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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Snowbound: A Change of Pace...


In honor of the amazing weather most of the country has experienced over the last week, I thought I'd post something a bit different -- a mystery, of sorts. Enjoy! (from Gizmo, the Corgi)

Last week, they found a woman’s body buried in a neighbor’s backyard. Granted, it was not a next-door neighbor, and it’s true I did not know her. Yet, I felt a grip of sadness blended with revulsion. Her children said they never liked the woman’s boyfriend. The woman’s mother said she knew her daughter loved the man who eventually killed her. The four-bedroom, three-bathroom red brick house in the once expensive neighborhood did not look like one where you’d find a body – it’s a mere mile away from multimillion dollar homes. But, that particular house (on a nice corner lot) had been sitting vacant for 8 months, and the ex-con killer was a “friend” of the owner of the house. Some friend. There had to be more to the story than met the eye.

When the huge ice storm rolled in, it came accompanied with thunder and lightning. Ice fell from the sky as flashes of light and loud cracks of thunder made an unsettling prelude to the foot of snow and inches of ice that would soon coat the entire countryside.

Electric ice.

The guys at the office building refused to clear the snow while it was still loose and fluffy; consequently it turned into an ice brick at least four inches deep in front of the doors, on the steps, walkways, and the porch.

Ah yes, and I was reminded of how much I love / hate snow and ice; it’s so lovely to see it pile up, and it’s nice when it’s so cold your nose burns when you inhale. Snowboundedness has its charm. It’s interesting to see how your mind goes into different nooks and crannies when you’re feeling contemplative, thoughtful, uninterrupted except by your compulsions to raid the refrigerator one more time and to run through the array of movies you can stream on and the latest youtube videos. It’s also nice to lose oneself in podcasts, especially the ones that tell us people’s stories. Revelations, confessions, unveilings: it feels as though it’s happening to me – I’m crawling through the dark, wet basements of my own heart. And still, the ice beats against the window.

We’re getting used to these rough storms.

We need a new narrative for the twenty-first century. The old political and economic narratives are just not working.

Could we say the same thing about the psychological and sociological narratives? Oh yes, I believe so.

The connectedness we claim that occurs with social networks is really disconnectedness. Don’t you see it?

Yes? No?

You read this and you think you’re connected to me, and I hope and pray I’m connected to you, but I’m really just connected to thoughts I throw out there to the cloud, to be (I hope!) ever-present, ever accessible. And yet, it means that they’re always out there intensely ephemeral and I’ll never really take possession of my own thoughts, my own essence – and I’ll never really touch you. I’ve lost that ability. All I have is the ability to envision the concept of touching. But you’re not really able to get into my heart the way you once were able to, and I’m not able to crawl deep into your nerve endings.

We just aren’t that raw any more. We have the soft armor of “the cloud” which keeps everything nicely phantasmic (isn’t that what we should, by rights, call the images we see, the noises we hear, and yet can’t really embrace … can’t ever really put our arms around their vital, beating hearts – all we get is this nice, infinitely echoing simulacra).

But there are some narratives that seem to be utterly timeless, even though we would prefer them not to be –the apocalyptic narrative, for one.

I was once loose and fluffy but somewhere along the way, started to melt, refreeze, then melt again.

The cold draft curls itself around the floor, the walls, the sliding glass door, which is surprisingly clear considering it’s 2 below zero out there in the cold, dark Tulsa night.

If I say I have real feelings -- I still remember -- what will you say?

I used to look at life in one way; then started to look at in an utterly different manner. What changed? All that empty space in the sky? I’m not entirely sure.

Emotional freefall.

I used to let myself leap off various intellectual cliffs, with little or no regard to the fact I might not ever come down. Groundedness was not something I particularly desired – to be weighted down without those soaring thoughts that took me out to distant planets seemed to be one of the saddest facts of consciousness one could possibly imagine.

There are still things I won’t tell anyone. I won’t share the night panics, the dark fears in the middle of the night, the refusal to let anyone ever enter my home or my apartment unless it was to clean, repair, or to go with me as I grabbed my keys, purse, and computer on the way to a road trip of the mind.

It was cold tonight when I made my way across the frozen street. I had almost forgotten the way that snow crunches when it approaches 0 degrees Fahrenheit. You take the chance to walk across the street with nothing but your wits and your ability to slide on wet, uneven ice that grips the asphalt.

This morning, I saw a man walking down the snow-packed side street, relief flowing through his eyes and his entire face. He had a 12-pack of Budweiser still in the plastic bag from QuikTrip. Did the blizzard have the unintended consequence of propelling addicts and alcoholics into unwelcome detox? I could only imagine the discomfort of cramps and hallucinations in the 3 degree pre-dawn hours.

Breathe in deeply even though the cold air burns your nose.

It takes courage to do what you’ve done all your life. You’ve examined your own thoughts with the idea of developing the ultimate “urtext” to knit together all those distant hot suns that twinkle like cold little nightlight stars in my heart and my mind.

You’re letting yourself think your own thoughts, listen to your own mind.

I’m not there any more. I prefer to let the workplace exigencies dominate my own narratives; in other words, I’ve become an approval seeker, and I have substituted the security of a predictable cause-effect relationship (customers want a product, I deliver it, they reward me with a pat on the back, and I happily eat the treat tossed my way) for the randomness and unpredictability of thoughts / emotions. I’ve learned to discipline my mind. I have learned to marshal my emotions. I’ve learned to manufacture “bliss.” And, I’ve forgotten how to be a human being.

In the early twentieth century, the possibility that we’d build robots that would eventually supplant and rule us was a terrifying possibility. We were, as factory workers, quite inferior to machines. Later, androids become not just more physically predictable but also more cognitively agile.

Then came the bionic men and women of the popular imagination.

Now, with our tools, we are already bionic. We don’t even need genetic engineering and medically engineered implants and parts.

It’s easy to think of ourselves as invulnerable as long as we’re on the inside looking out to drifts of snow and cold, dark skies.

But then, the frailties kick in. We get bronchitis. We get the flu. We pull tendons and we aren’t able to assert ourselves in the same way. Do we get kicked out of The Cloud? Do we become invisible, except for the false self that gets the most hits?

I’m not sure how to ask you these questions. You asked me if I’d come apart if you left me (died), and we both know the answer is “yes.” Is the fear of loss any reason to avoid being together? Yes, of course. That’s how it is these days. If things can’t be perfect, we’ll just stay in our web-surfing haze.

Obviously we need to learn how to enjoy the pain of our own humanity. I’m not very brave. So we must enjoy our lives now, no matter how trite that sentiment might seem. That’s what it means to be brave.

Despite the permanence and impermanence of The Cloud, you and I are neither permanent nor impermanent. We just run, run, run trying to outdistance the awareness of our existential condition.

And, well, I feel sadness for the poor woman whose body was buried in the backyard of a soon-to-be foreclosed house.

(note: graphics by susan smith nash)

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