I've dusted off high school, I think. I've come to love the form of the essay. Partly in thanks to George Saunders, George Orwell, Mark Twain, Daniel Pinchbeck, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Terrence McKenna, Tom Bissell, as well some of the live lit events in Chicago, I've discovered a peck in my tastes where the form serves as a fresh foray into the mind and experience of another. Like a documentary, yet through language play. High school, college, formal school in general can sometimes make us bitter to the form. The pressure of deadlines, grades, assigned topics that bore us, these things drive the idea of an essay into a negative crevice.
As I've played with various personal essays, though selfish and self indulgent, and a myriad of subjects that intrigue me, I find myself reminded of the power of it. Sparked is an obsession to continue exploring the creation of my own little essays in the coming year. Like the Roman dude in the Little Caesars commercials running around saying, "pizza, pizza!" there is a little writer dude in me revving me up with "essay, essay!"
As a quick call back, there are some posts here on The Igloo Oven that I am quite proud of, and would like to bring them back to the forefront for a tiny bit, so they're not digitally buried as time moves onward. In 2013 I aim to knock out more that I'm proud of, and hopefully an evolution of these experiments.
The end of times comes easy to our imaginations. Doomsday is ascribed to political discourse, relationship strife, petty incidents of inconvenience. Just the other day I accidentally dropped a hot dog on the floor of my kitchen and it was not a pretty scene. A rare hissy fit in the face of stress built from the day. The fiscal cliff fades to a joke as my rushed dinner rolls around in the mud I tracked in from the cold, December rain.
Here I am, December 22nd, 2012, writing. The end of the world did not happen. We may all be subtly both relieved and disappointed. Apocalypse is a cultural fantasy. It amounts to a wiping out of debts financial, emotional. All baggage blazed to ash. Start afresh in a new dimension. Though the prophecies were not taken seriously at large, I think most, if not all, of us can admit to thinking about the what ifs at least for a flash. I recently read 2012: The Return of Quetzlcoatl by Daniel Pinchbeck as a pseudo reflection. The book explores the origins of the prophecy through myth and various interpretations by thinkers on the fringe. My take away is: I hope this date does transition us into a new Golden Age where creativity, rationality, and good will can merge into a way of life that is invigorating, refreshing across a wide spectrum of social class, seeping into behavior and policy organically through a cultural shift in value. We’re all hungry for something better suited to all of us, and frustrated, because we still cling to old perspectives on how to solve problems, even problems posed by new technology that may not apply to old frameworks. A greater change may come our way when we all lay exhausted from ideological battle, and our interactions slip to the slap happy, and we decide we like it there better.
The evening of December 20th I joined a friend at his holiday party. Enjoying beer in the 11 o’clock hour I found that time had slowed. I had checked my phone at 11:01pm. When I felt like it had to be getting well past midnight and I should be getting on home, I found that it was only 11:17pm. When I then felt as though, shit, it must be passed 1am, it was 11:40pm. I wondered, hey, maybe this is it, the final hour, rolling time into a slowed tube of perspective, my last synaptic assignment of consciousness?
The next morning I awoke, December 21st, my commute was quiet, strangely so. Ah, a travel day for most with Christmas around the corner, easily explained away, though it had a flavor similar to the opening of The Walking Dead. I got out of work early, went home, read in my lazy boy until I felt sleepy. But it was an odd type of sleepy, and almost felt as though consciousness itself was just draining away from my cells. I once had a dream about the end of the world, where the universe technically expanded so far that it snapped apart, but instead of it being a violent experience, it was quite peaceful. Vision, sound, touch, all senses just faded as though the body was a biological movie projector reaching the end of a reel, no longer conducting the electromagnetic wavelength of experience. And it was actually beautiful. As I sat in my chair, feeling this ooze of sleepy, I thought on this old dream, and again wondered, is this how we go?
I awoke from a quick nap maybe 15 minutes later, though it felt much longer. Groggy, I got up and wandered around my apartment. It was dark out, the neighborhood still, my girlfriend not home from work yet. It had that feeling at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey where Dave existed as an old man in that white lit home. What was that feeling; mystery, relaxation and loneliness melted into one new sensation?
I picked up my phone to text her to see when she’d be home, but in looking at my recent text history I couldn’t find her name at first. And I briefly wondered if I awoke into a new dimension, and she had gone to another.
She arrived home 10 minutes later and my life went back to normal. The slow oozing of time squished back into the fast flow we’ve all grown used to. But the reprieve from being too tightly conscious of time as fixed rhythm, as I sensed in that hour at the bar, in the cat nap on my chair, is a taste of what we all may need to recharge our batteries, and help us recover from those moments where we feel so rushed from modern life we drop our hot dog on the floor and it rips doom into our tempers.
The Connecticut shooting earlier wrests a gnawing in my gut this evening, as it does with many of you. A truly horrifying occurrence and just imagining what the families and community members affected must be experiencing brings pain.
I do not believe there are simple solutions. Would tighter gun laws actually prevent something like this? Maybe it would help a little to slow a pissed off person from grabbing a firearm off a shelf. But someone warped enough to commit to a plan? Drug laws exist, but people find a way to get their hands on their desired goods. Someone hell bent on destruction can find a way. Arming teachers? Would a wild west shootout be a safer place for kids? Today's mass murderer killed himself in the end, I hardly think he'd be deterred by the possibility of being shot down. He had something dark to express, some awful impression he wanted to leave on the Earth, and so he did. Coming out unscathed, preserving his own life, doesn't appear to be on his malevolent itinerary.
Perhaps an armed good Samaritan could have limited the damage and limited lives lost, yes, but damage would most likely still have to occur before another would become fully aware that a danger needed to be snuffed. So it's not as though arming everyone is a full on solution to eradicating violence. Unless we were all trained to have ninja reflexes and catch every bad action at the slightest inception of the act...even Superman couldn't stop every bad thing from happening, and he had laser eyes.
And the Trayvon Martin incident? Gang territories? Could concealed weapons create more travesty as hyper sensitive and paranoid fellows try to prevent travesty?
The incident, its causes, its symptoms, its prognoses are complicated, and knee jerk solutions have their devil's advocates. This may not be a time for I-told-you-so's to be flung from either side of the aisle.
When these shootings occur the question is thrown; "why would anyone do such a thing?" But the perpetrator is explained away as a monster. They may very well be one. But how is a monster made? Cerebral anomaly? Demonic possession? Weeks after James Holmes went on his rampage we all seemed to forget about him. No psychological lessons lifted as to explore a social cure, an antidote to the atrocious. Perhaps until we dig deeper with this question, turning it on it's rhetorical back, we remain open for frightening repetitions.
It's easy to want to put ourselves on lock down after watching the news, to subconsciously write suspicion on other people's foreheads. We don't know them or their intentions, keep them at bay. But if we take it so far as to shut out and shut in, what cycles are reinforced? Sick stuff floats in the cold shock waves of alienation. There may always be bad people in the world, but at the risk of sounding like a hippie long since laughed away, a little social warmth may slow the poison from circulating, penetrating, infecting, and spreading.
The best course may really be to hold loved ones close, and not stop there, hold our communities close and make a deep mental note not to wait until events like these happen to remind the people around us that we're all in this, cruising through a flawed society, together.
The second day after I was dropped off at college I got plastered on vodka with some friends down the hall. Inebriated and lying on her kitchen floor, I was later informed I said to my new friend Hala, "you're so cool you could be your own planet."
I forgot about this laugh until a night last week when I got up to pee in the middle of the night and a bright light shone in through the glass-brick of the bathroom window. Thinking it was something out of the ordinary, a helicopter beaming down a search light possibly, a UFO, I opened up the vented portion of the window to peak out through the screen. It was the Moon. A bright ass Moon shining down.
I continued to think about that luminous body when I crawled back into bed. I started to think about planets in general. With many of these orbs screaming through space at high orbital velocities, with no climate or with a wicked and inhospitable atmosphere unsuitable for human life, I wondered what the fucking point of these celestial rocks were. Birthed by the condensing of pressurized particle, these beasts boast desolation.
In thinking about ghosts for a moment, suspending disbelieve, most accounts of haunt investigations point to spirit life being conducted through electromagnetic energy; high EMF readings, bodies of water nearby. A ghostly presence sometimes makes itself known through sound detected through devices capable of picking up a spectrum inaudible to the human ear. Or through cold spots, changes in temperature, or sudden bursts of object movement, fiddling with how our bodily senses perceive physical clues. An apparition is a rarity, utilizing tremendous streams of energy when it does appear. Different strokes of frequency for different quantum folks.
I began kicking around the far fetched and occult soaked without apology theory that perhaps any and all planets are indeed a locale for driving the energy of life. We're familiar with life forms on Earth and how we fit into the biosphere. I'm intrigued with a brewing notion I have that other planets drive life in different ways, on different planes, hosting hierarchies of spirit worlds that operate through a different wavelength of energy. The dense pressures of Jupiter and Saturn may crush human tissue but may be perfect for conducting the electromagnetic waves of a soul. The rings of Saturn may create the perfect gravitational force to draw such spirits. And let us not forget the odd hexagon that appears at the top pole of Saturn. Clean edges within a gaseous swirl are indeed perplexing to modern science, but may have causes and effects via different laws that would blow our mind. Oceanic or ice planets may conduct energy at different speeds than the gaseous giants and serve the cohesion of a type of soul we've never pondered before.
Though crisp, rocky planets such as Mercury, or the moons of various planets may have no atmosphere, they are particularly battered with a shower of radiation, which may lay the arena for a level of spiritual dance that our telescopes have no way of catching. Perhaps the ancients were more advanced than us, more highly attuned as they ascribed planets to the status of Gods, tremendous hosts to the concept of a soul. Perhaps my drunken compliment to my friend was an unconscious acknowledgement of this age old fact that planets, as Pythagoras once claimed he could sit in a field and listen to the sound of them, are electric stages for phantasm operas. Something may have been plucking Gustav Holst's psyche as he composed and orchestrated The Planets, beyond astrological homage, but a possible yearning from a non-local segment of his higher self, struggling or partying as a ghostly plankton bobbing the depths of Neptune.
Planets could be immense tuning forks of consciousness, not just as astrological tugs on us Earthlings, but as places in and of themselves a sort of radioactive, organic, decaying cathode ray tube-like, balled up matter to be receivers of beings.
And these burning stars, spinning hot plumes of radiation, these are the big leagues for the existence of the biggest, baddest, and most advanced of souls. Or, as we are a complicated species indeed, just because our bodies are smaller than a Red Giant, doesn't necessarily scratch us off the running for being the most advanced of incarnations.
These are fanciful, "spacey" ideas, but as I close my eyes at night and sometimes wonder about what the fuck is out there, how mind blowing space, time, the age of the universe is, and whether I actually have a soul that will outlast this sometimes polluted body of mine, they serve as exciting fantasies to put me at ease as I drift off to a dream-state, anticipating hypnagogic gradations of immortality.
As a lad, I used to dabble with music. I played the piano, violin, saxophone, mandolin, guitar, but I never went all out with one instrument, mastering chord theory and harmonics, etc. And I wish I did. Ever more I recognize the power of sounds, not just via sweet melodies or tones, but also in textures. There are some textures that are quick to get under my skin, for instance a car alarm, or my girlfriend's grating blender. Precise cacophonous sounds like these have the power to stop me in my tracks, and shut down my concentration in a deep, petty way.
Yet sounds also have that power to sooth, such as water lightly bobbing and echoing in a tub, and excite - food frying. And complex music can wash away a rotten day, the gunky build up of angst addled karma. Since we're in the throes of Christmas now, I think of Nat King Cole singing O Holy Night. That song will forever give me the chills.
And I wonder how exactly these sounds trigger us. They're like keys not only along the musical scale, but are buttons as on a garage door. Certain sounds are the pass code to unlocking behavior. Some combinations may work differently on the neural sensory pathways of different people. Some may not give a shit about Nat King Cole's rendition of O Holy Night and many may be un-phased when a blender is suddenly on and grinding at arrhythmic intervals.
As music and sound can be recorded with physical means, such as grooves on a record, or magnetically (tapes) or digitally, these electromagnetic waves can get themselves etched in our unforgiving memories, intertwining with other pathways. I must have had a splendid Christmas one year with O Holy Night as background music. Perhaps as a child I had a bad run-in with a blender, and so anger floods now when a blender makes itself known.
But I also stop to think about the potential of a collective unconscious sometimes, and how emotional reactions to music may not be so much clipped into personal memories, there's a reason why a million plus people get a deep kick out of seeing a certain musical group live. They seem to melt with the progression of the music. I've had experiences like these, seeing and hearing a band for a first time. The music itself surely not background to an old memory, but a new experience, electromagnetically unlocking behavior.
And I'm not alone in hating the sounds of grating things, or the sound of the car alarm that won't stop piercing awareness.
On a cosmic level, I wonder if energy patterns can act like grooves of a record, and certain chord progressions (I mean, B minor tends to make us all melancholic) excite the quantum particles along these unseen electromagnetic grooves. Since our bodies are electric conduits when it comes down to it, many of us will be swept up this burst of flow. But of course not all. Some, for whatever reasons of stress and neural shut down, may be closed to these channels, and so the wild behaviors and madness may not be sparked by the groove of a certain tune.
And the more energy sucked into the flow of the groove, the deeper it gets, until, it scratches. We get stuck for a bit, then we move on, ushering on new musical eras. But every once in awhile we discover that old cosmic record and it still possesses an ancient aural power over us. Stumbling upon the jukebox plugged into that mysterious Akashic record, we, for a moment, can go back in time, and lose ourselves.
And so I wish I had stuck with music. The architecture of sound, when mastered, can exert much control over people, for better or worse. I hope I don't come across as a mini Napoleon wanting to take over the world, more so I'm interested, at the risk of sounding like a hippie, how good music can save the world.