Bile

I woke from an acid in my mouth an nose. The old pain had returned, and I heard the phrase,

If you don’t wait for god,
You cannot be turned away
Or made to suffer.

Episodes of my life clicked and blinked like a Lite Brite, that toy where you poke translucent pegs through black construction paper against a backlit pegboard.

It wasn’t many times – not more than ten – and the contours haloed and bled into the dark of the room and the past,  but the centers were bright and unmistakable. There were episodes in my life when I had felt a terrible goal. Feeling it had caused such a suction, a wake, even, as if I were  being pulled from the shore, that I quit. That is the pun of the ritual rarely mentioned – the pull that we feel to follow them there. Like Longfellow’s hiker said, 

Dost thou not know that what is best
In this too restless world is rest
From overwork and worry?

So we create a ritual, a placeholder, not so that we can experience the presence of god, but so that we won’t forget entirely that it happened. 

In those times, I was woken in the dark from the wanting, and I quit the pursuit, from fear and fatigue. Or was it from deceit? The mask leading me away.

The mask affects the appearance of the moment of recognition. It takes on some salient details, and we follow it, back up to the shallows. Guilty sand between our toes. But the more profound betrayal of our path is when we leave it because of the intensity, from the acid, the sleeplessness, the urge to drink.

I noticed with the withdrawal of back pain, as a learned thought patterns to counteract the psychology of processing sensation as pain, that I would more often drum my fingers and roll my eyes. Now that my physical excuse for not focusing was receding, here came the truth. 

I drum my fingers – pinkie, ring middle – not index because I cannot point at it, even.  Only aim in that direction. The truth won’t be pressed. Even seeking the apt question causes a swell of panic. Pursuing the answer is terrible. A searing absence. It urges me to slouch and cast about for distraction. To literally slouch.

Nothing is as it seems, of course

I have been walking – somewhere between one and three hours a day. I wear flat shoes and pretend I don’t have a preferred gait, so sometimes my heel lands first, sometimes the balls of my feet, though I don’t enjoy either extreme, so the range tends toward the middle, which at the moment means just where the ball meets the arch. That spot landing an instant before the heel does. There is a springiness in it.

Bloom’s taxonomy observes the analysis, but isn’t there so much there. One adjusts the resolution, emphasizing and de-emphasizing sets of features, comparing those features with other models, with their resolution at some level, and some set of their features emphasized or de-emphasized. We map out one set of behaviors through a mental model, which we discover through this analysis, synthesis, comparison, adjustment of resolution, and emphasis and de-emphasis of sets of features.

Nothing is as it seems, because we cannot hold anything in one way of seeming without excluding other ways that are valid. The sense of a piece on a chess board lies in its relation to the other pieces, those that defend it and those that threaten it, those that it defends and those that it threatens.

Walking, sitting, standing, lying down – none of these can be what they seem, because each instance of these classes lies in a spectrum of modalities, temporal, spatial, and strategic. One can get stuck into thinking of lying down as the posture of rest, but walking is the restful set of postures if one has been lying down and grown weary of it. Walking cannot be what it seems because there is a broad and intricately incremented spectrum of patterns. When I hold one mental model of it, comparisons follow, features are emphasized, behaviors are emphasized, and my nerves grow weary of these emphases, just as one shifts posture in their seat.

Chronic pain springs from wanting to find one right posture and misinterpreting the impulse to shift with something being wrong. Movement, a constant shifting for ease and advantage, is what is normal. Holding still makes no sense. We weren’t made for it. Rest is relative.

Noticing a feature of a phenomenon like walking or sitting for the first time, I am so astonished. I fear the fickleness of the noticing. You mean our progress is dependent on noticing? How precarious.

One can learn so many things. A springiness in the arch, a rolling forward of the pelvis in the sukhasana, the rounded back straightening, the vertabrae stacking. Stories one tells oneself to convince parts inside that they can stop translating each signal from the quadratus lumborum as pain. I’ve been walking what one might call mindfully for three weeks, and each day a different feel for it emerges, some features emphasized, some de-emphasized. Today it was the springiness and the utility of various gaits depending on the terrain and the context.

One can detect a dog’s mood from her gait. Some poet once said that he did not know that he felt something until he had sait it out loud to some woman, standing at the mantel or something, I don’t know. But isn’t it true that we might not know what we are feeling until we walk in way that allows us to detect it? The feet are particularly sensitive, full of tiny bones and nerve endings. And their connection with our mind is particularly nuanced. We can walk around, smashing flesh against bone all day and feel fine about it, and yet a slight arbnormality and we are howling. I wonder if the centaur or the minotaur is distant in some way, liberated by oblivion, interested only in freedom and traps.

Of all things that are not what they seem, is writing up there? It seems so to me. Writing is more about walking than anything, the processing of thoughts. A thought is an output which immediately becomes an input. Step, step, step. It is senseless to start writing with an instrument in hand. One writes far before that, then records what happened. And of course that record is an output, which becomes an input. And so on. 

 

The Parliament – 3

Cooperative breeding is defined as when more than two individuals contribute to the care of young in a single brood.  For crows this means that, in addition to the mated pair, there can be up to 10 additional birds helping to raise this year’s brood.  Generally, these are young males that are related to the male breeder. The motive behind cooperative breeding is somewhat mysterious since there are costs to both breeders and helpers.  Costs to parents including diversion of food provisioning towards helpers and, for males, threat of paternity loss to helpers.   Costs to helpers are more straight forward; they’re delaying their own breeding efforts to rear offspring which only share some of their genetic identity.  So why do crows bother?

https://corvidresearch.blog/tag/juvenile-crows/ 

https://poseidoninchains.bandcamp.com/track/beneath-the-burning-hands-of-god

3. 

The brothers quarreled. The younger brother proposed that the speck was bringing food or that it was food, while the elder argued it was bringing lice or that it was lice. The elder flew to the chair back and perched there, croaking down at his brother, who crouched submissively yet croaked back before retreating to the merlon on the north side of the tower. When the elder brother followed him there, he took flight again.

When the elder brother was in his first year, his song dreams were sometimes overwhelming. Several times he woke himself. This waking was always preceded by a graduating panic as he formed the pattern of the song with his beak in silence. As he struggled from the ringing depth, his wings engaged, too, in the restlessness. The pattern deepened as he ascended. The pressure from above dissipated. In a gasp he broke the surface and, flapping and cawing in a singular pattern,  startled his older sister awake.

In his adolescence, he would wander above the fields, sinking and climbing in a rhythm that seemed to emerge from the weight of the air itself, as if some pressure in it, graduating as he descended, pulsed back at back him at a certain altitude. He came to know it, and this knowing informed other categories of foresight.

And as he winged after his younger brother, he saw waves crashing against a rocky coast.

Flapping above the pasture that sloped away from the tower. Squeezing out the pattern. Flapping is not discrete motions. It is one exertion, and corvids are more adapted to doing it than humans are to walking. For a juvenile, flying is still exhilarating and dangerous. As the younger pressed his ascent, the elder quickly overtook him, climbing above him. The younger knew what this meant from watching a kestrel do the same thing to a young jackdaw.  Overcome with fear and exposure, the younger abandoned his ascent and dove. It was ungraceful, in part a fall. He landed hard and cried out before recovering, then hugged his chest to the grass and soil again as his brother alighted next to him. And they held this attitude towards one another for what must have seemed a long time. The elder pecked at a mote in the soil, and the younger regained his legs. In the deepening shadow of the tower, they stepped in their patterns and cocked their heads alertly.  

 

The Parliament – 2

The typical Carrion Crow call is a resonant ‘kraa’, stronger than the rather flat-sounding call of the Rook. Crows are usually seen singly or in small groups, while Rooks are more sociable birds.

Source: https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/gbw/gardens-wildlife/garden-birds/a-z-garden-birds/carrion-crow

‘At the moult into second winter-plumage, and at every subsequent autumn-moult when the bird is adult, the bare space on the chin and upper-throat becomes thickly covered with dark blackish-grey down.’

‘Only a few minute degenerate bristles grow here and there on the nostril-region, fore-head, and on the sides of the lower mandibles, and these are scarcely noticeable without a glass.

Source: The Sequence of Plumages of the Rook, with Special Reference to the Moult of the Face. 
By H.F. Witherby

https://e-f-d-g.bandcamp.com/track/doomed 

2. 

With loud calls the younger brother articulated nervousness. He was so young, only born the year past, that the base of his beak was not yet the bone- and dirty-white of a mature Rook.  His brother’s response was terse agreement. He crouched and took flight, landing on the merlon on the south side of the tower, turning in place to watch the fields.

The younger finished his acorn. Feathers tousled in the wind. To the northeast, a carrion crow left its perch on a solitary oak and flew north, away from them, flapping against the wind, over fields of rippling fescue, under nimbostratus of deep and mottled grays.

The wind blew the grasses, the cock’s foot and the brome. Farther, past the fences, were fields of barley and turnips. At a distance to the northwest, ancient white cows grazed on fescue.  

Watching the crow make his slow progress, the elder noticed a speck in the distance. He hopped in adjustment, facing the west, so he could study it with his left eye. The younger mimed him from his perch on the seat of the chair, first crouching, then craning, to see past the obstructing lower slat of the back rest. The bird was approaching. The black speck growing against the thick grey clouds.

 

 

The Parliament

A Somerset dialect name for the rook used to be ‘church parson’, obviously referring to its sombre plumage. An old group term for rooks was a ‘congregation’ so clearly the birds had ecclesiastical associations in some places. 
— Recording the Rook,  by Philip Radford

It is concluded that Rooks are the most specialized food hoarders of the Corvus species.
— Food hoarding and use of stored food by Rooks Corvus frugilegusHans Källander

1. 

A particular colony of rooks found an ivy-covered tower in the fields of Berkshire hospitable and made it the site of several 1 nests. They built the nests on the floor of the tower, around the perimeter, wedged against the parapet.  

Rook mates build nests cooperatively. This occurs frequently across species, though in some the male has an oddly unreflective manner of building, not seeming to notice when the material falls from his beak to the ground uselessly. I wonder what the female thinks of this.

These rooks lived hundreds of years ago.

This was when carts were pulled by oxen and hunters rode on horses and arrows were fletched with one feather from a cock and two from a hen. Travel then was even more tortuous for them. Those people. Along the paths they trudged, and through their fields or, more often, the fields of their superiors, always on the ground, stepping even on the feet of their own shadows.

On a certain damp evening in mid-March, when the air was thick and verdant, a caravan of people was passing through a nearby town, north of the tower, and the colony went to see what food they could get. They left as the sun was thick with orange. Only two, who were brothers, remained to occupy the rookery, tasked with watching the sky to ensure that the tower wasn’t overtaken by the jackdaws, Corvus monedula, who lived in a cluster of beech trees to the north.

The brothers perched on a merlon and observed what caught their eye. The jackdaws were returning home. The air was cool, and mating was late. The colony had a small cache of acorns, which formed a circle in the center of the tower, beneath the rough-hewn chair that stood there.  When the sun could no longer be seen, the younger alighted from the parapet to the tower floor and strode toward the chair, wings tucked against him, strides long.

Perched on the seat, he broke into an acorn. 

The elder brother listened. Head cocked, beak open. Left eye facing the sky, right facing the floor of the tower.

He took to the adjacent crenel. This was an awkward maneuver for them, the crenels being narrow. Sometimes the younger Rooks would alight from the merlon to the floor and from there flap up to the crenel, but eventually they all learned to drop down flapping and land on the base of the crenel without bumping their heads against its vertical plain.

The younger brother watched. Beak empty but smudged with acorn meat. The remainder of the acorn lying in crumbs around his toes. 

1Or was it seven? Both are argued.

 

 

 

 

 

The Obstructions

It is the 171st day of the year. A palindrome that is divisible by three.

Sometimes the terminal ends of an interim are not identical. I have been fasting for the past three days, and it has been no big deal. That’s a nice change from the before, when it was a thick lens on my daily experience, an incessant distraction, even long after the hunger pangs were gone. I just kept thinking about food. Not so this time.

I have noticed this with other efforts, also, especially when practicing my handwriting: stopping for a period and restarting seems comparably beneficial to practicing throughout. There is some processing going on. Maybe it’s easier to process some material when not actually engaged in the relevant practice. It seems to me sometimes I am distracted by some awkwardness, and continuing to practice keeps triggering that feeling. There are so many distractions. Learning a new grip on the pen distracts from forming the letters. I practice it for weeks and the awkwardness doesn’t diminish. It is hard to imagine the awkwardness going away. Then I stop for a few weeks, try it again, and it feels comfortable. It took R.A. Dickey 30,000 pitches before he started to feel comfortable with his knuckleball. I wonder if he took breaks.

Years of back pain seem to have been caused, somehow, by the quadratus lumborum. I watched a video about it, and now the pain is mostly a memory and a fear. But it’s complicated. According to the NCBI:

There is no consensus in the literature whether an alteration of the tone of QL may be the primary cause of back pain. We know that the size of the quadratus lumborum is smaller in the dominant’s side leg, compared to the opposite side. We know that in case of low-back pain the QL does not vary much its size compared to people without pain.

It is likely that since the twelfth thoracic, ilioinguinal, and iliohypogastric nerves pass and give branches to the QL, the possibility exists that in cases of inflammation of the nervous tissue due to a limited excursion (entrapment), these tissues can produce a syndrome that mimics low-back pain.

We know that trigger points can involve the QL. This condition could also mimic a painful syndrome of the lumbar area.

And:

One must consider that it is difficult for a single muscle to cause pain, except with direct trauma. All the muscles interconnect as a function of the fascial system, and in a contractile area with altered function, it will lead to functional difficulty all the surrounding muscular regions.

So I have been walking, stretching, and consciously relaxing that area, keeping in mind that the muscle elevates and rotates the hips. It is an extension of the transversus abdominis. This is interesting. I’ve always found that sucking in my stomach alleviated the pain. Articles I read indicated it had something to do with aligning my spine. But I could never picture what was going so wrong when I wasn’t sucking in my gut. Was the spine pressing against a nerve, or what?

But if engaging the transversus abdominis also engages the quadratus lumborum, maybe I was just working the muscle out a bit, getting it to stop spasming?

The relationship between the transversus abdominis and lower back pain doesn’t seem clear cut, either:

From Wikipedia:

While it is true that the TVA is vital to back and core health, the muscle also has the effect of pulling in what would otherwise be a protruding abdomen(hence its nickname, the “corset muscle”). Training the rectus abdominis muscles alone will not and can not give one a “flat” belly; this effect is achieved only through training the TVA.[3] Thus to the extent that traditional abdominal exercises (e.g. crunches) or more advanced abdominal exercises tend to “flatten” the belly, this is owed to the tangential training of the TVA inherent in such exercises. Recently the transverse abdominal has become the subject of debate between Biokineticists, kinesiologists, strength trainers, and physical therapists. The two positions on the muscle are (1) that the muscle is effective and capable of bracing the human core during extremely heavy lifts and (2) that it is not. Specifically, one recent systematic review has found that the baseline dysfunction of TVA cannot predict the clinical outcomes of low back pain.[4] Similarly, another systematic review has revealed that the changes in TVA function or morphology after different nonsurgical treatments are unrelated to the improvement of pain intensity or low back pain related-disability.[5] These findings have challenged the traditional emphasis of using TVA-targeted intervention to treat low back pain.

Maybe some of this variation is that some of the reported low back pain is actually caused by the abdomen?

The Impediments

Today my friend observed that paragraphs were sheltering the flaws of my reasoning. I should suffer only lists and diagrams.

He also observed that he experienced contentment when with a companion. This was his reason for leaving his.

Me: Sure, but some partners spur us.
Him: Yes, but always in some direction.

Me: But what about Feynman’s parents? Didn’t they spur him without directing him?
Him: Yeah. If I found a companion like Feynman’s dad, I would stay with her.

We were standing in front of a fourteenth century painting at the Philbrook museum, on the first floor, nearish the entrance. A father blessing his son, tempera on wood. For something to do, we decided to give it more attention than seemed entirely reasonable.

The father and son are in what we assume is a house, but the painting isn’t realistic. The viewer has a cutaway view, and the house consists of one room, which is taken up almost entirely by a bed, on which the father is reclined, apparently preparing for death. The son appears to be somehow joined with an angel, which towers over him. Outside the house, to the right, a dog sits, its tail tucked and its back curved such that it appears almost to cower. Afraid of the angel? But can it see it from the outside? Surely it is looking at a wall, only made invisible by the artist? Never mind, the dog knows about the angel. Maybe it fled.

Referencing the plaque only to extract the name of the painting, we both googled it, commingling our conversation with those results.

Speaking of which, doesn’t it still seem too difficult to find the full text of psychology research papers? Here’s a good article on that topic, or actually on one a little broader. (What is that? What is it to disagree with oneself for rhetorical effect?)

Stand-up comedians get actual feedback from people. Writers picture the face of a reader, eyeing the wrinkles at the corner of her mouth as she picks her way through the ashes.

I keep meaning to go to a Toastmasters meeting, for an opportunity to receive scrutiny, like a stand-up comedian. There is a recurring reminder in my calendar, which I ignore.

It seems that some thrive at the end of feedback from others, but I have to be alone and listen to the percussive sound of my fingers tapping against one another and the faint, filmy pluck of the pads separating, my hands held up to my ears. I imagine I am playing castanets.

Clearly, I’ve given up trying to purpose this blog into a distinct theme, but I have been working on process. I’m reading Measure what Matters by John Doerr, and still reading about habits. It seems as if the whole world all at once has learned something. I know the internet caters to what we’re looking for, but it seems as if Duhigg and Clear and everyone else have found a central idea around which to frame our experience.

Of course, not quite. If you read page 34 of Practice Perfect (Lemov, Woolway, Yezzi), they list “muscle memory”, “rote” and “automatic” before getting to habit. Isn’t that strange? How much writing has been about the same thing? A self-consciously core idea of the book is “practice makes permanent.” But they hardly talk about habit by name. The whole book is about habit.

It can feel awful how central semantics is to the conversation.

Today is day 42 of 2019. It is the answer to the most important question in the universe.

After staring at the painting for over five minutes, my friend notices that the father’s hand, which we had both thought was just curved in one of those typical Christian positions, isn’t empty but holds a book. Either it is nearly the same color as the blankets, or some pigment has degraded over time, because the book isn’t obvious at first, but there is a definite outline of it, and there is an area specified by the father’s hand that is of a different shade and in the shape of a book. So that once you see it….

Speaking of which, doesn’t it still seem too difficult to read psychology journals online? Here is an interesting article on that. And so many of the books I read are carefully cited. I write notes to follow up on the papers, but I haven’t developed the habit of actually doing that. What is the obstacle?

I find Meshuggah to be the music most conducive to problem-solving because of its patterns-with-variation. It feels like approaching a problem over and over, with minor adjustments. They repeat themselves, but there are all of these adjustments. Their riffs are like algorithms they feel they can’t quite get right. Their music is frustrated, not assured. Chevelle’s music is frustrated, too, but it feels assured in its frustration. As if they know what is wrong. Meshuggah is stabbing in the dark, over and over. Chevelle’s music implies there is spiritual decay and deficit. Meshuggah’s implies there are engineering problems and temporary countermeasures and rage, and that we are fundamentally fucked.

It seems many musicians produce a song as if they have solved this problem they have set for themselves. Meshuggah’s tracks are essays. They are showing you their work, with no solution. All of their tracks are about impediments they cannot pass. One imagines them pushing with their left shoulder, then their right. Or tapping L, R, L, R, B, A over and over, and it only working 1/3 of the time.

Their tracks and riffs are the residue of their decisions, but they are also breaks from some other set of tasks that they are more involved in.

Wasn’t a major role of music to keep time for workers, for rowing and hammering, and so on? I imagine that music made of standard repetitions. It says, let’s all do precisely this for awhile. Meshuggah’s tracks say, “We’ve tried all of these things. We ache and have sores on our hands and elbows, and yet our progress is dismal. This is our fever dream, our search for some better progress.”

jealous gods

The mother and child are curled in a sleep
embrace when he appears.  While eclipses
and other disorienting acts of god

validate hitherto minor prophets,
looking back, jealous gods are predictable. 

They restrain themselves by day, and others
by night. Children crave security in patterns. 

Such visceral arrangements animate us,
and in placing, securing, and in holding down, 
we wander yet into the wilderness.

Necessary Evils

Paper

The problem with the typewriter is the way I interpret its sound. Like all writing machines, it produces drafts, but its click clack implies more. Think about All the President’s Men, or any other movie about a newspaper before the 1990’s. That mechanical firing promises the production of final products. Those serious newsmen faces. My feeling from them isn’t that their intention is to produce mutable products.

But in that scene where Bob Woodward (Redford) punches the pages out and Carl Bernstein (Hoffman) pens in corrections in black ink (or was it blue?), even then there is a seriousness in the air as those pages roll off the platen.

I collected Olivetti’s when I was a teenager, but worrying about the future availability of printer ribbon was stressful, so I gave them away. Now I write with a mechanical keyboard, and my letters appear on an LED screen. They are neither here nor there. Sometimes, when my anxiousness calls for it, I print out the pages so I can put marks on them. That is wasteful, and it feels wasteful. It feels like a sin. But so does writing words that in some sense don’t exist. A corrupted or missing file somehow seems scarier than a ruined or lost sheet.

I imagine a pot-bellied journalist (Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos in Charlie Wilson’s War, but a journalist instead of a case officer for the CIA) in a shouting match. He is shouting because there is something about his output that he wanted to be final. Instead, revisions are proposed. Without this argument over revisions, it is hard to imagine the seriousness that precedes it. Typewriters aren’t tentative. Imagining harmonious revisions makes the click clack seem strange. But that’s what was happening in that All The President’s Men scene.

And even ignoring revisions, those pages are only input for the press. Are the pages ever saved? Maybe if its an historic story?

Which evils are necessary? Writing is hard work, and doing it rarely feels like the right thing to do. It is so subjective. My mind wanders. I wonder if focusing so intensely on a subjective discipline isn’t harmful for my mental health. Isn’t it more salubrious to focus on problems with real solutions, like equations and lines of code? 

By the way, that modulation at the penultimate syllable of the line, “Go fuck yourself, you fucking child.” Have you ever heard anything like that in a movie? That shift is involuntary, psychogenic.  Can someone do that on purpose? Maybe if they practice enough. But it seems more likely that it was involuntary, the product of a real feeling. 

Writing is hard, so I try to adopt habits to facilitate it. But it feels wasteful in every way. It is either unstable, as with LED, or parasitic, as with cutting down trees for taking notes. And isn’t thinking what’s important, anyway? Why is writing necessary?

What is the problem with this essay so far? It’s that these problems are boring. These are problems to be solved or swallowed, not committed to essay.

Fine, fine. 

The Superego

As a child, I had a habit of reading beyond what I could comprehend, so I was reading about Freud’s ideas before adolescence, though very little since then. I never had feelings for the idea of the superego.

No, my inner critic was not the internal representation of my towering circle of elders. I heard my dad. I knew what he was saying. My conscience was something else.

Maybe so, but what about now? This question has recently opened up an awkward crevasse. I had read an essay by Maria Popova about the banality of self-criticism. It struck me as true. Its point is that our inner critic is usually unimaginative. But, wait—why? I’m not unimaginative. 

And then I was doing an exercise from the book Conscious LovingThe exercise is to, at least one time throughout the day, notice when you feel stuck and to say in your head, I am stuck. 

And then you ask yourself, “Whose voice is that?”

Some of the exercises feel forced, but this one flowed. I did not need to strain to make out whose voice it was. I could even see her, sitting on the loveseat, in her blue microfiber robe, eating Tostitos chips and cheese, halfway watching whatever was on a small television set crammed in the corner of the same closet that the loveseat was crammed into, halfway watching nothing. That was my mom.

Maybe that got me thinking, without realizing it, about the sources of my spontaneous impressions and self-talk. Suddenly that obscure, slippery word seemed to turn over and speak clearly. My parents were monotonous. Their criticism wasn’t nuanced. The word didn’t seem apt then. When I was still around them, they were distinct, but now that we are decades apart, they have merged.

But I suppose Maria Popova’s parents’ criticism was more sophisticated? So maybe the job of the superego is to synthesize and flatten the criticism, make it more conservative? Or maybe Maria Popova’s inner critic is way more liberal than mine, or even way less aggressive or pernicious, but the superego, always in rivalry with the more urbane ego, sounds the same when talked about, even by strangers, even when those strangers have utterly different internal experiences from my own, because it is always put in contrast with their other representatives. The superego is that internal experience that, contrasted with our other internal experiences, sounds negative and tedious and stifling. So does that mean that my ego and id  are also less spontaneous and egalitarian? I mean, clearly. But even if it weren’t, that would just mean that there was greater contrast, which would cause tension and anxiety and mood swings. Check, and check.

But who is it in the psyche that is always updating the face and voice of the critic? 

The Self-aware Woman on Main Street

Why am I willfully wasteful of my resources?

Just down the street from my apartment building is a convenience store. It is a sad place. The owner is an obese Christian who smokes cigarettes and throws them on the sidewalk. As I was walking home in a gray afternoon, I saw a young woman in an olive green jacket and torn jeans leaving it. Her eyes were close set and round. They were the eyes of a girl who stares at a bug and sees the bug itself, but she was lost in some internal examination, and my stomach hurt for her.

“I don’t have any money left because I spend it on this crap.”

She pressed past the door and was off down the street. I could not make out what she was carrying.

Schellenberg

I act. I see and hear.  And I ask, what is the world like, and how should I behave?

Sometimes I feel on top of things. As if I were a bull rider. In this configuration, my attention is drawn to staying on top of things. Or finding more things to be on top of.

Call it preference, but this is a demotivating understanding of the world and my role in it. What I’m above is distinctly less interesting to me than what I’m below. 

And, while the phrase, what is the world like, and how should I behave isn’t bad, my mind prefers directing its questions outward. Isn’t that where practically everything is? If I round down, I understand zero percent of it.  So I ask, God, what is my aim? 

There is no answer, naturally. What if there were? I wonder. I talked recently with a man who said God spoke to him. I did not find his company salutary. 

But impressions are produced, nonetheless, and words and images. Strange rushes of energy spread down my left humerus. I act. I see and hear.