Studying meditation. In the seventeenth century, a writer of “centuries”—books of one hundred meditations meant to bring one closer to God. His books have been discovered in antiquary bookstores, in personal libraries, in archives, literally pulled from junk heaps, rescued from imminent fires. Because he was virtually unknown, no telling how many were written, or how long they took to write. Some were unfinished, perhaps indicating roving attention, perhaps only death (even the observant eventually die).
Concentrated attention, such as meditation, brings you closer—closer both to a distant object and closer to what is nearer at hand (your beloved, your life together). Attention is grounding, meditative. It is part of the practice of love: observing the other, being careful. Nourishing a spark. But also loving the self. Slowing down. Paying attention to what is outside you; seeing and respecting its boundaries. Feeling its limits as well as the joy of those rare moments where limits seem to be surpassed.
I don’t know anyone who reads. I don’t read. I don’t know how to read. No one knows how to read. There’s no such thing as reading… I’ve never read anything in my life. No one has. No one has ever known how to read. History is full of people who could not and didn’t read. History was written by non-readers. History is writing and not reading. Historians can’t read. Neither can I. At the moment I am equidistant from all forms of reading. I mean, I’m standing in the middle of nowhere, and reading is very far away from me, set up on plinths that seem to keep their distance as I approach. That doesn’t make any sense, but it doesn’t matter, because there’s no one around who can read this. It’s okay because reading as a phenomenon hasn’t been invented. In the future we will have readers, and they will begin their histories with sentences like “For a long time, no one could read…” They will chart the history and development of reading. They will list all of the notable non-readers: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Rousseau… “What a shame,” they will say, “that all of these figures couldn’t read.” If only reading had existed then, where could these figures have taken us? The answer is nowhere. With or without reading—reading doesn’t do you any favours. If Plato could read he would not be remembered. No one would care. He’d be poisoned. What’s the history of the world without reading? It’s the same history as today, because this is that world.
Reasons for an epiphany: often a moment where the truth shines brighter than falsehoods. What is this feeling that has brought you out of the night? Asked again early (too early) in the morning when you suddenly wake up out of sleep. How does understanding build? Slowly, and then all at once.
Overheard: “Prepare to dull your feeling.”
All anyone wants to talk about at the party is love. Perhaps love would be less complicated if people were more careful with what they were offering. (Be more careful, you tell yourself.) The problem is not that it is difficult to offer love but that it is often a matter of understanding the ways in which you restrain yourself. (I need to be more gentle.)
Outside the party there is a man in a bicycle helmet (he has no visible bicycle) who turns its light on, briefly, to make out details on distant objects.
First, a pile of trash, which he scans with apparent interest. Then, me.
Everyone wants love.
All of the couples on the podcast want to be together and that’s why they are able to work through much greater challenges. It is not a matter of “want” when in fact it is something that is not wanted. (Overheard: “Stop following me.”)
Some nights as my shift ends at the library I find myself in a bad mood. Not a bad mood necessarily. I am not angry, or upset. Only incapable of original thought, exhausted, ready to go to bed—to go anywhere—but stuck in place. It’s a mood that’s “bad,” I guess, because it feels so unproductive. But it isn’t “bad” to be unproductive, to feel tired and worn from a day. It’s just how I feel. What’s upsetting, possibly, is knowing that after biking home I won’t be able to sleep. Not right away, because biking—and working at the library—always works me up. I need time to cool down.
But I chose this shift knowing exactly what it would do to me. It only feels bad because it feels like it turns life only into a matter of endurance: even though I’m doing nothing more complicated than waiting out the clock. It’s likely the solution is an easy one, to concentrate on the feeling and not wish for it to be anything other than what it is. Instead of sliding sideways, moving further and further away from myself, frustrated at my lack of cognitive ability, embracing my limitations and coming to a stop.
I’ve been thinking about the ways I do this not only in moments where I feel exhausted, but where I feel generally “overwhelmed.” Often the problem is that I need to break down whatever it is that is overwhelming me, take conscious steps to relieve the problem. I feel ashamed about this because this has affected past relationships—not knowing what I’m really feeling, I might try to deflect or delay until some future moment where I’ll feel more composed (but that moment is itself a fantasy).
Instead of admitting my failure, and asking for help (“Could we make plans for this right now, because it gives me anxiety to think about this as something I have to do ‘in the future’”) I have tried to both please and also push it forward, or away, so that it is out of the sphere of my immediate responsibilities… Instead, no one is pleased. The feeling of “overwhelm” builds and it seems like I am rejecting a request. Generally it stresses me out to imagine that I am imposing my needs on someone, asking for what I want, but the way things are enacted when it’s like that it becomes exactly the opposite (the inverse of my fears). I want instead to be more generous with my time or feelings, be more immediate, ensure that the people I love feel loved and supported. As it is now, I think I am only able to do that some of the time.
Moving restlessly—sleepless. A writing prompt: Think about sprawl. (Unrelated.) ButI have a story to match your theme because all I think about is boundaries, space, limits. I’d like to change some of that thinking. I feel better during the day but when night comes I have difficulty sleeping (in fact it feels as if sleep has left me entirely). Perhaps it’s only the shifting of the clock (a falling back), perhaps its that I tried to go to sleep even earlier than normal. A busy week ahead: time to clarify, time to work, time to draw conclusions and tease out my thinking. Anxious to be finished as well as to begin. Combined with another thought: why did I turn something away from me? In this moment I see the role my phone plays—I am soothed only when I look at it, I am anxious when I look away. Even when I know that no communication will come. I speak, but I don’t wish to speak. I don’t speak. I stare into the glowing container. I wish to change this relationship. I wish to change many relationships. I am tired of following soothing. I think I wish I were not so afraid, which is not quite right. I wish I had been more brave. Please don’t read this. Asleep with an image next to you (until it faded from the light). Wake up from a dream of kissing them on their knees, gently.
I lied—please read this. Please read this. You’re important to me.