Friday, July 20, 2012


Summer 2012 has been a lesson in the unknown and unexpected. It's been many years since so many things have not gone according to plan. As the plumbing for my new furnace fails a pressure test for the second time, I imagine that my friend J.R. will be right, and it will be October before my new furnace and hot water heater is installed. My summer has been dominated by this monumental utility event. The number of days I've missed work, re-arranged hours, had to work Sundays, all because I'm waiting for contractors, code inspectors. The Fridays off that I could have gone to the beach, or out for a day trip, nixed because "the code officer will arrive between 10 and 4". Still, I am grateful that the code officer checks these things. If he didn't, I'd end up with a gas leak, and probably an explosion, if I wasn't overcome by fumes. No one likes red tape and regulations, but with something like this, I'd rather be inconvenienced than dead.

We have had very little rain in the last month. For the last couple of days, nature has finally thrown us a bone, and at least 2 inches of rain have fallen. I will take small batches of rainy days to a rain-intensive hurricane any day. Still, rain leaves me feeling listless. It takes me all day to finish simple tasks. I remind myself that it is good to take a break sometimes.

Today the story broke about 12 people killed in a Colorado movie theater by a gunman, a 24-year-old PhD student. It happened at the premiere of the new Dark Knight movie, and apparently he has some delusion that he is the Joker, or was acting as the Joker. If that is true, then it is more evidence that the line between fantasy and reality can wear very thin for some people. It doesn't have to lead to disaster, but sometimes it does.

I went to see my guru about 10 days ago, when she was visiting New York. For a woman with so many physical problems--back problems, shoulder problems, diabetes, who knows what else--she is ferociously strong. She held me so tight to her, I could feel the mala underneath her white dress, I almost couldn't breathe. Mother Kali was crushing me, destroying the apparent to get to the real person, beyond illusion. When I left her, I shook all over for some time. We exchanged no words, I don't think she really even looked at me.

But after I left her and went home, I found myself changed, yet again. Opening my computer, I was barraged with articles telling me how to dress, what to eat, who to vote for, what kind of career to have, how to manage my money. Visions of celebrities whose names were familiar, but meant nothing to me, spilled over across those articles. This is why people like to look at pictures of cute cats and dogs with grammatically poor captions. When I turn on the computer, I don't want to feel under attack for my life choices.

Really, it is all self-judgment. It is almost impossible to escape day-to-day media. There are things we really do need to know to make good decisions. But we will never really get to those things, sucked into the vortex of images and information that assails us.

I realized when I got home that I don't have to listen to the images or compare myself to them. I don't have to pick a career that makes millions. I don't have to live on fruits and vegetables. I don't have to like Obama or Romney. I don't "have to" do anything. My life is my own.

Maybe this shouldn't be a startling revelation. But so many decisions are made because I "must" do this or that. We do things that we think will impress on our resume or CV, we try to impress people that we think can help us in our goals, we follow life paths that are "acceptable" to society. It's all political, and it's anti-soul politics. We're not about becoming uniquely who we are, we're about competing, winning a rat race, doing what it takes to make money, not to do what makes us happy. We are told that certain careers should be avoided because they don't have a good ROI. Society judges us by our actions as though we were a financial investment.

There is no need to participate in this. It is true that the independent path is harder. But that doesn't mean it's not worth treading. One who experiences the thin line between fantasy and reality does not have to become a killer; they can be a magician instead. Imagine what you want to become, and then act as though it's the truth. Surprisingly, it can become the truth. If magic is an illusion, so is life. So much talk about "fictions" when it's all a fiction of sorts. The creative person writes their own fiction.

The day I went to see my guru, I saw many people who I used to be friendly with. Many of them looked sick and anxiety ridden. Some were just the same. I was aware, and perhaps surprised, by my own lack of remorse about those people and friendships. They had been in my life, now they are not. We are not friends. And it does not matter. Bitterness comes from attachment, from wanting to be liked, from judging ourselves failures when others don't like us. Sometimes, as in marriages, you are just not compatible, and some people are poison for each other. I recognize that the events that made me finally and fatally disgusted with these people actually helped the person that they tried to hurt. I should be grateful to them in a way. But I have no desire to return to political games. I am not interested in being the person they would like me to be.

For now, I am interested in long walks, reading literature, and enjoying the company of good friends, new and old. Lunch at the National Hotel, a walk along the Delaware River, a cup of green tea and the New Yorker at breakfast. I am back to French lessons, and the works of Marcel Proust, which are sometimes engrossing, sometimes irritating. In between I have listened to audiobooks--Thackeray's Vanity Fair was the first. I'd borrowed it from the library, and the last disc did not work, so I resorted to the horror that is the text to finish it. I had to know, after all, if Rebecca Sharp was picked up by the Hell's Angels. Or maybe, being the end of the 19th century, she would have run off with Aleister Crowley to India or China.

"Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf was the last audiobook I finished. I'd read "To the Lighthouse", but this was astounding. I understood the term "literary fiction" after listening to this. There is something wonderful and sublime within the mundane in literary fiction. It's like the forms of meditation that call for awareness to every action--watching yourself do dishes, watching yourself take steps, watching yourself do everything. The mundane is like the opening of a geyser for the creative mind. While doing menial, everyday things, thoughts gush through, and if we paid enough heed to them, we'd find at least some of them to be "literary". It enables one to see the connections between things.

In the first Proust book, there was some discussion of "Vinteuil's Sonata", a bar of music heard by Charles Swann, that gave him a great epiphany, that somehow summarized his relationship to Odette de Crecy. I found this passage intriguing, because I've had similar experiences with phrases of music. I am looking forward to the day that you can input an MP3 of a phrase of music, and find everything similar to it. Pandora Radio, the "musical genome project" does a very poor job with this so far. It does not understand the experience of a phrase of music that puts us in a different place, almost a different dimension. For Proust it was violin and piano that created this effect; for me, it is usually guitar and flute.

And no doubt you Monty Python fans will snicker at the use of the words "Proust" and "summarize(d)" in the same sentence. I know I just did.

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