REPORT A PROBLEM
On the resolution of balance #2:
Here we are again, on the cusp of a perfect world although many will recognise this place, having past here before as part of a regular circuit. This is history repeating itself, and we have become no wiser or braver since it last came around. The questions must be asked again, whether this is a natural pattern re-established that we toy with at our own risk, or does change need to happen before we are doomed. In this time and place, do we go forward or backwards or is this the feared event horizon?
I would like to draw your attention to how language tightens and loosens, acquires cadence that overwhelms listeners, even when the content is empty, repetitive, and emotionally manipulative. If you come into a conversation mid-way, without context, you can easily fill in the intent and direction using these tonal cues. In the current over-conscious political arena that fills the news, we don’t need to hear arguments, sift through evidence, or follow a party, all we need is to hear the protagonists obfuscating, defending, haranguing their opponents, spouting rhetoric, to know that this is comedy dressed up as drama.
Micro-elements of life: the habits and routines, the activities that intermingle with what we actually remember of what takes place. We have muscle memory, prescribed and routine actions that automatically synced into place and make it possible for us to lift above out of doing into being. Occasionally we review our default behaviours, usually to find a cause or to search for and eradicate a weakness, and this focus lasts for a short time. But this micro-linked mesh of consciousness that is subterranean, cannot be reasoned with. Attempting to change while maintaining everyday life unaltered, we fail before we start.
No-one has time these days to hone their reading skills, to pre-read, revise taking notes, to cogitate and summarise findings. Everything is done at once. This fast consumption style has flowed back into the writing. Writers know they have control of the flow, the order that facts are absorbed by readers, and to reinforce the message, they use repetition, a practice not only accepted, but readers lose patience if it is not provided. With writers force-feeding readers and time-poor readers coasting through the content to get the summary, there is a greater need to concentrate and become a skilled reader.
I often follow a string of logic in my head to a point of nexus only to look down on my notes again and be struck by a note that takes me right back to the beginning where, as if no thought had occurred, no progress made, my mind empties. Such is the case with a note I scratched from an article in the Wall Street Journal: freighted moments. I had mostly convinced myself that I was reading a typographical error in the article, yet each time I see the note an arcane drift of logic sends me to reconsider.
‘Sorry for the delay. I was ten, wasn’t it?’
Bustling down the corridor Kevin arrived, bearing an armful of papers. He opened his office with a well-practised hike and lift of his burden and waved me to an empty chair.
‘Do I need to forgive you?’
Not the response he was expecting. The genial expression, complete with dimples, wavered as he looked directly at me over his glasses.
‘Shall we get started. Just let me put these papers down and we can be on our way.’
There is an art in delaying, a science in making people wait. I waited.
Having spent most of the day on activities bracketed by extended periods of waiting, I feel frustrated, unproductive, stagnant. This begrudged time has grown inside me into a misshapen solid that shift and turns into various dimensions, planes and angles. I could lift this daily composite, balance it aloft, weight it in my hands at the end of a busy day. Filled with tapping toes, general tidying, other menial tasks like rolling up string I attempt to stretch my patience over these gaps where time leaks out. Lost time is measured mostly by how little has been achieved.
He was looking forward to going out but while dressing became distracted and had still to find his shoes and clean socks among the piles of clothes on his bedroom floor. When he heard the call from his mother expecting to leave immediately, he relayed through the closed bedroom door, using deep sighs and grunts that made up his daily contribution to speech, that he needed more time. He recklessly flung clothes about searching even as his eyes gazed longingly on the paused computer game and his sighs came to resemble the call of a lovelorn moose missing its mate.
Today I am hesitant; the choice of what to write today seems more prophetic than on other days. Today has a tension, a fission, carries a spookiness, as if something is changing. Although that is not what I want to say, that implies a separation from or moving on from. Today there is a weight of significant, a sense of entanglements hidden from sight that are pulling strings, entrapping and wrapping the present into a pure and inevitable event. But that too, is incorrect: purity is similar to truthfulness these days; tainted as it leaves the mind to become real.
I wipe the kitchen benches as my son put on his shoes, envying his “just-in-time” strategy. He does just enough to look like he’s moving, never enough to be the first one ready, and always complains when I tell him to hurry. Is his criticism valid, that I nag? It is something I have done since he was a child: I complain when I am in a hurry and he is last out the door, that he doesn’t do anything until asked, that I am always waiting. We could play the game of being last, but who has the time?
We are more than patterning thinkers, we are classifiers. Depending on assignment to a classification and how activities are grouped, the classes of behaviours that fit into one classification or another, they are tied up with social values. By falling into one group or hierarchy gives a behaviour or feature social kudos. The social values are part of what makes that behaviour recognisable. Take sitting, for example: sitting was a behaviour owned by the rich, the leaders and rulers, the managing classes. The expected behaviour was that workers did not sit to work. Now that sitting is unhealthy, anyone can.
Why does the expression ‘believe you me’ strike me as disingenuous? It is empty of meaning; being emphatic doesn’t make me believe the speaker. I am reading a very bad crime novel, not quite the worst book read recently, but devoid of merit. A friend asked why I keep on reading books I don’t like and the answer is, so I can work out what makes the writing so bad. Unanalysed reading will be led others to repeat the same mistakes. Off-stage two dead bodies are found, yet nothing happens. The angry, unsympathetic narrator rankles. Who cares what she wears?
Semester starts again and I want to leap into the work, tear it up with my teeth, shredding down to pulp the mass of information and turning it to a slurry, prior to digestion. And what does the process of digestion involve? I extract facts and clues, features and strands of thought that have weight or trigger interest, aerating these so they float to the surface like bubbles where they are squeezed, juggled and enjambed close together until meaning squeaks out. A game like tessellation, weaving together word strings, to create a context where these odd facts lock into place.
Life as documentary #21:
Vehicles as a metaphor are underutilised, yet this aptly describes the workings of modern politics and diplomacy. Under the hood of politics, secure and discreet, are the mechanical parts running diplomatic relationships, the engines that drive politicians into action. As observers, we see only the seamless behaviours of actors who have practised their lines. What we don’t see is the oil that silences internal moving parts, the petrol pumped in to produce urgent motion, the rumbling gears and pistons. All we see distracts us from noticing the barrier-lined roads of political policies we are taken down.
‘We want you to step back from words and find your centre. Tap into this core and respond to the sounds, what you feel and smell; experience the world in a primal sense without preconceptions and assumptions, absent of rules and conventions. This is a safe place.’
He is wrong about me: for this hour what I need to do is turn off my instinct. I want to show I am civilised and sociable but when he speaks, I want to reach out and clock him; just a small tap, just to shut him up.
‘I’m up for a challenge.’
The word, “fritted”, describes a quality of glass that gives it texture or presence, the purpose being to alert birds so they can avoid flying into the glass-fronted faces of buildings and dying. Another suggestion was to embed glass with images in wavelengths that birds see, but the human eye doesn’t. And this second solution made me think how fauna, and maybe even flora, see the physical world in greater detail; see more gradient colours and depth filling the shapes. Humans made glass to frame views, to look out from; and we are also liable to walk into clear glass.
An exercise in images, to train the eye; the assigned task is to evoke a shared understanding, to represent signs and symbols that can be shared, that have the same meanings among people of a culturally resonate cohort. So, we are tasked with providing images that are ethereal and grotesque among others. To the cohort brought up on television and cartoons, play stations and video games, any image extracted from their daily consumption of viewing would encapsulate both words. When did vampires become both ethereal and grotesque? And why can’t I call on this congealed trope for my response examples?
One point on the horizon represents the future. There is where you will be standing if you follow the straight path you are on that leads you past many distractions and diversions, directly to a single point on that distant edge and from there you will see another future spread out before you like the parkland of Eden or a promised place of peace and plenty. With the contraction of perspective, you see on the horizon a convergence, a narrowing to one point, a physical dot; indistinct, yet a real place. And all paths lead to that isolated, lonely spot.
I would like to consider the expression, “… to draw or get a bead on (something),” and its riflery or shotgun derivation. The bead, located on the end of a rifle barrel, helps a shooter sight when firing at a distant target. The negative, “… couldn’t get a bead on …”, also draws a gun-in-hand image yet, as a metaphor for confusion and complexity, can’t we do better? When using bead to demonstrate a lack of clarity, I picture people with guns pointing in all directions and not finding a clear target to shoot; which is quite disturbing.
Little did she know, at least that is what everyone had always told her, but she would prove them wrong. Observing life, Kelly saw that when decisions were made, one strong opinion could sway everyone to follow. You had to catch everyone on the hop and then push on before they had a chance to re-think. If they thought about who was giving the advice, then they would likely stall, like horses shying at a hurdle. She needed to get them running at full flight as if they were being chased before they saw the leap they had to make.
The evidence of experience #20:
Waiting is a constant part of life; somehow it is always in the mix. The problem with waiting, what makes it most frustrating, is its uneven distribution and how frequently the most organised wait the longest. In reviewing activities in any expended day, waiting can consume significant periods. Even when a productive activity is performed in lacunae moments, in the voids when transitioning or commuting, the felt experience is of time wasted. But, when time is lost waiting due to the inattention of loose-footed, spontaneous fellow travellers, no time can be redeemed and rage results.
Saturday coffee as I give myself space to slowly turn on my mind and approach new thoughts, I am overwhelmed by conversations left and right and the banality and superficiality of what I am hearing; the jargon and ritualistic expressions, burdened with the emotional tonal emphases layered over the content. I wonder how much this loose and unconscious language is reflected in the written language of these speakers. Everything said is references to something else using “like”, the speech is sprinkled with “literally” and “absolutely” and “so’s”, stretching out the tent of their arguments as if with pegs and guy-ropes.
Can I just jump ahead in time? Moving forward on this same parabolic trajectory, formed by actions in the past, seems to be the only possible option. And then, can I paint the future? There is momentum enough to assure an increase in upward and forward motion and few if any vector forces in the vicinity that might intervene and alter the accelerating path. Of course, there is entropy, but I treat that as I do gravity: by acknowledging and defying where the tendency might work to suppress or subvert my intended flight; by maintaining energy output, overcome any resistance.
Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed beside the lake, as evening falls. The context is apt, on the weekend of the Multicultural Festival when disorder and magical forces abound; where the spirits and superstitions of cultures far distant geographically and across eons are brought to life. For many, it is an opportunity to drink different cultural renditions of many beers and eat sausages, roasted and fried foods on sticks, and walk around dodging pushchairs filled with fretful young, watching mothers pinch snotty noses with forefinger and thumb, then wiping their hands clean on the child’s hair under buoyant, bouncing balloons.
Numbers don’t lie, but they can be deceptive. The bills are paid and I have money in the bank; I should feel comfortable and secure. What I feel is the weight of a tsunami racing up behind me. Logically I know I have plans but they do not reassure. Waiting to destroy me are the “unknown unknowns”, I quake even at the “known unknowns”. It is like running up a sand dune where with each step I slips further down, drawing down with me sheets of shifting sand. With the tsunami chasing behind me, I need to reach higher ground.
Even as I know the conventions and rituals of social niceties are just paper tigers, I rile when these rules are breached by others. I wait politely, leaving room for those moving around to navigate past me without hinderance: I form an orderly queue and wait. My fellow “waitees” – those who rocked up and the same time – seem to expect to be served instantaneously. They milled around randomly, became obstructions, created chaos and disorder. This motley crew, irritatingly flicking their cash cards as evidence of the money they want to throw about, merely basked in the attention they are drawing.
It started raining as she watched her umbrella spiral away, caught up in a sudden gust that had whipped it out of her hand, and she ran to shelter under an overhanging ledge where she felt the rain running into her shoes. She had carried the umbrella for months but, who really needs an umbrella? Her feet would still be getting wet if she had held onto it, and she probably would have pushed onto her meeting with the wind throwing everything at her and gotten wetter. Just as the storm had freed her umbrella, it had aided her escape.
Here I am, running flatfoot on the language front while researching the picture plane. Worse still, I cannot use words to convey meaning: the assignment focus is on communicating using 2-D images. Without words, I am floundering. My camera use is inexpressive, my hopes clouding selected scenes, obscuring my implied meanings. And who is to say what will be taken from the pictures, what shared understanding is embedded. Light and image have serious limitations; we are free to assign different weightings and relevance to what we see. Meaning resides ultimately on the context and state of mind of the viewer.
Students critiquing the abilities their teacher is endemic. They are critical of technology that is so new that students are should be grateful to have it, yet they criticise teachers who do not seamlessly manage these technologies, teachers who bravely hurdle the barriers as early adopters. I am not talking about content; I am talking about the staging tools that make virtual and digital presentations available. When did students expect high production values in what is really a short-cut? If they had to turn up to listen, if there was no digital access, would they have the same critical eye?
The Tip Jar