Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best New Post You'll Read Right Now

Don't know about you, but when I'm in the library (and this happens but to a lesser extent in a real-world book store) I do a lot of judging going by covers.  You've just judged the change to this blog look right now, without even noticing, I bet.  A new style trial, is all; like it?

I wander along the stacks in the local library, head canted at that special bookshelf angle that probably makes librarians and booksellers really good customers for chiropractors, and let my mind do its random-seeming thing.  But inspecting my process, a whole bunch of biases at work, not the least of which these days is a simple practical one - will I be able to hold the book easily? Right up there level with that is my own design and beauty aesthetic.  To big, too small, or too floppy, or too ugly means it really has to either grab my attention with the author's name (known to me somehow), a great title (unlike this post), or a particularly attention-grabbing subject matter.  My secondary scanners are doing calculations to re-scan unconsciously those I weeded out on format or ugliness and connecting with deeper layers of my mind.  after all, I've seen pretty much all these books before anyway.  Why am I looking at this one today when I saw and rejected it previously?

Luckily, I do not know, and I choose not to interrogate myself too deeply on this one.

I just wanted to say Happy New Year to those with nostalgic or practical allegiances to the Western calendar and introduce you to this style trial.

Oh, and a big special shout-out to the roughly 1 in 365 Samoans who are missing out on a birthday this year.  At least now you all get to be the first, rather than the last, to flip the calendar.

Whatever it is you do to mark the occasion, enjoy.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Golden, apparently.

Silence, so goes the saying, is golden.  I'm not sure what that means.

Gold is shiny.  It is very, very heavy.  It is a relatively abundant element yet tends to be too widely dispersed in the environment for it to be easily accumulated in large amounts.  It is extremely useful technologically, and for some reason people like it.  It is even a safely edible metal - gold can do us no harm (unless a bunch of it falls on your foot or something) but its extraction from ore tends to be a very toxic process indeed.

Silence could be reminiscent of any or all of these qualities.  But that's the thing about silence - silence isn't saying.  In any case, those who seek gold do so mainly for what it signifies, rather than for its usefulness to a real-life purpose.  Those who seek silence, on the other hand, tend to seek a deep quality of experience.

Being of a contemporaneously omenological bent (I like to pay attention to clustered events or signifiers as indicative of something worth feeling out beyond the mere use of our ordinary sensorium - that is, I 'read the signs' in life) I note well how the theme of silence surrounds me at present.  As does silence itself.

Ironic, for such a wordy chap, to be speaking so of his silencing.

I posted back HERE in March 2010 on my thoughts about losing my vocal abilities.  I've been toughing it out ever since, making do, adapting, using Internet Relay for the phone, doing as much bureaucratic and commercial stuff as possible online and via email, and of course having a social life almost entirely by the written word.  But a day or two ago, I had no voice for an entire day.... It. Just. Didn't. Work. Even with a whole breath per syllable and being as gentle or forceful as I could be; nada.  I crossed the watershed, and allowed The Realisation to seep in deeply - it is over now.  Speech has gone.  In that post closing in on two years ago now I spoke of my petty fears and my deeper ones.  I put forth that I would try to let go with some grace.  Well, if I am to judge myself on the latter, I wouldn't give a very high mark.  Never mind; grace comes in good time.

So it's been a little while since I heard much of myself.  Habit is dying hard (as they also say) so I've tried to speak a few times, and I have yet to work out a few little details; like how to communicate with the dogs on those important matters of "no", "sit", "go lie down", "wait", and importantly "good dog".  Using the iPhone program I have (the excellent Proloquo2Go) is not an easy conversational replacement either.  Typing is problematic for me at the best of times, and timing is vital to ordinary conversation so - very quickly I've settled in to a vibe of only saying what's necessary, or framing a simple line with clear intent.  What I'm saying is that it's been much quieter round here, word-wise.

But you can't make an omenological observation on just this - one swallow doth not a summer make after all. (There they go saying things again, and who are these they that so fill our heads with these pithy flippant lines?).  No - silence has been approaching stealthily yet in plain view, from many fronts, simultaneously.  You actually can hear it coming.  I am reminded of the sound of Mexico City over Christmas, when more than half the cars are off the roads or out of town and all the noisome businesses shut.  The silence creeps in from the mountains around.

All the neighbours left over Christmas.  Some of them have left for good, and others seem to be living there only part-time.  At any rate a lot of loud kids have departed; barky dogs and shouty parents too.  A series of events has led me into e-conversation with a Buddhist centre, one that specializes in assisting the dying, and of course the whole core of the practice in Buddhism is silence.  Or stillness, or something.  The things I'm reading all seem to feature silence as a theme.  And then Facebook decides to partly silence me by making sharing things more difficult, most especially these blog posts. (I suspect it's part of a Cold War between FB and Google, like the way FB quickly killed the apps that let you post on FB and Google+ simultaneously).  There are many little examples and pointers I could winkle out for you here but it's obvious to me what the theme of the moment needs to be for me.  And I admit, I am as powerfully drawn as I am egoistically repelled.  For the ego seems to cease to exist in real silence (the inner kind), it truly does.

The message for me is that of imbalance.  It's not an extreme position or massive inversion of my worldview that's called for; the message is that I'm ignoring silence far too much for my own good.  As my disease is a perfectly-tuned spur to grow through my unique karmic deals so is my final loss of speech a finely wrought - indeed golden - opportunity to experience the opposite of my erstwhile moment-to-moment habit.  You know, that thing where we humans always feel the urge to speak.

The astute observer may have noticed this tendency creeping in more and more with my written communications as well.  Fewer blog posts, less Facebook blathering.  The focus has shifted qualitatively also.  There's more room for the silence.  And this increases the value of that which I do say, I think.

Silence and stillness are very closely related, aren't they?  As my body continues to contract and my abilities of movement diminish, so the urge towards just sitting increases.  Stillness has stalked me like silence.  I need reading glasses now, but besides this reading can be physically uncomfortable.  Watching TV is more difficult with the aircon on; I don't like it to be too loud and obnoxious.  Writing here is painful after 20 or 30 minutes.  In a beautifully self-sabotaging twist my main music repository, my iPhone, is the very device I also use to 'speak', and only a week or two prior to Christmas did we re-sell an iPod that we'd never used (because I had the phone) thus meaning I can now either listen to music OR speak.  Oh hey, I'm not meaning to screed out a litany of complaint, I'm just reading to you some of the signs.  And they're all pointing to conscious stillness and silence.

I wonder, right now, why it is I feel moved to say any of this.  Perhaps I simply wish to see it in front of me, to 'speak' and thus validate my thoughts on the matter.

What we say becomes what we think.  What we think becomes what we do.  What we do becomes who we are.  Or so they say.

So what happens when we say - even inside our own heads - nothing?

It's no wonder people fear silence.  It's the sound of death.

Bring it on now, I say.  I'm ready to listen properly.

Two last things:  Please remember I am still open to receiving help with my final stillness as the me that I am; you can donate to my natural burial fund here, that I may compost nicely when the moment arrives:

Secondly, this blog will quite likely end here soon, and be shifted over to an alternative blogging platform.  It seems if I want to remain free to speak (and I do for now, in this way at least) then a freer way is to avoid the internecine strife between the Net Titans.  Maybe wordpress, or something.  Just a heads-up, OK?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Luftschliffe For Christmas

Meeta teased me a bit in the run up to Xmas this year, with little dropped lines like "If something arrives in the post from Germany, don't open it, OK?"  As if I'd open something addressed to her, I had replied. "I know ... just saying."  Later it was "gee I realy hope this thing arrives from Germany in time for Xmas" the inference being, since I am aware of all our gift-giving (or not) arrangements that this was something for me.

"I've bought you porn for Xmas". Again, there's an important assumption here.  The mutual knowledge that such things as are usually connoted by 'porn' do not float my boat and are in any case held in extreme general distaste by Meeta  coupled with our casual use of 'porn' as a denoter of visually-pleasing collections of imagery of a variety of subject matters meant that I could start to begin to wonder what sort of subject area she was referring to.  The double-entendre continued with the affixation of "... it's German porn."

I did indeed remove from our mailbox, on the 23rd of December, the last mail delivery day prior to Christmas, a smallish parcel, weighted and sized to suggest something possibly paperbackish, but in a larger format.  And heavier.  Yet it bent like side-bound paper goods do; in one axis, and not the other.  Must be a book.  "Excellent ... but that's only half.  Weird that the other half didn't arrive the same day".

Cometh the day, today.  Over the preceding weeks we've posted off a few choice hopefully well-curated little gifts and cards for friends and family, and yesterday we had a small family gathering with Meeta's youngest brother, his wife and our niece.  There was much good food, and some gift-swapping, and child's play in a little inflatable pool in the shade on a perfect summer's day.  This morning, with the neighbours all away, another of the very best and most amenable sorts of early summer's days ahead, it was to be just us.  Special presents under the tree.  'German porn' presumably included.

About ten days ago, in a quiet relationship moment - one of those long companionable silences in a home where two people have a comfortable love - I ventured that it seemed I would make another Christmas, as I was feeling both grateful, and a tad wistful.  We shared a Look.  It is great, we silently decided, that life has given us this Christmas together.  And that is all.  Remembrance of that close shave those few months ago now, that rapid, lurching, brutal veer toward the edge of my mortality and the subsequent climb back out has lost its anxiety already; replaced with a far more ever-present sense of acceptance that at any day now, it could (and probably will) happen again, without a physical redemption, perhaps, the next time. Our Look says that we can never really know what it's like for the other, but that we're as close to knowing as two people could be.  And that it's OK, because we have this one bright spot, whenever we remember it, right here, now.  And we can share in it, in a way.  This is a deep and abiding human comfort.  Possibly the best and most honest thing a couple can ever have, I think.

Up early, Christmas greetings exchanged.  The house is all lovely and shiny and clean and pregnant with delights in wrapping paper and fun with giving the dogs their new toys.  But first -:  have a feed, water the garden bits, put on a special loaf of bread for my beloved so it's hot and ready at lunchtime.  Reflect on giving, and gratitude at our amazingly lucky lives.  A hug and a Look, or two.  But eventually, we run out of excuses to prolong the titillation any longer, and we gleefully disburse Santa's bounty upon our furry four-legged family members.  They are most pleased.  To us, then.

First, I am instructed to open a certain smallish present, as this is one that she's just a tad unsure of whether I'll love it completely or maybe think it's a bit ... I don't know, something.  The least hard act to follow, I suppose, was the idea.  As it turned out, I love it. You are so not getting a list.

We took turns, and I was pointed at a parcel looking very like the dimensions of the aforementioned item from the mail.

Anyway ...

 ..... zeppelins.  It's even a satisfying word just to type.  Zeppelins.  There, I did it again.  Try saying it.  Feels nice too.  If ever there were to be a word to define and encompass the Middle European aesthetic from the first few decades of the 20th century then zeppelin would be it.

I love the things, but it's a weird, selective love; one which I have not ever interrogated or given much (or any, come to think of it) thought over the years.  It's just been there.

Massive sky penises? (There's that porn thing again).

Could it be that simple?  Is it just some odd primal masculinity-objectification worship being projected; a tantalizing blend of the purposeful shape with utter enormity yet a refined, redeeming lightness and grace?  Just a muscle-car fetish for a retro-machine geek?  Maybe, but who cares.  My favourites are those produced at the peak of the mania back in the mid 1930s like the Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg.  I never really went for later models, and certainly not faux-zeppelin things like the Goodyear blimps.  And it was always the German ones I liked best, aesthetically.  My very favourite "if you could travel back in time...." fantasy is travelling on the Graf Zeppelin; doing the South America run in particular.

Imagine my delight then, when the item from Germany turns out to be a beautifully-printed catalogue from a specialist auction house in Nuremburg with their massive annual zeppelin-related auction stuff.  Amazing things like letters and postcards, posters, brochures, and of course objects.  Old collectable zeppelin toys and models but then also Precious Things, like bits of the LZ 129 Hindenburg both from its early service years and salvaged after what the dual-language catalogue refers to as The Lakehurst Disaster.  Pieces of other zeppelins of the era, sections of struts and spars, gears, steering wheels, wine lists, teas services, zeppelin equipment ... anything you can think of that might have been on or is in any way related to zeppelins.  In this lusciously printed book.

How incredibly well my wife knows me, I think.  And how creative a gift was this to find (the 'other half' is another such catalogue but from this last year, the first one I have now is from 2010's auction).  I am glad (given our bank balance and the temptations) that their auctions are held in early December.  Who knows, maybe I'll be here for next year's ....... but porn indeed.  Glorious, fascinating looking and reading, and no-one else in the world would have known that I would totally have dug this gift.  No-one.

I'm not into the crash-porn aspects of zeppelin collectordom and I admit to a certain suspicion of one who might only covet a section of torn and burned Hindenburg outer skin or a twisted piece of spar from the wreckage, you know, ghoulish folk.  But then, the spars and pulleys and all that amazing manufactory is incredibly aesthetically appealing just in and of itself. I also note the very careful language used in the preface to the catalogue about anyone purchasing any object related to the "III Reich" does so only for interest and educative purposes (it is a long disclaimer to dissociate the vendors from any Nazi collectors you see).  I find the swastika on the pictures of the gorgeous airships like the Graf a little sad, personally, but it doesn't ruin the thing for me.  It's honest, they were forcibly leveraged by Hitler's National Socialists for propaganda of the "Germany Is Soooo Great, OK?" kind.  I'm not going to analyze myself and my love for all things airshippy from 20s and 30s Germany today, anyway; perhaps another time.  I'm just going to enjoy it.

But wait, it gets better.  You see, next I unwrapped this t-shirt:

So all that lightness and love I invited in has come aplenty this year, and I thank you each and every one of you. Even if you're brand new to this blog and we never met before this moment, I thank you, for you are part of the world I so adore being so palpably a part of today.  I hope your seasonal rituals and rites bring you even half as much depth of light and contentment as I have been brought to today, for that would be an awesome day in itself.

Happy Luftschiff Christmas.  Love to you and yours. <3

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Am Ridiculously Wealthy

Well, I am.  I'm not bragging, or claiming some social superiority, or even just OMG FAR OUT AMAZING GUESS WHAT WE WON THE LOTTERY crowing because that didn't happen either.

It's just that I need a new bookcase.

So, once upon a time when this happened, I might well have made one, being pretty handy and all.  We still have a pretty funky and very solid piece I made from recycled jarrah floorboards (jarrah is a local native hardwood, lovely to work with if heavy and HARD) and oregon pine pallets that does the job very nicely.  It was actually a bit of OT for while I was recovering from my back operation back in '05.  Now though, depite having a shed etc my hands/arms/everything are not up to the task.

Why do I need a new bookcase anyway?  Because we are fabulously wealthy.  Our book collection, along with the stuff you accumulate over the years that needs to live on shelves, is growing.  Even though we recycle, donate and delete crap quite regularly, there is more stuff now than we can store.

I should be very clear here - we are incredibly poor.  By Australian standards, living on a Disability Support Pension, with no other source of income, and with all the added costs that chronic disease adds to a lifestyle, puts us firmly hovering just above the poverty line.  We do better than those on Unemployment Assistance, but then my life costs more in some ways too.  As you know, I have a funeral coming up pretty soon (or soon enough) and feel the need to plan ahead.  I have gotten nearly half way to funding it too, through the kindness of friends and strangers, so that when I am gone, Meeta won't be entirely cleaned out and destitute.  Well, that's the idea - we'll see what happens.  Or she will.

But I need a new bookcase.  You see, this is a very modestly-sized house, and Meeta's study apart (a small room already crammed with shelves and so forth) it needs to be pretty tidily kept so as not to feel cluttered and full of bad feng shui.  We're already doing that horizontal stacking, tiltingly-piling on top of normally-arranged books thing and it's getting out of hand.  Flat surfaces are being slowly subsumed by displaced objects and books.

Also, I've worked out two potential spots in my room where a bookcase of one or the other dimensions will go nicely, without looming or disrupting the sense of peace, balance, and functionality.

So this afternoon, I'm going to go and see if I can get one.  Because I can.

This is my definition of being incredibly wealthy.

Maybe its because I've spent pretty much all my adult life (I was well catered-for as a child, but frugality was always a pointed theme from my parents) being hand-to-mouth. So many of my generation who never did (or who couldn't do) the career + mortgage = settle into wage slavery equation know the feeling.  But today, I can just comfortably enough find a way to wrangle a hundred or two dollars out of the consolidated revenues, having just a teeny buffer against small fates like vet bills and plumber call-outs, because we stash away as much of the precious government dole-out as we can against such eventualities, and are real about what things bring us happiness.

A new bookcase will make me inordinately happy for days at least, and will contribute to my sense of home and the amenity and beauty of my surrounds no end.  We own a nice-enough, nearly ten-year-old car that's OK on petrol and we can afford to drive down to the city every now and then on such a whim.  I'll pick up some other 'city' supplies while I'm down there.  And at present I can still drive safely and well, so I shall.

Choice is the thing that makes us truly wealthy.  Beyond food, shelter, water, clothing, and a reasonable expectation of this continuing, having enough resources to make a choice about some stuff constitutes real wealth.  Any more than that doesn't really increase your happiness much, I don't think.

Thankful, I am.  That I can have such wealth, compared to the vast majority of my fellows who struggle to meet the basic needs of life, and are lucky to get the education to enable them to read a book, let alone own enough to even warrant a bookshelf.  That I can substitute my own labour with the luxury of purchasing someone else's to make a piece of furniture grown from trees is a testament to the luck of my birth.

So anyone who does those FML posts who gets three (or more) meals a day, has a house to live in tonight, and internet access?  Yeah.  Shut up.  You got it good.  Let's not forget it. <3