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.

TTFN

sundial


*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.

TTFN

empty hall (2)


*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.

Outlaw’s Mind – Part 15

Timothy tried to put his mother’s ultimatum and her reactions—as well as his own feelings about the interaction—out of his head.  He didn’t quite succeed, but at least he was able to become calmer about the situation.  His mother, too, seemed to revert to at least a simulacrum of normalcy for the rest of the afternoon, a simulacrum that gradually morphed more and more into the real thing over the next day or so.  She didn’t bring up the subject again, though for the rest of Saturday, at least, she didn’t seem to be trying to force herself to be cheerful.

Timothy, not able to forget for long, or to ignore the change those few minutes in the car had wrought, was pensive.  His situation had subtly but drastically altered.  Before, at an unconscious level at least, he had taken a species of comfort in the knowledge that, if things should become too much, if his rages became too frequent and more uncontrollable even than they already were, he had what his mother had called “an escape clause”.  If he found that his rage was too completely the center of his life, stealing all deep pleasure from every other aspect of it, he could escape into permanent oblivion, choosing some method that would create the least possible mess and fuss, and his problems would end.  It was not a happy notion—it never had been—but there were times when it was a profound comfort, and as he’d gotten into his teenage years, it had become more and more attractive.  There had previously been no moral impediments to the idea, at least.  He was not religious, though he knew there were religious people who considered suicide an unforgivable sin.  He did not fear being consigned to Hell for having ended his own life; surely any kind of benign and compassionate God would have recognized the meaning behind his action and would at least not have punished him permanently for trying his best to protect others from harm. Continue reading

And then this ‘blog’ is like a spendthrift sigh, that hurts by easing.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again—this time the last Thursday in May of 2022—and so, of course, you know the drill.  Obviously*.

I’m back to writing on my laptop again.  Not carrying it around with me did absolutely nothing to relieve or improve my back pain; in fact, last week was, if anything, above average in terms of round-the-clock, low-grade** agony.  Given that, it seemed pointless to restrict myself to the phone, since it’s simply much easier to type using the laptop, and it doesn’t make my thumbs sore.  Also, it lets me write a bit faster.  Whether I write better or not is a question to which I have difficulty finding an answer.

It’s been an interesting week, with interesting not quite being used in the sense of the supposed Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” but not entirely separate from it as well.  On Tuesday evening, for instance, some disaster struck the signaling and dispatching system of the Tri-rail and other parts of the commuter rail and Amtrack system in south Florida, and all the signals and comms went down at once, apparently.  Anyway, there was no train to get home on Tuesday evening, the bus would’ve taken at least two hours, and I’m far too socially awkward to want to use Uber or the like.  Also, there’s really nothing at “home” that gives it an advantage over work, so I slept at the office.

It’s a strange moment when you realize that your existence is so empty that the only reason you would bother going to the house you live in to sleep is because it has a shower and a change of clothes.  I don’t even sleep on a bed at home because of my back—I sleep on a yoga mat now, which is much better for my back than any mattress (except the ones they use in jail/prison, ironically).  But the carpet at work is just as good.  It’s all kind of pathetic.

I was also a bit discombobulated on Tuesday morning—Tuesday was a heck of a day—because I was having real trouble with pain, even for me.  I forgot to post the latest section of Outlaw’s Mind until a bit later in the day than usual.  It was a loooong section, one that started well enough, but that ended in one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the story.  At least, it was heart-wrenching to write.  I have no idea what it was like for anyone to read, or if anyone actually has read it or ever will.  Anyway, it’s a moment where Timothy finds himself trapped between his mother’s fears for him and his own fear of himself.  For him, at least—and for me, writing it, since it was not entirely a fictional thing—it was a dreadful, dreadful event.

Of course, I’ve been writing steadily on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado, which is coming along nicely.  Sometimes it’s good to do something that’s rather non-serious for a change, especially since I’ve written so much horror in recent times.  I even cranked out a decent amount yesterday morning—almost two thousand words—after I’d slept in the office.  Of course, I used my laptop then, since there would be no reason to use the phone unless I thought I wrote better with it, which I now suspect isn’t the case.

And if you’re wondering if there’s anything else going on in my life—there isn’t.  You’ve now read about pretty much everything of note that’s happened to me since my last blog post, and it’s debatable how noteworthy it is.  I haven’t done any new videos of me doing any music, for which I’m sure you’re all quite thankful.  I haven’t watched any new shows or movies, and I haven’t really read any new books that are worth talking about, though I do read something pretty much every day.  There’s really nothing in my life worth talking about, let alone living.

As Morpheus said, “Welcome to the desert of the real.”  Too bad one couldn’t be welcomed to the dessert of the real, right?  But desserts aren’t really very good for one, anyway, and are best kept in significant moderation or else they will become more detrimental than beneficial—a bad habit rather than a treat or a reward.

I hope all of you are doing at least a little better, or have lives at least a little more interesting—in the good sense, not the “Chinese curse” sense—than I.  Please take care of yourselves and of those around you, if you are fortunate enough to have people you love around you.  Try to be optimistic if you can, and please accept my apologies for making it that much more difficult by being such a downer all the time.  Hopefully, something will kill me soon, and you all won’t have to deal with me anymore.  I know it’ll be a relief to me.

TTFN

rocky desert


*i.e., it’s time for my weekly blog post.

**But high quality, if that could be the correct term.  It’s good at what it does, anyway, though what it does well is certainly not very nice.

Outlaw’s Mind – Part 14

[Minor Warning:  The latter part of this section gets a little emotionally tense, at least to me]

Timothy discovered that he was a reasonably good meditation subject…he had at least a modicum of what Mr. Maclean referred to as “talent”.  He found it easy enough to sit still and not fidget, and to listen to the sound of his breathing—which he discovered he felt most sharply in his nasal passages, just beneath and behind his eyes, something he’d never noticed before.

As the silence began, broken by Mr. Maclean’s guidance, Timothy noticed now the faint ticking of the clock on the wall, something he hadn’t even heard before.  He tried to ignore it and focus on the breath in his nose, and then he followed Mr. Maclean’s instructions in paying attention to the feeling of gravity holding his body in the chair, the pressure on his back, his legs, and so on.  This led him to notice that Mr. Maclean had neglected to mention his butt, and the thought both amused him and made him frustrated, because he was supposed to be focusing on the feeling, not on the awkward omission of a potentially embarrassing part of the body.  He turned his mind back to the breath in his nose, only peripherally even aware of the pressure of the chair.  He felt a strange, almost floaty feeling in his thoughts as he centered them on his breathing, as though the space inside his mind was far larger than the space outside, and that somehow the breath in his nose was a portal into that space.  He noticed that there were colors swirling behind his eyes in the blackness…just faint smears and clouds of it, shifting everywhere, but present. Continue reading

Trust not my reading, nor my observations, which with experimental seal do warrant the tenor of my blog.

Hello.  Good morning.  Today is Thursday, and so of course it’s time for the most recent edition of my weekly blog post.

I’m writing this post on my phone, using the Google Docs app, because unfortunately, even my petite, eleven-inch-hypotenuse laptop seems to be too much to carry around in my backpack, given how badly my back and hips and ankle have been behaving.  I don’t think it’s so much the weight of the thing that’s the issue as where it tends to rest‒right up against my lumbar spine.  It may not truly be triggering any problems, because my back and hips and my right knee and ankle are in pretty severe pain no matter what, even though I’ve lost two belt notches worth of weight recently.  However, reducing the load in that area seems to decrease my pain, or at least to cause less of an exacerbation, so for now I’m writing on my phone, so to speak.

I keep trying to find things to do that decrease my pain, but all my attempts have so far been quite unsatisfying.  Perhaps the Dread Pirate Roberts was right after all, and life is pain.  Or was that the Buddha?  Anyway, one or more of those great philosophers said something about life and pain being inextricable.

I’ve been writing The Dark Fairy and the Desperado on my phone this week as well.  The two main characters have finally met!  Of course, the Dark Fairy immediately tried to kill the Desperado, but that’s to be expected.  It’s slightly slower writing on the phone than it is with the laptop, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but as I’ve also mentioned, that may be good for keeping my writing more concise.  On the other hand, my verbosity may not be something any device known to humanity can curtail.

I posted the most recent section of Outlaw’s Mind here this week.  There’s still quite a bit to go before we reach the point where I’ve stopped writing it, and I hope those of you who read it are enjoying the story.

In other news, yesterday I recorded, overdubbed, edited, and posted a video of me playing and singing the Beatles song And I Love Her, and I’ll embed it here.  I’ve been half-heartedly working on getting it into playable shape for a while, and I decided I needed to have a rhythm track (which I had to create the new-fashioned way, beat by beat, on Audacity, since I have no drums), and that it also would be much better with the little accompanying arpeggios* during the second, third, and last verses in the background.  I wanted to be able to do those at speed when I played them.  To pat myself on the back (which doesn’t help my back pain), I only got the basic chords from a guitar book, but did the (admittedly simple) key changing and worked out the solo and stuff for myself.  I’m reasonably pleased with the results, though it’s far from perfect.  I’ve gotten pretty good at throwing these videos together at least, including sound editing and backing tracks and the like; I did these things literally in my spare time yesterday morning.

There’s no need to feel obligated to watch the video of me playing, though; I certainly take no joy in looking at myself and it’s hard to imagine anyone else would.  It’s basically there to prove that, yes, except for backup/overdubs, I really did play and sing it all at once, myself…and because the milling masses mostly only seem to respond to video** anymore‒but here it is in case you want to listen:

I’m not sure what else there is to talk about today.  Of course, there are always subjects that could be raised, but I’ve not really done any discussion or commentary, either here or on Iterations of Zero, for quite a while.  The whole process seems utterly pointless (not least because of the aforementioned predilection of the populace for video***); my energy level is steadily deteriorating, and my motivation is doing so even more.  I’m not convinced that anything I write or say or do will make any difference, even for me.  I continue this blog mainly out of stubbornness.

I did do a slightly curious thing this week.  There’s a horror novel that I used to read and reread a lot back when I was a teenager:  Floating Dragon, by Peter Straub.  The events of the story begin on May 17, 1980.  Indeed, there’s a line in the book that goes, “On May 17th, 1980, the Dragon came to Patchin County.”  That line is always bouncing around my head at this time of year, so on Tuesday (which was the 17th) I decided to buy the Kindle version of the book, though I haven’t started reading it yet.  I miss my old, battered paperback copy, lost now with all my other possessions from before 2013.  It had the amusing characteristic that the way the title and author were written on the spine, if one read them in ordinary left-to-right fashion, seemed to say, “Floating Peter/Dragon Straub”.  I wonder if the publishers realized that after the fact and were duly embarrassed.  Anyway, it was a good, albeit very weird horror story, and I still can recite parts of it from memory, such as:

“You were dreaming for a long time, and then you were not.  You were asleep in a place you did not know, and when you awakened you were someone else.  You had a drink in your hand, and a woman was looking at you, and Dragon, the world was yours again.”

With that, I’ll call things to a close today.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this atypically written blog post, and that you’re all as well as you can possibly be.

TTFN

dragon


*Is it supposed to be “arpeggi”?  That’s how Radiohead spelled it in the title of their song Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, and they’re Cambridge-educated, albeit probably not in linguistics.  Then again, I studied English at Cornell.  Not that such a thing matters much anyway, since the word in question is Italian…but it’s not being used as Italian, but rather as a term of musical jargon.  I should probably just look it up, but where’s the fun in that?

**Angels and ministers of grace defend us from anyone who might think to ask most people to read.

***Perhaps we should retire the term vox populi and replace it with visus populi.

Outlaw’s Mind – Part 13

The weather on Saturday morning was cool and overcast.  This suited Timothy just fine, since he wanted to guard against getting his hopes too high, and a bright, sunny, unseasonably warm day might have been hard to resist as a harbinger of blessings.  His mother seemed to share his guarded spirits as she drove them downtown in her twelve-year-old Corolla.  Gone was the amused attitude from Thursday evening.  Her mouth was set in a near-grimace, and her eyes were as intent as any hunter’s might have been who was searching for game to feed his family.  Timothy found himself more comfortable with this aspect of her, that seemed ready for anything at all, than with her lightheartedness after her conversation with Dr. Putnam.  He felt guilty about feeling that way, but he thought it was more painful to lose one’s hopes than never to have them in the first place, and so he was forced to want her not to be any more optimistic than he was.

They found a street-parking spot not too far from the address his mother had jotted down; it was an unmetered space on a semi-major road off one of the bigger thoroughfares of the heart of the city.  Though tall office buildings loomed not far away, this was a more reserved commercial zone, with various shop-front style businesses, some of which did apparent retail selling, but the majority of which seemed to offer services of one kind or another.  Most seemed not to be open on Saturday mornings, which Timothy thought was a strange business choice, since surely there were more customers available at that hour than at nearly any other time in the week.  Still, what did he know? Continue reading

For grief is proud, and makes his blogger stoop.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, the second Thursday in May of 2022, and it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.  Tomorrow will be Friday the 13th! Unlike many people, I like Friday the 13th both because I like being a bit contrary and because I like prime numbers.  I used to always put thirteen gallons of gas in my car when I filled it up, just because I like prime numbers, and I particularly like thirteen because so many people dislike it.  Maybe I thought it deserved to get some positive attention for a change.

I haven’t been quite as productive this week as last week, but I did write a good five thousand words on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado.  I’ve been a little worn out because my recent travails have exacerbated my chronic back and leg pain, and yet I’m walking about two and half miles a day as part of my commute.  So, my concentration—nay, even my very will to live*—has been detrimentally affected.  Nevertheless, I have continued to write; being on the train is nice for doing that, at the very least.

I posted the next section of Outlaw’s Mind this Tuesday, but it was a short one.  I didn’t want to add the subsequent section to beef it up any, because that section is already rather long, and adding them together would have made it too much, I think.  I don’t know if anyone is actually reading the story—I don’t know if anyone is actually reading this, for that matter—and if they are, I don’t know whether they like it.  I suppose it’s possible that some masochist might hate the whole thing but read it for that very reason.  That seems unlikely, though.

I mentioned last week, with my tongue in my cheek, that I tend to play guitar and sing as a way to punish the world.  Well, I’ve done a bit of such punishing recently; I’ve embedded below two videos of me amateurishly playing guitar and singing, for anyone who feels the need to scold themselves, perhaps for falling off a diet, or not getting enough exercise, or committing adultery…stuff like that.  In all seriousness, however, I like both of these songs a lot, and so I did my amateurish best to play and sing them.

The first is If You Could Read My Mind, by Gordon Lightfoot, a song I’ve known and liked since I was a little boy.  I’ve always loved the melody, and Gordon Lightfoot was a very good singer.

The second is No Surprises, by Radiohead, which I only came to be aware of perhaps fifteen years ago, but which very quickly became one of my favorite songs (and bands).  It’s harder to play than IYCRMM, as you can probably tell, but I really love it.  In many ways, it is the song of my soul, if there is such a thing.

As for anything else…well, there really isn’t much else.  There was a death in my family late last week, about which I’m quite sad.  This was my uncle, whom I hadn’t seen in quite a while, but who had been, along with his son—my cousin—one of the only people in my family to attend my wedding.  That’s part of a long and dreary story that I won’t go into, but it is a shame that I hadn’t seen him in so long, and now I won’t be able to do so.  Such is the story of life, unfortunately.  I wish I could have told him how much that meant at the time, and even though that marriage has since failed, that gesture still means a great deal to me.  At least I can hereby tell my cousin the same for his part!

I fear quite honestly that I am on the verge of a real and serious mental (and physical) breakdown, and I don’t know what to do about it.  I also fear that, even if I did know what to do about it, I would not have the will to do it.  I wish I did.  I would like to be optimistic and upbeat; I have been so in the past.  No one who suffers from chronic depression and/or other, related difficulties would wish to suffer from it/them. They might well believe, however, that they richly deserve their own suffering for being the awful, evil, rotten person that they see, that they “know”, themselves to be.  I don’t know how to escape that trap.  I have tried, many times and in many ways, but I don’t think I have the strength or the resources to do it on my own.  And on my own is what I am.

I hope, nevertheless, that all of you reading are feeling and doing as well as you possibly can, and that you are with those you love, or at least in communication with them, and that you find a great deal of joy in that.  Please take care of yourselves, and of each other.

TTFN

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*It’s an interesting notion, this concept of “will to live”.  It’s misguided and misleading, because it’s not as though one can simply stop having some “will to live” and consequently just die.  Trust me, I know.  The body and brain have been shaped by millions upon millions of years of evolution to try to stay alive, and one’s will, at the human level, has almost nothing to do with it.  Ditto with eating and drinking and breathing.  Just try not doing those things.  The machine keeps cranking along until it falls apart, or until something breaks it.  Believe me, if not having the “will to live” mattered at all, there are many times—several in any given week, I’d say—in which I would already have died.  Alas, it’s the will to die that’s more a real kind of will, and it is set against gargantuan, Lovecraftian powers of nature that force living beings to stay alive whether they really want to or not.  I’m working on it, though.

Outlaw’s Mind – Part 12

Over the course of Thursday evening, and into Friday evening, Timothy spent at least a bit of his time online, trying to see what he could do to eke out his understanding and knowledge about Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism, and Taoism—this last he had trouble spelling, but Google was quite helpful with such things, so he was able to correct his misunderstanding quickly.  He wondered with somewhat disgusted confusion why people had ever spelled Taoism with a “T” when they pronounced it with a “D”.  It wasn’t an English word originally, after all—it was a transliteration from what must have been a Chinese character or characters.  They could have just used a spelling that reproduced the original sound in English in as straightforward a way as possible.  Were they trying to be cryptic, or to sound impressive, or to convey the fact that it was a foreign word by not simply writing the name of the original book as “Dow Day Ching”?  All the reasons he could imagine left him feeling minor contempt.

At least the spelling of Hinduism, Buddhism, and atheism made a bit more sense. Continue reading