2013-12-01

[General] Richard: A Fiction in Progress

I never know what to write any more.

Solitary moments are useful for me.  They help me recollect myself.  In high school, I would roam the mean streets of my hometown for an hour a night, even in the worst weather, especially in the worst weather.  Walking and talking are often said to be my favourite activity.  I don't have many walkandtalk partners any more.  People are busy.  I'm busy.

Tonight I was with friends, and I abruptly decided to leave, to catch a bus home, and I ran very hard.  My willingness to run is important to me.  In a time where my identity feels fuzzier and fuzziers as old prejudices fall away and are replaced by a hollow openness, myths matter a lot.  The myth of me being olympian in my running, of the time I beat friends back to my housing complex when they were cabbing and I was running on thin ice.  Formative.  Like how Ninja Turtles determined my favourite animal, colour, career, and hobby (swinging swords and sticks).  Thanks Donatello.  So today I ran, and I ran hard, and I ran well, and all the running in the world can't account for buses departing at 23:44 instead of 23:45.   7 metres too late.

I caught another bus back to my friends, got off on their block, took a few steps, and then changed my mind.  I do it a lot.  I cause commotion in busy pathways when pedestrians are milling about by changing my mind.  I don't make good plans.  I'm not good at sticking to them.  I abruptly stop and pivot.  I spend a lot of time distracting myself with friends.  It pre-empts unhelpful thought patterns, a distraction, but a useful one.  I need more time to talk to myself calmly.

I watched locals perform at the Cornerstone, singing, wondering whether it was supposed to move me, actively letting myself feel moved, imagining their experience singing and guitaring, comparing it to memories of experiences seeing bands previously, to memories of high school, where everything was rife with meaning, when connecting with others was less perfunctory and more overwhelming and bubbly. I wonder whether I'm growing unassailable and inaccessible by the world I live in.  I steel myself against threats, against potential criticism, dismissing the critics when their mouths open, intolerant to hurt.  I think it leaves me detached.  I'm invulnerable while I remain uninvested in the going ons around me.  I've felt a lot already, more than I would have wanted.  I'm on a hiatus from feeling, and it cheats me out of my life a little.

But there is no truth to the above.  Nothing is true, everything is permitted.  I used to have a textbook understanding of truth, of reality, of objectivism.  There is an objective reality, and truth is what agrees with it.  It turns out that whatever shared reality there is is pretty irrelevant for my experience of truth.  It doesn't matter what's actually happening if everyone operates on their experience and skewed perception of that shared reality.  Side note; in computing if you write a program and the compiler gives you a warning and you don't understand why, some blame the compiler, but in reality, it's the human; a good developer should be skeptical of their own understanding of a situation, and I want that to apply to my daily life as well.  Nothing is necessarily as it seems, and some things are multiple, disjoint things at once.  So I say that I harden myself against feeling, and yet every day I am overwhelmed by feelings, I'm fragile and porous, a mighty sand castle, whose foundation is still but sand.

My truth does not reflect an objective reality anymore, but instead meaningful plausibilities.  Tell a story as accurately as you can, and perhaps that makes it true, perhaps if someone fact-checks it against hard evidence, and most of it can be verified, your recounted version is true.  Now generalise it, abstract it, replace individuals, substitute situations, but maintain the complete plausibility and likelihood of events, and the meaning of its consequences.  You're telling truth still, to me.  Attempts at precise repetition seems like vanity to me, given our woeful perception and encoding of our experiences.  But perhaps it's just how I excuse my poor performance.  Perhaps you remember things crisply without error.  Perhaps modifications dilute all meeting and erode the purpose behind life.  I can't tell because my knowledge and understanding of what happens to me is deeply flawed, so I give up to it. 

But I still must operate in the world, regardless of what's true.  I still need to reflect, try to minimise my errors, and be open to learning and relearning through my experiences.  I make decisions on what I probably know.  Confidence intervals are wide with this one.

So I walked home.  I like walking.  I like walking in the cold.  I like walking in miserable weather.  I like walking when I'm tired.  I like walking when I should hate walking.  A little attempt at contrarianism.  A little attempt to foil expectations, of others and myself.   I don't want to be classified, boxed, and shelved.  I want to exercise my freedom to live life in any way I want.

As I walked I watched my shadow and thought about the fiction of myself.  I thought about my fiction while I sat in the Cornerstone listening to the music, by myself.  I am the moody, solitary stranger, whose moods are to the public eye a sad cheerfulness.  Something pretentiously romantic, without the romance.  I sit with a straight back, a square face, my beard anchoring my expression, my hair an unintended masterpiece by my own evaluation in store windows and mirrors.  Today I have my crimson red dress shirt on (you know the one), a grey vest (rarely worn, a recent acquisition, but it actually fits), slacks, and (you may have guessed) my tail coat of consequence.  And my black wide brimmed hat.  You know those pretentious nerds you see, who walk around dramatically like Neo in a trench coat?  You know how awkward it makes you feel to see them, how your conclusion must be "This person isn't dark or mysterious like in a show, they're sad and pathetically detached from the reality they wander through."  (Ha, reality, that word again.)  That's me, I'd like to think.  The fact that I smile when I think that is indicative of my contrariness.  I'm happy to seem ridiculous to others, in mild contempt of them.  Don't box me, I say wordlessly.

So, to avoid seeming pathetic, there's always a faint smile, and hopefully never a smirk.  I sit there quietly smiling inward, while people sit all around me chattering.  For a long time I wondered if I was socially incompetent, as I'd wander singularly around the downtown while seeing so many others with others giggling and chatting.  Am I defective? is the standard question.  Two important realisations is that I too can have others to wander with if I express my interest in it.  It turns out I'm normal and nothing special; people will hang out with me as statistically likely as with someone else.  Another realisation is I enjoy being alone in a crowd.  I have my thoughts to dwell on without taxing conversation, and I feel less alone for all the fellow meat bags pounding the surrounding pavement.

So I sit there in the Cornerstone as the musician plays, accompanied by another who might be delusional and pretentious, but is clearly happy tonight, which I think is good enough to validate her delusions of grandeur and her pretentions of classiness.  If it works for you, ignore all the haters.  I sit there with my straight back, and faint smile, not registering what the musician is singing, with my hat next to me, and I skip the next bus home so I can sit out the whole evening, in the company of strangers who don't even notice the dark dressed silent stranger smiling to himself in the centre of the room with nowhere in particular to be.

I used to have more purpose, and I think about that as I walk home.  I'm walking since I stayed long enough for the bus service to end, and as I walk, Out of Service bus after Out of Service bus drives by me towards my home.  Perhaps I should try to hitch a ride.  But once I'm home, I'll just sit in front of my computer as I do now, but with no purpose, except to feed my mind certain sensations to silence it.  It's cold, there's drunk chatting with me, and my right foot feels broken for no particular reason; I'm pretty happy.  I'm happy because of everything that's wrong in the world.  Inside the church where the choral concert this night had been, I'm happy that the paint is peeling, not out of contempt, but out of acceptance that everything is continuously falling apart.   That's normal.

So I'm walking, and I know which route is most direct, and best trodden, and I take the other route.  This is not that poem.  I walk along the train tracks, of course.  And I realise what I realised earlier in the kitchen, and previously, that I make choices that don't reflect what I want or who I am, but who I think I am and who I think I want to be and who I think others think I am and who I think others think I ought to be.  I am untrue to myself to be true to an image.  And as I expressed earlier, there's no difference; I'm many things at once, I'm my pretensions/pretenses and my sincerity and my aspirations and my failings.  My mind entertains contradictory beliefs and handles that very well, thank you.

So I choose to walk on the tracks, in my costume, which serves not to emphasise me as much as to alienate me.  Others see me and I'm not someone cool they want to include in their lives, but rather some unpredictable variable that poses a threat.  But that doesn't matter, because I don't mean to be cool to them.  There's only one person I really made choices to impress, and that's only because they seemed to delight in it, so that was a Good Thing.  I've done well now to learn to do things not for the sake of others' response to me, but for the sake of the thing.  I can share a cupcake with a stranger and walk away without fishing for gratitude: I am progress!

So I do this for me.  I do this so that in another 45 years, I can be 74 and walking through the future as an anachronism, and at that point a couple people can exist who think and wonder about that weird old antique who wanders the streets. I look forward to age.  I'm resigned to my fated demise.  Let it run its course, and be glad that I lived and not sad that I die.  But for now, and forever, I do this for me, because it makes me happy to be a thing that I enjoy.  Like practising jodo with the laminate jo staff, a bit more fragile then a blank one, but very aesthetically pleasing, I do it because it looks cool to me others be damned.  I walk along the train tracks, my black wide brimmed hat on, my black tail coat tightly buttoned to keep me warm, my flashy Legend of Zelda gloves and Converse clones breaking the theme, adding the contrast and contradiction I delight in, as I walk down train tracks I've never seen before.

I like adventuring.  I like exploring.  I don't do it as often as I used to.  In New Zealand, I failed to make use of a lot of opportunities to adventure, but mostly in the conventional sense of traveling the country; I wandered those streets like a bored local though, but without the boredom.  I walk until I find graffiti.  Graffiti is almost predictable, it's the same type of thing (I've boxed it in, you see; I've clustered and classified in human vanity), and it's awesome.  It's what I would hope or expect to read, and it satisfies those expectations completely.


So this contributes to my myth.  The dark gentleman (my standards have twisted about, but the concept of gentleman still holds appeal to me) who likes anachronism, contradictions, train tracks and graffiti, who runs.  The goal of unconvention, of eccentricity, of a spectacle.  And I wonder about whether it's a waste of time or whether cultivating my own myth is valuable.  I don't think it's exceptional.  I think most people get a sense of what they are supposed to be, and they make decisions in its favour, without evaluating how applicable that sense is to themselves.

For instance, I had to pick between living in a modern house with modern amenities in a new suburb of Guelph, with all the conveniences of modern life.  Or, I could live in the ward, an old neighbourhood in Guelph, with a strange lady and the creeky floors of a decrepit century home.  I very much wanted to choose convenience, but in my continual self-definition, I chose the quaint, rustic home that promised weirdness and adventure and inconvenience.  And I can say that it was a good choice.  I've been immensely pleased with it, and it's been the best living situation I've had in years.  Making the hard choice to be who I wanted to be rather than who I am paid off.

So the myth.  I'm not a real person.  What I feel doesn't strictly matter.  What I experience is relevant to only myself, bu thanks for reading.  I wonder what fiction of me you see, and how it is that two individuals ever manage an understanding on anything.

Good night.

(P.S. if you actually read all this, I'd be happy to know; I suspect no one reads anything I write, which is liberating)

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.