The very bearable lightness of being

skateboard wallpaper - royal

skateboard wallpaper – royal

A day or two ago, I saw something I’d never expected to see: a young man riding a skateboard … using his crutches to propel himself along. And it instantly put me back in touch with something I’d scribbled down the day before, whilst reading a novel called Ru:

“He had stopped time by continuing to enjoy himself, to live until the end in the lightness of a young man.” (Kim Thúy)

I am not a young man … and thus no longer immortal. Whenever the pain from the osteoarthritis gets bad, I have a mantra: “My feet kiss the earth.” It helps.

But I’ve taught myself something that helps even more: whenever I find myself bracing my knees and hobbling along stiff-legged, I have learned to relax my joints and saunter instead. I’m not saying every step is pain-free, but it sure feels better. And I whisper my mantra. And I smile.

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NOTES:

Thúy, Kim. 2009 [Copyright © 2009 Éditions Libre Expression]. English translation Copyright © 2012 Sheila Fischman. Ru. New York: Bloomsbury.

The skateboard wallpaper image comes from: http://www.wallpaper4me.com/wallpaper/Royal/

My title is a parody of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a 1984 postmodern novel by Milan Kundera. The story takes place mainly in Prague in the late 1960s and 1970s. It explores the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society during the Communist period, from the Prague Spring to the Soviet Union’s August 1968 invasion and its aftermath.” (adapted from the Wikipedia article)

Signs of the times

caution wet floor sign

caution wet floor sign

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Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. (Ambrose Bierce)

A couple of days ago, I went into a Burger King outlet. The winter sun was shining and I fancied a soft-serve ice cream. Between the entrance and the counter, there were two yellow signs … and not a drop of water anywhere I could see.

Since the day I observed customers (several years ago, and at another Burger King outlet) tripping over a similar sign, I have developed a bit of an attitude to these ubiquitous objects.

At the counter, I handed the young man a one dollar coin and launched into something of a tirade. “Nothing personal,” I assured the BK staff member, eventually. “Now I’d like an ice cream, please.”

“I’m sorry, sir, the machine is off for maintenance,” said he, handing me back my cash.

Although, as Ambrose Bierce points out, I will regret my angry outburst until the moon turns to blood, the unfortunate truth is that it was far from my best speech.

What did I learn? I learned that my upset about this matter goes way deeper than I’d recognised – so deep, in fact, that I was unable to articulate my grievance cogently. There may be a connection with a life-threatening childhood accident … but I’m not going into that right now.

Yes, I think these are, literally, signs of the times – memes, if you like – that utilise ready-made templates within which we are invited/expected to formulate our communications.

I do not believe such signs signify that companies care about my welfare; it seem more likely that they are seeking to minimise their exposure to litigation.

PS: I hope nobody gets hurt tripping over one of the signs.

Original? … What’s that?

questionable?

questionable?

Do you realise that virtually every syllable you utter – and pretty much every word you write – is plagiarised (you got it from elsewhere without acknowledging your sources)?

Most of it you cobble together from formulas, habits, hearsay, automatic responses, gossip, and memes.

So much parrot-talk. So many malapropisms. So much bad grammar. And (worst of all) so many clichés!

You couldn’t be original if you tried.

Nothing personal.

Just saying.

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The image? Dunno … off the internet somewhere.

What I want to write

More often that not, these days, I sit down to write … and slam into a massive brick wall. No matter how much I write, how long I write for, how well I write, it won’t end up being what I want to write.

Please notice: I didn’t say “it won’t end up being what I wanted to write.” We always end up writing what we wanted to write.

Sometimes, as I’m reading a book, I realise it’s a book I wanted to have written. But I’m hardly likely to find a book I want to write – those books remain unwritten, until I have written them.

The books I wish I’d written evince from me a sort of admiration, or possibly envy. The books I want to write are still only vaguely envisioned, imprecisely defined, insufficiently formulated … or is it simply that I don’t have the courage / temerity / balls to write them?

Knot of pain

Two inches above my navel
lies a knot of pain,
identifying itself as
‘promise unfulfilled’.
Under pressure, it divides:
to the left lies ‘envy’,
to the right, ‘regret’.

Two inches above my navel
lies a mark, a target,
the measure of my inadequacy … 
which may be seen as
‘potential unexploited’.

Nothing new here; this is an undated poem I uncovered a few days ago whilst preparing to move to my new apartment. Although I recall writing it, I don’t remember anything about the circumstances.

On the other side of the paper, there’s something relating to a music project I was working on, which suggests that the poem was written in the late 1990s.

The knot is no longer there.

Free to choose

Not comfortable —
an incurable malaise.
It won’t get better.

Disillusionment —
anything but satisfied.
Find something to do.

Reality and
meaning … purpose, destiny …
it’s all invented.

None of it matters —
yes, we already knew that.
So we’re free to choose.

The whispering voice

Your world is made of your memories, and your memories are given to you by your world. The whispering voice of happenstance is always in our ears. ‘This is the world. This is the way things are. Look. Pay attention. Remember.’ (Real Live Preacher weblog, 25 May 2006)

My current writing project — a document with an intended readership of one — is more a personal ‘manifesto’ than a ‘memoir’.  In recording my memories, I’m interested not so much in getting to the truth of what happened in my past as in reviewing my opinions of what happened (see note below about Epictetus).

The words of the prophet Isaiah (30:21) resonate here: “and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it; when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left.”  Many of the Judaeo-Christian commentators I have referred to are keen to interpret this variously as the voice of conscience, of the Holy Spirit, or of the Bible itself — eg, Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible: “… it seems best to understand it of the Scriptures of truth, the word of God, the only rule of faith and practice.”

To me, that all seems like somebody’s got a rule-book and they’re trying to use it to gain and maintain power over me … Not what I want. Not what I need.

The Zen masters remind me that “Things are not as they seem; nor are they otherwise.”

Something Neale Donald Walsch posted on Facebook today hit the mark for me: “God needs nothing to occur except that which is occurring. Life needs nothing to occur except what is occurring. This is the nature of things. This is how it is, not the way you have imagined it.” (Neale Donald Walsch)

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Epictetus taught that “What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them.  It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.” There are some worthwhile quotes from Epictetus here: http://www.get.gg/epictetus.htm

Every thesis is … a prosthesis

“every thesis is (bands erect) a prosthesis; what affords reading affords reading by citations (necessarily truncated clippings, repetitions, suctions, sections, suspensions, selections, stitchings, scarrings, grafts, pastiches, organs without their own proper body covered with cuts, traversed by lice)” (Derrida, 1974: 168b).

Long before the word mashup was coined, I was already a masher. My recent series (which started out a mini-series) exploring possible approaches to the reading of sacred texts (the Bible, especially) is something of a mashup … I acknowledge, too, that Derrida’s description is entirely warranted.

Those posts are — as their painstaking bibliographies might have signalled — fragments of an actual thesis (submitted in 2002). Having nothing at all to do with reading the Bible, my thesis offered a deconstruction of what was at that time labelled “the Digital Divide”.

Deconstruction enables us to contest the nature of reality; in that sense, it is akin to pure science. But it also permits us to invent and fabricate alternative realities — to see visions, dream dreams, narrate parables — and I don’t know, but I suspect that’s what we’re here for.

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Derrida, J. 1974. Glas. Web page — part of the Hydra web site, designed and edited by Peter Krapp — “This Forum © 1996-2000 Peter Krapp” — http://www.hydra.umn.edu/derrida/glas.html — accessed 27 February 2002, but now defunct.

A Wikipedia article, Glas (book), gives an apt but brief description of the work. Amazon lists eight used copies of the paperback edition, priced from $176.76.