On the Privilege of Entropy

(SURFACE Tension) It's tenuous, but it holds. (Image sourced from Turf Design Build Magazine.)

(SURFACE Tension) It’s tenuous, but it holds. (Image sourced from Turf Design Build Magazine.)

My obsessions have been far more obvious in my writing lately. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been writing as much (quantity often leads to a diminution of experience). Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older (time distills a great many things besides alcohol).

At any rate, a cursory glance at this year’s posts reveals: a fascination with the subterranean; a desire for withdrawal; an appreciation for brokenness; a nostalgia for darkness, silence, solitude and stillness.

It’s not so much about going away as it is about going in. If the earth has its seasons—its winters and its falls—so does its children.

The logic of this cycle of generation-degeneration/creation-destruction/expansion-contraction/exitus-reditus is not lost on me. It’s a motif in mythology, philosophy and theology and a fact of astronomy, biology and ecology.

It’s simply how things work.

And yet…and yet

This isn’t how life’s occurred to me for most of my existence (a classic example of the energy of youth fueling the perpetuation of an illusion). I went for years on full throttle without feeling the slightest hint of burnout. And now…well, I feel hollow all the way to my bones: brittle, insubstantial, glassy, on edge.

I think I’ve hit the limits of my outer borders and now there’s a majestic, primal and implacable urge to retreat: to return, to fold back in upon the self, to spin a cocoon, to wall off the world, to surrender to the terrible transformations that can only happen in the darkest and most solitary recesses of the soul.

At the very least, I’ll settle for a few blessed days to just stay in bed and curl up into a ball under the covers, allowing myself to go gently to seed, to fall gradually and gracefully apart, to be the vessel of a quiet and undramatic form of chaos.

(Nursing a bag of crisps and a bottle of soda won’t feel too bad either.)

But for now, for now (oh, what an eternity this now has been…) I’ll have to hold myself together (sometimes by will, more often by grace).

I haven’t yet earned the privilege of falling completely apart.

On the Return to Wholeness


This week, I started getting up even earlier than usual to take a brief morning swim.

I normally dislike getting out of bed before 7:00 am. It doesn’t matter how many hours I’ve actually slept or whether I’m fully rested or not—my body’s circadian rhythms simply refuse to reset.

But this week, I’ve dragged myself out of bed and trudged to the community pool for ten or so laps in a rusty crawl.

It’s my way of making peace with my battered and exhausted body.

(Yes, part of my silence this last several weeks was caused by the onset of a series of middling ailments and one acute illness. )

Wading into waters that feel partly like a welcome wagon and partly like a wrestling match, I surrender myself to thirty minutes of buoyant struggle. The liquid holds me up—but it also slows me down. I teeter between the lucid calm engendered by the silence beneath the surface and the raw terror triggered by childhood memories of near drownings.  I swim slowly and gracelessly, my fingertips always just a foot away from the pool’s concrete edge. I end each lap with an outstretched hand—a clear sign that my body no longer believes in the myth of its invincibility.

I always cling for a few moments before I push off for the other side.

In a strange, atavistic way, these morning swims have become a ritualistic means to recovering wholeness. My relationship to yoga is so fraught with notions of identity, worth and esteem that I can’t trust it with my healing (at least not yet). The irony of this epiphany is both humbling and hilarious (and probably needs to be unpacked in another blog post altogether).

So, yes, I’m getting well: a little slowly and many times not at all surely. But I’m in a much, much better space now.

This is me clinging for a few moments before I push off for the other side.

On the Need to Resurface

(UNDER Water) When I was thinking of images that could go with this post, the only artist I could think of was Dave McKean. (Illustration by Dave McKean and sourced from Richard Dawkins' The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True.)

(UNDER Water) When I was mulling over images that could go with this post, the only artist whose work I thought could capture the atmosphere was Dave McKean. (Illustration by Dave McKean and sourced from Richard Dawkins’ The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True.)

Hello there.

It feels like I’ve been away a long, long time.

(Scratch that. I have been away a long, long time.)

This time, the silence wasn’t intentional. Oscar Wilde once said that “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” The latter “tragedy” (though I’m not inclined to mourn) is what’s led to this recent hiatus. Put more simply: a lot of things I’d begun preparing for began happening before my preparations were even properly underway.

Which is how for the last few weeks life’s been an unending series of teaching, studying and writing stints (my hard-won weekend afternoons were the first to go).

Again, I am not complaining. My dear friend J., whom I managed to see the other night (at the rather inauspicious occasion of her grandmother’s wake—but the only occasion I could squeeze out of my impossible calendar) remarked that what I’ve been doing lately seems to be the culmination of all the things I love to do (and which I therefore do well). I wholeheartedly agree, and I think that the quiet, if somewhat frantic, happiness generated by these recent pursuits has gone a long way in mitigating the dismay provoked by the loss of blogging time.

And it’s a bit of a pity, really, because there’s so much to write about. Other people would perhaps insist that there’s a time for living and there’s a time for writing and that one must live—in the bustling, pedestrian sense of the word—if one is to have anything to write about. It doesn’t work that way for writers though: unmediated living doesn’t feel like living at all because our sense of reality is the one we fabricate through the structure of our words. My life doesn’t feel real to me until I write about it. Until the moment of reflection, existence literally occurs to me as a dream.

(So yes, the last few weeks have felt incredibly surreal.)

If I’m writing now, it’s not because I’ve suddenly found the time, but because I need to break away from the current of my life—rise above the waters, fashion a raft out of words, pause, take a breath, take a look around, take stock, remember and comprehend—before the undertow takes me again. I don’t know when I’ll manage to resurface after this, but at least at this very moment, I feel real to myself once more.

It’s enough.

For now.