Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The slow solitude in time

"Wisdom is one thing. It is to know the thought by which all things are steered through all things."

Steering down a road, on my way to pick her up from a long night working, and thinking long thoughts about old things I never rid from within. But I am riding and listening to the jazz amaze me. Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man." My god, have you ever heard that before? And the main dialogue in my mind between the One and the Other is the conversation I hear alongside the other voices, cliques in the cocktail party murmuring about past loves, new confusions, old habits, future dreams.

I used to go by Polemos. Struggle or war, womb-father of the gods, king of all. So they say. Conflict and opposition is something I am very familiar with. It's not always been by choice that I stood out or collided with the views and values of the people around me. It's not always been by instinct that I felt contempt menace. I learned in a squeezing kind of way how lubricious I am when so many people want to crush me in their grip. There is an attraction to strife, and mine is constant.

I don't know what I go by now. I go by many names, and former students going from 'Rozier' to 'Charles' as they become close friends and share in the struggle remind me that intimacy finds its names. So I don't worry about that. I do wonder about strife a lot, though.

I drive really slow nowadays. It's not just that the Prius works optimally at slow and moderated velocities, but driving gives me some time to think while in motion, and driving fast takes away from this experience. Other times, I am very much down for fast driving and the experience of handling a large vehicle. The consciousness expands to fill the space of the car. It's a great experience, and I'm not denying any of that. I'm just saying I like to do my thinking slow when I'm working over very complicated subjects, and I do not know a more complicated subject for me than me. That's not to say I'm the most complex person, the most fantastic, the most interesting. It's to say that I very much understand my own philosophy when I say that Pascal is right to say the heart cannot be known by reason through reason's own insistence. It is an endless mystery, inscrutable abyss, dark void, a nothing within me who exists as my very core self. And it speaks to me with wonderful words about how much I am in love with my complement, she through whom I first met the god, the skysisters. To think about all of that story takes a capacious mind, and what better way to expand the mind than to drive on a North American Interstate Highway, with all those long straight lines out to the infinite point on the horizon, at midnight against a dark, moonless night? Darkness on the inside or the outside, the color is just the same.

Civil war in man between reason and passions.
If there were only reason without passions.
If there were only passions without reason.
But since he has both he cannot be free from war, for he can only be at peace with the one if he is at war with the other.
Thus he is always torn by inner divisions and contradictions.

Pascal gets a lot of things right, and I see where he is coming from in this. But I think he and I also agree that life after the switch is freedom from war, and being at peace with both reason/one and passions/other. It's in embracing the contradiction, the embrace of teaching all truths, that this war fades away into something quite different.

I'm trying to work out in my mind how old conversations stir up so many emotions now, and why certain slights obsess me more than others. And since I know that my frustration and my pique is likely caused by some perceived slight to my ego, then I know that the reason why the one wants to obsess over a few words is to protect the ego from a challenge to its supremacy. It's not practicing submission. It's holding onto something that I need to let go. And this is something I am hiding from myself because to admit it means having to change a large part of the story so far about who and what I am. And since these kinds of sincere soulful conversations demand a high level of honesty with the only person who knows when you're lying, and honesty about your faults is not a cheap cognitive activity, then I'm driving slower because I am fighting a war within myself. Not a war of reason against passions, but against what exists through them as myself.

It's not too important what the specific old conversation was. It's humorous, on this side of the drive, but back then it was bothersome for how it bothered me. The upshot is that I did work it out, and I did gain experience, and I did reach a new level, and I changed one of my titles. It was a good drive.

But the thing about driving on the Interstate Highway is the speed. The speed limit is 70. I'm going along at 57 mph, cruise control. Georgia has a code section giving prima facie, sort of, license for Georgia drivers to go up to 10 mph over that. So, people are driving around 80 to 85 mph. I am in the slow lane, but that's not good enough. I create a bottleneck as plugs of cars come flying along the road, and those battles are so severe.

There is a war on the road that's not named, has no beginning, has no end, has no victors, since it only ever exists inside the minds of drivers so long as they are driving in the public space. There are no terms or truces for these drivers fighting that war. Every where they go, they are in that war. Every road they turn off from and turn onto is a road at war. And the road is only ever for them one lane or the other. Sometimes, you might say, there are roads with more than two lanes, like the larger highways. True, but notice that the drivers all still think only in these terms: the lane I am in, the other lane. The other lane is quicker, slower, crowded, open; the other lane is the one they are going into or coming out from; the other lane is a means to the true lane I want, the other lane I am not in. It is always one lane or the other because a car, just by virtue of being constrained to the rules of these humanmade roads, can only proceed in either this lane or the other.

And this lane is either a shit lane or the best lane. That other lane is either a shit lane or the best lane. Getting ahead for some people is the true goal, and any lane will do to get there. Holding tight to one lane is more important; staying in the left lane is more and more common. Speed and constraint makes for frustration if there is no inner spirit of submission to the boundaries set in the physics of the highway. And since this frustration is not recognized for its inner and outer geography—since we're not really trained anymore to look at frustration as a type of metacognitive failure, but instead think of it as the inwardly justified response to external oppression by X, treating frustration not as an epistemic problem open to correction through humbled reasoning but a feeling immanent to the self, even for some people becoming their defining identity—it just simply does not occur to a lot of us to slow down, let everyone pass, and get back to the living flow. Now when I'm being followed very closely by someone who just does not pass me but instead drives dangerously close to my rear, I pass them on the left or the right by decelerating enough that they pass me. As they lack the conviction to overtake me, I show conviction to be surpassed. Go on ahead. We'll see each other at the end either way.

You can see the metaphor, can't you? Pascal has this way of seeing extremes and contradictions. To him, our contradictories appear as opposing poles, opposites ends of a magnet, or a globe when we are close to them or struggling inside them, but if we were to take the perspective Jesus takes of it all, what I argue is a point at infinity, then from that point the opposite ends collapse into a point, an infinitesimal against a backdrop of nothing but empty space.

Those drivers get frustrated, get to changing lanes fast and accelerating through the plug, and try and leave their frustrations behind. But since they are all clustered at the same speed and passing one another, falling back and overtaking, being passed and staying clustered, they never leave any of their frustrations. They just make things worse as all that time spent angry with people who cannot respect one another reinforces in their own minds, since the highway and those clusters of cars are their surrounding geography and frame, how the world's road are in a long and sustained war. Clueless and The Matrix trilogy both reinforced this subtlety about the roads; you can think of your own examples where the metaphor has that twist: Road Warrior, The Road, The Antiques Roadshow. I kid, I kid. Political decisions, theological ones, economic choices, social commitments: one lane or the other.

When everything is moving at once, nothing appears to be moving, as on board ship. When everyone is moving towards depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops he shows up the others who are rushing on, by acting as a fixed point.

But I find in this moment as the cluster surges past and through me the bottleneck towards their future, which is also my own future, a peace come back nestling and comforting. The darkness returns from all the blare of headlights and taillights, and the jazz settles back in to exploring the interplay of silence and beat, note and stillness, soft and tender instrumentals working together to make their individual sounds clear and distinct.

And I am left alone, with no contradictions, no frustrations, no worries, no anxieties. I am alone in the darkness, in the void between the trees, between the neon gods of the marketplace and the religionspace, between my skin and the sky. And there is nothing about this moment that frightens me or horrifies me. My contradictions are resolved. It's all the same thing to me. People think what they want about me, but my complement loves me, and she is the one who knows my vulnerabilities and pains, joys and rage, and she loves me. That's a great thing. Certainly to the frustrated and angry, I am quite the wretched thing, an annoyance and a bother. I'm both of those things, great and wretched.

Yet, I am on my way to pick her up from a long night of working, and I have a long story to share with her and learn from her, and I know that I am not really alone at all. Because the void through which I am is the same void in her, in you, in all of us.

It's through nothing at all that we love one another.

And that's exactly what's hard to accept for so many of us.


  1. Just wanted you to know I was here, and I read this, and you're wonderful :)

  2. Fuckin road metaphors. Ok Cormac McCarthy.


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