Upon Silence

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It's snowing outside right now. Little tiny flakes coming down and all around.

The city is oddly, eerily quiet, as if half the population of Manhattan had melted into the snow. Even on the subway, no-one spoke, not even the homeless woman asking for handouts.

I suppose that I'm breaking one of the cardinal rules of blogging, but that's OK. I have spell-check on. Thank goodness for that. As for any unwarranted rambling, well, you guys should be used to that by now.

One little known thing about the legendary drunk writers of the world is that they did most of their writing while stone-cold sober. Hunter S. Thompson wrote Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas on the straight and narrow (I know someone who wanted to go to a Hunter S. Thompson reading just to heckle the author; personally, I think that heckling someone who owns more than 20-30 firearms is a bit, perhaps, unwise). The problem with writing under the influence is that it makes it very difficult to concentrate on what you want to say. Or even remember what you want to say.

I had a point here?

There is something about silence that concentrates the mind. The lack of external stimuli makes one turn inwards, to dwell.

I'm a lousy dweller. It is too often an excuse to mope, to wallow; to not face reality (whatever that is: there are as many subjective realities as there are observers). I learned long ago to be able to deny emotions, like Prince Hal denying fat Falstaff. Why? Beats me. I could pay a nice gentleman $150 an hour to tell me why; a chaise lounge of green with little yellow crosses on it; a comfortable view of a cream-colored ceiling; and the calm soothing voice of authority explaining everything away. At the end of the hour, perhaps a pen skitters across a pad; little ovals of health and sanity in a little paper envelope to soothe, to calm, to restore.

As a sidebar, did you know (I'll probably get hate mail for saying this) that the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and serious clinical depression are suspiciously similar? A point worth thinking about, since no-one can seem to find a physiological cause for CFS...

A graying beard, large glasses, a passion for college basketball, and a fervent belief in the power of the talking cure. An avuncular man I once knew was fond of saying that knowing your enemy is more than half the battle.

There is a long-standing trope in legend and fantasy that knowing the name of something could give you power over it. Norse legend, Arthurian tales, and the like. Tell not the little people your name, ere they will bind you to them forever.

I once believed that. I once believed that knowing what ailed you would let you rise above when the time came; you would answer the call when the call came. Now, I'm not so sure.

Naming something, identifying the problem, that does not fix anything. All it does is give you labels to work with. That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet; that which we call a dragon, by any other name would be just as difficult to slay.

Some people like to be scared. Horror movies make millions every year; Stephen King is the best-selling author of his generation. Why? A jolt to the nervous system, making them feeling more alive? A way of facing and conquering fears?

There is a book called House of Leaves, wherein the main(maybe) character buys a house that's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. When you buy something, you control it, you have domain over it. Yet the man who buys the house is fascinated by the endless crooks and crannies and by the never-ending stairway in the main hall. The house, a living, moving force, controls the man. He goes down the stairs, into the labyrinth, and loses himself there. And the reader, reaching through all the layers of narrative, starts to loose his (or her) bearings, wondering if there is an objective truth at the bottom of the staircase. The ultimate effect is profoundly unsettling, a literary reminder that all is not always what it seems.

We feel, as a species, safe when we are in control of things. When we don't feel safe, we feel fear. I was taught in school that there are two instinctive reactions to fear: the fight or flight reflex. But there is a third way. Fear can be paralyzing. It can root you to the ground, make your body betray your brain.

What are you afraid of? You are afraid of what you can't control.

And now I'm back on that couch, green with yellow crosses (or is it yellow with green crosses? I can't tell, it keeps flipping back and forth, a negative intercut with the positive) and that voice, calm, soothing, and avuncular.

And what can't you control?

It's all a facade, a mask, the tears of a clown. You can do it too. Wear not your heart on your sleeve. Cheekbones up, squint the eyes. Smile! Smile! Smile! Powder your face with sunshine!

It's dark out. That's to be expected. It's 3 in the morning, and the snow continues to swirl down, flitting in and out under the streetlights, and the city that never sleeps slumbers. And back here, back behind the greasepaint, it's hollow.

I'm trapped in here, stuck, running around with no way out in a circus tent with no way out. And then the man with the gray beard and big glasses gives me a word.

The word is big and green and heavy. It looks vaguely pop-arty.

You know what I can't control. But I do it anyway. Because I'm afraid. Because I can. Because it's easier this way. I told you that this much introspection is bad for me.

I have, realistically, 50 years. 60 if I win the lottery. And then the neighbors will bang on the door, complaining about the smell, and the super will open the door and a half-starved dog will jump out.

See? I'm doing it again. Writing around the problem. Thinking around the problem. Clever allusions to Shakespeare and Dean Martin and Helen Fielding. Dancing around, the devil playing the fiddle, and the flames shoot ever higher.

It's that darn super-ego again. For someone so relaxed, why do you have such tense muscles? To think, to sort things out. But sometimes you can't sort, can you?

In that book, when the man goes down the staircase, he takes his identical twin brother with him. And he loses his brother. He loses himself -- half of himself -- in something he can't control. Is this what you fear, losing yourself and not being able to find it again? And then you ask: who are you? Really? The unexamined life is not worth living, but is the life worth examining?

A gray man in a green - no, not green - gray shirt in a gray world living inside his head and afraid to come out. On the subway he smacks himself in the head again and again and again and again and again and no-one sees him as he sits perfectly still.

I would like to...

...but what if...

And the perpetual cycle continues, and then the scrawny dog jumps out at the surprised super and the neighbors step back from the smell...

I name you. But I cannot slay you. Not yet. Names give power.

And the avuncular man with the gray beard puts the watch away and asks me when I will see him again.

Why? What have we done here? I don't see anything. What I see is what I can't: face what bothers me. Sixteen hundred words of wandering around the topic at hand. Years of experience at avoidance. No, don't talk. Everything will be OK. But nothing ever changes. And change is a constant. The super-ego has won, reigning triumphant, oddly clad in blue and red spandex with a yellow mask on, like a mutant Captain America. I can't even face up to reality while BUI.

Playing for a draw is boring, but it works.

That depends on how you define works. Never forward, never back. And life slips through your fingers for fear of closing your hand. Awkward, halting, shy, stammering, there's a young man in here somewhere who's bitterly disappointed by the fruits of maturity. No great blossoming, no great metamorphosis; just stooped, thicker in the wrong parts and thinning on the other wrong parts. Different years, same shit.

The green and yellow lounge has a silk cover, and it is in the middle of Columbus Avenue, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny flakes of snow drifting down though the night and gently covering it. A car passes without making noise.

You are weak and you are powerless. Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Why is a bowl useful? Because of where the bowl isn't. Think of the bamboo and the oak tree.

There are ropes binding me to the chaise, under the dim yellow street lamps, under the snow swirling down.

I think too much, don't I. It's what I'm good at. I evade, I duck, I squirm. It's what I'm good at. I don't like the other things. I have seen that road, and I have walked it, and those long dark years I don't want to see again.

The man with the gray beard smiles. And he snaps the cap back on to his pen and stands up and walks away, a phantom in the thickening snow.

To wake, perchance to dance.

4 TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://paulfrankenstein.org/MT/mt-tb.cgi/6

Some good stuff I've stumbled across recently that I think you might like: James Rummel's excellent series on buying surplus Read More

In Upon Silence, Paul Frankenstein hints that perhpas he's got a touch of the blues, and rather poetically dances around what he ought to do about it. I feel for him. Paul, you'll get through. A shrink is an acceptable route. Read More

In Upon Silence, Paul Frankenstein hints that perhaps he's got a touch of the blues, and rather poetically dances around what he ought to do about it. I feel for him. Paul, you'll get through. A shrink is an acceptable route. Read More

Hello! from A N O M A L Y on February 12, 2003 3:46 AM

...And welcome to everyone who's coming from Blogs Of War! Feel free to poke around and stay awhile...Enjoy! Hrrrm, lots Read More


Why will you archive this under love and sex? Does that have something to do with the issue you're avoiding?

1) Those suffering from CFS are usually aware that they are operating underpar and usually express a desire to get back on their feet. While those suffering from depression are usually not even aware that they are depressed, or if they are aware, they are not capable of the desire to improve. CFS seems to stem from the body whereas depression comes from the mind, though it can manifest in the body. This is a major difference between the two.

2) Naming something doesn't necessarily make it suddenly easier to fix that which you name (though sometimes it can). The purpose of naming something is so that you apply the correct fix to the correct problem. If you don't know that it's a rose you suffer from, then how do you know how to fix it? You don't want to fight the rose any more than you want to water the dragon. But until you name the rose, then you don't know that it's watering that is to be done next. Your grey bearded friend says knowing your enemies is a huge step. It is. But the mistake is in thinking it's the only step when it is merely the first. This doesn't have to be dispiriting. There can be a relief in finally naming something because then you are capable of doing something about it. You fear what you can't control, yes? Well, how can you control something when you don't know what it is? Naming it, knowing it, is the first step to taking control.

Very interesting.

Take a chance Paul, find something worth the risk of closing your hand. I'm rooting for you.

Gosh. I'd say "cheer up", but I think you might have (temporarily) forgotten how. I'm also thinking CFS isn't the culprit here.

I wish I could help you out, dude. I don't know whether to offer you the name of a good therapist, some good ecstacy, or a good coming-out group. But one of them's gotta work for you, so if you figure it out, lemme know, and I'll try to help you claw your way back out of the pit.

Goodness, Paul.

Find the doc.

Have a good time at the party tonight.

You manage to maintain consistent prose while your system is saturated by hydrocarbons.

Most impressive.

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