‘The world spins, I’m part of it’

‘But I cannot make no sense of it…’

(this line, and the title, borrowed from Eddie Lundon and Gary Daly, from a song I have on a playlist I called ‘September Tunes’)

It’s true. I can’t. If there is sense to be found in most of what is happening around me right now, I’m sure as hell not seeing much evidence of intelligible reality. What I am feeling is lost – amongst the credulous, self-serving, soporific-imbibing portion of the population that saw/sees the current POTUS and Premier of Ontario as viable candidates for leadership. I don’t like feeling lost. It makes me angry.

I don’t think I’m alone in that since the world of social media is mostly vitriolic ranting these days. Some of it, to be sure, is justified. We need to rage against inequity in all its forms and the normalization of criminal behaviours and the spread of hatred. Most days it feels like demoralizing shouting into the void. Evidence piled upon evidence that we remain in the Age of the Selfie – encouraging the priority of the few – those who continue to control the narrative and the purse-strings – over the well-being of the rest of us.

This paradigm – and its trickle-down effect (strange how that works, when the economic theory named as such decidedly does not) – keeps the fires of society-wide narcissism burning as fiercely and destructively as the wildfires that are not, we are told, the result of climate change, yet continue to burn through California, B.C, Northern Ontario…

But this post is not, really, about how loathsomely inexplicable I find those who maintain their support of the jackasses-in-question – and I admit that our local jackass has been garnering the lion’s share of my focus lately. The ‘Murican jackass is a danger to us all, there is no doubt about that, but I can focus on only so much soft-headed tomfoolery and criminality posing as government policy-making without needing a good long lie-down. The DoFo ‘administration’ is poised to do irreparable damage to my city and my province and the 40% of the population that voted for him and his ilk are still buying the soundbites, petty proclamations, and bread-and-circus routine that are the only tools he can command in light of his complete lack of talent, insight, sincerity, and experience. He needs to be the focus of my complete opposition right now.

And it’s not about the horror I feel about the latest revelations regarding the cover-up of abuse in that anachronistic institution of equal parts illogical doctrine and outdated power structure OR the outrage against those that are spinning Apologetics that suggest fabrication and exaggeration, calling the evidence ‘myth’ – ‘fake news’, if you will – and saying that no institution has LESS of a problem with the sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church… I feel like I’m the embodiment of the rage emoji.

These things – serious, deleterious, and potentially-irrevocable as they may be – along with some others that are less-atrocious but annoying, nonetheless, have been causing me to react rather than act, lately. I could blame Twitter (and too much time spent watching that feed certainly is somewhat responsible), but the reality is that having so many things coming at me at once is contributing to a bone-deep anomie that has been hard to shake.

This time of year is always reflective for me. I can’t avoid the back-to-school/new beginnings ideation that comes with the winding down of August. I’m sure it’s partly to due with the timing of my birthday (the start of my own, personal New Year), but, despite having not set foot in a classroom in 8 years, I still feel the pull of the new start that defined my life for so many years. That 8 years thing is also interesting. 8 years ago was a milestone birthday, and, on a lovely celebratory getaway with one of my sisters, I spent a lot of time assessing my life as it was and contemplating next steps. The upshot of all that evaluation was a full-on change in career, along with some other life-altering decisions that are still rippling back at me now.

Cycles and such. 8 strikes me as less-symbolic a number than, say, 7 or 3, but I’m sure that some numerologists out there attach a divine importance to 2X4. Regardless, here I am again. Change. Decisions. New directions. I’m starting a new job – on yet another career path – right after the long weekend. I’m excited and hopeful and feeling that the challenges will be good for me. I’ve been stagnating for too long. And I’m thinking, in general, about all those things that aren’t working. Some of the things requiring assessment are the same as they were 8 years ago. I can be a slow-learner, at times. This is not always the most pleasant of exercises, but, if it helps me shift from reacting to acting in my life, it will be well-worth the self-examination.

Change can be hard. I think my Virgo-nature (or, if you don’t believe in horoscopes – full disclosure, I don’t – my tendency to stubbornness) makes change even more difficult. But, if I’ve learned anything about myself over the past decade or so, I can roll with punches. I don’t like it, but I do it. Change and chaos – that foundational element of human understanding of the world – are inextricably linked. I think that’s why we struggle with it so much.

Chaos gets a bad rep. I lost my own little personification of chaos – my Tiamat – back in June, and I did not enjoy coming to terms with that change at all (Canaanite kittens are helping with that, though). I know, because of all those years studying the stuff, that chaos is necessary. Without its latent presence there exists nothing but stasis. Too much is problematic, of course, but we need that trickle of unsettled alteration to drive progress and our work towards better things.

I think change is most difficult when we are in a situation of instability that permits chaos to seem on the ascendent. As the Mesopotamians told us over-and-over, the balance needs to be maintained. For that to happen we need to have clear standards of order. Right now? We do not. Those systems to which we cling for stability – our governments, religious systems, social organizations – they’re the very things creating the anomie and imbalance.

So what do we do when we isolate ourselves – behind phones and screens and pseudonyms – and our social structures fail to support our ideals and expectations?

Order and chaos is an important foundational dichotomy – more effective and representative of human nature than its later interpretation as good/evil. Not all dichotomies are bad. Some are, though. Good/evil is not useful at all. The narratives that one drives are ALL problematic, as I see things. And even worse than that one is us/them. I hate us/them. Us/them is creating far too many narratives in our dysfunctional governance and social-interactions.

We’ve lost all sense of the importance of caring about one another. Community is a concept that seems archaic – unless it is insular and exclusionary. Then we’re okay with it. We are so self-consumed that the thought of providing support to those who need it most is displaced by the selfish (and ridiculously unsustainable) desire for cheaper gas and beer. Relationships – created and dissolved online – are as disposable as the lives of people seeking sanctuary from war-torn places (despite the fact that we are culpable for the origins of those wars). The dynamic has shifted – rapidly and unfortunately. And if we do not feel supported by those around us, the waves of chaos are hard to navigate.

The feeling of disconnection is, if I’m honest, at the heart of my current self-search. Dissatisfaction is often isolating. One feels like one can only complain so much – before becoming burdensome or dismissed or just plain boring.

This week I was part of an example of the opposite of disconnection, though. And it has taken my reflection in a different direction in a matter of days.

I was privileged to grow up in a village in the heart of the country’s largest city. Decidedly (at the time) middle class, it was a wonderful environment – generally speaking. We had multiple parents looking out for us, close friendships that persisted from JK through high school and beyond, and a sense of safety that permitted us to run loose in adventures that rarely ended in injury or other harm. I will refrain from discussion of the sprained ankle and broken arm, both of which I blame on one guy in particular.

That guy grew up around the corner from me. We were in the same class every year from K-8, shared multiple classes in high school AND spent summers together at camp – as campers and on staff. He is a featured player in a ridiculous number of my best memories. And some of the worst ones, too. Maybe not quite a brother, but certainly more than a friend – in spite of the aforementioned injuries. To be fair, I was present for some pretty serious ones that he sustained, as well.

He moved to California a couple of decades ago, so we haven’t seen all that much of each other in the last while. One morning this week I woke up to an email from him. He’s been up at his folks’ cottage on Georgian Bay and came across three boxes of stuff marked ‘do not throw out’. Photos, letters, year books. I was on the receiving end of much of that discovered bounty three days running this week.

He’s not on social media – can’t say as I blame him when it’s as much a burden as a benefit lately – and he was hesitant about how/if to share some of the things he was finding. I made the decision for him – and posted two class photos from our primary school days. I added to the initial two as he forwarded more. That thread now has 163 comments and has spawned early plans for a reunion in September.

As he said, in an email when I told him what I did (easier to apologize than ask permission, and all that) “If it gives 1 person (or a bunch of people) an ‘excuse’ to reach out and connect with old friend/s… long lost friend/s… a brief escape to happier & NO RESPONSIBILITY times… then we’ve done a good thing”.

He also said “I am occasionally asked ‘what’s the toughest thing about leaving’ and the real answer (which I never give) has a lot to do with amazing roots and foundation of growing up in XXX in that era… unlocked doors, friends in every direction 2-4 blocks away, no social media/electronics etc… buddies & buddyettes who loved spending time together in person doing things, looking out for one another, covering for each other etc. Maybe it’s where I am, but have spoken to my older bro about this too… just don’t see kids having the same ‘code’ as we did… certainly weren’t angels- Jesus, far from it… but we were good kids, good morals, good sense of right & wrong and looking out for one another…”

His assessment might be a tad more idyllic in retrospect than it was in reality, but he’s not far off. Right/wrong is another of those dichotomies that serves a purpose. The response to the pictures demonstrates how lucky we were – and how we all seem to know that. We were, then, part of a community, and we remain, now, connected because of that community.

Another old friend posted on the thread: “It’s weird, I was driving home with my son the other day and we took a detour through XXX so I could show him my old schools, houses we lived in, etc. Was feeling nostalgic already, then I got home and went on Facebook to find all this.”

Perhaps it’s that time of year for everyone. I know I needed that reminder, in a week in which I lost the last of the ‘old folks’ who helped raise me, and as I contemplate changing up some personal relationships that sit in a stasis that is disallowing change and growth and/or just plain hurting my heart.

The world does, for the moment, continue to spin, and I am – we all are – part of it. The only way to balance the chaos of the world is to establish – or re-establish – those connections and communities that lead to stabilizing order. We need to remember that we all have to have look out for one another. There is no them, there is only us. Maintaining our connections is work – but it is worthwhile work.

Thanks for the perspective, JAS. Maybe brother is the right word.

 

 

‘And it starts sometime around midnight’

 

At times my mind takes me curious places. Ever since I was a small child I’ve had this inclination to make connections between things- however disparate they may seem to be on the surface. It’s my particular way of making sense of the world- and it reinforces my deeply-held belief that we are all connected and essentially alike- by virtue of our shared humanity.

I’ve always been an observer- taking note of and carefully storing away experiences and memories and information- and the fact that I have a well-developed ability to retain information and images sometimes leads to a fair bit more introspection than may be completely healthy. Those ‘curious places’ can be more than a little dark and dangerous, at times. Remembering often leads to regretting. And that’s a slippery slope, for me.

Venturing into some of the darker realms means that I’ve been absent lately. From life in general, and certainly from around these parts. The drafts folder is full-to-overflowing with false starts that will likely never see the light of day.

I have mixed feelings about that. This forum, here in WordPress World, has become, over the past couple of years, one of my favourite places. I’ve had some really interesting conversations, read a whole lot of eye-opening and thought-provoking essays, and made a number of good friends – I’ve even had the opportunity to meet some of them IRL (looking at you, A-M. You know it’s feeling like 40 degrees Celsius with full sun and a breeze from the lake here today, right? If you’re thinking of heading out of Glasgow- although you know how your hometown stole my heart- may I suggest Toronto as an option? We’ve definitely had a summer the past few weeks!).

But something is off. I explained my lack of recent posts to one of my oldest-and-dearests last night, mentioning that, lately, I look at the drafts- or start working on something that catches my fancy- only to feel an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. The windmills are forever and always the same- and the tilting isn’t getting me anywhere other than frustrated and feeling completely ineffective and  ineffectual.

Not good. The act of writing has become counter-productive. It frustrates, rather than frees. Which sucks. Bigtime. I’m a writer. I write. Not writing is not good for cole’s soul (using the term irreligiously, of course).

Ironically, this means that more introspection is required if I’m to get to the heart of ‘what’s up with that’? (Cue visual of Kenan Thompson as Diondre Cole telling Bill Hader’s Lindsey Buckinghan that they are, once again, out of time, and he won’t be interviewed this week. The SNL sketch is oddly apt, actually…)

Over the past few months I’ve attempted to re-focus my energies- spending time with fiction, rather than struggling to articulate essays/commentary about those things that reallyreally bug me. The ultimate themes and messages- such as they are- are echoed, regardless of form. I am who I am, after all. The way I think- and the things about which I think- stay pretty much the same whether I’m writing a blog post or a novel. I write as a way to suss out answers. To get my thoughts straight on a given topic, and to provide those thoughts something like coherence and exposure to the world outside of my brain.

None of that is happening right now. I’m scattered and disengaged- pretty much all around. I’m in a holding pattern of lackadaisical ennui (how’s that for some purple prose?) that is both out-of-character and concerning.

But I’m working on it.

Per usual (for me), that involves a lot of reading, and listening to music, and paying attention to what smart, talented people have to say about things that interest and/or concern me.

While working on a presentation for the day job, I came across this TEDTalk (I DO love the TEDTalks):

Tattoos? I have none. Regrets? I’ve had a few. And, unlike Mr. Sinatra, I can’t call mine ‘too few to mention’.

Kathryn Schulz’ talk was personally interesting in many ways. I tend to move beyond the denial stage fairly quickly. I generally get that I’ve made an irrevocable, regrettable, decision pretty much right off the bat. The alienation and self-punishment? Those things sound more like me. And they last.

Perseveration? Oh yeah. That one is a biggie. The soundtrack of error runs round and round and round in my head. Ad nauseam. The memory of the action that caused the regret gets set on endless repeat. It becomes a one-song iPod that I can’t turn off.

So, illumination! Making peace with regret? You can do that?! As a fellow-perfectionist, I share her struggle. I rarely balk at forgiving others their trespasses against me (unless they are especially banal and/or heinous) but I have an inordinate amount of trouble cutting myself any slack at all. At. All.

‘Learning to love the flawed, imperfect things we create? Forgiving ourselves for creating them? Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly- it reminds us that we know we can do better.’

I like that. I like all of that.

It’s a far more human approach to looking at ourselves- our lives, our actions, our fallibility- than a lot of the ‘mindfulness-speak’ that is out there in the ether of ‘holistic health’ and the push for ‘positive culture’ that dominates our social media soundbites these days.

Funnily enough (although I tend to see it as another one of those connectivity things), the whole regret-thing (and the absolution of said regret-things) has been circumstantially at the forefront of my mind these past few weeks.

Been thinking about choices a lot as I try to figure out next steps. For example: What, exactly, do I want to be when I grow up? How do I define happiness? Has that definition changed? If my goals/wants/needs have changed, what do I need to do make those things manifest?

I have a birthday coming up next month (all being well- shouldn’t count chickens/tempt fate and all that)- it’s not a biggie- no zero at the end or anything. But it’s been a while since I last really thought about those questions.  It was around the time of my last zero-at-the-end birthday (funny how those markers tend to make us take stock)- which puts it few years ago. Five long years, to be specific. So it’s past time to revisit the questions- and see where I’m at- existentially speaking. Especially since that last round of questioning led to some decisions that ended up being rather regretful, in retrospect.

Adulting and First World Problems. Ick. It’s whiny and ridiculous- in so many ways. I get it. I’m a good feminist- aware of all my intersections. The choices are myriad- a reality that is a product of my privilege. Everyone should be so lucky to have to the choices I have had- that I continue to have. I get that too. But the sources of that privilege- my family, my friends, my opportunities- keep hitting me with the insistent realization that I need to keep on striving to do better.

Which I can’t do if I’m locked into the perseveration of regrets.

There are these songs (I know- there are always some songs- as I said, I am who I am)… two of them. They speak of regret- in very different, yet complimentary, ways.

The first is a cover version of an older song, performed by a guy that I love so very much. I’ve talked about Midge before. A few times, actually. And he more than deserves all the positive print I can offer up. This song most definitely helped me through some rough times over the years.

It’s over. It’s done. It’s for the best. No looking back.

Healthy, right? Yet melancholy-as-Hell in tone, and speaking to the truth that even that which is the right thing doesn’t necessarily come regret-free.

I had the opportunity to see Midge live (again! Twice in less than a year!), playing a pared-down and fabulous acoustic show- just him and his guitar- back in March, and took the opportunity to meet him after the show and express my thanks for all the years of music and lessons and wonder that he has brought into my life.

(And made my bud, the incomparable Len, take my picture with him. That is an example of whatever the absolute opposite of regret might be).

Z

This other song, though…

It’s the one that keeps on running through my head. That whole self-punishment and ‘what the hell did I do’ sort of thinking that Kathryn spoke about. That’s much more my style.

And this song makes my heart hurt with the physical weight of such regrets…

Regardless of how often I listen to it, Airborne Toxic Event’s (I’ve talked about them before, toorage against the regret of the loss of love sends my stomach all butterfly-ish. Every time. That’s power– sourced in the fact that our human-ness means that we’ve experienced that depth of self-excoriation about decisions made or roads not traveled- and react to the memory of the regret.

It’s a big deal, regret. A big, messy, complicated deal.

So. Starting last night (interestingly it actually was sometime around midnight), inspired by a great, if much-delayed, conversation with a too-long-absent but ever-important person in my life, I’m working on annotating and embracing my regrets. Perhaps that evaluation will lead me out of my current stasis and back into some positive directions. Even if those directions end up being transitional- or transformational- and even if some of them are regrettable.

I can do better.

Past time.

Eleatic, on a Tuesday

 

Fingers crossed that Old Faithful here hangs in while I get this done and posted. Not that my laptop’s name is actually ‘Old Faithful’. That would be silly. His name is Abulafia, but I call him Abe (Thank you, Umberto Eco. I only steal from the best…) Not holding out a lot of hope- especially since I went ahead and reblogged an older post earlier. Call me reactionary. Let’s see how this one goes…

Not only was my recent trip to Scotland and London filled with all kinds of friends and food and family and frivolous fun (seriously, the cup runneth waaaaay over with ALL those things), but it offered a chance for me to do a fair bit of geeking out of the historical kind over those two weeks.
We covered a lot of ground. We saw a lot of things. And, given the fact that Scotland and England are ‘countries of a certain age’, there was a whole lot of history to cover in a rather condensed period of time.

Beginning in Glasgow- and starting things off with a night out to forever remember with my lovely scottishmomus and her other half (there will be more about that evening of festivities forthcoming)- we visited many places of yore and learned vast bookloads of information about the history, culture and people of both Scotland and England.

Everywhere we went- Highlands, Lowlands, train journeys east, and then south- we were entertained and educated by some of the finest storytellers I’ve been privileged to meet. A history geek’s dream. And I’m nothing if not a history geek.

I’m still trying to process everything- and to take on board the geography, the stories and the artefacts to which we were privy over the two weeks we spent discovering that part of the (more or less) United Kingdom. I have yet to get through the pictures (again, computer issues cramping both my style and deep-seated need for timely organization), but I am enjoying the Scotch (I’m a Scotch drinker now- I seem to have become my grandfather while hanging in the Highlands) and absorbing it all as I think back over all of the experiences (while wishing I was back there more than a little. I’m serious, Anne-Marie. I could very much see myself living in Glasgow- you have been warned…)

Anyhoo. I’ve been easing back into things and re-embracing ‘real life’ as best I can, while getting over the plague I contracted while in Edinburgh (such is my desire for experiential immersion in the history, I decided to pick up a case of the pneumatic plague while exploring the underground vaults and hidden closes of the Scottish capital).

Which kind of leads me into the topic of tonight’s latest rant…

What the freakin’ hell is with the 24/7 fear-mongering that is everywhere these days? Okay- so I admit that spending two weeks completely (okay- mostly. I had to check on the cats and make sure all was still good back home) unplugged and disconnected offered a breath of oh-so-fresh existential air that my disdain for all things media-driven may be heightened slightly, but c’mon. Seriously?

Today CBC News Network has been ‘all-ebola’all-the-time’. Really. The CBC. That venerable, true-North-strong-and-free institution that I’m usually the first to defend.

And in brief moments when it wasn’t re-hashing the same old stories about unpreparedness and new precautions, they were telling us about the sentence received by a South African who shot his girlfriend through the bathroom door.

I have yet to figure out the extensive coverage that the latter story received. The former- well, that one is easy. It’s all about keeping the masses engaged with spectacle- and in order to engage the masses these days you have to freak them out, piss them off or titillate their seemingly-intrinsic voyeurism in 60-second soundbites. Nothing else seems to crack the self-absorption and speak to the lack of attention span that seems to be the norm.

I have witnessed insane degrees of hysteria and over-reactions and chest-thumping and reactionary support of violence all over social media as well- some of the fb groups and news feeds I’ve happened upon- when the laptop was functioning (come on Abe- hold it together for me for a little longer…) bear witness to all kinds of credulous and ill-informed rhetoric about the topics making headlines and jamming our technological devices on a daily basis.

It makes me want to bite something. And I haven’t even checked what those jokers at Fox ‘News’ and the like have been saying about the state of the world since I’ve been home. That would be too much to take.

I’ve waxed philosophical a time or two about my despair at this propensity we have to let the media- and our governments- direct and/or dictate our collective reactions to these things. I had thought that the vacation might help to clear the air and re-set some of my impressions about such things. And it did, I suppose. Just not exactly in the way I thought it would…

I mentioned the storytellers we encountered on the various tours we chose. They offered different and differing perspectives on history- and how that history informs and influences current events, like the recent referendum in Scotland, for example. A very well-read and well-informed group of people, to be sure.

While in Edinburgh- that most-haunted of cities- we made the most of our limited time there (and the early autumn Hallowe’en-ish temperatures and atmosphere) and took part in the spookiest tours we could find. We visited the vaults under South Bridge, Mary King’s Close, and the Greyfriars kirkyard with its resident poltergeist.

All of our guides were entertaining to the nth degree- especially, it has to be noted, Gerry, who led us to the kirkyard and declaimed and discounted the Disneyfied myth of Greyfriars Bobby, while questioning the creativity of JK Rowling, and convincing us of the veracity of the poltergeist’s existence.

Despite the diversity of perspectives on the town’s history, each of our guides (the daytime ones, too) were consistent in at least one thing- that, historically, the walled city of Edinburgh was a pretty grim place in which to live. What with things like the constant effluvium from that lovely tradition of ‘gardayloo’ that sent the waste of the many residents flowing downhill to the the Nor Loch (which was also the city’s water source), the recurrent episodes of plague, and the rise of the Resurrection Men who turned body snatching into a fine art, Edinburghers had to take their entertainment where they could find it. Such as it was.

What it was, often, was attendance at public punishment and execution. Oh, the stories. So many- and told so vividly and with a typically morbid sense of humour and relish- were about the reactions that the good citizens of Edinburgh had to the working out of the legal system of the day.

Historically, it was entertaining beyond belief. Historically. I sort of naively thought that we, culturally speaking, might have moved beyond such entertainments by now.

‘Fraid not. It all stems from the same impulse. Our need to forget- if temporarily- our personal/societal problems prompts us to get caught up in the spectacles provided- eagerly- by our leaders and media.

Jebus. It’s downright Eleatic.

The Eleatics were a pre-Socratic philosophical school, founded in the early 5th-century BCE by Parmenides. Among other things, the Eleatics opposed the theories of Heraclitus- specifically the idea that all existence can be summed up as perpetual change. Those Eleatics were all about the idea of perpetual unity- that things cannot come from nothing (so, no Creation, for example) and that things cannot arise out of things from which they differ.

In other words, reality- and, by extension, humanity- is unchanging.

This brief, Coles’ (or ‘Cole’s’- hee!) Notes, version of their wisdom is illustrative of a realization that fairly gobsmacked me as I innocently reflected on my travels and the things happening on my tv upon my return. We haven’t changed. Not fundamentally. Not enough. Certainly nowhere near the extent to which we are capable.

I never saw myself as a modern-day Zeno, although I can certainly appreciate the influence of the school on, say,  Platonic metaphysics, for example. I tend toward a more optimistic view of things than all that. But c’mon, peeps. The evidence is kinda sorta there. It’s bombarding us from the media- social and otherwise. It’s being made manifest in our policies of governance and corporate interactions. It’s dividing us socially and politically.

How have we not moved past this impulse? Focusing on the fear and the perceived justice of the punitive punishment of those deemed to be the source of the fear feeds the implementation of measures that gradually strip away our freedoms to engage in dialogue about the real sources of the ills of the world- whether those ills are naturally-occurring viruses, the normalization of crimes like domestic abuse, or inflammatory human rhetoric that seeks to divide rather than unite.

Have we progressed not-at-all from those Edinburghers who would gather at the Mercat Cross to witness, with enthusiasm, the punishment of the unfortunates of the city?

Whatever platitudes we might claim to embrace, we don’t really like change. We fight it- or (like certain Prime Ministers I could mention- at least as regards things like climate) deny its existence.

Travel, at its best, serves to open our eyes to different ways of looking at our world. I’m not sure I expected that this particular lesson was one that I’d take away from two glorious weeks in places- housing people- that I learned, quickly, to love.

Although its composer says that this particular song really isn’t about anything, I think that some wisdom can be found, imbedded in ‘those cheap pop lyrics’ (yes, Roland really said that).

‘When something on your mind, became a point of view…

When it’s all too late…

Change. You can change.

We must change. Or suffer the consequences already knocking at our doors.

And while we’re listening to Tears for Fears…

I’ll leave it at that- partly because the song’s title speaks for itself, partly because I could go on about that one song- and its importance in my life- for at least another 1600 words, but mostly because I think I’m pushing all the luck there might be. Abe has done a remarkable job of holding it all together, so I’m going to give him the rest of the night off.

Time for a dram. Lowland- from Lothian, near Edinburgh. I miss Scotland. And being unplugged.

Fr-fr-frozen

Holy Jumpin’ Jebus.  It’s cold.  Crazy cold.

I don’t even pretend to like the winter- and its temperatures/snow/ice- but C’MON.  A few days after the city was restored to power (mostly, anyway.  Still a few poor people who remain in the dark/without heat) and we are dealing with wind chill that is making it feel like close to -30 freakin degrees Celsius.

The city isn’t the only thing that’s frozen over, though.  I’m dealing with a pretty significant case of writer’s block at the moment, which is a big ol’ pain in the ass.  ‘They’ say to just keep writing through the block- that the best way to overcome is to just ‘produce’.

‘They’ suuuuuck.

I spent a few hours over the holidays watching Jeff Dunham specials on various comedy networks- looking to enhance the cheer.  I do love my Muppets, and ventriloquism has always fascinated me- and boy, does he do it well.   When he has multiple voices going… I don’t love all his characters, but for some reason Peanut and Jose Jalapeno- on a stick- were seriously making me laugh.  As a result, whenever I say/think the word ‘suck’ the voice now sounds like Peanut.

The ideas have been few and far between, the prose just ain’t a’ flowing and I have absolutely no interest in doing the research/job searching I should be doing at the moment.  I’m thinking it’s partly to do with the end of year/beginning of a new one reflective funk that sometimes happens.  It can be stated, fairly, that my introspective moods do become a little too extensive and extended at times- and this is likely part of the problem.  Inward insight makes outward output tricky, to say the least.

There’s also been some drama in my extended family unit, so coping with that is making concentration a wee bit problematic- as the lack of sleep and anxiety makes itself manifest.

One of the things I’m also meant to be doing is generating a strategy for creating systemic change in this city of mine.  I have not received a response from my own city councillor- I’m allowing for the fact that it’s still technically the holidays as a reason for that- but that buffoon who persists in calling himself our mayor officially declared his intention to run again and continue to garner attention for everything but responsible policy development and institution.

This should be enough of a goad to get me off of my butt and back doing something, but I have to admit that my own, personal and professional, situation is foremost in any strategizing that might be happening right now.  A number of things that have gone down of late have left me feeling as if some sort of deadline is looming- and that sensation is really causing me to focus on making changes in my own life.

But figuring out just what those changes need to be is the biggest thing that is keeping me frozen right now.

Part of responsible citizenship is discovering a balance between one’s responsibility to oneself- and one’s family and friends- and active participation in the wider community.  The juggling of these responsibilities can be hard to negotiate (as I mentioned in my last post regarding the vagaries of Time) and any wrench- regardless of size or import- tossed into the planning and execution of attempts to keep all the balls airborne can significantly mess with progress.

Right now, despite best laid plans and the sincere desire to remove both myself- and my fellow citizens- from our current mire of expediency-over-what-is-right, moving forward with anything seems a little insurmountable.

There are a whole lot of lists circulating around right now- ‘what to do for a better 2014’, ‘what not to do for a better 2014’, and things along those lines.  While they have their place- and certainly serve some level of purpose, I suppose- I’m pretty much opposed to the whole sound-bite-as-response way of looking at things (which is one of the reasons why my posts drag on so long).  Pithy sayings and trite observations aren’t always the best solution to things, IMHO.

At a couple of gatherings over the holiday season there was a great deal of talk about ‘white people’s problems’- mainly having to do with power outages and the like (a lot of the neighbourhoods that were hit badly by the ice storms are those older ‘hoods with their older-growth trees and higher property values), but some of it was directed at job dissatisfaction and inability to fight the status quo.  While most of my current spate of concerns definitely falls into that category, knowing that others are certainly worse off does little to mitigate that reality.

I know that well-meaning friends were not being dismissive, exactly, of my current situation, but such responses do tend to make me clam up and cease throwing around ideas and looking for help as to directions- personally, professionally and in the larger societal sphere.  They are likely sick of hearing me talk about it all.  Believe me, I am far more sick of living with it and trying to come up with solutions.

Balance.  Hard to find and harder to maintain.

Depeche Mode gets it.

There’s more besides joyrides
A little house in the countryside
Understand, learn to demand,
Compromise, and sometimes lie

Get the balance right, get the balance right

Be responsible, respectable,
Stable but gullible
Concerned and caring, help the helpless
But always remain ultimately selfish

Get the balance right, get the balance right

You think you’ve got a hold of it all
You haven’t got a hold at all
When you reach the top, get ready to drop
Prepare yourself for the fall, you’re gonna fall
It’s almost predictable
(Almost)

Don’t turn this way, don’t turn that way
Straight down the middle until next Thursday
Reverse to the left, then back to the right
Twist and turn ’til you’ve got it right

Get the balance right, get the balance right

Happy New Year to you all.  Hoping that I’ll be back to better form and looking a little more forward and a little less inward as the year unfolds.  Begin as you mean to go on, and all that.  The way the year is started can help to frame the way that the year progresses.

Have to overcome the sense of being overwhelmed and get back to fighting the good fight.

PS- I just passed 6666 views hereabouts.  The Number of the Beast, plus an extra 6.  That’s fun.  Might have to think about writing about the Antichrist sometime soon…  THAT might get me back on track…

‘So I went from day to day…’

Sisyphean.

It’s an awesome word.

Comes from a Greek mythological tradition about a hubristic king who set himself against the gods.  Thought he was better than them.  Trickier than them.

In various stories he got the best of Zeus, Thanatos, Hades and Persephone. The big guy on Olympus, DEATH himself and the king and queen of the Underworld.  He cheated death, escaped from Tartarus AND suspended death for ALL humans while Thanatos (or Hades) was chained in his place.

Not too shabby for a human.

As punishment for his puckish self-interest, Sisyphus had to eternally roll a huge boulder up a steep slope, never reaching the top- since the boulder would always roll down just as he was reaching the pinnacle.

An ETERNITY of frustration.  For challenging the gods.

Working against their will and their declared order of things.

Just like Prometheus. And Azazel.

But since Sisyphus was fully human, his punishment was meant to be even more cautionary- warning against striving too hard for the things that are beyond us.  And suggesting that making the gods look silly was not likely to end well.

The myth of Sisyphus has been interpreted as being about (among other things) the futility of the struggle for knowledge, the absurdity of human life, the emptiness of the quest for power and anything that a person might love and hold onto too much.

Pythia, the infallible Delphic Oracle, notes that “in experiments that test how workers respond when the meaning of their task is diminished, the test condition is referred to as the Sisyphusian condition. The two main conclusions of the experiment are that people work harder when their work seems more meaningful, and that people underestimate the relationship between meaning and motivation.”

(okay, that really came from Wikipedia.  I never met Pythia)

The first time I listened to Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill, I was dealing with the death of a friend of mine- far too young to have been taken suddenly and randomly.

Then, the lyrics seemed to be about gracious Death (Thanatos), coming to gently claim someone and take him home where he belongs.

I soon learned, of course, that the song was about Peter’s decision to leave Genesis and strike out on his own.  He had wrestled with the repetitive ruts, the fading into the background, and purposelessness of his situation, realizing that the known, the stagnant, wasn’t actually the freedom it seemed to be.

He let the boulder roll away and was able to reach the flat top of the hill and the reassurance that his change in direction was the right one- the one that would bring meaning back into his life and work.

‘Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night
He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing stretching every nerve
Had to listen had no choice
I did not believe the information
I just had to trust imagination
My heart going boom boom boom
“Son,” he said “Grab your things,
I’ve come to take you home.”

To keep in silence I resigned
My friends would think I was a nut
Turning water into wine
Open doors would soon be shut
So I went from day to day
Tho’ my life was in a rut
‘Till I thought of what I’d say
Which connection I should cut
I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery
My heart going boom boom boom
“Hey” he said “Grab your things
I’ve come to take you home.”
(Back home.)

When illusion spin her net
I’m never where I want to be
And liberty she pirouette
When I think that I am free
Watched by empty silhouettes
Who close their eyes but still can see
No one taught them etiquette
I will show another me
Today I don’t need a replacement
I’ll tell them what the smile on my face meant
My heart going boom boom boom
“Hey” I said “You can keep my things,
They’ve come to take me home.”‘

Wisdom imparted through example and a beautiful song.

Now if I can just figure out exactly how to stop being so damn Sisyphean…