by j-a

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July 2007


insignificant distinction

I find life goes better when people don't do anything.
Steve Smith as Red Green
It's high summer, and I want to be lazy; but I can't, not only because I have things that must be done, but also because I want to do things. My own plans and goals are getting in the way of a carefree lifestyle as I continue to (want to) apply myself toward their completion (although most often I do more wanting than doing). Since my plans and goals are my own and they seem to be going so well, I can't turn my mind off to the continuing (albeit far less than it could be) accomplishment.

In other words, I'm demanding accomplishment from myself, and it's taken its toll, which I've been ignoring. It's a kind of "internal" (semi-conscious) stress that results from the combination of not enough sleep, bad eating habits, a failure to engage in my usual distracting fantasies that cause me to take long breaks of reverie, all of which has run me down and caused a severe "back attack."

I don't know, maybe it would have happened anyway, no matter what I did or didn't do, maybe it's only the high humidity weather; or, maybe, it's a permanent change in my condition, a final wearing away of critical bone mass that has exposed nerve tissue that gets readily pinched when I bend at the waist.

That's was my thinking late Saturday afternoon, when I was transporting another captive groundhog out to the sticks to unload it and every tiny bump in the road cause me excruciating pain that further caused muscle spasms that extended the pain's duration. I only drove four miles, but they were the worst four of my life. Never has the pain been this bad and it was all that I could do to get back home, get into bed, and spend the rest of the night jockeying my body into the least painful position and worrying if I would ever be able to be my old self again; or would I be hereafter an invalid who had no means of taking good care of himself, no extended network to rely on, a hog on ice?

Much bed rest, vitamin and supplement therapy, frequent mild stretching exercises, and strict attention to posture over the last three days have relieved all but the slightest pain and I'm beginning to reestablish my "normal" life. I can even sit down now and type at the computer. For a while there I thought that, either my writing life would be over or else I'd have to resort to elaborate means, standing at a raised computer for hours on end, working like Donald Rumsfeld.

But the perceptually long short period of time was informative, and therapeutic. I re-learned a few things I already knew and few new things besides; there are advantages to my chronic disease (it's best to find the positive aspects to your problems, I guess):

  1. I am now forced to maintain a good posture. If I lean forward only the slightest bit and maintain that position, when I try to straighten back up, a brain-stopping mental scream is broadcast through my entire body and I have no choice but to freeze in place and try to deal with it right then and there; there is no "wait a few minutes until I go and lie down for a while." And when I sit, it must be perfectly upright; and if I sit for a long time, I must put a pillow in the small of my back to force myself not to slouch the least little bit. If I relax and let my attention wane, the recovery process is painful in the extreme (yet not quite so painful as that Saturday afternoon in the car). This is a good thing, I rationalize, being forced to remain always erect.
  2. To avoid back pain when moving from (even a correct) sitting position to a standing one, I must tighten down my stomach muscles to provide firm support to my torso. This is already beginning to firm up and flatten my stomach.
  3. If I want to eat, I'm going to have to walk to the store, at least for the time being. There's no way I can drive the illegal car. Even if I could manage somehow to deal with the pain, the lapses of attention when it strikes are too dangerous. I could cause an accident. And walking is good for me, I know--I feel, after I've done it consistently for a few days.
As a result of the "back attack," when I set aside for a brief while my daily coffee and beer "therapy" (to test to see if its absence has any positive effect), I've had a bad headache for three days now; so, finally, I say, "Fuck it" and I have a beer. I still have the headache, but now I don't care. But I know this state won't last long and I'll be back to where I was an hour ago; so I'm making the best of this time by rationalizing about my new groundhog problem decision:

I trapped another on Sunday and I have no alternative but to kill it or release it, there is no way, with my back the way it is, that I can transport it out to where I took all the others. And there is no way I'm going to release it. So, with regret, I lowered the cage into the pool. I felt I owed it to the beast (or to myself, or whomever) to at least watch as it met its demise. So I did. It swam around in the cage until it stopped and lay on the bottom. I left and came back half an hour later to retrieve and bury it. Whereas earlier, in the cage, it looked anxious at my approach and acted maniacally as I carried the cage, it now looked peaceful. It's not so bad seeing it dead as seeing it alive and trapped.

We have to eat, even though we have "feelings" about killing animals. On The Late Late Show this night, Craig Ferguson interviews a veterinarian who points out that, although animals are merely just that, their life force is the same as our own and we must respect it. This is a cosmic message meant for me? Nah. We attend to that which seems to us to apply to our lives; in other words, we compose the messages ourselves.

I want to ask the doctor if he's a vegetarian. If he isn't, I'll make the point that someone is out there disrespecting life forces so that you can eat, and that makes you responsible for the "disrespect." If he is a vegetarian, I'll ask him about the life force of plants, if it is not the same life force as our own. Plants, you know, have feelings too. If you're going to eat at all, you're going to kill. And what about all those pesky bugs you kill that bother or would sting you, and mosquitoes that would infect you with exotic viruses? Same life force. There is no qualitative difference between a fly and a groundhog (and even a human, though I expect much argument on that point).

After the late show, I turned on PBS and watched a show about sea lions and herring in Alaska. The sheer numbers of herring is incredible, a fact that causes me to consider how cheap life really is. And it's not the sea lions that are consuming the larger portion of the herring. Fishermen net millions of them in a "controlled catch" that lasts less than a full day. Life abounds, because it kills other life.

In human terms, groundhogs live a destructive life. I could probably put up with that, although I'm not sure if I could have tolerated the increased destructive capabilities of six of them (and probably a lot more yet to come).1 If I let them be, when they eventually found their way down into the main part of the yard and around the porches, they would eat much of the food I grow. Whether I kill animals to eat or kill them to prevent them from eating what I eat seems to me to be an insignificant distinction.

a better place to be

Dere's an ol' man called de Mississippi
Dat's de ol' man dat I'd like to be!
What does he care if de world's got troubles?
What does he care if de land ain't free?

Ol' man river,
Dat ol' man river
He mus' know sumpin'
But don't say nuthin',
He jes' keeps rollin'
He keeps on rollin' along.

Oscar Hammerstein II
I only wish I could roll. Rolling would make getting around a lot easier. I can barely walk. Oh, I'm fine for a few hours each day. Each morning I arise with hardly any pain; but it shortly returns. Independence Day. A personal stab in the psyche this year for me.

Yesterday I re-hurt my back trimming the side yard hedges. (They're way overgrown and need to be trimmed back nearly two feet.) The day before yesterday, I trimmed them out by the mailbox, having decided to do them in small increments, ten or so feet at a time. The mailbox hedges went fine: cut them down, rake them up, schlep them back to the compost piles. No big deal. But yesterday I got ambitious and finished the side yard all the way to the back edge of the house--forty feet; and I didn't feel too bad, until I got ready to make my first walk up to the shopping center since before the last groundhog resettlement. I bent over the sink, washing my dirty hair, since I'd been wallowing in pity as well as pain over the previous week and was letting myself go; but I didn't want to be seen by the viewing public as a "dirty old man" and the most obvious indication of that category is dirty, stringy hair, especially if it's long. But when I straighten back up after rinsing, I feel a little twinge in my back; and then when I bend over to put on my socks and tie my shoes...

When I have a "back attack," and sometimes when I merely ache but feel no sharp pains at all, I sometimes get what I've taken to calling "faux fever," a symptom I use to get all the time when I was working and which I attributed then to CFS; but now I know it to be a symptom of AS.2 When this happens, I go to bed and get some rest and the "fever" subsides. (There doesn't seem to be any rise in body temp; it only feels like the general body ache you get when you have a fever. And, interestingly, one theory of the cause of AS is that infections in the bowels turn on the immune system, which begins to attack the spinal column and doesn't turn itself off after the infection is subdued. It sounds a tiny bit farfetched to me, but, then again, when I'm suffering in this way...)

The folly that caused this most recent attack is my usual one: I went too far, tried to do too much; I always have. It's a compensatory effort for, at other times, not doing enough, or anything at all. It's one of the steps in the "too far" syndrome, a manifestation of my schizoid personality, I theorize. This time, I overdid the hedge work, knowing full well as I was doing it that it could lead to problems; and then, after working a while at the computer, I pushed even further and decided to walk up to the shopping center. I'm an idiot. I guess I'm going to have to face it: I'm getting old(er). [This qualification indicates that, in fact, I'm not facing it. I have no intention of getting old, despite any reality that's may be staring me in the face that I don't know about because I have my eyes shut. This is, of course, not entirely true, or else I would be unable to have written this; but...goddammit, I will not get old!]

"You an' me, we sweat an' strain, body all achin' an' racket wid pain. Tote dat barge! Lif' dat bale!" Do a little work and you land in...bed. And here I am, all but totally bedridden again, watching, in an inconvenient prone position, boring tv repeats, in this case an old "House" episode. I should get a cane, like House. I wonder if it would help to ease the pain of walking at times like these. In fact, I even force myself to get carefully up and, with my "remote control" dowel rod, I try it out. Hmm? Maybe, with the exact required length and a conveniently comfortable handle, this might be a lame solution to my walking problem.

My personal independence is quickly deteriorating: first being unable to get the car inspected; then my ability to walk effectively; not to mention doing yard work and the more difficult house maintenance (back porch fascia, wood stove chimney cap, etc.) that I still have to get to before winter. And I've become so damned independent over the last ten years that I have no backup systems at all, no one to care for me when I get sick, no health care. (Guess I'm going to have to sign up for Medicare, after all; but that's still many years away.)

Independence, it seems, is more than mere illusion; or a matter of degree at best, relative to a population that is more or less inter- or co-dependent; but it's tough being at the far end of the spectrum. And it's worrisome. This is the fear I awaken with now in the morning (it used to be more vague; but it latches onto any damn set of facts that's most convenient): How will I survive if I can't, at the very least, walk up to the store to get enough food to eat? I guess I could end up ordering bland foodstuffs over the internet to arrive by mail: granola, powdered milk, rice, etc.; but how boring.

Actually, I could parlay this difficulty into eating only non-inflammatory foods--maybe. This could be the entry point for a whole new way of life, out of necessity. I've known for a long while that the foods I love are bad for my back: cheese (lots of it), sugar, coffee, beer, gluten-ridden flour, etc. Maybe I could change the way I eat and effect a whole new way of living, as well as ease my inflammation-caused spinal pain a bit. Maybe.

And I'll have to abandon all but the least demanding work in my gardens and house reconstruction plans; or pay to have it done (god, do I hate that idea), pare down my "art" projects to inside activity--which, now that I think of it, I might not mind so much at all. The "gardens vision" project may have been an idle dream anyway; and certainly I could achieve it better via a more dream based "reality" that I could translate into writing.

I should have been doing this all along. But...all that physical work in vain. And what will become of all my plants and shrubs and dwarf trees? I'd have to tear them out, cut them down, transform the yards back into lawn, and then maybe end up having to pay someone to cut it, although that would certainly be cheaper than paying someone to maintain the gardens. (But I guess I could allow it all to "deteriorate" into wilderness; but there are local laws dictating how far we suburbanites can allow our properties to go in that direction.)

But a positive side of this equation is that I could tear out those goddam, hedges, let animals and small children roam freely across my property, and redraw my borders at the walls of my abode. Not too bad a plan, if absolutely necessary. Further detachment, certainly. And I can always reconstruct the whole mess more completely in my head. That's always been a better place to be anyway. You'd think I'd have learned this life lesson by now. Next stop: the nursing home? The future is unclear.


I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer.
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.
Jim Morrison
It's a hazy morning. I like hazy days, whether they're hot and muggy or cool and clammy. I even like the hazy days in winter, despite the cold. There's something about haze that intrigues me and makes me feel all cozy and comfortable inside. I think it's the potential vagueness, the way ordinary reality is half-hidden and almost mysterious; or the way it cautions you, either because things may not be quite what they seem, or because, in the case of the warmer, mid-day haze, things may be just too demanding (requiring too much effort to navigate, in the sense of having to expend too much energy, which is a metaphor for a more psychological condition) to be approachable.

I turn to the news when I want to shut my immediate outer experience out because tv or internet news keeps the world at a distance--out there, not happening to me. Today the news channels are focusing on the glorification of "competitive eaters" a la a recent hot dog eating contest. I think this is the epitome of social irresponsibility. I'm sure that news programmers think of the content as "fluff"; but it's not, it goes right to the heart of our cultural malaise: These kids are lauded for their efforts to stuff incredible amounts of food into their stomachs, to the point where they throw up. We're a country of disgusting overweight assholes. And the Japanese are just one step behind us.

I'm lying in bed as I'm watching this fiasco. I'm finding that The Pain is controllable via rest. If I lie down several times a day for half an hour or so, I can arise feeling quite pain-free and rejuvenated. Depending on what I then do, this state can last for quite a while.

Every once in a while (and this also applies to times when the pain is merely a dull ache, such as during most of the fall and winter), I work my way into (or coincidentally find myself in) a completely pain-free position; and then I don't want to move, but rather just want to remain there and worship the relief as if it were a beneficent god. When this happens on its own (when I'm not actually trying to find this "sweet spot"), when I'm not at all expecting it, even when I previously didn't even realize I was in pain because psycho-physiological adaptation had taken over and I had been going along my more or less merry way in an unconsciously compromised state of bodymind, I suddenly become so grateful for the relief that I stop and reside for as long as possible in a semi-ecstatic semi-trance.

After I spend some time appreciating my new found freedom from pain, I go outside and start working, raking up the remainder of the hedge trimmings, drowning and burying yet another trapped groundhog, harvesting hops, raspberries, and currants. Back inside, I do some work on the computer, and then, before I go to bed, I decide to clean the guitars, I don't know why, it just struck my fancy. I laid the largest one, the Framus, on the bed, sprayed it with Fantastic, wiped it down, and the sprayed it with lemon pledge. As I'm polishing it up, sitting on the bed and twisted sideways, suddenly, another "back attack" hits me. It takes me fifteen minutes to edge myself into a lying position, and another hour to find the "sweet spot" again.

This shit is starting to get serious. (Or it's been serious all along and I'm only slowly waking up to it.) If I can't manage to stop the pain and spasms, I'll never get back to my old life. Maybe that's a good thing, I want to think; but if it is, it's a hard and painful lesson. I want to believe that this new form of pain, this excruciating, life-stopping sharpness, is just a setback, nothing more; but if it turns out to be a permanent condition and I have to make profound lifestyle changes, manage it, well... We never know what will happen next. But, no matter the obstacle, life goes on. That's the good part. Imagine the opposite. Staying alive is the ultimate success.

star child

I struggled to evade the terrifying vision this evoked of myself attaining the ultimate placidity possible in the animal and going over finally into the utter placidity of the vegetable.
Kenzaburo Oe, The Silent Cry
Whether you are a success or a failure (either socially or self-defined), your position is genetically (yet still not pre-) determined. Some people believe that dedication and hard work can trump genetics and enable success where otherwise there would be failure; but I believe, with some evidence to back me up, that social skills (upon which, ultimately, social success is conditioned) are genetically determined; and, when a person is deficient in these skills, yet nevertheless manages to learn them by rote later on in life, genetics determines whether or not he has the ability to learn. You can only be what your genes allow you to be. Nurture, it's true, may balance out nature; but can people who need to be so nurtured ever be called a success? At some point, we need to become self-nurtured; and thereby we succeed.

I just got four hours sleep after an eight hour night last night. There's an advantage to having back pain, when the only thing you feel you can do to be safe and not re-hurt your back is to sleep. I'm catching up, rejuvenating (so to speak; i.e., I'm nurturing myself). I'm starting to take vitamins and supplements again. It's been too long. And now, I realize, after a few hours of web-surfing, looking for alternatives to driving/walking to the stores, that ordering all my food online is easily do-able and nearly as inexpensive as buying locally, if I become a vegetarian, which I've been thinking about for a while, and not only because my back problem may be eased if I avoid anti-inflammatory foodstuffs. I feel better (mentally) than I've felt in quite a while, just knowing I have alternatives.

Lying in bed for long hours watching tv, listening to books on tape, or reading is not antithetical to my way of life; but it does tend to get a bit boring. Getting up for an hour or two (or three or four) here or there is not so different from my ordinary lifestyle, when I sleep for four or five hours twice a day and get up and do a bit of work in between. I can manage this, if it becomes permanent, so long as I do not become bedridden. I hate the idea of ending up like my severely arthritic father, who spent his sixties housebound in a wheel chair and his seventies in his bed with my mother waiting on him. Even if I had someone to wait on me, I'd hate it. I prefer, if I must choose and not simply allow (my) life to happen to me, to exist like Keir Dullea in 2001: A Space Odyssey, living on a moon of Jupiter (or was it Saturn?) in an unending state of semi-ennui. It's an alternative, an ultimate conclusion perhaps to my life theme of detachment, and a further advancement beyond the conclusion to Star Child status. If only.

alternate dimensions

I've gone into a stall. It happens. The back pain broke the upward momentum and the necessity for rest and recuperation broke the stress. Nothing to do now but glide back down on the warm air currents and hope for a soft landing. Meanwhile...

With lots of time, lying around, to meditate, I've returned to thinking about the stars. I want to summarize the mental exercises I've been going through, to concretize them in print so that, when I next forget, I have this explanation available:

[This is a thought experiment that doesn't necessarily correspond (in some parts) to known science.]

Imagine that the universe is a sphere. [I know it is not, that mathematics defines it differently; but, just for the sake of this piece, imagine for a bit. It makes it initially easier (at least for me) to grasp the actual "reality" when I finally get to that explanation.] This sphere is so large that, even with the most powerful telescope, we can't see it all at the same time. Now, I know that the more astute among you might, to that last sentence, respond, "Well, Duh!" because the more powerful the telescope, the less of the whole you would be able to see; and, anyway, you can't even see the whole of the earth's sky with the unaided eye, let alone with a telescope that narrows your field of vision.

But what I mean is that...well, let's suppose that we have a new kind of hybrid telescope that allows us to see all the way to the "edge" of the universe (I know that the universe has no edge; but I'll deal with that later), but let's just suppose for now that it does and that it's way out there where we can now, with our new scope, actually "see" the oldest galaxies, the ones first formed after the big bang. And let's say that with our hybrid scope we can see all of what there is to see, all of the galaxies, etc., all at once. Yet, still, despite our "advanced" technology, what we actually see is not the universe as it is, because it takes time for the light to reach us, so much time that what we really see is the universe as it appeared in the distant past, the farther away we see, the farther into the past we see. [And the smaller the universe is when compared with our expanded universe today.]

So, a large part of the universal sphere (which by the way is three dimensional) is hidden from us by the necessity that light travels at a finite speed. Okay. Pretty much standard stuff so far. We really don't know what is way out there right now, although we may deduce, with probably a fair degree of accuracy, that what is there, now, is pretty much the same as what is here, nearby. And we may also deduce that what was here nearby once, in the distant past, looked pretty much like what we observe now afar.

Now, the fourth dimension, we are told (by mathematicians, et al.) is time. However, time doesn't really exist; that is, there is no "unit" of time that we can point to and say, "There it is. See it?" Rather, time is a relationship between "things" (objects, events) as they interact. A true fourth dimension would present (to observers capable of seeing it, which we humans are not) an additional attribute akin to length, width, and height. (We could name this additional dimension 'depth' except that it would confuse the issue since that term can also be synonymous with width or length in a 3D system.) This attribute may, in fact, be out there right now (and right here also), but how would we know if we're not capable of perceiving it?

And there may be more than one attribute, that is, more than one additional dimension; there are, perhaps (at least) eight more, according to some (mathematical) theories. One theory says that these dimensions are miniscule and tucked away inside "curlicues" that extend off of the three dimensions we know through our everyday experience. But this explanation is merely a convenient way of trying to explain an idea, which is not understandable in current human language and/or powers of reason. A being capable of experiencing first-hand four spatial dimensions would not see "our" curlicued fourth dimension as curlicued at all, but would see it as expanded as we see our three. Yet our 4D counterpart might theorize curlicued additional dimensions.

Okay, so far all we've come up with is a universe that may reveal itself far better to super-beings (meta-beings?). But what about 3D beings just like us who might live in what we theorize as the curlicued dimensions four, five, and six? They would see their dimensions as non-curlicued (expanded), but since our three dimensions would seem (theoretically) curlicued to them, they wouldn't know any more of our existence than we knew of theirs. Ditto dimensions seven, eight, and nine; etc. But we can imagine beings living in, say, dimensions three, four, and five (a la "our" dimensional labeling system; theirs, of course, would prioritize the dimensions differently), who would then share our third dimension. Since they would have no length and width but only height in our system (or choose whichever one of our dimensions you prefer them to have), they would be very difficult but not impossible to detect. Spirits, perhaps? And might we then be spirits in other dimensions that we inhabit thusly and unknowingly?

All of the possible dimensional combinations would be contained within what we "see" as our 3D universal sphere, and not apart from it "out there" somewhere beyond its "edge" (which is a whole other set of possibilities that I don't even want to start thinking about now); and add to these possibilities that other fourth dimension, time, which we disregarded earlier, but which introduces still more possibilities. Time, not space, is the "edge" of the universe that we actually see when we look though telescopes back to the farthest deep space objects. In a very real sense, we are looking back in time. But our ability to do so disallows our ability to see and understand the true nature of what's actually there, in space, right now, which is what I really want to get at. So here goes:

The most confusing obstacle for me (and even for expert cosmologists, I am told) to get around in the search for universal understanding has been the idea that there is no center of the universe; or, stated differently, that all points in the universe are its center. I struggled with this idea for many years and failed to grasp it, because I was working from the point of view of the big bang, trying to imagine how matter-energy radiated outward and yet still left remnants of the original primordial event that we could measure. I wanted to believe that the background radiation would have been dissipated long ago (although where it would go, I couldn't imagine). In short, I was being confused by the deceptive nature of time and it was only when I began to learn to disregard (the illusion of) time that I was able to begin to understand:

Let's go back to our imagined universal sphere, which I postulated as a convenience in order to provide an image my mind could grasp. Cosmologists liken the universe to our planet, where we live on the surface as more or less two-dimensional people (that is, we live on the surface of a globe; ignore for ease of understanding things like mountains, valleys, upper stories of buildings, travel to the space station, our body thickness, etc.). We can travel around the surface of the earth as many times as we want, but we will never find its center, because the surface of a sphere has none; or all points are it's center. Expand that understanding into four dimensions, that is onto the three dimensional surface that is our universe, and you have our centerless universe. (It's not a sphere any more, but some kind of oddly twisted configuration, the exact mathematical nature of which only serves to further confuse the issue.)

But this extra-dimension explanation doesn't really make it much easier to understand, until you begin to consider what the three dimensions are the surface of. On our Earth, we can dig down and head toward its center; we know, more or less, what's down there, we understand, because we're actually 3D beings. But what lies beneath the universe's surface? And the answer, of course, is the fourth dimension--in, not time but, space. But where is this fourth dimension? Well, as humans, we're not equipped to perceive that. It's "curled up" somewhere, from our limited perspective (though that hardly helps).

It's easier, however, to think of a fourth spatial dimension as existing "out there," spread across space, than to think of it as existing right here "next" to us. But, we forget: we exist in space here too. Nature out there is the same as nature right here. The fourth spatial dimension is right next to where you are standing, inside your own body even, a functional aspect of the atoms that you are made of. (But that's a whole different explanation.)

We might (try to) think of a fourth spatial dimension as a supernatural one, that "place" where people go when they die (heaven, if you will) and/or where "spirits" exist. I don't believe in the supernatural; but I believe that (some of the) phenomena that people call supernatural exist as natural processes not yet discovered. The above explanation has been an attempt to chart a small portion of that nature. And, as for my original intent to engage in a mind experiment about the stars: Well, I sort of did that. But what I really intended to do was to consider how the stars coalesced and formed into galaxies and, ultimately, planetary systems. But I'll have to save that exercise for another time. I have more important dreams to consider:

dream a little dream

640: db and I are on the front street. In a sense, I'm Chandler Bing (I fell asleep watching "Friends"); but in a different sense, I am myself. db wants to buy a new bed, but I balk at it because I think we can't afford it. I try to explain to her, without coming right out and saying it, that I'm afraid to spend the money for fear of not having enough in the future. [It's not hard to figure out where that idea comes from.] I know that, if she fully understands this (i.e., my real) mentality, she'll leave me (which, in reality, she did; though not for that reason). We repel down the hillside to the main road. I'm aware within the dream that the hill is far higher and steeper than it is in reality, but it is yet not so high as to make it as dangerous a feat as we make it out to be. I go first and get down easily. [There is much affect and imagery that I'm forgetting here. I can almost feel/see it, but not quite; something about neighbors, etc. on the street above and people down below.] I see a mailman driving up the road. He's not the regular mailman, but a special delivery guy. But I realize that he's delivering regular mail, later in the day, that the regular guy missed, because there is incompetence and confusion at the post office and they have to put this second mailman on the route to help straighten things out. I realize that the guy is heading up to my street. Cut to:

Back up on my street: The mailman goes down to the end of the street and turns around, delivering previously missed mail in a haphazard way. On the way back up the street, he stops, heading in the wrong direction, gets out of the truck, and carries mail to my mailbox. I get the mail and go inside. Among the normal letters and flyers is a bulky yet flat 5x8 envelope that contains dried soup-like ingredients, sort of like a stir-fry, which is, yet, not dried, but has been semi-prepared (partially hydrated and cooked). Slim is with me. In fact, he was with me earlier (though I didn't really notice him, but feel him now in retrospect; and, in a sense, he was then db). I go into the dining room and open the food envelope. I mumble something about how the food may need to be cooked more. I pour the contents into a bowl and give it to Slim. He starts to gulp it down, saying as he does that it's not fully cooked. I say, I just told you that. And, by the way he's eating it, I know he doesn't really care if it's cooked or not; but I ask him anyway, Do you care? And he says no. I don't find it at all amazing that a dog can talk, not even after I awaken. In fact, I kind of take it for granted that my dream images talk to me, because I see no real difference between them and my waking fantasies--except that I have more control over the fantasies. And yet, in my fantasies, animals don't talk, whereas in my dreams, they talk all the time. I'm thinking that maybe I should make my fantasy animals talk. It'd be interesting to see where that would lead.

Dreams, apparently, according to one theory [which is controversial, though I suspect that is only because other researchers and theories may feel that it threatens their precious work; in my mind, dreaming is such a complex process that it leaves room for all kinds of theories to exist at the same time and be correct, because dreaming is probably all of the things they say it is, and more], is the way we process our daily experiences, categorizing them, giving priorities to that content that we wish most to hang onto etc. It is, I suspect [and this is my analogy, not that of the dream theorists], like defragging your hard drive, except that your hard drive is exhaustible and (usually) unerring, while your mind probably does a far less complete and far more biased job. I can see how me being Chandler Bing in the dream is a processing of my daily experience; but what about that talking dog? And what happens to all of that other material that I accumulate during the day that never shows up in dreams? I guess it's in there, though, somewhere, disguised; or forgotten.

psychological investment

Pin your ear to the wisdom post.
Pin your eye to the line.
Never let the weeds get higher than the garden.
Always keep a sapphire in your mind.
Always keep a diamond in your mind.
Tom Waits, "Get Behind The Mule"
I write about what I encounter, internally and externally, at the time. And I rewrite according to that same criteria, which intermixes the past and present in a way I like.

I want to get every way I want to write combined together into a single, concise procedural document, so that I have an outline I can conform my haphazard work to.

I've written about this so many times before than I wonder why I bother. I have a large collection of "procedures" in a file that I have just all but finished collating together.

It's a big accomplishment, but I still don't quite know how to use it, because when I write a book (I call my novels 'books'; because it makes more sense to me), I always start without it.

Once you (or at least I) start a book, once the basic format is set and the content begun (collection initiated), it's too late to backtrack to try to force it into a pre-conceived mold.

You (or at least I) must start out that way. One of these days I'm going to do just that, start out with my now all but complete procedure for including everything I want in a book.

But by then there'll be a whole lot more rambling facts collected that I will first have to collate, and after I'm done, I'll have already started several books I want to finish.

This is the way my whole life goes: I'm always just barely not catching up with myself. This is what I'm doing now, catching up old journals. This is what I always do.

Eventually, I get everything about one area of my life caught up; but, by then, several other areas have gone back into disarray. I want my life to be about only one single thing. But it isn't.

I have to "warm up" to the idea of doing most things, especially events that involve social interaction (commitment to appointments, parties, etc.), but even tasks that I set for myself, independent of social concerns. This warming up period can take days, weeks, or even months (and occasionally years), a part of the (lack of) motivation for which is the fact that I will experience "down" modes when I won't want to do any active tasks and so turn to more cerebral "activities"; and a part of which is caused simply by the fact that there are just too many tasks lined up and, in any given period of (semi-) motivation, there's no way I'm going to get them all done, so why do any of them?

I have a "life(style)" method [another procedure; I (try to) live my life via concisely written and re-written procedures; but this one is a bit different in that it actually (more or less) works, depending of course upon my ability to focus by excluding distractions and/or the degree to which I am able to get enough restful sleep--which might be two ways of saying the same thing]:

morning: writing, stocks, e-mail, online odds and ends
afternoon: walking/exercise, reading, garden, art
evening: music, projects (and, of course, tv, dvds, fantasy)

When this doesn't work, per se, that is, when I become distracted and/or schedule-disrupted (which is fairly often, such as when my sleep schedule is not diurnal), I can still make it work, if I can become well rested in between bouts of working at it:

I can either do the first things first, rest for a while, do the next things next, etc.; or I can, when I first arise, do whichever group of tasks corresponds to the time of day they should ideally be done and then, after a rest, backtrack and catch up on the tasks I skipped, such as when I get up around noon and go out immediately to do garden work [because there is a window of daylight time when gardening can be done, and it changes with the weather (e.g., in the hottest part of summer, it's in the early morning or late evening); whereas there are other tasks that can be done at any time of day or night--except that some of them, writing for example, to be efficient and most creative, must be done immediately after getting up and having a cup of coffee]; then nap and recuperate for a while; then write, etc.; then rest again; then whatever.

But, usually, I don't work in either of these ways. Usually, I do one or two sets of tasks and then give up for the day, not only because I feel that I've at least accomplished something productive, but also because I've worn out my motive and/or energy reserve, and recharging the reserve fails to re-motivate me, when it's late at night, for example, and I can't have another cup of coffee until morning.

And some days I do very little at all, completely de-motivated (and in pain). It's such a shame when, like today, your accomplishment for the day is drying and preserving the half ounce of hops you gathered the day before and then sitting down at the computer to read old journal files.

I'm looking back over my notes and realizing that it was only five weeks ago that I was out in the yard digging four twelve foot long trenches for the various cucurbits. When I'm in pain, it seems like it's (been) forever, a permanent condition. And when the pain is excruciating, like it's been now twice since the first serious incident, it seems like it drags on and on when, in fact, it lasts at most for ten or fifteen minutes, when, during a period of bed rest, it subsides for about an hour, through an irritating and then nagging but tolerable pain, back to the dull ache of the everyday chronic condition that I know how to live with fairly comfortably. So, that means my recent difficulties have lasted in 'excruciating' mode for less than an hour total, and in 'nagging' mode less than three hours over a course of far less than a month. But, during one of those brief periods of time, I feel like I am totally screwed and permanently incapacitated.

For over a week (actually longer, but for a week fairly consciously) I've been using the reason that I can't cut the weeds because I'm afraid I'll cause myself more back pain. But I want to think that it's been more of an excuse than a legitimate reason. I really just don't want to do it. Meanwhile, the weeds continue to grow and I don't have much lawn left, which is okay with me. I could let it all grow up and make excuses for it (such as I don't want to cut between the raspberries until fall for fear of disturbing the new raspberry growth; apparently, it's a legal reason for not cutting down your grass and weeds, despite local laws to the contrary, if the weeds are intermingled among crops), except for those goddam sassafras suckers that are beginning to develop into trees. At a minimum, I have to get rid of them.

So, two days ago, I bit the bullet and managed to trim the small lawns out in front of the retaining walls on either side of the driveway; and I felt it in my back, but not too badly. Then, yesterday, I trimmed the entire cucurbit patch between the four rows (spaced six feet apart). I wanted to get it done before the vines get too long and ultimately prevent further weed whacking. And then, after I came back inside and sat at the computer for a while, yep, you guessed it: back attack. Back to bed. I guess I have more unconscious wisdom than I realize. My excuses are in the process of becoming valid reasons. Or are they merely self-fulfilling prophecies? The former, I think; but, then, look at the psychological investment I could be protecting by believing that. My mind is a mountain of sapphires and diamonds that I mine in order to raise enough capital to go on thinking the way I do:

It just popped into my head then, out of nowhere, lying there in bed, why watering gardens at night may be bad for the plants. Previously I had argued that that old axiom was ridiculous because how could it be any different than rain at night? But I recently read that, during dry weather, there are molds in the air that settle on wet surfaces and establish themselves. (I don't know why the molds are there at night and not during the day; this may be a flaw in this argument or there may be a reason for it.)

So why don't experts explain this instead of dictatorially stating that watering at night is bad, so that we mere amateurs know why we're doing what we're doing instead of blindly following the advice (which anyone who knows me knows that I hate doing, submitting to authority). Or could it be that the "experts" don't know either and are just parroting what they've been told?

one step ahead (and two steps...?)

I'm good at parroting. It's what I do. It's even a part of who I am, a symptom of my genetically-determined differently-abled mentality; but I seem to do it only occasionally now, I did it so much more frequently in my past. (I guess that's normal, though, learning being what it is and proceeding so much faster in youth than in age.) Mostly, I parrot the news (because it seems to be my biggest input source these days, alas), but I always try to add my own two cents; in fact, for this venue, if I didn't have the cash to add, I wouldn't bother to report at all:

Yahoo! Alerts Sunday, July 15, 2007
LOS ANGELES (AP) Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles apologizes to hundreds who claim they were sexually abused by clergy in the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese.

Oh, well, that's okay then, since you apologized. I watched the news conference. It wasn't so much an apology as it was a lame plea to wipe the slate clean and start over again, a public relations event worthy of the best of our politically correct, best-game-face, best-foot-forward corporations. Put the best spin possible on the facts and let's move on. Through the behavior of its clergy and its official representatives, the Catholic Church has proven to me that they are no different than any other corruption-ridden postmodern organization, an institution thoroughly enmeshed in the culture of the times, not at all poised to lead people into the future, but following the worldly crowd. The pope is a CEO, nothing more. And his theology is an anachronism.

Musharraf rules out U.S. strikes in Pakistan
Fri, 27 Jul 2007
Reuters - Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said on Friday his forces were fully capable of dealing with al Qaeda militants and dismissed the possibility of U.S. forces taking anti-terrorism action on Pakistani soil.

Musharraf has been a good friend of America; and, although his forces may be capable of dealing with al Qa'ida militants, they do not--at least not in any way that attempts to inhibit them. But neither Musharraf nor the U.S. is going to admit that the leader of Pakistan is essentially powerless outside of his central enclaves, in the tribal regions.

Yahoo! News Tuesday, July 31, 2007
TOKYO (AP) Officials say Japan's embattled agriculture minister has resigned amid criticism of the government following a major election defeat.

In Japan, government officials tend to resign in an atmosphere of criticism, shame, and self-effacement; in America, they tend to resign in order to spend more time with their families.

Yahoo! News Monday, July 30, 2007
LOS ANGELES (AP) San Luis Obispo County prosecutors have charged a transplant surgeon with prescribing excessive drugs to a disabled patient to hasten his death and harvest his organs.

Uh huh. And you want me to go to the hospital?

Doctors thought the strange, bleeding bumps on Aaron Dallas' head might be from gnat bites or shingles. Then the bumps started moving. A doctor found five active bot fly larvae living beneath the skin atop Dallas' head.


After a specialist told him he might have shingles, Dallas tried different creams and salves. But the pain only got worse.

A specialist no less. This is a perfect example of why it can be not only frustrating but also dangerous to rely on the medical establishment. It's great for emergency trauma; but for less immediately life threatening problems...

Fortunately for this guy, the specialist got it right on the second try. But often they do not, and patients be can misdiagnosed (and mistreated) for years, even eventuating in or even causing their deaths.

I wish I had all of the money I spent on doctors who never did anything for me, not even bother to go as far as inform me of the conditions I had that they knew goddam well they couldn't do anything at all about except give me pain pills for.

It pisses me off when I read about celebrities and dignitaries (rich people in general) being admitted to the hospital to have some routine checkup or procedure; and then the media reports that they are doing just fine, thank you.

Because they can afford a kind of exhaustive medical care that I cannot. They can deal with any minor irritation. Today Bush's colon underwent a routine inspection and five "unworrisome" polyps were removed.

If I can't afford to be inspected and have five "unworrisome" polyps removed, why should Bush be able to? Well, because he can afford it, that's why. So, then, why should I care about him at all? Just another elitist.

Let the Sun Shine
We live in a nakedly transparent age. Anybody can find out an awful lot about you or me with a click of the mouse. Not so in Washington, however, where the mechanism for releasing information has all but ground to a halt.
David Carr, New York Times
For News Media, Transparency Is a Matter of Trust
The news industry should work harder at exhibiting the same transparency about how it operates that it demands from public corporations and all levels of government.
Alicia C. Shepard, Chicago Tribune
Bloggers Take Aim at City Governments -- and Hit Home
Citizen journalists and bloggers have stepped in to fill the local government watchdog vacuum, reporting on stories which rarely are covered by newspapers or other traditional media outlets.
Jonathan Abrams, Los Angeles Times
Local News You Can Refuse
One of these days, a local newscast is going to wise up and instead of dumbing-down its newscast, it's going to smarten it up. Isn't one of them willing to try something radically different, like putting together a professional newscast?
Phil Mushnick, New York Post
Why don't these Washington people, who are supposed to be so smart, realize that, when you don't reveal the truth about yourself, lies rush in to fill the void? This, then, suggests a way to flush the truth out. Spread ugly gossip in the area you wish to know about and then sit back and wait for the evidence against it to come pouring in. I could do this right from here (though others with a far larger forum would get better results), not by actually lying, which would leave me open to charges of libel, but by couching the lies in rhetoric such as, perhaps, asking questions or writing something like I'm writing here, giving an example of how I would do this sort or thing, which is likely as not to get picked up by the rumor mill sans these qualifying remarks (which is how all rumors get started, via sound bites): e.g., a rumor claiming that so-and-so political candidate for president has been accused of having, whatever. (It's not a lie. Of course s/he's been accused. This claim is an accusation.) If the lie gets legs, the candidate must reveal whatever proof refutes the lie.

The same can be done with news dignitaries. (Yeah, that right. We're all thinking about the same person here.) This practice, especially the one that asks probing, though unfounded questions, begins to empower local, non-institutional reporters (aka bloggers) who can appeal to a "higher level" of audience than the commercialized monocultural media now do because the mainstream media believe that the majority of their audience are backward semi-citizens who can't understand complex, complicated (i.e., non-black-and-white) news when you "talk up" to them. (Either that or they see their role, not as informers, but as peace maintainers who should not disturb the status quo too much for fear of a revolution that would threaten the corporate hand that feeds them.) Sooner or later we "dummies" are going to catch on to the distain that the local (and national) media hold us in, and then look out. Then they'll have to figure out a different way to twist us to their agenda. And they will. Because they don't have to con us forever and completely; all they have to do is stay one step ahead.

And, finally, re the news that North Korea is going to comply with demands to disable their nuclear capabilities, I guess that Bush will be taking credit now for eliminating the North Korean nuclear threat; but I don't see how it's such a great diplomatic victory. To me, it seems a lot more like having given in to extortion.

I'm using my "down" time to catch up on e-mail newsletters, which I transform into text files on my PC, copy to floppies, and transport into the bedroom where I can read them on my laptop while lying flat on my side in bed. (It's no easy trick, but it works if I position myself at exactly the right angle.) And, being in bed most of the day, I am, of course, getting a lot more sleep than usual. I wish I were as enthusiastic when I am well rested as I am when I need sleep. Sleep, in a way, both motivates and mellows me (though in another way, it stirs up demons in dreams that taunt me still after I awaken); whereas staying awake beyond the point of needing sleep makes me speedy and wanting (yet not wanting and forcing myself) to do more (a dangerous mode now, what with my tendency toward an irregular heart rhythm, but it used to be the way I got lots of things done in exhaustive marathon work sessions).

And, of course, I'm watching a lot more stupid tv, like The X-Files, the stories and plots of which bore me to death. They're the perfect background material to fall into sleep to, with the additional benefit of provoking interesting dreams. But I love the characters of Muldar and Skully. I wish they would make a movie with these two characters that had nothing to do with the X-Files. I've seen dumb and badly made movies with Duchovny that I've loved, simply because he was in them. And I'm sure I'd feel the same way about Gillian. So the two of them together...

There are times (when I'm not in pain) that I know I can live independently, apart from the monoculture. I know, if I only would decide to do it, that I could live without tv; although I wonder why I should when broadcast tv is free; but maybe next year when the conversion to digital happens... And I now know that, if I absolutely have to, I can live without a car or even without having to walk to the store (although I do like doing that--when I'm not in pain), having researched bulk food purchases online and realizing that, taking advantage of free shipping policies on large orders, I can buy wholesale wholesome foodstuffs and whatever else I need to survive nearly as cheaply as I can buy processed foods in stores. The only single problem I can foresee is my computer. I'll have to get a backup, because I can't buy a new computer or parts online if the computer breaks down and I can't get online. Maybe I'll get a new laptop that is internet capable. This old one is getting kind of ragged.

And, being bedridden most of the day and night, I've been watching a lot of Oprah: On one episode, Dr. Oz says, "A minor medical procedure is something that's done to someone else." And he says that ten percent of patients get a second opinion and of that group thirty-three percent get an opinion that differs from the first. To me, this verifies my experience that doctors, generally, don't know what they're doing much of the time and, when they don't know, they guess rather than simply admitting that they don't know. Which is perfectly human; but I don't want to put my life in the hands of someone who is going to act like the rest of us assholes. I want a doctor whose ideals are so high that he or she is unlikely ever to make mistakes or misdiagnoses; and the best chance of accomplishing that is to admit it openly when you don't know what you're up against. As long as doctors continue to guess, as a matter of routine, as a matter of professional "ethics" even (not to mention as a way to save face or avoid financial losses), I prefer not to have anything to do with them. That way I don't have to worry about whether they are going to threaten my life. You've heard of "suicide by cop"? I wonder about "suicide by misdiagnosis." How many people unconsciously choose to end their miseries by placing unwarranted trust in doctors? (Just a random wandering thought that popped into my head, not really relevant to the preceding text.)

You can't trust doctors, and you can't trust politicians. (Actually, when you come right down to it, you can't really trust anyone, even, or especially, yourself. This is really all projection.) So, here's a politico-financial axiom I just came up with: Anything that a government official or bureaucrat or a corporate executive or representative says is a lie. This may or may not always be true; but if you assume that it's not, sooner or later you're going to get burned. So it's better to act as if it is; sort of like why most people believe in a religion):

I have (a) faith in (a) science of (the) internal mind. A few weeks ago, when I was experiencing the worst of the excruciating pain, I asked that inside part of myself, which I conjecture just might be "God," to help me, to take the pain away and show me what to do, how to live my life. And, eventually, it did. Or was that all just a coincidence? No matter. I shouldn't forget it, either way. Just in case it might be true, that beyond my mere and sometimes rather lame and helpless conscious awareness there is a part of me that controls matters. It's an odd sort of petition that I might call prayer, except for the inherent blasphemy. I can't seem to bring myself to pray to what very well might be a fictive God existing within a realm of superstition; but I can pray to myself, if that is what it takes. And it might very well be true, besides. I've long been aware and had many personal experiences of the raw, unbridled power of the unconscious mind. And if it turns out that my "God" is just another fiction, after all, well, that's not so bad; better me that some alien force off in space somewhere.

epilogue: googling

Catch up, cats and kittens.
Don't get left behind.
Paul McCartney
Sometimes I think I've created some totally original phraseology only to find that many, many people have used it before me. Other times I'm searching for something that I think should have been used by many people only to have the search engine suggest that I remove the quotes from around the phrase, which may be too restricting. This is how my life proceeds: I search for originality and sometimes find it in the what I consider to be the most mundane of places; and what I think of as originality in my own mind turns out to be commonplace. This is the height of incapacity, I want to think. It's worse than being stuck in bed in pain, it's being stuck in your mind and discovering that the ordinary world is in there with you determining everything you think and do, when you want to be different and know you are but just can't discover quite how and then it turns out that the way you are different is in the very ideas you have that makes you think you are the same. Because life is circular reasoning in its best (re)formulation. In order to be capable, you have to fit in; no one is competent at what he or she does alone. Or if they are, so what? Who cares? Incapacity breeds capacity in some kind of mysterious way than no one comprehends, when society tolerates (many, but not all) incompetent people in jobs and then turns around and fires competent people for social reasons that have little or nothing to do with their work. When we adopt the way that others think, we align ourselves with others' minds and so set ourselves up to be both the same and different by readying ourselves to move ahead, out of the status quo and into advances that the status quo will soon catch up with and incorporate. It's good to stay one step ahead. The incapacity lies in being too far out, so that you have to come back and remain there for a while, to catch back up. I'd rather it be the other way round, that society advanced at lightning speed and status quo people were the ones who needed to remain caught up. But that's an oxymoron, isn't it? Or some kind of a moron. But maybe it's just me. I think I'm starting to go stir-crazy here. I need to get out more.

Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
1. By the end of the summer, the count was up to eleven. But I have no way of knowing if any of the first five had found their way back here from their exile four miles away. (But I'm certain that the last six are not repeats, unless they re-manifested themselves as ectoplasm to haunt me from their graves.)

2. I find it interesting that I am plagued with two problems that are abbreviated with the same letters (Asperger's Syndrome and Ankylosing Spondylitis). Coinicidence? Probably. I'm not a numerology or Cabala kind of guy.