A hump is just a dip when viewed from the other direction

It’s Wednesday, now.

At some level, I feel as though that’s all that’s worth writing about today.  But of course, if people only wrote what was worth writing about, most of the material online—including the online versions of venerable print media like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the various other big newspapers and magazines in all their incarnations, and many books—would never exist.  While that often seems like it might be a good thing overall, when I think of the matter soberly, I think that’s probably not true.

While it is true that, especially in the era of anti-social media, much of what is written in the world is at best noise, at worst anti-information, I suspect that reducing the overall amount of it wouldn’t improve the net amount of good or useful stuff.  It would just shrink everything in proportion.

I suspect that most of everything that’s ever been written or said (or drawn or sung or what have you) is probably forgettable and pointless.  But the way the forgettable is sifted from the memorable is…by memory.  I don’t just mean storage, obviously.  Somewhere out there, I’m sure one can find some stored version of a significant fraction of all that’s been written, for instance, in the twentieth century and later, and even on back into, say, the sixteenth century, though we’ve lost more of the latter, I’m sure.  Nevertheless, back then, when writing was not as easy as it is nowadays, there was probably a greater pre-writing filter.  But even so, it’s only a tiny fraction of the stuff then written that survives, in recollection and in use, to the modern day.

For instance, I’ve read at least one play by Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare, and although it was good, it wasn’t great.  But, then again, not all of Shakespeare’s stuff was truly great.  Some of it survives just because it was Shakespeare.  But the truly great Shakespeare stuff—well, wow!  There’s a reason people are still reading it after four hundred years, and even still making movies of it.  It may be that even greater writers’ works have been lost entirely, but that doesn’t seem as likely as the possibility that the work of more mediocre writers has been lost.

Anyway, I don’t know just at what I’m getting.  Certainly, I don’t expect that my own thoughts or writings will survive me.  They probably won’t even survive as long as I will, which is a rather sad thought, and one that I hope is wrong.  Still, I don’t really expect that I’ll be some newer instantiation of the old Herman Melville, Moby Dick situation, in which a work is barely noticed during the author’s life, but is later considered one of the greatest works of its era’s literature (especially if you leave out all the trivia about whaling…of which, by the way, there is very little in my writing).

Even if it turns out that my fiction and/or my non-fiction writings not only survive me but endure into the centuries of the future, it’s not as though it will do me any good.  I’ll be dead either way, and the world will almost certainly be better off—and certainly no worse off—for that fact, even if it happens today or tomorrow.

Of course, today I’m going in to the office, because it’s payroll day, and so I need to be there no matter what.  Though yesterday, during the part of the day when I was feeling most depressed and stressed and despondent and miserable—you know, most of the day—I considered just not showing up, not coming in, not doing anything ever again.  I’m not really much more enthusiastic this morning, but I don’t like to leave people in the lurch, not when I’ve allowed them to depend on me even to a minor degree.

Of course, letting people down in the long run is something at which I seem to be exceptionally skilled—or perhaps “talented” is a better word.  I certainly seem to have a knack for disappointing the people I love the most.  I suppose that I may also have a knack for disappointing people about whom I don’t give a flying shit, but, well, in that case it doesn’t exactly weigh on me much.  Let strangers and would-be users be disappointed in me.  I don’t really care.  I’m disappointed in myself, too, but I don’t like myself anyway, so I don’t really care what that asshole thinks about how much I’ve let him down.

But I do feel horrible about having let down my parents and my ex-wife, and especially my children.  Many of my strongest feelings and memories are those of loss and horror when those people have found that I was not worth keeping around in their lives…not too close, anyway.  I can’t actually blame them; it’s hard to live with someone who has chronic pain and dysthymia, let alone (apparently) some form of neurodevelopmental disorder.  But, of course, I disappointed and alienated people before the chronic pain, and sometimes when the dysthymia was not fully active and/or hadn’t dipped down into its many occasions of full-blown depression.  As for the other, well, if it’s there, it’s always been there and always will be there.  I don’t know how much it’s contributed to me being an allergen to people (metaphorically), and it’s a bit of a moot point, since there’s not much I can do about it.

Anyway, I’m very tired.  I don’t even know what I’ve written this morning, or why, but I have to go in to the office because it’s payroll day.  We’ve had a prosperous and productive few weeks, but for me that just tends to mean that things have been busier and I’ve had more work to do, and—worse—there has been more noise and chaos and more interruption in routine work.  This doesn’t help much when I’m already frankly veering even more than usual toward violent self-destruction.

But I can’t do anything much about that except try to continue and try not to inconvenience and be a bother and a detriment to the people around me if I can help it.  That’s about as high as my aspirations go anymore, and I don’t think I succeed at many of even those not-so-lofty goals very often.

Oh, well.  I hope this will all be over soon.  I need this all to be over soon.  I want everything (from my point of view) to be over soon.  I can’t tolerate it all much anymore.  At least it feels that way, though who knows what my breaking point actually is?  I’ve felt many times before that I was approaching it, but it hasn’t happened yet.

It has to be there, though.  I’m finite, I’m mortal, so there is a point at which I will no longer be able to endure, and I will finally and catastrophically and permanently break.  I’m kind of looking forward to it.

Whatever happened to Saturday (night) in the park when it’s not the 4th of July? Is it no longer all right for fighting?

It’s Saturday, as you can probably tell by the title above (which is a loose mishmash of a few songs that contain the word “Saturday” in their titles).  I’m keeping up my pattern of writing blog posts in the morning, and I’m sure that WordPress will soon be telling me that I’m on a five-day streak—which is true, of course, but banal.  Then again, I commented on that fact already yesterday, so my commenting on it again today is not merely banal but also redundant.

“Who’s the lame one now, Robert?  Ha!” – WordPress.

I’m going to work today, and I’m currently waiting at the train station as I write the first draft of this post.  If I were not going to work, I probably wouldn’t be writing a post today.  For instance, next weekend I’m not supposed to be working, so I probably won’t be writing anything, even if I’m keeping up this habit of writing blog posts “every day”.

If I do write one next Saturday, I’ll probably be pretty grumpy, since it will mean I’ve had to come to the office and work to cover for my coworker.  His wife just had their first baby on Thursday, after a worrying situation that led them to go to the hospital early, so he hasn’t been in the office since Monday—which was a useless day for work, anyway, but there was at least a bit of a cookout for the holiday.  We’ll see whether having a new baby will count as a reason to switch weekends.  I doubt it.  Though if there ever was a good reason for such things, that would probably be it.

Goodness knows that, when my children were born, I did not take much time off work.  I was in third year of medical residency when my son was born, and then was in my first year of private medical practice when my daughter was born.  Trust me, I took very little break time, though I happily did a lot of feeding and diaper changing at home, and since I was better at getting up in the middle of the night than my (ex-)wife, I did a lot of that, and was happy to do so.  I loved spending time with my kids—nothing better, not ever.  I would still love spending time with them if I could, though they are now 22 and 20 years old.  But I haven’t actually seen them, in person, in about ten years, lamentably.  That’s not by my choice, though it’s certainly related to mistakes I’ve made.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk about that—or to write about it—too much, because honestly, it makes me want to die right here and now.  And no, that’s not a figure of speech.  There’s very little point in going on with my life since I can’t see them anymore, but I do it anyway, because that’s what biological organisms like me are shaped to do by natural selection, “long after the thrill of living is gone”.  It’s a frustrating and Hellish fact that, even when you don’t have a particular desire or motive or reason or excuse to stay alive, your body, your brain, your inherent mechanism, is saddled with an almost insurmountable drive to continue, long past the time when you’re going to reproduce, just because that drive to stay alive was such a strongly selected-for survival attribute.

I still have no desire to do any fiction writing right now, and I likewise don’t have any urge to play guitar.  I’m seriously considering just giving most of my guitars to my former housemate, who is a very good guitarist, and who built two of the guitars I own.  They’ll just take up space in the room I’m moving into, and since I’m moving (against my desires), I might as well free up that space.  I might even give someone the Strat that I play at the office, but I’m less sure which person would be the best recipient for that.

It’s interesting to note how my calluses on my fingers are slowly waning, which is a noticeable fact for me because it changes the subjective experience of typing.  My left fingers always feel comparatively just so slightly numb compared to my right fingers because of the calluses from guitar playing, but eventually I presume that will revert to equality, though it will probably do so asymptotically, and I’m not sure how long it will take to reach rough* equivalence.

Oh, right!  Yesterday I finally posted my video of the first act of Macbeth.  I’ll embed that here, below, for those of you who want to watch it.  It’s reasonably well-performed, I think, but of course the video-making and editing is highly amateur, and the actor is not pretty to look at.  Still, maybe that latter fact makes it a more realistic portrayal, especially when I’m doing the three Witches.  It was at least fun to “perform”, though doing so and then editing it was a great deal of work, and that wasn’t always fun.  I don’t know if I’ll do any more of it, unless there’s a surprising amount of enthusiasm from the viewing public (so to speak).

Now that Independence Day is over, we’re entering a comparative desert of holidays for a while, at least in America.  Even Labor Day isn’t until September.  That’s not exactly a very big day of celebration, and it seems that fewer and fewer people get the day off work than used to do.  I don’t know for sure if that’s ironic or particularly appropriate, but it seems to be the case, though perhaps that’s just my highly biased and filtered perception.  The next really good holiday—since the world at large has ridiculously failed to embrace Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday** as a worldwide celebration of peace and joy and the triumph over evil—is Halloween.  As someone who already feels as if he’s a poorly-animated corpse, it’s not inappropriate that it’s my favorite holiday.

But it is a looong way off.

Anyway, I think that’s all I’ll write for the day.  I’ve skidded past a thousand words, and since I don’t have any pressing reason to go further, I won’t.  I hope you all have a good weekend, and that the weather’s nice and warm but not too hot and muggy for you to enjoy yourselves***.  If you can get to the beach or an amusement park, or someplace you can get ice cream or popsicles or sno-cones, or what have you—and if you and your loved ones enjoy such things—why not get out there and indulge yourself (and them) just a bit?  Believe me, the plants and the ectothermic organisms are taking advantage of the heat; you might as well do so, too.

*No pun intended.  Honestly.

**September 22, for those who don’t already know.  They were not born in the same year; Frodo was 78 years younger than Bilbo, but they were born on the same day of the year.  This is not at all uncommon, by the way; if memory serves, in any group of 23 people (or more), there is a greater than 50% chance that two of them will have the same birthday****, though which date it will be is not specified.  If you’re looking for a particular day of the year, the odds are much lower.  Look it up—it’s (wrongly) called the “Birthday Paradox”.

***This applies in the northern hemisphere, of course.  In the southern hemisphere, it’s technically winter now, but I don’t think it’s probably gotten that cold there yet, outside of, for instance, Antarctica.  Perhaps I’m wrong.

****I just checked the math.  It’s correct, unless I screwed up in my calculations.

Does Everyone Look Forward to Fridays When It Already IS Friday?

[Disclaimer:  The title above has little to nothing to do with the contents of this blog post.]

Okay, it’s now Friday, and this will be my 4th daily blog post in a row, which I think is a new record.  I know that, as of yesterday, I was on a three-day streak because WordPress made sure to congratulate me on that fact*, presumably as a way to encourage me to keep writing.  Apparently, humans respond so much to practically any reinforcement at all that even a clearly automatic bit of feedback is useful in keeping them engaged.  I don’t mind it, either—it’s nice to be able to keep track, just in case I lost count after, say, reaching the number 2.

Such feedback is slightly funnier when my Kindle app tells me that I’m on a streak of having read (on the app) 110 days in a row or some such.  My inclination is to say to it, “You have no idea.  This isn’t even on the same order of magnitude as the longest reading streak I’ve had in my life.”

I don’t know for sure how long I’m going to keep doing these daily posts, but I definitely don’t want to get out of the habit of writing every day, even if I’m not writing fiction.  Ray Bradbury (supposedly) said that one should read assiduously and write every day if one wants to be a writer.

Now, I don’t think that Ray Bradbury (or anyone else) had the final, best word on how to be a writer, or indeed that anyone knows for sure the single optimal way to do any craft or master any skill.  There are just too many possible ways to do things, and almost no controlled, double-blinded experiments to compare them.  Also, reality (and the brain in particular) is too complex for one to be able to determine which is the single best approach through logical deduction or similar principles.  NEVERTHELESS, I think some things are plainly better and some are worse, on their face, and one can proceed with those “assumptions” until and unless one encounters a good reason to reassess them.  Time** and mammalian processing power are finite, and one must take acceptable shortcuts when one can.

I will say this:  however long I keep doing these daily (or “week-daily”) posts, I’m going to confine the Shakespearean titles to Thursdays.  The Bard wrote a tremendous number of words, and many of them are suitable to being transformed into post titles that include the word “blog”, but it’s still a finite resource (speaking of finite things), and even a lot of his writing is not adaptable for such purposes.

For instance, yesterday’s title comes from a bit of dialogue by Agamemnon in Troilus and Cressida, but reading through much of the scene, there’s not a lot of other stuff that’s really any good for turning into blog post titles.  It includes lots of banter about kissing and the like, which serves to make people like Achilles look like high school jocks who think they’re cool but are really just exceptionally dorky.  You can’t deny, Shakespeare really did capture the reality of human nature, since that’s how so many human males behave not just when young but all throughout their lives.

In other words, I’m going to be choosing random titles for these “daily” blog posts.  Well, not “random”, really.  That would be bizarre, but not in a very interesting way.  Presumably one could use a random number generator (or a pseudo-random number generator) to pick ASCII characters and just throw them together into a post title.  But that would likely make readers just think there must be something wrong with their computers, or with WordPress, or with me***.  I just mean that I will improvise the titles to the day’s posts as I go along.  I’ll try, if I can, to make them reasonably clever and/or engaging, or at least not to discourage people from reading, but I can’t promise there will be many gems.  As noted above, one soon comes up against the wall of increasing use of finite resources in an endeavor with limited value even if one wrote the best title that had ever been written.  But occasionally there might be a fun one.

At least I don’t seem to have any great difficulty writing something so far, especially when I don’t constrain myself to any particular set of topics, or to having any topic at all.  I’m rather garrulous in my writing, though I am rarely so in person, feeling far too awkward and confused when interacting with humans in most cases, at least without pharmacological intervention.  And those interactions are rarely worth the effort of intoxication.

Here, however, I am in a sense speaking into the void and not really knowing whether anyone actually hears or not.  As I mentioned earlier in the week, it feels a little bit like free-association in Freudian psychoanalysis, but without anyone responding in a faux German accent, “Tell me about your childhood.”

For me, a big issue is probably going to be keeping myself to a limited blog post size on a daily basis, since once I get going, I can ramble on with no end in sight.  I figure setting an upper limit of around about a thousand words a day will probably be a good mark to hit…though knowing me, I’ll almost always skid past it at least a little.

Still, it’s a good target and reminder, because efforts by readers, like those by writers, are finite resources, and I don’t want to be too presumptuous on your time and energy.  In fact, I’ll close now by saying that I deeply appreciate the time and effort you’ve already put in, knowing that only those who have put in that maximal local effort have even reached the point of getting this message.

Thank you for that.

*Honestly, I knew it anyway.  It’s not as though it was hard for me to manage that bit of self-awareness—or those two bits, I guess.

**Okay, to be fair, time itself may not be finite, but the time any person has in his or her lifetime is finite.  Hell, the universe itself, though it may endure forever, will for most of that eternity—at least from our point of view—be functionally empty, in a state of maximum (or at least very high) entropy.  Everything interesting happens while the cream is being poured into the coffee, so to speak, not once it’s already completely stirred.

***They may well think that about me already.

Random thoughts about nothing on a Tuesday morning

It’s Tuesday, June 28th, 2022.  It’s not the day for my usual blog post, (that’s on Thursdays).  I don’t currently have any more of Outlaw’s Mind to share, since I posted the rest of what I had last week, and I certainly haven’t written any more of it since.  Heck, since last Thursday, I’ve only written about 800 words on The Dark Fairy and the Desperado, and I haven’t decided if I’m going to share that at all or not.  But I felt the urge to write something to share for this blog, so I’m writing now, though I don’t have much more idea what it will say—despite the fact that I’m writing it—than you probably have while reading it.

I did an “extra” post last weekend, sharing the YouTube videos of a couple of Shakespeare soliloquys I did on my cell phone camera.  Those were somewhat fun.  In the interim, I did another quick video of the opening soliloquy of Richard III and posted that to YouTube.  Here it is, in case you want to watch it.

I’ve also, since that time, recorded videos of myself “performing” the first act of Macbeth, with the idea that I will edit it down and put in some captions and subtitles and title cards for scene changes and character identification, and then share that, and if people like it, continue to do so with the rest of the play.  I even started editing the video, but then yesterday, I had an issue with saving it, and I lost a good chunk of the editing I’d done, which is very frustrating.

Victor Frankl famously said that humans can endure nearly any hardship* if they have a reason to endure it, a meaning behind enduring it.  Conversely, however, if one has no meaning, no reason to do things, then even minor setbacks can be utterly enervating.  So right now, I’m feeling a bit deflated regarding my Shakespearean ambitions.  Anyway, I’m sure no one really wants to look at my face for too long at a time.  It’s probably an environmental health hazard.

I also haven’t really played my guitar(s) in over a week, now that I think about it…or at least nearly a week.  I’ve been getting soreness/inflammation in the tendons of my right hand and forearm from picking strumming, etc., which would seem absurd to me, given the paucity of my playing ability, if it weren’t for the fact that it is indeed happening.  Anyway, I’m getting tired of doing it, so I suppose it’s just as well.  I’m getting tired of practically everything.  If I were one of those people who stop eating when depressed, at last I would lose some weight, but I’m one of the ones who tends to gain weight, which leaves me feeling worse about myself than I already did.  It’s most unsatisfactory.

I have an idea for a sort of “epic quest”—it would really only be epic to me, frankly, and it would probably have no impact on anyone else whatsoever—and I’ve even solved many of the problems I had with shoes/feet that were getting in the way of it, which I tested a bit this weekend.  So that’s good.  If I decide to undertake such a thing, I’m sure I’ll be sharing more about it here, so you all will come to know it—those of you who actually read my full blog posts, anyway.

Deep down, though, I think I’m just feeling very discouraged, and very alone, and yet I don’t have the capacity to reach out and make friends and connect with people, let alone to ask for help; I don’t even frankly feel like I’m the same species as the people around me.  I feel like a changeling, like some different kind of creature than all the other creatures in the world—an alien whose mind got accidentally implanted in a human body…or perhaps it was implanted deliberately, as part of some scientific experiment, but one which requires the subject not to know of the experiment, to avoid bias.  Or perhaps it’s an experiment for which the funding was cut off right in the middle of the process, and the whole apparatus was just packed up, and all testing and connections were shut down, without anyone remembering to rescue the subject of the test.

I know this is all not really the case, just in case you’re wondering.  I don’t really think I’m a changeling, or an alien emplaced here either deliberately or by accident.  I may be a mutant in a sense, but only in a boring one, a mundane occurrence found throughout biology.  Mutants are real things; they really happen.  If this weren’t the case, there would be no evolution, and there would be no cancer.  But I don’t really think that I’m an android or an alien or some supernatural thing.  I may be unsane, but I’m not insane—not that way, anyway—as far as I know.

Anyway, I’m just writing this because I want to write something, but I have no interest in writing fiction right now, any more than pretty much anyone has in reading my fiction.  I’m tired.  I’m bored.  I’m uninterested in the things in the world, because for the most part, they seem stupid and chaotic and utterly pointless, and yet people don’t even realize just how stupid the things they do seem to be**.  This doesn’t apply to everyone, all the time, of course.  There are people who are not stupid, at least not all the time and not about everything.  Perhaps no one is stupid all the time about everything.  But the people—or the moments of non-stupidity—are tiny little flecks of diamond in a very large, very pungent, and extremely putrid dung heap.  It’s almost worse to know that they are there and will be not only overwhelmed and squashed but utterly unappreciated by the apes around them, including themselves, than if they weren’t there at all.

“How weary, stale, and flat seem to me all the uses of this world,” as Hamlet said, in another of his soliloquys, earlier in the play than the most famous one.  I can relate.  Except that, I know, it is I who am weary, stale, and flat—which makes sense, given that it’s more likely that the way the universe, or at least the human race, seems horrible is in the eye of the beholder than in the actual entirety of the human race.  Occam’s Razor, though it is double-edged, and can cut you if you use it carelessly, is nevertheless a useful guideline.  It’s more likely that I am pointless than that the world is—though of course, it’s entirely possible for both things to be so, and in fact, from a certain, objective point of view, I’m reasonably convinced that this is the case.  And it’s certainly more ethically tenable to say that, if the existence of most of humanity causes me pain, it is I who should vacate the premises, not try to destroy the rest of the human race, satisfying though that possibility might sometime seem to be.

I’m so tired; I don’t know what to do.  I’m so tired; my mind is set on…who?  Or, rather, on whom?  “No one”, is the answer.  There is no one there.  I am alone.  The air bites now, the sky is grey—as is the forest and the field and the ocean and the river and the lake and the cities and everything else—and I am alone.

*And he would know.

**And maybe, to them, those things don’t seem stupid.  I must be fair and consider that possibility.

Two Shakespearean Soliloquys

Okay, so, here’s the deal.  The other day…I think it was yesterday…I was playing with my phone, and a new phone mount I’d gotten (they’re very cheap, to my surprise), and I decided to do versions of two of my favorite soliloquys from Shakespeare.  Readers of this blog should not be surprised that I am a HUGE fan of Shakespeare.  Once, while in university, I took two different Shakespeare courses at the same time, and it was the best semester ever.  I had two different versions of the Complete Works of Shakespeare for the two classes, and that was great too, though I had to return them to the NROTC Unit at the end of the semester.

Anyway, it was fun doing the videos, and I uploaded them to YouTube, and I am hereby embedding them below.

The first, the longer of the two, is Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy, which I jokingly said was in response to him having just read The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus.  It fits, if you know the book.  Here it is:

The second is Macbeth’s brief soliloquy, immediately after he learns of his wife’s death, and may even be more famous than Hamlet’s.  Well, probably not.  But it’s more often quoted in its near-entirety than the Hamlet one.  I had Macbeth wear dark glasses because it seemed appropriate to his character at that point.

Anyway, I had such fun doing these that I decided that I want to try “performing” some Shakespeare on my phone and editing it together for YouTube.  I’ve already begun.  I’m starting with Macbeth, which is probably the play that all Shakespeare noobs should start with, since it’s fairly short, has lots of violence and a Darth Vader-like fall into evil (albeit without redemption, alas), and a wonderful bunch of phrases people will recognize that many probably don’t even know came from Shakespeare.  I figure I’ll post one act at a time.  I am not, so far, going to worry about the background, so apologies for that, nor will I worry much about my appearance…there’s only so much I could do about that, anyway*.  But hopefully it’ll be fun, and it’ll be an easily accessible way to enjoy Shakespeare, spoken and “acted” at least facially.

I’ll keep you all “posted” in more senses than one.

*Prison was not kind to me.  What a surprise!