Clockwork Duties Done

It’s such a small goal I’ve set for myself, just four articles in four weeks.

When I was fifteen, I stopped doing anything in school which didn’t resonate with my instinct. This included many homework assignments. I am an extreme case of total loyalty to instinct. I’ve finally given myself some homework here. There’s a deadline approaching.

As far as the quality of the articles, I decided that the most important thing was to have my heart in the right place. That means “due diligence” to the process even if the results suck!

I feel it might be necessary to shoe-horn the arbitrary stuff of my week into this article. There are only two ways to work on something, spontaneously and scheduled. I think I’m too old to continue relying entirely on spontaneity. My nickname on this blog is salamander, the alchemical toad immune to fire – a perfect image for what I’m trying to achieve, predictability in the face of intense pressure, so long as you are willing to grant the existence of psychic pressure, for in terms of external pressures I have none, except the gloomy uncertainty of my financial future.

My life has been entirely dedicated to the preservation of my genuineness. Yet there have been no instances in which such preservation has coincided with “making a living”. Thus the current situation. Like many people, I continue to have no correlation between “who I really am” and what I do to survive. I don’t have a way of pushing it out of my mind. Any islands of escapism I might flee to are either too small, or too close to the mainland to effectively provide escape. Hence this forced effort, the only real jusitification I currently have for my existence.

Not that I advocate justifying my existence. I have enough trouble justifying it to myself let alone to anyone else.

Each topic I might choose for the subject of this article instantly suggests ten ways to start talking about it, each way also suggesting ten ways. I only have two ways to manage this difficulty. The first is to pick a topic and say the first thing which comes to mind and continue until I have enough sentences to satisfy my idea of how long the article should be. The advantage of this method is that I say what’s on my mind, but the downside is that I can’t predict the direction it will go.

The other way, and the way for this article, is to choose for my topic the process of writing the article itself. I describe then with each sentence the situation I find myself in. This requires only believing that writing about writing is a worthwhile subject. Each new sentence adjusts my condition, creating the basis for the next sentence.

The main leap of faith is believing that the reader will want to read it. It’s better to be consistent than interesting. That’s basically what I’ve been wrestling with over the past week. For me it’s a huge temptation to try to make the parts of me that are interesting, “just a little bit more” interesting. But I’d rather learn to do everything I need to do, like a beast of burden, owning all of myself and hoping that my good side will be apparent of its own accord.

I think we all have to do this.

What I’ve written seems strangely incomplete. What constitutes “enough” in a situation like this?

I can say that I’ve found an awkwardness in arbitrarily picking seven-day intervals between posts. For the first three days I was excited and then I hit a lull. For Wednesday and Thursday I faced a deep emptiness. Whether the demons which appeared then are related to the seven-day wait itself or to my past associations with things like homework assignments and schedules remains uncertain. Still, the solution is to believe in being boring, believe in being consistent. That way I live up to my promise to myself while still not pretending to dodge the existential issues. The one in question here is “scheduled time” versus “subjectively experienced time”. Time is something we all feel to exist, yet modern clockwork technology divides time into sections far too small for our native understanding. Therefore 8 pm on Wednesday is not just “around” a certain time in the evening a few days from now, but a precise moment far shorter in duration than the time it takes me to wink.

Scheduled time destroys the serendipity of the moment, but such lucky moments are what I’m trying to abandon, because I haven’t had enough of them to sustain me yet. This is only a four-week experiment. In order to maintain my connection with my authentic self, I’m easing myself into the clockwork.

Nor have I any real skill at editing what I do. Hence the clunkiness. The whole thing is a tribute, a humiliation of my instincts in deference to the God of Time. But I need to pick up this skill. It’s more of an attempt to form a relationship than a total prostration. But to form the relationship I have to pay these dues.

Firday at 4:47 pm seems as good a time as any!

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Reliability

This is the first of a four-week exercise in which I write an article per week. I only thought of this an hour ago. If I committed myself to anything more than four weeks my knees would start knocking together and I would get really mad at whoever got me into this mess.

I’m not sure what this article is going to be about. But if I don’t start writing an article I will miss putting it up on what we all know is the ideal day to post a weekly article, Friday. Which leads me into this situation where I have to decide whether I really want to go ahead with this experiment in the first place.

The idea is this. I have been reliably writing in my paper journal every day for a month. I realize how effective the written (or typed) word is for communication, for keeping records, in the case of my journal, for psychotherapy. I’ve never been reliable in any self-conceived project. Yet part of the function of the journal is to exchange flashes of brillance for daily consistency. Because it’s private, the paper journal provides freedom for me to say whatever I want without the burden of editing the words for the public. At this stage, I doubt I could write for the public every day without becoming somewhat neurotic.

So I’m trying it every week instead. Once a week for the public, every day for myself. It’s the public extension of my reliability principle. I’m thirty-five years old. I’ve wondered for a long time when I would start doing what I need to do without being prone to flights of fancy – which flights of fancy are important in their own right, by the way – I’m not saying flights of fancy are a bad thing. But I’ve not yet met with success merely by following my intuition and having no guiding structures. And I’ve hit that point where my flights of fancy are no longer interesting enough in themselves to command my full dedication. I’ve finally have some dedication to spare.

This experiment is an attempt to split a bit of that dedication into the public sphere. And I apologize for not making this a very good article. I will spend the next week thinking of how I can make the next one better.

Yes, this is the first article. I know that it’s about the fact that I’m writing articles. If I had more time, I might be able to come up with a better topic. But I think that there is enough here. I think reliability is a very good trait to have. Strangely enough, though, it is ambiguously mixed up with the idea that if you’re reliable you must also be boring. In other words, since the 1960’s, the thing people have wanted to be, it seems to me, is exciting, new, interesting. The reliability of the typical family man of the 1950’s, well, it’s a mixed blessing obviously.

In other words, you should be reliable, but also flamboyant and interesting. I grew up with the rise of MTV. All those reality TV shows about young people show them trying to prove that they are different, unique, exciting. There doesn’t seem much room nowadays on such programs for the person who is just reliable, day-in and day-out. It’s still a good trait, but it doesn’t seem to be held up as a role-model.

I would also suggest that truly being reliable requires cunning and a great breadth of understanding. The world pulls at us from all different directions. That’s my goal, and I’ve started small. See you next week!

Physical Presence

Now when it occurs to me that it would be a good idea to write a blog post, it’s not the same as knowing what I want to say. Yet I could stare at a blank page for hours if I didn’t just up and write something. While it may get boring it is nonetheless better to begin. I’m not sure how much you want to know about my current life and times, but I don’t have anything abstract to say either.

Well, if you know me well enough, it would seem somewhat absurd to suggest that I have *nothing* abstract to say, yet my audience‚Ķ who are you? Where do you live? I would gladly give you something abstract to think about if I only had a better handle on who you were and what was the current source of your discomfort. In other words, if this blog were a “Dear Jane” column. As it is, you and I find ourselves here, in this cyberish space, and I have only the few of you I know to jog my mind into adjusting my comments to suit you.

Therefore, I continue on with the conclusion that it’s better to give you something than to give you nothing. In our world where community is a treasure of great price, I must assume that you’ll be glad to read what’s on my mind, even if in a more ideal environment you would get bored. But in such an envorinment I would not bore you, because I would be happily entertaining you with other things. Which is not to say that you’re not entertained now, just probably less so than if we were together in the same room.

Physical presence. I heard on a radio show that a psychologist realized that her patients wanted “physical presence” more than advice or anything else. Just to know that someone was there, listening and sharing in their existence. In the days before the telephone, physical presence was necessary to most of the functioning of life. Now with the internet, it would appear that we must deliberately engineer what in the past was gotten by necessity as a byproduct of other life activities.

The high goal of physical presence is nonetheless riddled with controversy. The high-profile cases in the news of sexual abuse speak to our culture’s subconscious exasperation with regard to the issue of physical presence. Warm, caring touching is very important, and even more important in the lives of growing children. Our monkey heritage is one of warm caring touching. Yet when we reach the age of puberty what was once simple is turned into an issue so complex that even our advanced society has not yet come to terms with it. How can we get touched without causing damage?

We must of course figure out the difference between loving touch and sex. Once the sex drive overcomes us, it’s hard to imagine any form of touch without sex. All those who remain uncomfortable with their sex drives will gladly project their sexual shadows, and thus we have a cloak-and-dagger society of sexual whodunnits.

It seems to me that the possibility of warm nurturing physical presence is currently marred by our cultural inability to figure out sex. I can vouch for this in my case at least – I can’t expel the sex drive, therefore I can’t seek ordinary touch without being overwhelmed by it.

The internet makes a large number of previously awkwardly necessary engagements obsolete by putting distance between the various people who would originally have had to meet in person to do business. Can’t blame the internet, though. Just feels weird that so much communication can occur without there ever actually being physical presence.