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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Answering Question #7 What happens if I can't finish writing my book during nanowrimo?

It's (or recently was) November. That means it's National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org). The idea of nanowrimo is that you write a novel in a month. The intention is to create a community of people who are writing their first novels all at the same time in order to help people get over that "first novel" hurdle, to fail quietly in the noise of a mass of other failures, to retain the excuse "well, it was written in only a month", or whatever. What follows is a reworking of a novel I started last November (2004). It's turned out to be a very short and dense collection of thoughts between stations. Good luck.

Train of Thought


Punch out and let out to the setting sun. It's dark when I show up and dark when I leave - or nearly. The bookends of my workday, orange purple

skies and the cool sound of nesting birds on an unseasonably hot day.

My train isn't so late that I complain, but late enough to remind me of the power of the unions. I always like to ride up top, a window seat. I do read, but not at the stations. At the stations I usually look for people who are exceptional in some way. People almost never look up into trains. They look down from the platform, but they seldom look up.

The commute tonight is very quiet. People are tired and hot and probably as hungry as I am. Sometimes there's a guy who trims his toenails, but I can't see him tonight. Tonight it's just the working people, not working.

As the train gets up to speed I can hear the doors between carriages open. A lady walks up the steps behind me, and continues up the aisle to the front of the carriage, turns around and asks for everyone's attention. She's a junkie, stringy dirty red hair, but an attractively gaunt face, high cheekbones and powerful blue eyes. She's wearing pink wide-whale corduroy pants and a peachy white singlet. And she'd like to sing us a song.

Her voice sings "I just can't shake that feeling" sort of words and she feels it. She can sing. A Joplin'esq hoarse earnestness tears into me. I find myself welling up with her tragedy. She's communicating to me and filling me with her feeling. I love her on the spot, the feeling goes down my arms and feet like a swarm of ants. She's through two verses, and I whisper Amen under my breath. It's the closest I've ever been to Jesus. She passes through the carriage with her hand outstretched and no one owns up to what we owe. Good Christians that we are, none of us without sin, no one is the first to throw in her direction. I can't. I'm paralyzed with too much feeling. If I move, or intend anything I'm sure I'll lose control and end up a mess. So I don't move. And now I pile that on to my handcart of regrets.

She moves to the downstairs of the carriage and delivers a similar performance that I can just hear. The distance removes. A magic train noise, just as desperate, insistent, tragic, urban, covers her. I never did heroin. I never got addicted to things.

Pennant Hills

The heat returns to my attention. I've got to get going but I don't have a destination. Being on this train is part of an aimless rambling, static like TV static existence of impulses. All there, deeply encoded, invokable, but in that superstate, or stuporstate that is irreducible, uncompressible. My cares have been debased as my horizons have broadened. How can we know where we're going when everything is so dynamic and hot? In a landscape of change and inverse proportions the land turns to water at the shore, but the shore advances - as the shore advances as we heat up, active and accreting. The earth is sweating, and we evaporate and cool. The seas are trying to quench the fire of people on its shores. What's on my to-do list today is all smeared with the sweat. My goals are soggy and laden with the stuff.


So fucking hot. Everybody thinks it's the heat of the sun that keeps us going. The sun gives us warmth. The sun gives us the energy. Without the heat of the sun we'd be on a cold dead rock. Not true. The earth sloughs off as much heat to cold dark space as it takes in. It goes through us. What's left, what we do get to keep, is a certain amount of freedom. We get a freedom to move. It's as if the sun gives us intention, or a smell of possibilities. We are lifted just two inches above the ground and dropped off to sleep every night. We're constantly settling like leaves off a tree in the fall. We're settling into the dirt of the present. But what do I know about the outdoors? Outdoors is someplace I go to get to the next indoors.

I can't talk a language of grass and trees anymore. There's no dirt around my nails. There's no earth. I'm not real. I grew up angry at the people like I am now. I hated not so much the people who couldn't do for themselves as those who didn't. We should do work, where work is applying force to things over a distance. How could work, such a basic and essentially defined word come to mean applying thought to people
over a time? I hate this new definition. That venomous hate bleeds through my every eight hour day. I only know people I don't like who accept this new world. And love those who resist it.

Meadowbank. Train terminates here. All out all change.

Sometimes, standing on the platform, I close one eye and look at the sunset over the white elephant of Olympic Park. If you stare long enough, it all goes flat and I can see the image on the back of my eye. Everything looks huge and close and makes my stomach turn. The sun setting on our past vision of the future, deep like an abyss.


I thought that if I knew enough about everything I'd understand. But then I did some reading and it's clear that's not true. Nobody understands anything.

And who's my authority? How lost I am without them. There's no one who can tell me how strong "should do" is. That's the order. There's no one because that's true. We looked for Truth and found it burning under our feet, above our heads, in our hands. The fire of Freedom. We don't know what to do with it. Prometheus reborn to Truth on a stick, fallen through the ground to hell. Ignite the inventions that keep us warm and float like ash to the surface, spent. Ash is the end point - the beginning, as they say. We are the ash of stars and fires of Gods burnt and spent.

We can't talk anymore because we can't mean. We can't act. We degrade into a fine powder without sympathy.


It's a comedy, all a comedy because we know what should happen. We know how we feel. We know why. But we can't trust anything - and when we are mislead, or lied to, or let down easy, it's nothing but funny. A kind and tired hilarity is in the air. That is Faith. To have nothing, and to laugh. To have the laughter taken away, and still to laugh - with sincere kindness. Our baby, us, fall to the floor in a joyful way. We've cracked our skulls, our brains show gray - and we laugh. That's true Faith. What a ride it is. Never have people had the ride we have now. It's all on now. Our skills have overtaken us. Our desires left behind. The past fills up like a cup of coffee, our perception clouds it as cream - we swim a scalding stream of future blackness. Some people are holding on. Not me. I'm meek. But we are connected. Every thing that ever happened has happened to you. And by "to you" I could say "in order to make you". Everything touches. The only things we don't know about are things that don't touch other things. It's as if we're all in a very big bed, sleeping in, and the giant quilt of time covers us all. Our warmth is shared, our life. And we are compressed into knowing.

Symbols lay on a page to invoke a flying bird through the air. But the flying bird through the air touches you, right now, from this page to your heart. We all love a flying bird. With only a fair few words I can touch you. With just as many unfair I can hurt you. With less than words I can do more.

Just some breath on your neck to change you from a reader to a lover. Just a look in passing to change you from citizen to suspect. I can turn away from you or towards you to threaten you. I can sit very still and be compelling or look crazy. The uncertainty of every unsaid meaning swarms like light. And it connects us. We locate the uncertainty, give it our odor and send it along. Just as uncertain, but changed.

"How well do we know each other?" I think I just said aloud, but nobody turns to look at me. They probably think I'm talking on the phone. It's hard to pick who's crazy these days from people just talking on the phone. Not that there's a reason to assume everyone with a phone is sane. But back to my question, how well do we know each other? Pick any Jane Austen character. Go look at the words she uses to establish that character. Measure the complete person in your head against the thin shell of characterization she's provided. What or who is it that fills in the broad gaps? I know people by their veneers, by the thin skin they expose. By the light that filters through. I know their surface.

When you combine two people and throw them together. Leave them to stew with each other and share their flavor, there is made a separate thing. It's a being that's between us. There's no certainty to it. There's no nailing to the wall and naming it. It changes even if we stay the same.


Such a threatening thing it is to be without company, to not touch or be touched. Such a dangerous thing it is to be alone, the only One we allow this Grace is our God. Only a God could withstand solitude and serenity. But then logically, the greatest God would necessarily be alone. Any more than one diminishes authority, any less and, well... So by the nature of common sense we're doomed to worship a lonely image.

I want for God to have friends. Not people, not worshipers. Nothing could be worse than to be worshiped in solitude, pedestal bound. I want for God to have a love of his own. Someone to sleep with and wake up with. I want to be taught and guided more by those who have known a love of equals. Perhaps that's why things are so beautiful, this gilded cage, but God is so cruel to those within it.
What's more cruel than fortune, good and bad, that can bring people to know so much of the glory of living and slowly or quickly take that away? Only the certainty that with any fortune we, the Fallen, will come to rest. There is no middle ground worth standing with only one God.

A pantheon is more optimistic than the mono-theism of reason (the degree of optimism in direct relation to the number of divine beings). Atheists are the ultimate in pessimists, pantheists the ultimate optimists. With many Gods there's always another power to appeal to. There is always more hope and power than we can pray for. And best of all, the Gods love one another and have, if even just once in their timeless
eternity, the relationship that forms a being between. If I were asked where we come from, I'd reply we are the relationship of Gods. We are that thing they make, that is between them. We are bounded by their opposing force and expire with their passion. The incredible sadness at our passing not the product of one another, but of Gods' pains.

Our worship therefore is misplaced. We look upward with praise, and outward somewhere to this bigger force. But fully formed inside their embrace, we need only look as far as our dreams and skin. And to know one another. As close as we can be. There's no action to take, there's nowhere to go. It's actually that thing that is between us that we worship in intimacy and confidence.

These are the kinds of things I can think about on the train.


It's very dark outside the train station. I have four city blocks to walk home. I always try to imagine what I'd do if I got mugged. I'm a little bit paranoid that way. I saw a documentary on ex-southafrican police officers trying to live off what they've seen. They all suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Part of the disorder is what they called a state of hyper-vigilance. I suffer from that too. But the thing that puzzles me is I don't have post traumatic stress disorder. I've never really been in a traumatic situation (unless you count puberty). I think

I'm hyper-vigilant against my regrets. I protect them. An attempt to keep them from getting out, or more from getting in. I recently found out that I'd spent several years regretting something I said to someone. In an innocent flirtatious moment I'd offered myself to a recently widowed friend. In retrospect, it was insensitive. But it turns out, she didn't even hear me. Like a skipping record, this hurtful phrase has been turning over and over in my head. Now that I know it wasn't heard, what do I do with all that regret for saying it. I felled a tree in the forest, but nobody listened. I wonder if there's a word for the someone who stops talking for fear of hurting someone. Any poorly worded snipe has the potential to hurt someone.

It occurred to me the other day that during my commute I probably see about 6000 unique people. There are a handful that I see every day, but most are new. I don't talk to any of them.

There are a lot of people. If people were grapes there'd be a very large vineyard. If all those grapes were crushed and made into wine, and distilled into, (Sherry is it) Sherry, all the spirits would be in there. The volatile vapor of spirit. It's a flying pool and does not individuate. You don't own your spirit, you are merely your spirit. There's no getting out of it.

There are a lot of people. A lot of them smoke. Most of those smokers seem to feel easy about throwing their butts on the ground, leaving them

behind. The tar from the butts of smokers' cigarettes patches the roads of the city. It's a service really. We should be thankful.

via www.superherodesigns.com/journal/:
"Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you’d be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings."

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