or agitated or, of course, angry, the Hulk comes out of him, a creature almost entirely defined by rage, and completely outside of Dr. Banner’s control.  And he is incredibly destructive, powerful, not able to be reasoned with.  And his actions utterly disrupt Dr. Banner’s life.  But he certainly doesn’t cause them consciously.”

Timothy could see where Mr. Maclean’s point was, but he didn’t really like the comparison.  He thought that comparing himself to a comic book character sounded in some ways too egotistical and in other ways too dismissive.  He was worried that Mr. Maclean, or he himself, wouldn’t be able to take his issue seriously when thinking about it that way.  And his situation, his problem, was terribly serious, especially since the oath he’d taken the week before.

He considered telling Mr. Maclean about that, but decided it wasn’t really a good time.

Habitually deferential to authority figures, which he considered Mr. Maclean to be, Timothy said, “I guess I see what you mean.”

“Okay,” Mr. Maclean said, watching Timothy closely.  “Well, not to try to stretch the analogy too far, but I think in one of the movies at least, Dr. Banner tried to engage in various kinds of meditation or something similar, to see if he could control and prevent his anger from ever occurring…or at least of putting it more under his conscious control.  Now, it’s not a good idea to generalize from fictional evidence, of course, since fiction is fiction, and may have nothing at all to do with the real world.  But I think that perhaps meditating, as you’ve already begun doing quite well, might at least let you learn to identify mental states that tend to trigger your personal…well, ‘rage monster’, I guess, might be a valid term, though I don’t want to make you feel too negative.”

Timothy, sensing that the man wanted some real feedback on that point, said, “No, it’s fine.  I…well, it’s not too wrong, anyway, so whether it makes me feel bad doesn’t really matter much.”

With a thoughtful frown, Mr. Maclean said, “That’s a very…well, thoughtful attitude to take, at least, though I wouldn’t want you to be too dismissive of your own feelings.  In any case, hopefully we can have you learn, though meditation, to recognize and identify those mental states…those thoughts…that tend to trigger your rage and learn to avoid them.  Because correct me if I’m wrong, they don’t just happen out of the blue, am I right?  They happen in reaction to events in the world around you, don’t they?”

“Yeah,” Timothy admitted.  “They don’t just pop up out of nowhere.  I mean, usually, it’s when something happens where…where someone’s teasing someone else, or bullying someone, or doing something stupid and mean, either to me or to someone else.  I get, like, just so mad at them for being jerks, and then I…I kind of just take off from there and it goes sky-high.”

“I see,” Mr. Maclean said.  “So, in a way, it’s almost a response to your sense of personal justice, or vengeance, or whatever you might call it.”

Timothy preferred “justice” if it came down to it.  He would rather not think of himself as motivated by a desire for revenge, because that seemed frankly wrong.  However, he didn’t think it was a point worth dwelling on, since something else was more pressing.  He asked, “But you don’t think that we…that we’re going to have to, like…activate, or trigger, or set off one of my…fits, or whatever, to be able to learn what causes it, do you?  Because I don’t know that I really like that idea.”

“No, I can understand that, and I don’t blame you,” Mr. Maclean said.  “I’m not really interesting in trying to poke a sleeping bear in order to try to figure out ways to train it not to get mad when poked.  Quite apart from any harm you might do to my place, or to me—which I’m not really worried about, anyway—it would cause you suffering, I’m quite sure of that, and that’s exactly the opposite of what I’m all about here.”

Not particularly liking the analogy to a sleeping bear, but honestly unable to find fault with it, Timothy simply said, “Well…that’s good.”

Mr. Maclean gave his tiny smile, which looked a bit rueful to Timothy, as though his discomfort with the analogy had been plain to read on his face.  With a nod and a breath, Mr. Maclean said, “What I really hope is, that as you learn to meditate and become more aware of how your own mind works, you’ll come to two situations.  First, you’ll come to recognize that everyone in the world is just as much a victim of identification with the substance of their thoughts as you are—and not just to know it intellectually, but to feel it in your bones, so to speak—and that therefore you won’t tend to feel quite the same kind of indignation at wrongdoing that seems to trigger your rages.  After all, you wouldn’t become enraged in response to…I don’t know, a bee stinging you, would you?”

Timothy thought with great discomfort back to the alien mindset he’d had when he’d encountered the wasps building their nest on the back of his house.  He didn’t want to bring it up with Mr. Maclean, because it was terrifying in a different way than the other aspects of his problem.  But it did lead him to wonder whether he might not, under the wrong circumstances, really react to a bee sting with rage.  It would be silly and childish, and probably dangerous for him—at least he’d be in danger of attacking a hive, and possibly getting stung to death in response, which was not a death he would ever have considered a good one—but it wasn’t impossible.

Still, he got Mr. Maclean’s point, and it was true that, when not under the influence of medication, he’d never gotten angry at anything other than his fellow humans.  He didn’t know if that was good or bad, but people did seem more culpable for their deeds than other creatures did.  He said, “I don’t think so.  A bee is…just an animal.  And not a very smart one, I don’t think.”

“Right,” Mr. Maclean said.  “And from the proper point of view, every human being is just an animal, too.  And, when you get right down to it, though we’re smarter than the other animals on the planet, it’s fair to say that we’re not all that smart, either.  Most people would never choose to be in a position where they do things they know to be wrong, I’m convinced of that, but we are so lost in ourselves, so filled with the suffering that entails, that we do many irrational things, and they cause further suffering to us and to those around us.

“The other thing I hope we can achieve is that, even if you don’t quite reach a metta type sense of lovingkindness toward all your fellow beings that allows you honestly not to become angry about their deeds—which is a very high hurdle, to be honest.  I’ve never gotten close to it.  But if you become able enough to know yourself, to be familiar with your own mind, you’ll recognize and see the dangerous patterns of thought, and you’ll not have to do any trial-and-error type experiments to prevent them, because…well, because the ones that trigger your rage simply won’t ever gain traction.  That’s what I hope.”

Timothy liked the sound of that, even if he thought it too was quite a high hurdle in its own right.  He tried to smile, himself, recognized that it was an effort and so stopped trying too hard, and he said, “Well, it sounds like it’d be worth a try, anyway.  And it’s gotta be better than the Paxil.  At least there aren’t any side-effects to meditation.  Right?”

“Well…not many,” Mr. Maclean replied.  “And usually not anything like what you might experience with pharmaceuticals.  But it is possible to find oneself in disquieting places in one’s own mind.  But that’s one of the reasons its beneficial to have guidance, and even to meditate in groups.  The support of others, and of guidance, can help steer you away from places you might not want to go.”

Timothy thought of the icy landscape he’d experienced after his confrontation with his mother the previous week.  That was a place he preferred not to visit if he could avoid it.  And he certainly didn’t ever want to meet the thing whose face he’d had a flash of there again.  It was no effort now for him to smile when he said, “That sounds like a good idea.”

“Excellent,” Mr. Maclean said, his own smile broadening.  “Well, I think I’ve bored you enough for the moment with the discussion.  Do you want to try a little more guided meditation today?  Do you feel up to trying fifteen minutes at a time already?”

“Sure,” Timothy said with a shrug.  “But won’t you be kind of bored?”

“Boredom tends to be a state born of being lost in thought,” Mr. Maclean replied with a laugh, “so if I get bored, it’s a good thing for me to become aware of in myself as something to work on.  But I’ve done plenty of guided meditation sessions that are longer than that, and it’s not a problem I usually have.  I won’t be talking constantly, but I’ll chime in occasionally just to try to assist you in staying focused and mindful.  I don’t think you’re going to get bored, at least, which is refreshingly unusual for a new meditator.”

Timothy was frankly surprised by that as a possibility.  He said, “No, I don’t think so.  I haven’t felt bored yet, and I don’t see why five more minutes would make a difference.”

“Brilliant,” Mr. Maclean declared.  “So, if you’re ready, why don’t we get going?”

With that, Timothy sat back in his chair—once again noticing that, as Mr. Maclean had pointed out, he’d been leaning a bit forward during their entire conversation—and he closed his eyes.

For the next fifteen minutes, he underwent the same process he’d been going through a few times a day that entire week, and he was pleased to find that it was no more difficult there in Mr. Maclean’s shop.  If anything, it was easier to focus with Mr. Maclean’s voice directing him, reminding him of the things to which he might pay passing attention, to which he might give notice.  He again noted, as a passing thought, that Mr. Maclean avoided mentioning his bottom when describing the way the chair felt against his body, the pressure of gravity, but he recognized the thought for what it was, and even recognized the combined embarrassment and amusement he felt as thoughts triggered by that thought, and he noticed them and let them go, returning to the breath in his nose.  This time he was able to do so without feeling much tension, perhaps because he was able to be amused by it, and so less angry at himself.

And he noticed himself noticing that amusement, and his own curiosity about the different reactions, and he briefly focused on them and let them go.

He sat quite still for the fifteen minutes, and as before, he found that he experienced the interior of his mind as a kind of multidimensional landscape.  It was, thankfully, less physically real seeming than the icy cold one he’d felt when his mother had confronted him the week before, and it was also less placid.  It felt akin almost to some volcanic surface, turned into higher dimensions, with various unpredictable things bubbling up here and there at random intervals, colors, sounds, feelings, memories, utterly imaginary people and places, and a sense of floating through a space that was as infinite, perhaps, as the universe, but far less empty.

And noticing himself noticing these things, he returned to the breath in his nose, but not without a bit of resistance.  He enjoyed experiencing that internal space, that multidimensional universe, more elaborate and unconstrained than any computer simulation.  Perhaps at some point at home he would allow himself more time to explore its ins and outs.

The feeling of the breath in his nose, when he remained focused on it, became hypnotic.  His sense of time became difficult to put a finger on.  It was true that fifteen minutes felt no more difficult than ten or even five minutes—fifteen was merely three fives in a row, after all—but with Mr. Maclean there, present, it felt different, deeper but also shorter, quicker to come to an end.

They finished the fifteen minutes much to Timothy’s surprise.  He hadn’t even noticed the sound of the clock ticking as he had before.  He felt he had somehow gone deeper than before, and he told Mr. Maclean about that feeling.  They discussed some of the trivia, some of the ins and outs, some of the theories of meditation that various scholars and mystics had looked at in the past, and then they decided that Timothy would have one more fifteen-minute guided session.

It went as well as the first, if not noticeably better, and Mr. Maclean’s smile was broader at the end than it usually was.  He told Timothy that, though he didn’t like to be unreasonably optimistic, or to raise false hopes, he thought that Timothy’s facility with meditation made it seem like this really might be a good thing for him, might really not just help him avoid and control his problem with rage, but could really help him have a better life than he might have otherwise.  Who knew where it would lead?

Before Timothy’s mother or anyone else arrived, they discussed the possibility that—not the next weekend maybe, but perhaps the weekend after that—Timothy might decide to arrive a little bit later and try to join the Saturday morning group meditation session that followed the time of their meeting.  Timothy felt a bit anxious about the prospect, not sure how he would feel with a roomful of people who were all older than he, all meditating together.  He worried that some of them might see him as strange, and he also worried about feeling judgmental about them.  He realized that this was a prejudice—it was surely no worse to go to a meditation session on Saturday morning than it was to go to a church on Sunday—but he felt a kind of knee-jerk thought that such people might be very woolly, very New Agey sorts, and that he might find them irritating.  He didn’t want that.

But he recognized this thought, at least, for what it was:  an unjust assumption and condemnation of a group of people, sight unseen, and he was able to hold it in his mind as what it was and let it go.  It took a bit of effort—that part frustrated him slightly—but he was able to do it.

He told Mr. Maclean that he would think about it.

Before his mother had returned from whatever it was she was doing that Saturday morning, the young woman who had arrived first the previous week showed up.  Timothy thought she was earlier than she had been the last time, but he couldn’t be sure.  She couldn’t have been much older than her mid-twenties, he thought, though perhaps her slender frame made her look younger than her years.  Timothy guessed—or wondered—whether she might be a vegan.  She certainly was thinner even than most young people seemed to be.  She was even thinner than practically every girl at his school.

After she put her bag down and greeted Mr. Maclean, she turned toward Timothy and said, “So, you’re here again this week, huh?”

Surprised to be addressed by her directly, unused to young adult women paying him any attention at all, Timothy said, “Uh…yeah, I guess I am.”

“I’m Rhonda,” she said.  “Rhonda Hollis.  I’m a student in Bill’s Saturday meditation class.”  She held a hand out, almost masculine in her assertive attitude, at least to Timothy’s impression.

Having to force himself to shake her hand, and quite self-conscious about whether he was applying too much or too little pressure, or whether his hand was damp or dry, warm or cold, Timothy said, “Uh…hi.  I’m Timothy.  Timothy Outlaw.”

“Ooh, cool name,” the woman said with an unaffected smile.  “You should star in an action movie.”  She released his hand, which Timothy felt she’d held for an uncomfortably long time.  Then the woman—Rhonda, apparently—asked, “So are you going to be joining the Saturday session?”

Timothy stammered a bit, and Mr. Maclean rescued him from his awkwardness by saying, “Not this week, I’m afraid.  Timothy is a private student for the moment, though he may decide to join the group later on.  But that’s entirely up to him.”  He smiled at her as he said it, but Timothy felt that he was trying subtly to encourage her not to pressure him, and he was grateful for that.

“Well, I hope he does,” Rhonda said.  “It’d be nice not to be the youngest person there.  Not that I really mind, but…well, it’s good to have people trying to learn about mindfulness earlier in their lives.”

“I do agree with that,” Mr. Maclean said.  “But everyone has to go at their own pace.

“I guess so,” Rhonda said, but Timothy wasn’t sure she agreed.  He felt a curious intensity in her gaze, as though she suspected there were more to his being there than simple curiosity and desire to learn.  This was correct, of course, and it made Timothy feel slightly defensive.

He was rescued this time by the arrival of his mother, who walked through the door of the shop, this time carrying a small shopping bag, with a logo Timothy didn’t recognize.  She looked happier than she had the previous week, and she greeted Timothy and Mr. Maclean with a smile, asking how everything had gone, saying that she didn’t need a whole run-down, that she would talk with Timothy about it later, and then asking if Timothy was ready.

Timothy noticed that Rhonda Hollis made no move to introduce herself to his mother, and indeed had worked her way back toward the corner of the shop, reaching for her bag as if to get something out of it.  He did see her glance up at them a few times, but he couldn’t read her expression.

After leaving that weekend, Timothy and his mother stopped at a diner downtown—Timothy wondered what the difference was between a diner and a more general restaurant, or if there was one.  The prices were not bad there, but Timothy didn’t think it was someplace they could go every week sensibly.  Still, his mother seemed happy to indulge this time, and she seemed unconcerned with the minor expense.  Perhaps she was trying to make up for the unpleasantness of the previous Saturday.

It still being fairly early, Timothy ordered a breakfast-type meal, but his mother got a sandwich and a soda.  They ate together pleasantly, his mother talking about the shops she had visited.  Timothy guessed, based on her happy response this week, and the fact that she’d bought something, that she’d been too distracted last Saturday by the revelations of his thoughts of self-destruction to enjoy herself.  He wondered whether she’d even gone inside any stores before, or if she’d just wandered about, trying to process the revelation.  Perhaps she’d only sat in the car, waited for the time to pass, and had gotten out at the end.

Timothy felt guilty about having put her through that.  And now that he had promised, albeit under duress, that he would never take advantage of his previously imagined emergency escape hatch, Timothy knew he had to be as serious as he could be about learning to control himself.  There were no other acceptable options.

An old man, broken with the storms of state, is come to lay his weary blogs among ye

Hello and good morning, as always.  It’s Thursday—the first Thursday and the second day in June of 2022—and so, of course, it is likewise time for the first edition of my weekly blog post in June of 2022.

I posted a section of Outlaw’s Mind on Tuesday of this week, but it was still May then.  It was quite a short section; not much happened in it other than Timothy exploring some of what goes on in his titular mind when he practices mindfulness meditation.  It’s looking good for him for right now, and he will find meditation both interesting and beneficial, but of course, this being a story by me, it’s wise not to become sanguine.  It won’t be too long before things take strange, dark, and unexpected turns.

I’ve also been working well on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado, having written almost six thousand words already this week so far, and that’s without writing on Saturday or Sunday*.  Our heroes are now on their way to their first quest and have just encountered one of the characters I’ve been planning for this story almost as long as I’ve had the story idea.  That’s kind of nice.  I’m looking forward to their interactions.

I do wish that I could write full time**.  Then I wouldn’t be commuting as much (obviously) and thus I wouldn’t take the pounding that appears to be worsening my back and leg and hip pain daily, and I could also write most of my stories and books and everything even more quickly than I already do.  That would be nice, because I have more stories to write still than I probably have time in my life.  I guess that’s better than being in the opposite situation, but it’s still a bit frustrating.  I’m sure you can all relate.

It would be nice to win the lottery, not so that I could be idly rich, but so that I wouldn’t have to keep my “day job” (though I do like my boss and most of my coworkers).  That’s not likely to happen, since, as in the joke about the devout religious man who prays to win the lottery, I never buy a ticket.  I understand the mathematics of the situation too well ever to play it except as a lark, and I just don’t find it interesting enough to bother doing it for fun.

As for everything else—well, that’s mostly it, I guess.  I’ve done no new music recording, but I still diddle around on the guitar for a bit more mornings than not.  But the recent and ongoing exacerbations of my back and leg issues are really taking the wind out of my sails with respect to doing much of anything at all.  Also, I’ve had a secondary change*** in my living circumstances that, being the way that I am, I find quite stressful, so that coming home from work is no more a thing to which to look forward than is going to work in the morning.  It’s not seeming to get any easier over time.  I guess this is part of being apparently “neurodivergent” as they say…because we must have identifying labels for ourselves and our tribes****, mustn’t we?  Heaven forbid that we should simply be individuals without some external form of “identity” to separate us and alienate us from whole masses of other people.

That’s a sore spot, obviously, and I’ve got enough of those already, so I’m going to leave that topic.

And that’s about it for the moment.  I don’t want to bring everyone down too much, so I won’t talk about certain other things that always preoccupy me.  I’ve been tilting at that windmill for months, now, without much measurable benefit to speak of—mostly without people even seeming to notice—so fuck it.  I’m giving up.  I guess I never really expected anything to come of it in the first place, and goodness knows I don’t deserve any help or rescue or even sympathy.  Not that “deserve” is a concept that makes sense, anyway.  All such notions are mere fictions—often useful ones, admittedly—created by humans who made the error of thinking the words represent something real, something overarching and even cosmic, rather than a provincial, parochial custom or ritual relating to the social structure of a single primate species on a single world orbiting a single sun among hundreds of billions in its galaxy, which is one of possibly a trillion galaxies in the accessible universe.  It’s not important.  Maybe nothing is.

Nevertheless, I’m sure there are people who are important to you, and it’s perfectly reasonable for you to reach out to and look out for them, and to enjoy their company and be thankful for their existence.  If you’re up to it*****, look out for yourselves as well, and try to be as happy and as healthy as you can.


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*Most people don’t count Saturday as this week, and I don’t really, either, but I just wanted to make it clear that I’m referring to my writing since last Friday, and I did not write last weekend at all.  I didn’t really do anything last weekend but try to rest my back and legs, which may sound good, but it gets old after a very short while.

**Of course, if wishes were horses, we’d all be shoulder deep in horseshit.

***By which I mean that it was not I who changed anything, but the person with whom I had been living, and those with whom I am now living, all without input from me.

****To be fair, I don’t have a “tribe”.  I’m not really a member of any group or collection or way of thinking or identity agglomeration, or whatever.  I don’t even feel like a human, to be honest.  Not that it’s any big loss not to be part of that disg-race.

*****I’m not.