SEVEN DAYS BEHIND GLASS IN THE SOBER LIMBO OF MIDLIFE
It's noon and it's hot as fuck out. I had a smoke on the terrace but the sun was beating so bright I had to open a golf umbrella. I propped it up against the columnades and tucked myself underneath, in the shade, lazily warm, smoking, smooth draw easy pull, ten minutes stolen from the multiverse. Even though I was only out a short time my forehead is moist with sweat. An annoying splash splash cool water fumbling for the towel palm grasping fluffy towel pressed against my face backing into bedroom bed by air-conditioning poleaxed thud against the mattress and the winter duvets taking a deep breath, a few more, letting the cool air wash over me. It's so very pleasant in here. So very baking hot and glaring out there, but the reality of the world beyond my bed has already faded and I'm not straining myself to keep it in focus. Fuck it. It's not so much disconnection but distance, too far and not enough that's interesting to lure me out of my comfort-womb.
The sun sets like an echo in brutal light,
Respite dusk through branches of an autumn tree,
Because there's less need to see, you see,
In the monochrome gloaming;
Another day giving up the ghost.
I close my eyes because all the world's a stage,
And the warm colours are cold colours.
Music in another language, a different echo,
Sense memory, imagined actors - and me:
Solitary. Not lonely. No need to impose.
Spare the friends, pass the strangers by,
Jealous of nothing except wasting words.
I know the scarce-felt drops are called precious
Well enough to pay lip-service and the Piper,
So maybe they evaporate, leaving only what matters:
The prose world, however long that lasts...
I don't know how to write any more. Not as in can't put words together so they make sentences. That is easy. No, it's something more bleak than forgetting my letters. You see, I've always had a lot of love for the power and potential in the right words. Language is innate in all of us, remarkably simpatico with the way our brains call back at the world from the infant "mewling and puking" infected with exponential word-virus through a lifelong progression of communication, not just in diversifying vocabulary but each word filling with memories, experiences, associations. Language gets heavier with age. Precision in knowing words better offset by an evolving complexity vouchsafed each individual word, the sentence in middle age a case of best intuited sentences using facets of words, never perfectly tessellating like they do in the mind, always losing fidelity when petrified by being used. Needs must when the devil drives, language being a compulsory corollary of being alive in a world of living people with a mind thinking thoughts day and night.
What I've lost touch with isn't what this is that word means. If anything my vocabulary is bigger and more confident than ever. My brain can think it's thought, proffer it, well-formed, into the locus of conscious Me, and in no time have the thought expressed in a word-picture, subtle enough to encapsulate context and all nuance-contours I might need to satisfy my own perception of the thought being rendered with precision and paradigm accuracy.
Such a flimsy commitment to anything creative. To any communication, really. Maybe that's why most conversation is smooth-edged smalltalk, autopilot sociability satisfying some underlying urge - that doesn't discriminate enough to care too much which faces are bobbing nearby. Blah blah blah. Vocal chords vibrate, tongue lolls, lips burble and pucker, mouth alternately shuts and falls open to make silly shapes. It's quite mesmerising to watch but dangerous as eventually even the owner notices an absence, the mouth shuts, lips purse, are you listening to me? Nervous laughter maybe, easily reassured. What's the point? The lips seem mollified and go back to burbling and puckering. They're far more interesting, in a voyeuristic way, than banalities about the weather or the family or gossip that's always the same except in the details, where everything changes in what seems an almost arbitrary way.
There's a face too, around the mobile mouth and the hypnotic lips, playing out expressions just like you'd expect, somehow committed to whatever is being said without a flicker to acknowledge anything beyond the moment. I don't understand this commitment. It's enviable. Here is my personality and by the way, this is the role I'm going to play today and tomorrow and probably forever and you'll never catch me not in-role, not though you watch and actually listen to all I say. It's baffling but there's never any time to think what this all means, in the moment, as it's all I can do to intuit polite noises and well enough chosen words, to keep the face from clouding over and the busy mouth busy.
I've thought about all this disconnection, or maybe discernment, later when alone and undisturbed. I can't see past the irrelevance and the charity.
Oh now I'm running out of steam to even write this. I know what I'm going to say. It's clear enough, at least. All about the accident that's compounded by countless millennia into conscious personality, nonetheless just distraction pieces running cover while the animal brain gets on with everything that matters. Maybe I wrote it out enough but a good writer would surely dramatise this bleak observation in an engaging scene. With other characters I can make dance it into a wisp of cotton candy framing a paper cut. So strangers might listen long enough to care.
The other thing I was going to add is some smart reference to Camus. You know, the stranger, experiencing the worl as it watching it through a pane of glass, soundproof to emotion except the vague muffled woof of slowly fading memories of a time when it seemed like it mattered. When I say fading I don't mean I'm forgetting. The memories are there, encased in crystal, but what fades is the remains of personal connection. It's not even me absenting myself from the story of my life, it's everyone else, everything else, occupied about their own stories and engrossed by them in a way that isn't looking on behind glass, that isn't a persistent strangeness there should be any compelling reason to be so sanely self-involved.
The real end of the world: It's a race between the 1% plus Technology versus everyone else plus Woken To Danger.
I don't know what I'd have been in life if I was growing up in the world today, with the planet covered in global glitter shit in easy reach so you can't use your nose to find quiet open spaces at a cutting edge that feels like exploring and is quiet but not silent so the connections quickly matter.
What's depressing about the world of individualized mobs is how organically and excellently they link arms to ringfence the embers of superficial distinction, sharing the meagre fare that like yeast multiplies by feeding on the attention until the mob is sustained, even gorged on their emphemeral group-shared metaphor.
Ego awareness says it's vanity to presume one's own way is better than these mobs.
It's narcissism to reach out and say follow my better way, as soon as one understands it's not an easier path.
There's an Isaac Asimov short story where a desperate husband catches his wife cheating on him, goes through emotional turmoil and eventually spirals out of control, shoots himself in the head. The moment of suicide is described in a curiosity orgasmic way and this introduces us to the meta-story, the sci-fi, where this gruesome denoement of a human life is played out again though the sensory experience of a weird blobby alien, all brain and synapses, physically atrophied. The alien uses its tech to accompany the desperate man, sharing the intense feelings with a prurience that eventually leads to orgasm at the moment of suicide. The short story ends with the alien selecting a new channel, connecting to the impending death of another human being, insatiable, passive, gluttonous. In short, the ultimate in voyeurism. The twist in the Asimov story is the revelation this limbless high-tech blob-brain isn't an alien but a human - or what humans become - a hundred millennia into the future. Alive in an atomised world of a trillion human blobs, all hooked up to their tech, all of them addicted to the sexual climax of the death-experience, trawling ancestor timelines for novel extremes on which to gorge.
The world isn't like this yet.
We don't have the tech.
We've too much inherited habit.
Junkies and oligarchs excepted.
[RELAPSE] SUNDAY [RELAPSE]
Wheeling around outside my local convenience store, dodging among folks getting supplies for their Friday night revels... I'm high as a kite... It feels like I'm finally on the good side of recovery... The thought struck me that twenty years ago it was the same wheeling gait - definitely me, fucking definitely me! - at the start of adult life: feeling great and young and like everything's ahead and there for the plucking. It was.
Yet here and now, knocking on the door of so-called middle age, I'm affirmed by the self-same love for life (that doesn't need the kite); feeling great and not yet old and like it's STILL all ahead. I should be sceptical and say it's all a masquerade, all just shams of the chemical life... But it isn't, insists the authenticity “proof” within. Reasons surface. My scars are hard won. Twenty years of an adult life that hasn't been normal, that’s for sure. Somehow I'm still free.
It will all amount, I insist, once 100% healthy, to fuel the essential hope and passion for whatever’s coming tomorrow.
What's more: I wanted something to believe in. It wasn’t the dreaming spires. It wasn’t wealth. It wasn’t rose-tinted countries overseas or exotic metaphor imposed on prosaic foreign languages. It wasn’t fucking or vanity or power. It certainly wasn’t permanence. Nor was it, thank the gods, to be found in the velvet true-faith of opiates.
When all's said and done there aren't any paradigms to follow that stack up to life-experience and bold bald exposure to truth, to know everything will be OK.
But there's one thing to trust in, one thing to believe in - with a faith forged in the crucible of the relentless succession of days; a cliché that's defiantly true for all that - ONE essential force to believe in. I finally understand.
Swollen with the glib strength of having overcome, recognising once again that precious desire to embrace this world of light and colour, the thing I believe in becomes clear.
What it comes down to is simple enough to be cliche but profoundly life-affirming for all that. I don’t believe in all that ephemera but what I do believe in, the only reliable locus of faith, trust and optimism, I believe in me.
Me, myself, I.
Because everything flows from that. Embracing all these customs of exercise: I believe in me.
Oh, and love. Yeah. That's new.