Driving I-95 S. With Hammer at Rest.

A nothingburger during a nondescript morning commute a month ago.

Not a Vuong nothing Moment that changed everything after it.

But it changed Something.

Why this particular Moment among the billions?

Why is it called up when it is?

And here IT comes again this morning.

This Moment. It’s pulled forward, to the front. Taking its right hand, sweeping aside the incessant swing of the Hammer on the searing molten metal, of not enough, not good enough and Now.

And it’s exactly at this Moment, when the Hammer rests, and Vuong’s luminescence offers its cooling respite.

It whispers listen, pay attention to This. And it hangs around until I do.

The pre-rush hour traffic on I-95 was detoured onto Exit 2. GPS routes me through Port Chester. I pull up to a stop light, and there they are.

Father and Son. Son, maybe 4 years old.  Dad is wearing an overcoat, much too heavy for the season.  Son looks up to his Dad, Dad bends over and picks him up, hugs him tight, then sets him down.

And they walk. Dad’s lunch box swinging in his left hand, his Son’s hand swinging in his right.

Let’s play it again Vuong. One more time.

The Hammer rests, for this Moment.


Photo Credit

Lightly Child, Lightly.

A trio of tulips in an earthenware pot stopped me in the middle of my mind. I had woken abruptly and, still dazed from sleep, mistook the dawn light hitting the petals for the flowers emitting their own luminescence. I crawled to the glowing cups, thinking I was seeing a miracle, my own burning bush. But when I got closer, my head blocked the rays and the tulips turned off. This also means nothing, I know. But some nothings change everything after them.

Ocean Vuong, from his new book titled: “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel” (Penguin Press, June 4, 2019)

 


Notes:

  • Photo: Tulips @ BT.com.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly.

The problem with introspection is that it has no end.

~ Philip K. Dick


Notes:

  • Photo: Surrender by Anne-Martine Parent. Quote: Thank you The Vale of Soul Making
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Normal People

Last night he spent an hour and a half lying on the floor of his room, because he was too tired to complete the journey from his en suite back to his bed. There was the en suite, behind him, and there was the bed, in front of him, both well within view, but somehow it was impossible to move either forward or backward, only downward, onto the floor, until his body was arranged motionless on the carpet. Well, here I am on the floor, he thought. Is life so much worse here than it would be on the bed, or even in a totally different location? No, life is exactly the same. Life is the thing you bring with you inside your own head.

~ Sally Rooney, Normal People (Hogarth, April 16, 2019).

DK Rating: Highly Recommended. Sally Rooney, 28 years old, and to write like this, Wow…


Notes:

Riding Metro North. Romanticizing myself.

Thursday morning.

5:23 a.m.

Short on sleep, by several hours.

Short on time, rushing to catch the second morning train.

I’m on the platform, train cars pass, the train slows. I peer into one passing car, then the next, and the next. Options are limited: standing or middle seat.

Aisle seat occupants have their heads down, sending the commuter signal of not here, you aren’t welcome to the middle seat. Keep moving down the aisle.

I tap him on the shoulder. The Suit is irritated that I’ll be crowding him by taking the middle seat. I set my bag on the floor. Grab my smartphone. Tuck my elbows in, avoiding all possible contact.

Mind flips through the day’s appointments. Unfinished projects. And then the previous day, and things I shouldn’t have said, things I should have done, things I shouldn’t have done. I shift in my seat, nudging the occupant at the window, who shifts nervously.

Morning code: No contact. Absolutely no talking.

I can’t get comfortable. I adjust myself in place, careful to avoid contact. I’m tired. I’m edging to claustrophobia, and assessing whether I want, whether I need to exit and stand in vestibule. Not yet DK. Not yet. Settle. Just settle.

I set my smartphone down. I close my eyes.

It’s Make Believe Boutique in her post Kaleidoscope Shift that lands with a share from Chelsea D.G. Bartlett. “We may not always have that perfect mindset that we all chase…it can be difficult…especially when you’re constantly driving yourself forward…so lately I’ve been tricking myself myself into it.  I call this ‘romanticizing my life.’ I use this technique when I’m struggling to see the beauty in a situation, to add a little romance to the everyday frustrations and low moments that sometimes come up in life. It’s a perspective shift, more than anything else, paired with words that will take something that is often just a concept and true it into something more solid. Something actionable. It’s less effective to simply say, ‘I need to slow down and re-frame what I’m experiencing,’ than it is to force yourself to notice actual details and commit them to written words. Instead of, ‘I’m stuck on the bus, too exhausted after work even to concentrate on my creative goals, and all I want is to be at home,’ romanticize your life.’ “The bus rocks me gently through the city lights. Glimmers of ideas for stories and projects spark and sputter in my mind. I know I’ll be home soon, and it will be warm.[Read more…]

Flying Delta 4135. With Sir & Siri.

This is Sir & Siri-inspired. No, not Apple’s Siri. But Siri Hustvedt from Memories of the Future (or in this case, my Memories of the Past): “While I was in the throes of living it was impossible for me to know whether a moment would be significant or whether it would vanish into oblivion along with so much else.

Three Saturdays ago. I’m on another gadget run to BestBuy. I was 25 feet from the door. A middle aged, heavy set man, say ~40, with hoodie and red sneakers, sees me approaching. He waits, and opens the door for me. I thank him, and he replies with an “Anytime Sir…  Sir?  Sir? Sir? Feel the same, as I did 35 years ago. Less hair. Gray. Paunch. Must be tired looking. Is it that obvious? Sir? I need doors opened for me?  I look back, he’s gone, I’m dig for my car keys: I’m going to remember this.

Marquette Michigan. Last week Monday. On a run to bank branch, one of the many errands to change titling on checks, accounts, autos et al. Today we’re here. Tomorrow, we’re gone. But traces of us remain. And we get busy, Erasing. Need a signature guarantee (not a notary, a guarantee with stamp) to change account names. “Sorry Sir. We don’t offer a signature guarantee service. Let me call a few places to see if they can help you.” He’s going to call Competitors?!?! See if that ever, EVER, happens in NY. [Read more…]

T.G.I.F.: still for the count of one, two, three . . .

I’d made the appointment hoping to get advice on how I might help him. After giving me advice, the therapist, a kind, smart and soft-spoken man by the name of Jeff Pollard, asked simply, “And how are you feeling these days?” I felt my body go utterly still for the count of one, two, three . . .

Pam HoustonDeep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country 


Photo Credit

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

head

Monday.
Me.
Tuesday.
Me.
Wednesday.
Me.
Thursday.
Me.
Friday.

~ Witold Gombrowicz, in the opening of Diary.  Just before the outbreak of World War II, young Witold Gombrowicz left his home in Poland and set sail for South America. In 1953, still living as an expatriate in Argentina, he began his Diary with one of literature’s most memorable openings.


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: via seemore

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

For the rest of the week, I became acutely aware of the bizarre phone habits I’d developed. I noticed that I reach for my phone every time I brush my teeth or step outside the front door of my apartment building, and that, for some pathological reason, I always check my email during the three-second window between when I insert my credit card into a chip reader at a store and when the card is accepted.

Mostly, I became aware of how profoundly uncomfortable I am with stillness. For years, I’ve used my phone every time I’ve had a spare moment in an elevator or a boring meeting. I listen to podcasts and write emails on the subway. I watch YouTube videos while folding laundry. I even use an app to pretend to meditate.

If I was going to repair my brain, I needed to practice doing nothing…

It’s an unnerving sensation, being alone with your thoughts.

~ Kevin Roose, from “Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain” in The New York Times, February 23, 2019


Photo: Smartphone by Fernando Assumpcao

Driving I-95 S. With Freddie.

Tuesday morning.

Early morning traffic is frictionless, commuters float down I-95 S.

It’s 42° F. It’s January.  Soft, light rain. Electronics somehow (?) sense that the windshield is damp, wipers flap intermittently. Miracle. All of it.

It’s quiet in the cabin.

No radio.

No talk shows.

No podcasts.

No playlists.

The soft hum of the engine. The shifting of the sole of my right shoe on the accelerator.

And, those pernicious bumpin’ Thoughts. [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Where do they come from, thoughts?
Like wrens, out of the sky.
They arrive.
Noisy, hungry, perfectly themselves.

Peter Behrens, from The Law of Dreams: A Novel

 


Notes:

  • Photo: (via see more). Poem: thevaleofsoulmaking.wordpress.com
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Walking in place. Saturday Morning.

“I like things I can see as much as things I can’t (see)…that inner light was drawing me in.”

It was an innocuous line by Murakami in Killing Commendatore, but for some reason I couldn’t, I can’t, let it go.

And then it’s Baader-Meinhof. You are shopping for a new car, you fall in love with a particular model, and then suddenly you begin to see it everywhere. But the what is what I can’t see.

Murakami is followed by a passage I read by Immanuel Kant:

“Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt.”

And it’s early Saturday morning.  Light rain.

I’m in bed, it’s dark out. The body is spent from the week. The Mind is off on its own, its finger tips touching, exploring, wandering, free, weightless. [Read more…]

Thought Spiral

Jon Wertheim: You use the word “thought spiral.” What does that mean?

John Green: The thing about a spiral is that it– it goes on forever, right? Like, if you zoom in on the spiral it can keep tightening forever. And that for me is the nature of obsessive thought that it’s this inwardly turning spiral that never actually has an end point. So it might be I’m eating a salad and it suddenly occurs to me that somebody might have bled into this salad. Now, they probably didn’t.

Jon Wertheim: This is what you’re thinking?

John Green: But this is what I’m thinking. And instead of being able to move on to a second thought, that thought just expands and expands and expands and expands. And then, I use compulsive behaviors to try to manage the worry and the overwhelmedness that that thought causes me.

~ John Green, 41, in a Sixty Minutes interview on October 7, 2018. “Reaching young adults and dealing with mental illness.  The best-selling author of books like ‘The Fault in Our Stars,’ opens up to 60 Minutes about exploring his fears through his writing.”

His fourth solo novel, The Fault in Our Stars, debuted at number one on The New York Times Best Seller list in January 2012 and was a best seller for three years. His most recent book, “Turtles All the Way Down,” has been a best-seller for 50 straight weeks since it debuted at number one. Its theme: obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD, based on Green’s own. For this book, he obeyed that time honored rule of the craft: write what you know.

John Green has:

 


Photo: John Green via Parade

It’s been a long day

the hour sinking into the emptiness of my

closed eyes

— Alejandra Pizarnik, from “the hour sinking,” The Galloping Hour: French Poems


Notes:

It’s been a long day

It’s like watching a zoo animal circle its cage.

For the first time, she realizes that being alone is a contradiction in terms.

Even in a body’s most private moments, something else joins in.

~ Richard Powers, from “Trunk” in The Overstory: A Novel


Notes:

the only way to end this circuitous torture of self-obsession

russell-brand

AC: The self, which we worship at the moment, is actually a terrible prison. It’s a cage. You are trapped…When you get trapped in your own short term desires, it’s a cage…Maybe it’s good to escape from that daily grind of having to listen to your consciousness constantly saying that “I want this. I want this. I want this.” Which we are encouraged to believe is liberation…Maybe it’s not.

RB: I think you are quite right. Even pop spiritual orators such as Eckhart Tolle will say to you this incessant inner narrative, the relentless thinking – there’s no freedom in that. And watch where those thoughts take you. If I’m walking my dog in the field…this material reality is…I am a man, in a field with a dog. In my head what’s happening: “Oh God. Why did I do that for? This will probably go wrong. What’s going to happen?” …There is a self-imposed tyranny to that…

AC: People live inside their heads very much. Because they are encouraged to, that is the end point. But actually what’s going on in those heads are things that people don’t want to tell. Fear. Loneliness. Doubt. Because actually if you are going to be the right kind of individual, you mustn’t have that. You see that on social media at the moment…

RB: …Self is the relentless driven inner narrative…I myself have had to battle…I believe the disease of addiction has at its core a kind of circuitous self-centeredness that can only be ended, well first by removal of the initial substance…once those things are gone you recognize those drives are still present. What is it?! You become obsessed with food. You become obsessed with sex. You become obsessed with work and other people’s opinion. In the end you begin to recognize that the only way to end this circuitous torture of self-obsession is with ideas that have always been present in religious and spiritual doctrine, service, connectionin whose service is perfect freedom. It is so beautiful. You give yourself up…it is an idiom that implies that there is an upward transcendent trajectory.

~ Russell BrandIs Civilization Crumbling? With Adam Curtis. (Under the Skin. With Russell Brand. Podcast #50, March 24, 2018)

Back…back…back.

Am I as old as I am?
Maybe not. Time is a mystery
that can tip us upside down…
Who was I at age seven?

Sixty-eight years later I can still inhabit that boy’s
body without thinking of the time between.
It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.

– Jim Harrison, from Seven in the Woods from Dead’s Man Float


Notes:

  • Inspired by – “We go back … and back … and back … through the layers of fear, shame, rage, hurt, and negative incantations until we discover the exuberant, unencumbered, delightful, and lovable child that was, and still is, in us.” By Melody Beattie (via Bright, Shiny Objects)
  • Photo: Ivanovo detstvo (Ivan’s Childhood) • Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky 1962 (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Running. With Ghosts.

Friday morning weigh-in: 2 pounds up. Disgusting. Shameful.

It’s 5:25 a.m. 58º F. I’m out the door.

Memorial Day weekend.  Squirrel lays in the gutter on Post Road, its claws tucked inward, no defense against Auto.  The mind leaps to the Thursday morning commute, a large doe lies on the shoulder of I-95 S, a fresh kill – no chance against Semi. Shake it off. A few hundred feet further up, road refuse, a MacDonald’s Big Mac carton and an empty plastic soft drink cup. The mind leaps again, this time to Ben‘s comment on an older post – his boys have returned from visiting a turtle hospital in the Florida Keys where they watched the creatures suffer from ingesting plastic drinking straws. They’re quick to anger at the waiter who sets two plastic straws on the table in front of them. Boys. They get it. This world still has a chance.

My pace slows, with the mind leaping from black to blacker blacks, gulping energy, sapping strength. Shoulders and legs are heavy, they sag. I’m winded.  GPS: 1.5 miles out. It’s mental DK. It’s mental. Alter the narrative, Damn it. Alter the narrative.

I round the corner to exit Post Road to Cove Road.

My head is down. I don’t notice low tide. I don’t see 100’s of geese floating in silence. What do you think you will see looking down at the asphalt.

And here it comes. From somewhere.  Chögyam Trungpa’s inclination. “You have an inclination: In the flash of one second, you feel what needs to be done. It is not a product of your education; it is not scientific or logical; you simply pick up on the message. And then you just act: You just do it…that basic human quality of suddenly opening up is the best part of human instinct.”

I don’t look right towards the homes, the driveways, the spray from the automatic sprinkler systems in the front yards. [Read more…]

Friend of My Mind

Often when he was starting a new project, he didn’t know what was driving him, as if his thoughts had developed an independent life and a will of their own, as if they were merely waiting for him to finally think them, as if an investigation he was about to begin already existed before he had started working on it, and the path leading through everything he knew and saw, everything he encountered and experienced, already lay there waiting for him to venture down it. And probably that’s just how it was, given that you could only ever find what was already there.

Because everything is always already there.

~ Jenny Erpenbeck, Go, Went, Gone


Notes:

  • Post title “lifted” and post inspired by two quotes found in Beth’s post on “Alive on All Channels” titled a Friend of My Mind:
  • Martha Beck: “Think of a problem that’s had you stumped for a while: Your preschooler won’t nap, you can’ make yourself exercise, you need to cut expenses without sacrificing quality of life. With this challenge in your mind, read a few paragraphs in several totally unrelated books. Then relax. Play with your cat, wash the dishes, watch the neighbors through binoculars. Think of the problem periodically, then drop it again. This process encourages eureka epiphanies, like those moments in TV dramas where the brilliant doctor or sleuth gets the “ping” of insight that solves the case. Your first few ideas may not be perfect—many will be awful—but there are more where they came from. Once you begin encouraging the right brain to churn out solutions, it will do so more and more abundantly.”
  • Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong, TED talk [12:00-12:17]: “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is, but that you can see the world as it isn’t. We can remember the past and we can think about the future, and we can imagine what it’s like to be some other person in some other place. And we all do this differently.
  • Art: Francesco Clemente with “Friendship (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Saturday Morning

clouds

Still looking for bliss in nothing at all, the cloudy mind moving over existence, outside time.

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Notes:

  • Post Inspired by Patricia Hampl: “Daydreaming doesn’t make things up. It sees things. Claims things, twirls them around, takes a good look. Possesses them. Embraces them. Makes something of them. Makes sense. Or music. How restful it is, how full of motion. My first paradox. I couldn’t care less what it’s called. It’s pure pleasure. Infinite delight…This is what is called the life of the mind. It’s what I want to do. It’s where I want to be. Right here.” (Patricia Hampl, The Art of the Wasted Day)
  • Photo by Mikael Aldo (via see more)
  • Related Posts: Patricia Hampl

 

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