Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Anxiety and Eternity

For as long as I can remember, I've had little anxiety about death. I feel as though I came rather quickly into acceptance of death as inevitable (as Coetzee would say, as the very thing that defines being alive), and for the entirety of my adult life, I've lived with the conviction that the very most important thing about life is that the time that comprises your life is all you are given, and that in many respects you are responsible for how that time is spent.

At times, these two attitudes seem incongruous. Shouldn't the fact that one's time is so severely limited produce even greater anxiety? Wouldn't the fear of death become nearly overpowering when one realizes that at any time they may be wiped from this Earth, perhaps without having sampled as wide a range of experience as they had hoped? I feel as though such a reaction is missing the point. The point is not to pack one's life with a variety of experiences until it is bloated and exhaustive (or exhausting), but to find ways to appreciate those experiences we are privy to, and to always try to understand how the things that have happened to us shape who we are and how we will approach the things that have yet to happen. In many ways, this applies even to one's attitude about their impending death.

If the reasoning seems a little circular, it's because it probably is. Maybe that's why so many people struggle with death and the ways it seems intent on spoiling their plans. How do you break into that circle, the one that allows you to feel comfortable with your impermanence, and thus allows you to appreciate every day on which you wake again, to find good reason why its events serve as evidence that your impermanent state is precisely what makes your time alive so very meaningful and special?

Immortality is something men have yearned for since the beginning of their existence. Yet, how utterly meaningless would an infinite life be? How could you ever be satisfied (or disappointed or anything) with how you've spent your time when you essentially remove time from the equation? Even beyond this worldly existence, what good is sticking around for eternity? I've always been a little confounded with such religious approaches. What sort of exhausting, haunting reward is endless existence? People toss their whole lives away on want of some promised eternity. It is this that makes me anxious. The thought of never being proud of an accomplishment, of never being molded by an experience, of never sharing a limited, sacred bit of your own time with someone you care about. With an infinite amount of time, no accomplishment is noteworthy, no experience is limited and unique, and your time becomes the most meaningless of gifts.

Would I mind if I died tomorrow? Being alive, now, I would say "Yes." But tomorrow, should I die, I won't have any idea that it has happened, and cannot be upset by it. Would I be happy with the sum of my life at this point should it be suddenly cut short? Most certainly. Every day I find it a little bit easier to adhere to the principle of amor fati, though fate (and Nietzsche) really has little to do with it. But how do I begin to explain? I hope to live a long, storied and profound life. As I see it, worrying about just how long will only get in the way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Briefly On Jury Selection

The selection process for jury duty is perhaps the most mind-numbingly boring thing an American citizen can be asked to endure. While I'm sure actually serving on a jury panel and hearing a case will be very interesting, re-shaping your ass on a terrible wooden bench for 8 hours most certainly is not.

Maybe it was just that I had no conflicts of interest, and therefore never had to approach the bench and get questioned by the judge and/or lawyers. To someone who apparently knows no one on either side of the county-level criminal justice system, doesn't have major crimes committed against them, and generally feels as though they have enough control over their emotions and reasoning faculties to be able to give an impartial reading of the facts (read: me), the first day of jury duty becomes little more than a grueling exercise in exhaustively cataloging every possible seated position one can shift into without crossing the line into offending/injuring/arousing the rest of the folks in the courtroom.

But worry not! I will find out just how interesting trial service can be:

The bastards picked me for three out of the four jury panels that were assembled today!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On Nearly Deaf, Muttering Octogenarians

Today was augmented by a rare sighting of one of my favorite elderly customers. This may sound a little cruel, but she's not a favorite because she's sweet or kind or seems sincerely concerned with me and my state of affairs. She's one of my favorites because she's absolutely hilarious, and is completely ignorant of the fact. She has no idea at all that every time I encounter her, it takes all of my willpower to hold back a deluge of giggling.

Most of her humor value is related to the fact that she's extremely hard of hearing, but doesn't seem to realize it. Firstly, this results in her speaking very loudly all of the time. Sometimes startlingly loud. Secondly, often when you speak to her, she'll grunt "Huh?," as though she didn't hear you (well, not "as though;" she really didn't hear you, she's nearly deaf). When you lean in to repeat the question a little louder, she assumes that you're leaning closer because you can't hear her, and subsequently shouts even louder. This happens in every exchange with her, and for some reason, understanding just what it is that is occurring ignites a giggle fuse somewhere deep within me, and I struggle to stifle those gurgling, roiling giggles for the remainder of my time with her.

The last straw, however (and what has actually caused audible giggles to escape on one occasion), is the fact that she has a tendency to mutter under her breath like some folks are wont to do. These mutterings are usually the result of some trivial difficulty, such as a check that won't tear easily out of her register, or the fact that her automaton husband is not unloading the shopping cart according to some bizarre, unarticulated set of standards she has established. Anyway, because she speaks so loudly all the time, what she believes are whispered exclamations actually result in her shouting "Jesus!" and "Shiiiiiit" loud enough for most of the store to hear. This also has a tendency to be startling to some, who generally don't expect to be met with alarmingly loud profanity when standing behind a five foot tall elderly woman in the grocery line.

I don't doubt this woman is unknowingly offensive to many. She always seems to make my day, though.

On Whatever It Is That Stirs My Mind At This Ungodly Hour

I struggle daily with trying to understand just exactly what the hell my brain is doing. Not from a biological standpoint, mind you, but more specifically: why on earth does my mind jerk itself around and around when it seems like it could be so easy, so relaxing, to just settle down somewhere. Anywhere, really. Get to business, mind, or get out. Tonight, that's the message my mind has for my mind. What a stupid paradox.

Just moments ago, I was nearly asleep. I was hanging, uncomfortably, from the edge of my bed, barely able to focus on the screen of my laptop, which was resting on the floor. This is usually where it ends up at night, because by the time I've dragged the laptop to my bed to work in a more supine position, there is already little hope that I'll muster the energy to actually lift the damn thing back up on to my desk. It's an odd ritual I've developed, really. The first thing I do upon waking up is pick my laptop up off the floor and restore it to its more traditional desktop locale.

This is all besides the point. Which in a way, relates to the point, which is: my brain is a friggin' mess.

The reason I mention being nearly asleep is that, at the time, what I believed was going to be my last waking action was a brief check-in on this blog, from which I've been absent for an embarrassingly lengthy period of time. But then I started reading my old posts. As I read, I began to recall the various states of mind that produced those entries, and how the one consistent quality of those multiple mind-states was that I really enjoyed articulating my thoughts on the topic at hand. I enjoyed the experience of writing. And so here I am now, well past my arbitrary bedtime, writing.

I often find during the course of the day things will occur (ha, what a stupidly ambiguous proclamation; what I mean is 'specific, noteworthy things'), and my brain will exclaim: "that would be great to write about!" Yet without fail, I've usually completely forgotten whatever so stimulated me after a few minutes have passed. I am almost certain that I went through this process earlier today, but I have no idea at all what the catalyst was. What sort of twisted bastard of a brain would produce feelings of euphoria during the act of writing, actively identify topics or events or themes that would likely engender such feelings of euphoria by instigating an act of writing, and then, in one fell swoop, destroy those very seeds? And, on top of that, be enough of a bitch to allow me to at least remember that there were in fact seeds at one point?

My brain is that sort of brain.

Well I've got news for you brain: I'm on to you! And although I've said this many times before (in writing, so I have tangible evidence), I'm going to do my best to thwart you. I'm going to try to breathe some new life into this stale and lonesome blog. But I'm also going to shift the approach a tad. The way I've been approaching things hasn't been very true to the essence of blogging. I've been preparing mini-essays at times and posting them, rather than leaving a record of my in-the-moment, somewhat unfiltered responses to the things that get my gears turning.

I'm throwing consistency out the window. Maybe even coherence. I'm going to create a true log, a web log, of what I think about whatever I'm thinking about. If no one's listening, that's fine. It'll be an instructive experience, and it will help me to illuminate the very ways in which my brain is currently being elusive and somewhat of a bitch. It'll track the evolution of my thoughts and opinions, and it will provide future interested parties a clear and frightening picture of what is surely to be my descent into madness.

Mostly, it'll be an accomplishment, however meager. It will be the willful corralling of my brain, and it will be a glorious thing.

And now, now I am tired.