“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” ~ Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Loch Maree, UKby Tobias Richter
Loch Maree, UK
by Tobias Richter

                   

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday afternoon. Rainy and cold, 44 degrees.

Technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, technology allows us to connect with people all over the world at any given our of any given day. We can share what is going on in a country at war with itself in real time. Consider the Arab Spring. We cam share a sunrise on the other side of the world via real-time posts of photographs on networks like tumblr or Facebook or Twitter.

Isle of Skye: Talisker Bayby Tobias Richter
Isle of Skye: Talisker Bay
by Tobias Richter

Yet for all of its benefits, technology also serves to isolate us. I am speaking, of course, from personal experience.

It is so much easier for me to correspond with people in the various circle of my life via text or e-mail or comments sections than it is to get in the car, drive, and visit someone in person. For isolationists such as myself, this is not a boon. By making it so easy to maintain virtual relationships it has also become so easy to abandon real-life relationships.

What I am contending is not anything new or groundbreaking, but it does help to answer some questions that I’ve been pondering, namely, how is it easy for me to stay in the house for weeks at a time? That, and have I become boring?

Technology answers the first, and probably the second.

“I am infinitely strange to myself.” ~ John Fowles, from The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Bollhagen, Germanyby Tobias Richter
Bollhagen, Germany
by Tobias Richter

Perhaps I should have prefaced the former by saying that today is a bad day. I am now officially out of my antidepressant; my health insurance is in limbo awaiting reinstatement after we catch up on premiums; Corey is becoming more sullen with each passing day that he is not working or hearing from prospective employers. Granted, he is still officially employed, but he so wants to move to a position that does not take him away for 90 days at a time, so this time his hiatus is quite different from the last time.

Nevertheless, he worries, as do I, and both of us fretting makes for tension. Between my health insurance, the mortgage, and the utilities, our income is being eaten before it materializes. Neither of us wanted to be back in this position. It is far too stress-inducing. The term “financial cliff” is more than a metaphor for the nation’s current solvency, and that is unfortunate. At least we don’t have to have a super majority vote to rectify our personal cliff, which, I suppose, is somewhat of a comfort.

So yes, today is prickly. I’ve had Patty Griffin’s playlist running for the past couple hours, prompted in part by Izaak Mak’s posting of the song on NCIS last night (see below). I love her voice, but granted, her songs are not exactly happy feet music. Of course, I don’t really like happy feet music, do I?

“The unknown is an abstraction; the known, a desert; but what is half-known, half-seen, is the perfect breeding ground for desire and hallucination.” ~ Juan José Saer, from The Witness

I had my military dream last night; the difference was that I was not in the military, but I had been chosen to teach a class to a group of soldiers, all female. The strangeness began when we boarded a bus that then became a boat of sorts. It took us down this waterway that was a graveyard for vessels of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. I was wondering how the bus was maneuvering through all of this without hitting anything when I suddenly saw a pile of skulls out the bus window. The skulls were bleached white from the sun.

Cuckmere Bay, Seven Sisters, UKby Tobias Richter
Cuckmere Bay, Seven Sisters, UK
by Tobias Richter

As the bus continued through the water I saw more piles of skulls, some small and some so massive that they were cascading. I wondered how the military could allow its soldiers to come to their final resting place in wreckage, and it bothered me tremendously.

I realized that I had never seen a real human skull up close, only in film, and the starkness of the piles tore at me, but I could not show weakness in front of these female soldiers. I asked for a cup of strong coffee and tried to shake it off.

I awoke with a massive headache.

“To find is the thing.” ~ Pablo Picasso

So back to my opening statement.

My world has extended far beyond the borders of this house or this yard or this neighborhood. Beyond this city or this region or this country, and that is something I have always sought—to be a child of the universe, per se.

Each day I peruse pictures of nebulae, coastlines, ruins, architecture, pictures taken with satellites and phones. I see things that I wouldn’t have had easy access to even 20 years ago. I find this miraculous really. I mean, I know what’s going on in Namibia, Queensland, and Reykjavik. And if I am honest, I must admit that by expanding my horizons in this way I have also expanded my empathic circle.

Isle of Skye: Neist Pointby Tobias Richter
Isle of Skye: Neist Point
by Tobias Richter

By that I mean, I care so much more. Let me back up for a moment. When I was young, a child only, I saw pictures of the war on the news and in newspapers. I saw suffering as it was presented to me through the filter of editors, publishers and producers. My first glimpse of a crystal blue sea was in a book.

Now, I access such information without anyone on the other side deciding whether or not it’s a good idea to put this image or that story out there for consumption. This is both good and bad. It is good as it allows us—all of us who care to—allows us to see what’s happening, but without the filter of an editor or a producer, we very often encounter those things that are extremely disturbing.

Without an authority figure out there to decide what is best for us, we can literally see everything. Is it too much?

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods.” ~ Lord Byron, from poem of same name (correction; previously attributed to Jon Krakauer)

I don’t think that this is the kind of discovery that Thoreau had in mind, and part of me yearns for simpler times, but isn’t that always the way that it is?

Regardless of how misguided you think Christopher McCandless was when he went into the wilds of Alaska, there is still something admirable about his vision quest when looked at simply: He wanted to be able to find his own truth without outside influences telling him what he should do or how he should think.

Isle of Skye: Trotternish Highlandsby Tobias Richter
Isle of Skye: Trotternish Highlands
by Tobias Richter

I know that in many, many ways, that is the same thing that I have always wanted. Yet here I sit, allowing so very many outside influences into my life, pouring into my brain images of this or that or the other. I seek this deliberately, and in so doing, I contradict myself.

My friend on Titirangi Storyteller posted a beautiful image of a lighthouse on a craggy island. I was immediately drawn to this image much like the image in the section above, immediately understood what she meant about wanting to live there. But to live there would be, essentially, to live without all of the accoutrement of today’s technology. I am certain there is no wi-fi on that island, no cable, no BBC America, no tumblr, no Internet.

It’s starkness appeals to me, but could I do it? Could I abandon these tethers for that kind of freedom? And if I did something like this, would it actually be freedom?

I have no answers, only more questions.

More later. Peace.

(All images by Tobias Richter, used with permission.)

Music by Patty Griffin, “Not Alone” (from last night’s episode of NCIS)

youtube=http://youtu.be/chU5b7bgls4

                   

The Moment

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

~ Margaret Atwood

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Treading Water in a Waterfall

Panchghat Waterfall 

Camels’ Backs, Quicksand, and Occam’s Razor

Treading water in a waterfall is similar to slow dancing in quicksand: No forward motion. Movement without gaining ground. Empty gestures. Hopeless endeavors that do not compel any sort of resolution or solution, only convolution, dissolution, disillusion.

Quicksand
Slow Dancing in Quicksand

When I was married to my ex, I had regressed to a point at which my life was balanced precariously on eggshells: One wrong move, and everything would come crashing down about my ears. His anger, always keenly beneath the surface, could arise at any given moment. The spectre of it loomed, clouded everything. The arguments grew exponentially in caliber and sound, until at last, I realized that neither of us could thrive in such an existence, and those with the most to lose—our three chidren—were powerless to effect a change.

It was not until later that I began to realize that this constant assault on my psyche had changed me in terrible ways. I was quick to anger, loathe to retreat. I would assess blame even when blame was not justified. And the most horrible aspect was that I was unable to forgive, to apologize and mean the words truly. Apologies had become a sign of weakness: I would never admit weakness.

It took years for me to learn how to apologize and mean the words wholeheartedly. It has taken what seems like eons not to blame everyone but myself, and at times, I think that I have flipped a complete 180° in that I am willing to blame myself for so many things.

These things are touchy, personal, private, perhaps not for general consumption, but they reflect my inability to see things clearly. For example, Corey’s desire to look at pictures of other women I blame on my weight gain, my feelings that I am no longer sexy, no longer desirable. The time that Corey spends on the computer I blame on the fact that I do not offer stimulating conversation, am not good company.

But what if Corey is just bored? Does it follow that he is bored with me? To assume so is pretty egotistic, to say the least. What if Corey spends so much time on the computer because he doesn’t have a job and feels completely lost? Should I not afford him that benefit of the doubt? These, too, are possibilities.

However, the anger that is boiling in Corey—to what do I attribute that? Is it me? Have I once again driven another spouse to distraction with my incessant bitching, with my neediness? Is this who I really am? Perhaps. I honestly do not know, do not have perspective. I have lost my true north. I feel as if I am traveling back in time to a period that is best forgotten. I feel as if I am being tugged, inexorably, to a situation that had no winners, only losers.

Dark clouds hangin’ over me
When will they go away ~ From “Cloudy Days,” by Alison Krauss

Wave clouds over Mt Pisgah NOAA
Wave clouds over Mt. Pisgah (Image by NOAA)

Corey and I have been living with each other for almost two years now without any kind of buffer, the kind of buffer afforded by a job, the kind of buffer that comes from not spending 24 hours a day with each other, the kind of buffer that is gained by having conversations with other adults. How people who are married manage to work together is beyond me. I have never viewed such as thing as a positive situation. Even when Paul and I both worked at the medical school, we were in different departments, on different floors. Eventually, we were in separate buildings. We did not see each other unless we wanted to. We ate lunch together sometimes but not always.

Some individuals have incredible patience and an ability not to be affected terribly by circumstances beyond their control. Admittedly, I am not one of those individuals. And while Corey is patient, I know that he is well beyond his acceptance level of the current situation and all of its ramifications.

Family is not supposed to be a 24/365 proposition. It was never meant that way. Even our forebears from ages ago did not live under such circumstances. Depending upon the region, either the male or the female went out as a hunter/gatherer, and the respective partner would stay in the village and care for the younger members, keep the huts maintained.

When neither partner in the relationship is the hunter or the gatherer, an imbalance occurs. One or both become obsolete. It can’t be helped. In a home in which the only diversions are the dogs, books, music, the computer, the backyard, how does one find amusement? Or enjoy what is now coming to resemble escape? Even Brett gets to leave the house to go to school.

Alternatives? Hard to find. Spending time in fixing up the house is not possible without funds. Funds are not available without a job, and so the cycle continues.

One of my favorite pastimes, taking long drives to clear my head, is also not on the list of available things to do. Long drives require gasoline. Gasoline requires money. Money requires a job. Again, another impasse.

And still another aspect of so much imposed isolation and confinement arises unbeckoned: differences become heightened. Currently, well actually, for months now, Corey and I have been having skirmishes over one particular personal preference, his, not mine. Neither of us is willing to yield.

My reasons for opposing this preference are many fold and to go into them would be airing Corey’s business to strangers. I don’t think that I should do that. But how do I get out of my system the need to talk with someone about this particular problem? The person I would normally talk to is on the opposing side. My other avenue for working through things is limited as I do not want to violate my spouse’s personal privacy. But again, at what cost to me?

I can say that my reasons are long-standing and result from situations in which I have been involved that were not positive. These situations all involved persons who were very close to me in one way or another.

I don’t like feeling as if my marriage is being affected detrimentally by this one issue, but I also know that just one issue has caused more than one marriage to fall by the wayside, whatever that issue may have been.

Do I compromise my personal beliefs for the sake of harmony? Does he? Wouldn’t that be disingenuous? What happens in a situation in which neither side is willing to give in to the other? Nothing good, that’s fairly certain. It’s not the Gaza Strip, but it’s our Gaza Strip.

Neither of us seeks for the conversation to turn to this onerous topic. Most of the time, we pretend that there is no elephant in the living room. But one of us will bump into the elephant accidentally, usually me, and then the illusion is shattered. We retreat to our individual sides of the proverbial battle line and wait to see what happens next.

Rain is in my eyes and I can’t see
Life’s become just cloudy days~ From “Cloudy Days,” by Alison Krauss

Anglo Saxon SwordThere is a term in flying called the point of no return. This is the point at which there isn’t enough fuel to turn back, and the journey must be completed. More and more, I feel as if I am flying straight into the sun to the point of no return. The heat is both warming and deadly, but I cannot turn back. To do so would be a betrayal of self. Although, part of me has been so beaten down by this issue that I feel myself willing more and more to cede in the name of peace. I wish that I had the foresight to know how to act in order to save everyone and everything.

Discretion may be the better part of valor, but discretion does not always invoke the truth. And I don’t care who you are: A marriage cannot survive on a lie.

Hence, I feel as if I am treading water in a waterfall: to what end? Too many times in my life I have felt as if the sword of Damocles was poised above my head, just waiting for me to make the wrong move. One horse hair’s breadth away from having the brief moments of happiness in my life taken away.

If I stay in the waterfall, my vision will continue to be occluded, but perhaps that is not such a bad thing as it allows me to delude myself, escape reality. Is my desire to stay in the waterfall motivated by my belief that eventually the water takes everything and washes it clean: pebbles, bones, beliefs? I have no answers, only questions, theories, if you will, that need to be pared down to the simplest terms if they are to be seen clearly. My Occam’s Razor.

If X = harmony, and Y = friction, can Z ever result in anything that can be counted on? If X²-Y²= Z , and X and Y are considered equal, then Z, my friends, can only equal zero, which is nothing at all.

 

 

More later. Peace.