What’s the German word for “Chronic Self-Inflicted Wound”?

If anyone has a word for it, it’s the Germans. I would say the Japanese, too, but that one’s probably beautiful and tinged with a dash of hope.

It’s odd, to discover that what you thought was a scar — an old one, at that — is actually barely held shut with a thin scab. And that might be more illusory than not. It’s a wound that I’ve only half-come to terms with; acceptance of the past and present, but not so much of the ramifications and implications cast on the future.

The narrative has changed. The scope has narrowed, and the map has shifted: certain paths are closed off, the way home is no longer what it always was.

Is it a sign of age and maturity or just cynicism that all that is what it is, and there’s no point in being sad or upset about it?

C’mon. The Germans have words for all sorts of weird shit. It’s gotta be out there, right?

Dominoes falling

As a consumer of the creative, this is exactly the sort of thing I live for.

Stumbling across this on YouTube (the drummer is also in one of my favorite bands, Leprous), my brain is knocked completely loose from it’s moorings. The polyrhythms alone at the very beginning, beating against the piano’s already off-kilter timing – to me, like being thrashed about by rapids while at the same time realizing that you’ve developed gills, so it’s suddenly comforting to just settle in for the ride, knowing that you can survive long enough to hear the siren’s song to completion. The melodies throughout, the violin and the melodic transition at the half-way mark, the shifting time-signatures, the wall-of-sound production, and my god that flawless ritardando at around 8:00, right back into a half-time march toward the end…

For me, these moments — hearing tracks like this (for another example that froze me in my tracks, check out Nils Frahm’s ‘Hammers’, above), reading a unique voice like Chuck Palahniuk or Warren Ellis, seeing your first Dali painting or video by Floria Sigismondi — are less moments of rebirth, less reminders that the world I live in is glass-half-full with plenty of things that still taste great… and more reminders of all the doors that haven’t been opened for me. Aren’t there always more of these waiting for me out there? For all of us? Maybe not even waiting to be found, but instead waiting to find us when we’re ready for them?
(I’ve been thinking a lot over the past year about the differences between illusion and magic, and this all seems to fall in there…)

Solitude Notwithstanding (Apologies to S. Vega)

I don’t want to be lonely
I just want to be alone…”
-silverchair, ‘across the night’

For his second wish, Steven chose to give the genie freedom.

It felt momentarily surreal, using a wish to provide the giver with something equally powerful, but also right. Why shouldn’t he, having been given the present of solitude through a wish, not show his gratitude by reflecting that gift on a being who was imprisoned, chained to him through a fairy-tale curse?

Not to mention that Steven wasn’t really sure what else he could want, that wouldn’t have the dreaded cataclysmic kick-back effect.

And so he wished for the genie what he had wished for himself, and the genie thanked him, and disappeared, a fog that gradually faded from view, leaving Steven unable to say with certainty that the genie had ever been there.

Although of course it wasn’t imagination or dream; his first wish had been been granted, and he still had the weirdly disconcerting bottle on his shelf, the genie’s discarded prison left behind as a constant reminder.

Solitude, Steven was coming to realize, was a one-way mirror, and your enjoyment of it depended entirely on which side you stood, and what you wanted out of it.

On the one side, self-reflection was all that you found. Yourself staring back at you, with everything that lay behind you as well. Pleasant for the narcissist in yourself, probably.

On the other side, you can watch as the world goes by, crawling day by day through its paces. It’s a real-time reality TV show, without the scripting and the editing for reaction shots. So much so, as it happens, that watching it is all the interaction you have.

But that mirror, he thinks, has its flaws, those areas where light is refracted and bent, making you look warped. There are smalls slivers of glass missing, and those places make the worldview hard to enjoy.

And after a while, when you’re the only one left, who else is going to clean the glass but you?

He had almost missed out on his chance to live a fairytale altogether. It almost seemed to him, on reflection, that the genie wanted to be found. The bottle was attractive, certainly, but not the usual thing that would catch his eye. Not to say non-descript or ugly — more that he was past the point in his life at which he looked for treasures, hidden or obvious.

Simple was enough for him, but after passing it a few times with his eyes, he was eventually drawn enough to it to pick it up, and out came the genie. End of story. Or beginning, as such things happen.

Steven had long dreamed of something special, something unique happening to him, so when it happened, he had thought himself ready, incorrectly. It took a ridiculously long time to make his first wish, though he quickly followed that with his second, almost as though the two were intertwined.

He had a fear of consequence, of reactions unforeseen. That was the way of the fairytales he knew – penned by Serling and Joyce and King, where the wish is granted, and enjoyed, until ultimately revealing the universe’s desire for balance. He worried that wishing for world peace would end in overpopulation, that riches for himself would deprive another of everything they had ever known, that any of his desires would be met with something inversely undesirable.

In time, after careful consideration and thought, he asked for and was granted the same thing he gave (in a way) to the genie – freedom, which in his case meant solitude.

“Time can erase not just the future, but also the past.”
-penn jillette

Steven was very bad at many things, but he was very good at discovering that. He wasn’t bad at everything, by any means, but many things that he thought he wanted to do quickly revealed themselves as out of his reach, for varying reasons. He wanted to play sports, but his body wasn’t built for physical competition; he wanted to act, but was far better at exploring himself than understanding not-him people. But he tried, over and over – that, he was very good at.

He tried relationships, but was never very good at them. He tried being part of groups with similar interests or hobbies, but quickly grew exhausted. Teams asked too much of him; friendships, over time, would change and drift away. Even being a hermit didn’t work out, but in time, he finally sorted it out – he liked being around people in a distant way that didn’t ask or expect too much from him. It was far from what he had dreamed of – just like his films and his chess playing and his woodworking abilities – but he accepted it, because Vonnegut once wrote “So it goes,” and he liked the simple poetry in those three syllables.

And so he wished for a world in which that was okay, and granted the being with the power to give him everything he had could ever wish for, anything he could ever want, the freedom to chase the same, or whatever else the genie might want for itself.

In time, Steven grew to learn the consequences of his wish, and they were everything he had expected. He was happier without having to make commitments to others, or having to account for their wants or desires. He was sad many nights, without someone meaningful to share his thoughts and experiences and feelings with. He did what he wanted, whenever and wherever he wanted, without explaining himself to anyone for any reason. But he did everything alone.

He did everything lonely, which was fine, because that’s what it was.

One day, Steven decided that he needed a change. For no discernible reason — no one incident changed things for him, no overnight dream of different things or sudden light bulb that things might be better, waiting on him somewhere else. It was just time.

He had forgotten that there was one more wish waiting for him, but he had never forgotten the genie. They had spent so much time together without the expectation or hope of what would come out of their relationship, and he had grown to love the genie, without ever realizing it, without naming it. Theirs was a preternatural closeness and understanding, and though details of the genie’s face and voice had begun to fade into a glamorized imagination of a memory, his love for the genie’s company remained crystal clear in his heart and his head.

And so he set out, with only the most important of physical possessions, leaving everything he had ever known behind. He didn’t know how to find the genie — not even how to begin — but he knew that it was worth trying, worth the look.

Because with the genie, he had found someone with whom he could be alone without ever being lonely.

He didn’t need another wish — just the determination and opportunity to really make his first wish come true.

You got your solitude
And I got my peace
And nothing in that moment matters more
If only in just this one fragment together it grows
This tree… may be i must maybe lost
Right where i need to be…”
-steven wilson

12/19-12/24 2015

On marriage for all

As with way too many things in life, I’m confused and frustrated with the way things are, with the way people are. I know that people are confused and afraid and distrusting of things that are different from them — by belief, by nature, by choice. What confuses me is why, and why more people don’t make the concerted effort to overcome that basic human trait.

SCOTUS declared yesterday that marriage as a legal entity (with the legal benefits that it provides) can not be denied to anyone based on their sexual orientation. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been stated that any of the religions have to redefine marriage, or that any minister, pastor, reverend, rabbi, or any other religious leader will be forced to perform a ceremony wedding two people in a manner that disagrees with their beliefs. It simply says that there can be no law denying marriage and its benefits to anyone, straight or gay.

My religious friends and family that object to this ruling continue to repeat a thought along the lines of, “The Court has redefined marriage, contrary to what Christians believe it is.” First and foremost, if this is true, then certainly, SCOTUS made the correct ruling, as:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My interpretation of that is that there would be no laws related in any way to religious beliefs, including marriage (my bachelor’s degree notwithstanding, I’m clearly no legal scholar, so I’m open to being corrected by someone who knows better). And what SCOTUS did yesterday, contrary to some beliefs, was NOT to create a law redefining marriage; anyone with an elementary knowledge of the U.S. government can point out that the judicial branch can not make laws, only rule on them; quite the contrary, SCOTUS only said that laws preventing gay men and women from marrying are unconstitutional.

I take issue, too, with the fact that Christians are speaking as though their definition of marriage is the only one, ignoring the fact that there are different definitions of marriage for different religions and cultures, and that marriage, as an institution, predates Christianity (and Judaism, for that matter). This stance, while it may hold true for a vast majority of Americans, is still arrogant and unfair.

But really, I guess the bottom line is this: why does anyone — ANYONE — care? There’s this atmosphere of horror surrounding the whole thing, as though this is the beginning of the end, or that tomorrow, there will be armed soldiers knocking on their door and forcing them to marry their best friend. But none of these things are true, or have any grounding in any truth, at all.

My understanding of Christianity — and again, I’m not as well versed as many of my friends, but I have spent a lifetime learning and questioning and exploring, so I feel comfortable publicly stating my opinion — is that no sin is greater than any other. It’s a tough pill to swallow, that having wanton thoughts about your neighbor’s wife is no better or worse in the eyes of God than wholesale genocide, but that’s what is put forth – not directly, but it can be inferred from verses like the following:

James 2:10 (NIV)

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

And then there are the words of Christ Himself:

Matthew Chapter 22

36Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?

37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38This is the first and great commandment.

39And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Now, I’m not particularly interested in getting into religious debates. There are many, many levels on which I am still exploring and learning and discovering my faith, and I’m definitely sure that I’ve had more than my fill of being the audience to too many people presenting me their (or worse, a spoon-fed) opinion of what’s right and wrong as though it were fact carved in stone. But I will say that I find Jesus’ teachings — the words that came from the mouth of the man Himself, even presuming that they are subject to having been changed and revised over the last two millenia — to be the most important part of Christianity for me, with the Old Testament laws a distant second. Christ spoke, at the core, of love — for our fellow humans, regardless of profession or behavior or belief; and for God and His love for us.

There’s also this idea that this decision, and the new-found right to marry will be somehow detrimental to society as a whole, but I think that’s nothing more than fear speaking. You know what’s detrimental to society? Families where one parent or the other has abandoned the family. The ease of divorce. Our cultural glorification of violence and our quickness to show anger and hatred and to deny happiness and love. We choose to focus on the differences between ourselves and others rather than embracing our commonalities. We push the less-fortunate down and create as much distance as possible between us and them instead of doing all that we can to lend them a hand and help them rise closer to our station.

It is my opinion — and only that, an opinion — that those who are decrying the right of gay people to marry, preaching to anyone who will listen that it’s the end of the world as we know it because two men or two women who have love in their hearts for each other can now enjoy the same legal right and benefits as a man and a woman with the same are the real detriment to society.

I can’t understand why we can’t, as a people, just live and let live, when the actions and beliefs of others do us no more harm than make us uncomfortable, because we’re too lazy to try and understand differences better.

It’s not easy to effectively communicate depression, even to myself.

Under the gun, I can spot things that are bothering me, but it’s not really the core of what’s wrong. I can tell you that I’m feeling isolated and lonely, or that I’m concerned about money or aging or that I’ve become increasingly nihilistic in my future thinking… but none of that is right (though not necessarily wrong). Those tend to spring from the depression, becoming amplified by whatever wondrous tricks my brain is playing, turning into outlets through which the depression can be explained.

The problem with that lies in that the tendency for people — myself included — is to offer advice, or a positive word. Those things are nice, but ultimately useless. It’s like treating a virus that manifests itself in any painful way that it can; treat the feverish ache, and the virus will simply reveal itself in vomiting or a sore throat.

It’s a lot like living your life through molasses, or slowly drying amber. Everything is tiring; the act of getting up from bed is exhausting in and of itself, and motivating beyond that can seem pointless. When I was younger, I would sleep entire weekends just to avoid the thoughts and feelings that come with depression. It was just easier that way.

I’m fortunate, in that I’m usually very quickly aware that my depression is not caused by any real stimulus, and don’t dwell on things too much. I’ve spent years reading and re-reading a lot of inspirational words, and can lean on those to remind me that, after a sense, this isn’t real, that this, too, will pass. A lot of my ink serves to remind me of these things on a daily basis – that was the reason for getting those pieces, and for their placement.

But even this takes a lot of work, a lot of energy that could be better spent on things above and beyond my daily embedded and instinctive routine. Decisions become mired in apathy, and so don’t get made. What do I feel like eating? Well, honestly, nothing – and so another hour or three or twenty four passes before I do.[1]

It’s hard to talk about, for a number of reasons beyond the difficulty communicating what’s happening in my head, these intangible things I experience. I know what sorts of responses I am apt to get, and I don’t want those. I don’t deal well with sympathy (particularly the uncomfortable kind that can come out when dealing with these subjects), and that sympathy can actually make the depression worse — my brain will twist your concern for me into a burden that I’ve placed on you, and like all the other unpleasant thoughts, that little carpenter bee with burrow itself down into a nice cozy little home where it can grow and thrive and make little baby unpleasant thoughts.

It’s not that the sympathetic thoughts and the notes of solidarity and the hugs aren’t appreciated, at least on some level. They are. But often times, shining the spotlight on my depression just feeds it and gives it more power.

So… why are you writing all this down?

Good question, me. I guess for a number of reasons. To record the storm in the midst of it, rather than after the fact and colored by memory and a readiness to move beyond, so that I don’t forget. To let the people that know me and are curious or concerned what’s been going on with me the past few days (or longer — sometimes, it’s an insidious little ninja that I don’t notice until way later than someone looking in from the outside).

But maybe more than anything else to let people who go through this — and I know more than a few that do — know publicly that they’re not alone. With everything happening in the world lately, you see more and more mention of encouraging people to reach out, to let people know that they’re hurting for seemingly no reason — but from my perspective, it all feels cold and impersonal. Maybe seeing it expressed by someone they know, an everyman, might make a difference.

Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. If nothing else, it helps to remind me that these manifestations are just that. Writing it all down helps me remember that I can choose to be sad about not having something, or to be hopeful and excited that one day I will have those things. I can be sad about loss, or I can be happy that I experienced that person/place/thing and am better for it.

I can push through the amber, lean into the wind, knowing that the tides will cycle again, or I can lay down and give up.

“We endure and pass the moment.”

-Devin Townsend, ‘Ki’

Ideas, not events

When I started writing here what seems like a billion years (and many different lifetimes ago), I recorded events. At the time, in my late twenties/early thirties, those things were important to me.

As I get older, I find that slipping away. There are plenty of things I want to remember, of course — people, events, places. But at least at this point on my personal timeline, those things are important to me from a sense of emotion attached to those events — and if I look at a photo or re-read the details of a day, more and more those things seem detached and disconnected from me. The things that manage to survive and stick in my head, on the other hand, I think do so because the emotions resonate.

I’m not a huge fan of recapping vacations, barring really amusing or monumental events. It makes me exhausted, and usually really disappointed that the moment has passed.

I am fascinated by my thought patterns and opinions, and the way they’ve evolved and shifted over the years. The things I found important, the things I discarded from my attention, and where I stand now. The common ground that lets me know that I’m still the same at the core, and the differences that display change (if not actual growth).

Steven Wilson’s new album is phenomenal on so many levels, but right now, at least, it hits me particularly hard on the thematic level. There’s this exploration of our interconnection (and lack thereof), and how that’s been affected by technology’s advance. And I’m the first one to say that I’m often comforted by the level of surface connection that social media and such allows me, but I’ve recently realized that I was isolatiing myself too much. The album kinda drove that nail home for me.
The song in the video is wonderful, and makes its point with clarity and grace. But watching the video — it’s a gutpunch, for certain. Even knowing what’s coming after the twentieth viewing — man, that’s rough. At least it is for me — I’m incredibly cognizant of the fluid nature of my life and my seeming inability to maintain long distance relationships. If you’re not in my life in the here and now, in the immediate proximity, then the tendency for drift is pretty strong. And I’m not a big photo person, or one who saves too many things.
And then at some point you look up, and another important person is gone, and has been, without a trace.
Water has no memory.
But maybe, at the core, I find some comfort in that — if not the concept, then the related feeling.

Back in the Saddle (on my usual high horse)

Maybe I’ve waited too long between writings. Thoughts are bits of paper and ash caught up in a maelstrom, a tempest of things I feel like I need to verbalize, if only to relieve the pressure in my head.

“Tame the storm in your head.” Indeed.

I think too many people don’t understand what friendship should be, what love actually means. When a friend tells you that they are about to do or have done something that makes them happy – even if only momentarily – then you should be happy for them, and congratulate and encourage them. If you see dangers, point them out – but only so they are aware of things they might have overlooked in their excitement. Past that – what is it you gain by criticizing their actions, their desires, their hopes and happiness?

Friendship and love are not about you. They aren’t about possession. Sometimes they hurt, but there are better ways to soothe the pain than sharing with and reflecting it onto other people.

This seems a fundamental thing to me, common sense. Clearly, I’m mistaken in that perception.

People are terrified of homosexuality, so they use every tool in their power – even religion, which they all claim is built on a foundation of love – to debase and destroy it. People are terrified of different skin color, so they commit wars and genocides. People are terrified of being alone, or of being someone’s second (or last) choice, or of not being in someone’s favor, and so they lash out and try to share the rejection.

I don’t know. It frustrates me to no end for so many reasons. Maybe because I treat others this way in hopes that they will return the favor. Maybe because I see friends being treated as possessions, as people who haven’t earned respect and trust in their own ability to make decisions. Maybe because the things I see others doing or experiencing are things I would rather avoid in the future, and wishing that at least those I call friends (and that call me the same) could practice this path.

I recognize that you have the right to say whatever you want, no matter how hurtful, ignorant, wrong, despicable, misinformed, or just goddamned stupid it is. You need to recognize that the rest of us have the right to walk away from you, to ignore or dispute anything that comes out of your mouth.

We have the right to free speech, not the right to an audience. Learn the difference.

Related: stop telling me what comes out of my mouth is offensive. I frankly don’t give a plague-infested hate fuck. If you don’t like what I’m saying, stop listening. I won’t bother chasing after you.

This world, this society, this little piece of square footage that we call our own, is completely about us, as individuals. We are what makes the universe worth experiencing, what inspires and sparks and teaches and grows and evolves from one second to the next. Every single one of us important and crucial to the big picture, if only for a split-second – none with value over the others.

The world, this life, is all about you. You’re all you definitely have, the only absolute you can ever be 100% certain of. The only guarantees you have in this world are being born, and dying, and something in-between. Odds are pretty good – but not guaranteed at all – that in-between is going to have pain and loss, smiles and celebration. Each is important, even that which you think is bad or causes you discomfort, because without the darkness, you stop appreciating the light. The measure of your capacity to feel happiness and satiation and love is directly proportional to your experience with sorrow and desire and hate. Embrace them all, because it’s a big chunk of this gift of being human.

Until it’s at the expense of another, especially one you call friend or claim to love or respect. At that point, you’ve lost at least some measure of humanity, and probably deserve whatever karma sends your way.

The beauty of a dream

I’m too old and too pragmatic and too cynical to still think this way.

It’s not as strong as it used to be — doesn’t happen as often, nor as unwaveringly. I see the holes in the thought process more readily, and I don’t fight or deny those holes as blindly.But it’s still there, that part of me… the dreamer.

I still believe in the possibility of comic books and Hollywood endings (and beginnings, and middles). Anything that I can imagine can happen. Anything that anyone can imagine can happen.

Thousands of years ago, was light from a source other than the sun or fire possible? Could you capture images for future viewing? Communicate across distances with a hunk of metal the size of your hand or travel to other planets?

Things man once swore impossible are not.

If reality can destroy the dream, why should not the dream destroy reality?

That’s the beauty of a dream — you don’t ever let it go.

I’m in love with ideas and ideals, with things that no adult believes in, with things that belong on the printed page and in celluloid nights in cinemas.

It can make it rough, being a grown-up while still holding onto childish things,… but it makes it easier, too, getting from one day to the next.

Ouroboros can go eat itself

There is nothing more disheartening to me at this moment in time* than realizing that that thing — that incident, that action, that behavior that has been weighing on you all day, angering, puzzling, bothering you, on too many levels to deal with rationally and properly — is similar if not identical to something you did in the past.

Fuck your context, and mine. Being a hypocrite sucks. Self-awareness doesn’t really balance this one out too well.

* fuck you, semantics Nazis. You’ll not be using this one against me in the future…