Venus Transited.

June 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

It is hard to imagine what life must have been like in the pre-Copernican Revolution days. To believe that you are living at the center of the universe must have given you a terrible amount of anxiety. I no doubt would have panicked until I put stones in my pockets and walked into the sea.

Few things are as comforting as a major celestial event, the sort of event that happens on a scale of time and space that we can put our numbers but not our senses to. The sort of event that reminds you that the only things that really matter are gravity and light, the things themselves and not the objects that swim in and from them. The sort of event that is wholly indifferent to the fact that an entire generation of humans will live and die before it happens again. The sort of event that invokes the sense of sublimity Kant had in mind when he called it the beautiful and the terrible.

Oh to feel small! It is like being wrapped tightly in a soft blanket and laid supine on some warm sand during the gloaming. Or having a dark corner to yourself and something to suck on.

I tried to look at the sun with a sideways glance, to see if I could glimpse the Transit with my naked eye. How many ancient humans sacrificed their sight just so we could have this one bit of certain knowledge – do not look directly into the sun? And yet, I tried. How volatile it is to be a thing in which facts and actions are independent of one another. How unstable choice makes a system. Imagine if the planets had choice. I can’t imagine the universe lasting very long, a second, perhaps a day at most.

We believe we can choose and that our choices have meaning. And it gives us a crushing paralysis that sucks the joy and beauty from the universe. A sense of freedom and significance is a dangerous cocktail that leads only to sadness, anger, regret, loss, guilt, angst and suffering. The planets and their stars have neither and they seem quite content.

It’s funny how we call it “The Transit of Venus,” as if it had somewhere to be, as if it were on its way to a date. Certainly it moves, but not with purpose. To be going toward a place you must go much slower. When you reach a certain size and speed, you stop moving and become small.


Midnight Confessional

May 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Contessa de la Luna aired on Sunday nights at midnight. She was a former he I think and her show was a mix of call-in confessionals and Paris remix type house music. 90.7 it was on, KBOO, the community radio station in Portland, ostensibly named after a strain of marijuana. She thought I was still asleep when she called in to the show from our kitchen. But I was awake.

We had gone shopping that day. We bought frames. We went home and framed things. Then we ate nachos and talked about opening up a nacho restaurant, a place that only served nachos. “You really have to get that nichey these days,” I said, “like that store on Mississippi that only sells light bulbs.”

It was the day before her birthday. She wanted to have birthday sex that night to ring it in. I wanted to try to try. But I was barely holding myself together. She took the radio into the kitchen. I wrapped my arms around the cat. A low four on the floor and a little white noise hummed from the other room. Then I heard her voice. “Contessa? Yes. Hello. No, this is my first time calling in. Yeah, my first time. I’m scared. I live with my partner. I’m scared. No, no. It’s just, he’s sad. He’s so sad. He used to be silly sometimes, but now he’s only sad and I’m scared.”

In a Basin, and Out

May 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last night I noticed the first white hair in my beard. It doesn’t bother me save the fact that I feel I have not earned it. In 27 years of life, what wisdom have I gained? To be kind. To eat actual food. That you should never be friends or lovers with someone who is not nice to waiters. But none of this is really what we would want to call wisdom. This is just good advice. I’ve learned is a good deal of life involves some sort of disappointment. Knowing how to deal with that in a stoic or graceful manner and doing so would be wisdom, but I’m not there yet. To sort out all of the contradictions within yourself and come to terms with them, that would be wisdom. To want to die and be scared of death and be at peace with that. To fear the future and be anxious in the present. To be nostalgic without want. To accept that things will be generally unacceptable. To understand causality but to transcend blame. But I am not there yet.

My head hurts. I am tired. I think I may have an ulcer. I saw a very wide rainbow earlier in the day and it gradually seemed to bleed out over the sky, over the mountains, over the lake. I am scared to sleep. I have eaten too many avocados this week. I am in a rush.

Saudade, something like it.

April 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

I feel homesick but not for any particular home. In fact, it’s closer to a feeling of homesickness for the feeling of homesickness.

All I want is something to look forward to. I think that would do the trick. But the future is like the desert in Utah. You reach one ridge, thinking you’ve reached the edge of something, only to find another ridge. Eventually you realize there are no edges and there are no somethings. There is only an endless range of ridges. How do you come to love these?

It isn’t that you tire, exactly, of the smell of juniper. It’s just that at some point you’d like a glass of gin.

Sometimes my mother asks me what happened, because I used to be so happy and go lucky. What happened was that when I came upon the outside wall of the world, instead of climbing it or trying to go around or calling up to see if someone might come to a window, I pounded my fists upon it and cried until the wall fell on top of me and it was very heavy and in many pieces and I was very small. I have been stuck under this debris, listening to the footsteps of others as they cross over, ever since, it seems. The worst part is the wall came down before I could see what was on the other side.

There ought to be moments at least. One would like to believe at least in moments. Today Samuel Barber came on the radio and it snowed outside for exactly the same length of time as Adagio for Strings. I recognized the beauty of this bit of kismet. But how do you enjoy something while you count down the measures? Maybe I have been alone too long, because I can think of nothing but paradoxes, which are sort of prima facie sad.

A sanctuary is a state of mind.

April 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

The sound of an owl in the daytime. A pulled muscle in the chest and the fear of heart failure. The difference between an expected melody and an expectant one. The paradox of an obscure word experiencing popularity, like tittle or skeuomorph. The wonder whether a tittle is a skeuomorph. The wonder weather. The desire to be named a verb and the question of if that would make that verb a noun or a gerund or what. The fear of being alone and the anxiety of not. The endless quest to not be bored which is itself boring. The way that depression can occur as a wave like a nausea. Wanting to be taken seriously but the wariness of being serious. The wariness and the weariness and the worriedness. The technology that gets in between you and I. A half-hearted craving of something fleeting but pleasant and possibly bad for you. The soporific effect of the words ‘bad for you.’ The feeling that when you are sad you are the only sad person in the world and that makes you sadder still. The want to be anywhere but here except for there. The despair of knowing that even remembering a happiness cannot bring about the feeling. Loss. The inability sometimes to tell if the top of a mountain is snow or cloud covered. The site of an ancient sacred something. The feeling that there is nothing sacred but ancientness. A death by television. When your thoughts seem a miasma moved by a very slow wind.

It was an island, in a way, more of a mass, a swamp, still it sustained trees, out there in the middle of the Mississippi. It was called Beaver Island but there were no beavers there. We would boat there and swing from a rope out into the river and we would play a dangerous game where we would swim out just far enough to feel the undertow start to tug at our toes before we would swim back. Was it youth or the certainty of heaven or the quotidian nature of drowning in the river when you lived on it that drove us to play that game? Perhaps if I could just answer that question, I could learn to be braver now.

Every experience is a life or death experience.

April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

My childhood neighbor died last night in his apartment, of natural causes. He was 29. 29. He was an actuary. I don’t think he probably took a risk in his whole life. And yet, he is dead, at just 29 years old.

I am 27. I should have died a hundred times by now. I should have died when I hit that cow in my Toyota Camry. I should have died when I took that bad e or when I woke up in my own vomit after passing out on the floor. I should have died when I got lost in the remote desert. I should have died when I drove across North Dakota in the middle of February. I should have died every time I mixed a dangerous amount of Old Crow and benzodiazepines. I should have died that time I locked myself in a freezer chest when I was seven. I should have died that time my high school girlfriend and I took a curb at 120 mph in the rain and flew off the road.

I do not know what it would take to convince me that the stochasticity of existence has a bright side. Even if you believe in things, the randomness has still got to get you down. Because there is no sense. And there is no planning. And your thoughts are neither here nor there and still you are forced to have them. To be is a valueless thing, a tabula rasa. And what would you fill it with to make it pleasant or good or meaningful? When even making dinner plans doesn’t seem altogether philosophically sound? How do you experience happiness when there is no way to reason your way to it? What is this magical syllogism that unfurrows your brow and let’s you smile at the sky and live for a whole minute without listening to your heartbeat and thinking that one day it will simply stop?

He used to ride a unicycle around our circle drive when we were kids. There’s something profound there, but I haven’t a clue what it is.

Pockets In Our Skin

April 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

No one seems to want to die alone. But of course we all do die alone, as dying is something, by its nature, prima facie, maybe a priori, you must do alone. And this isn’t just about assuming a sort of solipsism; there is something more isolated about experiencing death, even dying in the arms of your lover, than say going to the fair with your lover. Yes, you technically experience both of these alone in the sense that we can each only experience ourselves. But there is a togetherness in going to the fair, a sum somehow, that doesn’t translate to dying.

Maybe it’s because you can’t talk about it afterwards. The debrief is such a pillar of happy relationships. The ability to work out outside of ourselves the past, to process, to comprehend the odd thing that happened at the party or the good sex or the national crisis. If I were god or the first particle that set our present winds to gust and our atoms to swarm, I would have made death a two part ordeal – death and then death. A special gene perhaps, a physiological phenomenon. Maybe not even all of you would come back. Maybe only your brain and your face. But a bit of you would wake back up, if only for a few moments, just so you could say, “Wow. How about that dying?” And maybe have a scotch and maybe a laugh about it. And maybe one more hug.

If I were god I also would have given humans pockets in their skin, for storing things when we didn’t want to wear clothes.