Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
That's a snap for me. I did not speak this evening, nor will I speak tomorrow evening or the evening after. This schedule is subject to change if a cat shits on the floor or something, but I shall likely observe silence each evening as I have done for years.
I never considered it a spiritual exercise, although in retrospect, I can see where I have benefitted from it.
I have friends who are out socializing literally every night of the week. I don't know how they do it. It would exhaust me.
Thursday and Friday and Saturday are usually Red Cup Coffeehouse evenings, but Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are usually spent alone at home. I come home from work, close the front door behind me, and light some incense. I have an old Mac that does nothing but play iTunes 24/7. The playlist is heavy on traditional Asian music -- lute, shakuhachi, sitar and others. There's also some Narada and Windham Hill guitar stuff, one Peter Gabriel cut and some Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist chants.
I have a lot of floor lamps, but they all have 20 or 40 watt bulbs, so there's a general sort of diffuse dim light.
The resulting atmosphere is one of quiet and introspection.
I have two sofas - one in the living room I never use and an old futon against one wall in the dining room. I'll stretch out on the futon with a book and read until it's time to go to bed. Sometimes I'll just sleep there.
So here's what I'm actually, you know, doing.
At the moment, I am at the Red Cup, and a bowl of red beans and rice has just arrived as I type, to be followed by Brian the Dessert God's cherry pie.
More details later tonight.
Dinner was at Earl's. Ribs, baked beans, okra and a Corona.
I dreamt overnight that I was back in my old job, returning to work after the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. The place was being completely remodeled, right down to the sheet rock on the walls being replaced.
There were a bunch of strangers wandering around. Some were clearly remodeling people, but others seemed like they might be new coworkers who had arrived during the holiday break –– I couldn't tell for sure.
I sat down at my desk, which seemed to be in some sort of large wardrobe closet, and began working on updating the web site. Here's an anachronism, because updating the web site is what I do now, not what I did then.
Behind me, I heard the news director talking to someone at another desk. "I asked you last week to fix that text block on the water page," she said. "You've got the background and the text hover color both set to salmon, and when someone rolls their mouse over it, the text disappears. Can you please fix that today?"
She walked off, and another coworker walked up. The coworker responsible for the salmon-colored text –– who, by the way, was someone I actually worked with in my previous career, but not in web design, said, "She bitched me out for this. I was supposed to fix it, but since Carp is here, he ought to take the blame, not me."
I smiled, because I realized he hadn't seen me at my desk, and didn't know I could hear him.
Then my boss appeared at my desk. She had a young, sandy-haired guy with him. "Joe here can't get e-mail. Do you know what's wrong with it?"
"Well, I just got back from the weekend about five minutes ago. If he's new, he probably doesn't have an account set up yet. I'll get with IT on that. What's his name?"
"Joe Brasco," my boss replied. "Remember that name," she said, walking off with the new guy in tow. "It's going to mean job security someday."
And then I woke up.
And I laid there in bed for a few minutes, trying to figure out who was playing the part of the news director in the dream. It was a woman, but there was no face or voice attached to her –– just the general sense of a woman. It wasn't the woman who had actually been my final boss in my previous career. I laid there in bed, suddenly astonished that I couldn't remember who the hell my boss is now. Who is the news director now, I asked myself. Why can't I remember? God, I'm getting old.
And then, maybe ten seconds later, it dawned on me: I couldn't remember the news director because I had not worked in that place for eight years. I wasn't there, didn't have to be there, didn't have to know who the news director was, didn't have to worry about Joe Brasco's e-mail.
And I went back to sleep.
Just now, I Googled 'Joe Brasco.' I found 170 hits, none of which looked like something that would have been buried in the back of my subconscious. I don't know who Joe Brasco is. Maybe I jsut made up the name on the fly.
I promised myself when I started posting personals ads that I would not obsess about wording, phrasing and the like. Easier said than done, it turned out.
One of my personals went as follows:
Someone said existence is like a river: we see where it begins and where it ends, but in between are a thousand currents and eddies no one can predict.
I had a life filled with drama and excitement for many years. Now I've decided to take the gentle current and let it lead me where it will.
I'm not in "heavy relationship" mode right now, but I've spent too much time alone lately. I'm looking for someone who would like to go to a movie once in awhile, go to dinner and just talk, whatever.
The intellectual side is very important to me. I'm looking for someone who is smart, knowledgeable, politically and socially left of center. A certain amount of eccentricity is cool. An artistic bent is very cool. Dittoheadism is not cool.
Big influences: H.D. Thoreau, Alan Watts, Chuang Tzu, Jack Kornfield and Lama Surya Das.
I'm a commercial artist, web designer and copywriter by profession.
Nothing is more important than being stable and serene, but I can always eat -- what are you in the mood for?
I could have shortened that to...
Hi. An evening with me is about as interesting as watching paint dry. But I can always eat -- what are you in the mood for?
Even so, I got responses.
Greetings, my name is Olya. to me of 28 years. I live in city Kazan...
Hello, My name is Svetlana, me of 36 years. I liked your profile on a site...
Hi, the fine stranger. I have found your profile on...
Okay, that's not entirely fair. I did have some legitimate correspondence and even the one relationship come from online dating services.
I sometimes wish there was someone else in my life. (Or maybe I wish there was someone else in my life sometimes, if you can appreciate the difference.) But I just don't know how to do it. Dating seems to consist –– at least for people my age –– of two people using conventional marketing and packaging techniques to influence their opinions of each other, then finding out the truth, then breaking up. Or marrying, buying a bunch of stuff, then finding out the truth and breaking up.
If there is a marketing strategy that can position me as sexy and exciting and interesting without requiring the assistance of Industrial Light & Magic, I don't know what it is.
To which any number of my friends would reply, "Just be yourself!"
I am myself. That's the problem.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
(And no, I'm not talking about you. Why are you so paranoid?)
We all do this to some extent, don't we? In fact, what we call 'reality' is just a general consensus among us all based upon our various imperfect views of our surroundings.
So, I have to ask myself: "How good is my grasp on reality? How severe is my distortion of events around me? And if I have it wrong, how can I find out?"
This gets back to what I said the other day about what we actually know versus what we think we know. Part of what I did in therapy for two years was compare my perceptions to generally accepted views of reality and see for the first time where they were different –– so different in a few places that other people wouldn't even recognize the 'reality' I saw.
Now I'm studying Eastern belief systems where the most fundamental views of reality are widely divergent from those of our culture.
And I want to know where my views of reality are so far off the mark that they affect my ability to lead a happy, contented life. Is this discoverable?
Saturday, November 26, 2005
I already had two adult cats of my own, but suddenly I had seven. And the mother cat, who seems to be remarkably fecund, always returns to my place when she is with litter, which is about three times a year. She's gone right now, which is normal for winter, but she'll be back in the spring.
Meanwhile, most of her offspring live around my house. I feed them, keep water out for them, and try with limited success to find them homes.
There is another cat person on my block. She lives across the street and three doors down. She seems to be even more of a recluse than I am. I have never talked to her in the five years I've lived here, and I've never seen her talk to anyone else. I know she leaves food out for the cats just as I do, and I sometimes see the cats commuting back and forth between our houses.
I enjoy seeing the cats together. Cats behave differently among themselves than they do with people. I like watching them play. I'm probably just projecting all my personal family issues onto them, but I like thinking of them as a family with some sort of familial bonding going on amongst them.
I wonder if the woman across the street who seems to be even more of a recluse than I am enjoys watching the cats the way I do. I wonder if she has family issues she projects onto them.
I guess I could go over and talk to her, since we obviously have something in common. Or she could come over and talk to me. But we're both antisocial –– who will make the first move?
What I'm reading:
"It is good to recognize that the expectations of others, the standards they expect us to meet, are really our own projections. We judge ourselves by our standards, project them out onto other people, then believe that they think those things about us."
Cheri Huber, The Depression Book
I went back to bed, and had a dream in which two women I know, one a fairly close friend and the other just an acquaintance, abruptly told me they wanted me out of their lives.
I wonder what that was about, and whether it will come true.
Friday, November 25, 2005
I am coming to the conclusion that most of what I thought I knew isn't knowledge. It's assumptions, conclusions, prejudices and other misinformation disguised as the real thing. As often as not, probably, I put the disguise on it myself.
And a lot of what I know, though true, has no value. The amount of trivia in my brain probably outweighs the useful information by far.
I remember my parents, and even moreso my grandparents (three of whom were teachers), encouraging to 'use my brain.' They always felt I was not applying myself. But in spite of not applying myself, I have absorbed a treasure trove of dubious information, and my retention of it has become an unfortunate source of pride for me. Intelligence was always my strongest attribute, and I tried without much success to use it to offset my shortcomings in other areas.
I thought for a long time that if there were any one attribute I could have, in fact, it would be intelligence. Intelligence is what sets us apart from other animals, right? And yet there are people smarter than me who labor in poverty and obscurity, and functionally illiterate professional athletes making literally a thousand times my salary.
And then there's our President, who is a whole 'nother story.
That's in part a symptom of a culture that has come to lionize ignorance, and since 2000, plain old stupidity, but part of it is also because intelligence is frankly overrated by those who are intelligent. I am persuaded now that there is nothing inherently more valuable in intellect compared to, for example, the ability to easily throw an accurate 90-yard pass.
I should have ignored my grandparents and focused on being an outlaw biker or something.
Most of the cats are in this morning, including the neighbors' cats left out in the cold, and they are restless. It's still 33 degrees outside, with a high today around 55.
I did wake up at the usual predawn hour, but I didn't want to get out of bed.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
There is a locally-owned place here called Eddy's. It's well north of the franchise/chain restaurant district, and has been in business since long before the others arrived. It has been open since 1967, in fact, but I had never eaten there. There were cars in the parking lot today, so we pulled in.
The Thanksgiving Day special was a traditional turkey and dressing meal, and it was perfect.
How did I go 38 years without ever eating at Eddy's?
I left my copy of 'The Tao of Pooh' with my friend, came home and took the traditional Thanksgiving nap.
What I'm reading:
"For example, one is afraid of loneliness, afraid of the ache, the pain of loneliness. Surely, that fear exists because one has never really looked at loneliness, one has never been in complete communion with it. The moment one is completely open to the fact of loneliness, one can understand what it is; but one has an idea, an opinion about it, based on previous knowledge, and it is this idea, opinion, this previous knowledge about the fact, that creates fear."
J. Krishnamurti, On Love and Loneliness
I typically spend the holiday season alone, since I have no family. Today, I'm having Thanksgiving lunch at a restaurant with a friend whose family lives out-of-state.
I skip the television parades and sports events altogether. They don't interest me.
My health is good, and that's the thing for which I am most thankful this year. I know many people my age, it seems, struggling with health issues worse than my own.
I am employed, and after 25 years in a career that had me working most weekends and many nights, I am now able to enjoy a saner work schedule that allows me some contact with humans other than coworkers.
I have become interested in Taoism over the past year, and I feel fortunate to be able to able to say I'm mostly into the groove of that. We live in such a materialistic, competitive culture –– I feel relieved to discover a belief system that so closely matches the values I had even before I discovered it.
I could talk about all the things I don't like, and there plenty of them. But I have the other 364 days for that, so today I'll let them pass.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
But I shall press on nonetheless.
Future posts will appear in the wee hours –– not necessarily at exactly 3:40 a.m., but sometime between 3 and 4 a.m., Central time.
Being a web designer by profession, my first task here was to fiddle with the cascading style sheets in the template. I am not done yet. More changes will probably appear in the future.
There are some CSS elements here that I don't regularly use. I'm used to having Dreamweaver remember the details for me. Posting here without the value of a heavy-duty wysiwyg editor will help refresh my my CSS and HTML skills.
I used to enjoy doing creative stuff with web design when it was a hobby. Now I spend my whole day hovering over a web site, and when I come home, I am more than ready to place my work in the hands of a commercial system that spares me some of the back-end stuff.
I went to bed early tonight. I've been turning in pretty early since Daylight Saving Time ended. It's only midnight now, but I think I was asleep by 8:30.
Dinner this evening was at La Mariachi, a new Mexican restaurant recommended by Caroline and, I think, Randy. Or maybe it was someone else. In any event the food was good. I overate, which contributed to my slothfulness when I got home.
I definitely need more exercise. Even my doctor says so. It's hard to get motivated, though. Am I depressed? I wonder. I've dealt with depression all my life –– even doing the holed-up-for-a-year thing twice. But I don't feel depressed. Not at the moment, anyway. Believe me, you'll know when I'm feeling depressed.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
But getting up every morning to deliver papers permanently altered my internal clock. Forty years later, I still wake up almost every morning around 3:40 a.m.