In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge: Prolific.
The prompt prolific can be interpreted as pro-life. It’s in there: pro-lific and pro-life. Looks like these two might have something in common, right?
I’m not speaking of pro-life in the sense of anti-abortion—let’s not even look in that direction. It’s pro-life more in the sense of obsessively bringing things to life. Regardless of whether said things wish to be alive in the first place or would rather choose not to.
Spring is a quintessentially prolific season, hence my tulip photo. I never post tulips while omitting to quote my pet poet Sylvia Plath. I think I get her, or she gets me, whichever way you put it. She wasn’t particularly pro-life, which we have in common, as manifested by her choice to quit and put her head in the oven. And since we live in an age when you can’t say anything without offending someone, please let it be recorded that I’m not pro-suicide. Which is quite a feat, for a suicidal person.
But now, rest your eyes on the tulips and consider how they feel. That’s how tulips feel to Plath:
The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their color,
Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherised upon a table. —T. S. Eliot
So what’s the story here? I don’t know about the story in the above poem, except that the poet was crazy, as poets are prone to be, which is my professional opinion of a doctor of literature. I picked the poem as an epigraph because I really like the comparison of the sky to the operating table. So cute. And as sterile as the airport corridors in the below photo. I don’t know about the story of the photo either, but come on, there must be a plenty of stories in there! It’s an airport for fuck’s sake. There are always stories where there are people.
What I do know is my story at this airport. It was the first of the gazillion circles of hell, as not imagined even by Dante, who had no imagination, which was my recent business trip. Everything that could possibly go wrong duly did, and my boss, who is a pathological optimist and liar, kept on saying We’re on a pleasure trip, it’s an adventure! First, a business trip is not a pleasure trip. Second, you only call a fuckup an adventure when you’re talking to a child whom you’re saving from a disaster and whom you don’t want to frighten. And why, yes, I’m a pathological negativist.
My holiday programme could be summed up in one word: nothing. But then I’d have nothing to blog about, so let’s elaborate.
I spent the holiday with my family: Ella, Lena, Apple, Broken Bastard and, most important, WiFi. In other words, I was home alone (plus one, that is, cat). So as not to be lonely, I was spending quality time with the cat (the above-mentioned Ella) and my favourite devices, which I named (like Robinson’s Wilson the Ball). Lena is my laptop and my bestie. Apple is the iPad with whom I have a love-and-hate relationship and only use it for reading Kindle books. The Broken Bastard is my electric heater, which is broken, hence bastard. As to WiFi, duh, self-explanatory.
My festive mood was oscillating between severely depressed and fiercely grumpy. On the Christmas Day, I was flooded with seasonal wishes on Facebook, which were mostly the identical Facebook-generated card. I soon developed a strong allergic reaction against it.
On a whim, I texted my academic colleague a customised wish: “Though Christmas is a social construct, have a good one!” She replied with happy holidays and the wish that god may bless me. That made me grumpy. How many times do I have to publicly declare that a) I’m Buddhist and don’t celebrate Christian holidays (and, obviously, don’t believe in god’s blessings); b) I’m depressed and grumpy, hence wishing me a happy anything is really a waste of a perfectly good wish.
On the Christmas Eve, I found myself digging in the Windows registry for fun. Even I considered this a twisted way to spend the holiday. So I went to reorganise my desktop folders instead. Seeing that this was not much better, I proceeded to change my phone ringtones. I was really just waiting the season out.
On the New Year’s Eve, I started to organise my work and life for the new year, obsessively filling in my several planning diaries and journals. A good try, alas, I failed in all instances. I switched on a boring radio station so as not to miss the countdown to midnight. I didn’t miss it, but it was anti-climactic. The moderator invited a charwoman to the microphone and they both dispensed their best wishes.
I tried to toast to my cat (not toast my cat as in putting her in a toaster), but she was shitting herself with fright from the fireworks under the sofa and refused to come out. And the next thing I remember is a hangover and another shitty year beginning. The cat foretold it right.
I’m particularly proud of the new year’s wish I posted on Instagram, so I’ll repeat it here: If you’re a guy, may your new year not suck. And if it sucks, may it at least swallow. (This joke I stole.) If you’re a gal, may your new year not be a dick. Actually… (This one I didn’t steal.) Well, let’s hope my new year will be a dick.
Also, I do not offer my apologies for my somewhat inappropriate sense of humour. I’m true to myself. Which is actually the moral of The Scarlet Letterby Hawthorne:
Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!
So, this is where sex jokes and classics of American literature meet.
I don’t even know what the title of the post means (but I can’t be bothered figuring out a more meaningful one). What is it, to be where you’re meant to be? Who does the meaning? I don’t know. I know who doesn’t do the meaning though: me. (Also, god, because I’m godless and faithless.)
I’m a self-declared Buddhist. Dalai Lama’s Cat advises to turn our prison into a monastery. The idea is that while you’re still confined, you bring into play an element of deliberate consent. I’m also Freudian. Freud advises that when you can’t have what you want, you must want what you have. These two are basically the same idea.
If it were entirely up to me, I wouldn’t choose to be where I am, physically and mentally. On the other hand, why not? There are sure worse places, literally and figuratively. I believe in determinism in the sense that where and when you are born predetermines your options. Don’t tell me that my life would be the same if I were born in a dirt hut in the heart of darkness (that’s literary speak for Congo, Africa).
Having been born in the second world has its amazing perks. Awareness, for example. We’re here an advanced society enough not only to know in theory that there are more advanced societies but also to practically know how exactly they live. I don’t think people in the dirt huts of the third world are quite clear on what life in the first world looks like. I have the benefits of internet, formal education and international friends, so I dare say I am quite aware of what it is to live elsewhere.
The second world awareness to me means that I know that I could have been better and also that I could have been worse. I can visualise both variants rather well. Knowing this, I’m also appreciative that I haven’t ended up worse. Sure, I’m a struggling overworked freelancer in a cold flat in a shabby small town, but hey, it’s not like I have to walk ten miles to get water from the well and there are rapists and robbers on the way.
I argue that second world people are the toughest. When you don’t know what you could have had, if only you were born differently, you don’t desire it—you have no idea. When you do know, however, that you could, but most likely won’t (don’t give me the nonsense that I can be anything I want to be), you have to get your shit together and deal with it. That requires both mental and physical toughness.
I mean, I’m not dependent on UNICEF food packets, I get my groceries from Tesco, but I still have to walk a mile to get there and carry the shopping on my back because I have neither a car nor someone to help me. It’s this undemonstrative everyday heroism that I value the most in others—and myself. I wouldn’t choose it, but since that’s what I got, I might just as well do it properly and with whatever grace and dignity I can put together.
We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
I repeat to myself this D. H. Lawrence quote often. Several times a day, whenever a new sky falls. And skies don’t fall in a good way. Which reminds me of my grandmother, who had a peculiar saying. She probably didn’t invent it, but I never heard anyone else say it. It translates poorly, but it roughly says He who craps himself will have the crapper falling on his head. It means that when you’re in bad luck, you can expect more bad luck. My grandmother wasn’t very encouraging. Here’s a picture of a sky falling.
Continuing to take clues from my readers, here’s a suggestion by David Bennett (hello and thanks!). The suggestion isn’t a suggestion (wait, read on). But I can easily recast it into one! David originally thought along the lines “anything to get the writing juices going” (I really shouldn’t get so much freedom for my free writing). Then David’s own writing juices got going on the subject of consistency (consistency to be continued after an inconsistent digression below).
Apropos Creative Juices
Now, the phrase creative juicesalways startles me. I’m creating in my head the image of juices flowing and I’m not sure what to make out of it. What juices in the first place? Orange juice? I don’t currently contain orange juice. I suspect that the brain juice which makes the mind work is blood really. So I’m imagining blood flowing. You know, as in, Let’s spill some blood and type some thoughts on the screen. This is getting mildly Gothic. By the way, guess what my native language says instead of creative juices? We say poetic saliva. Literal translation. This isn’t any better than blood. You know, as in, Let’s get the body fluids flowing and get creative.
As to Consistency…
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.
—R. W. Emerson
The above quote would have been so deep if anyone knew what a hobgoblin is. Don’t tell me, I know already, but I had to Google it years ago, which really deprived the quote of any potential spontaneous aha moment. I don’t particularly revere Emerson (I don’t revere most classics, I promote my own) and I still blame him for the horrible weekend I had ages ago trying to crack his essay on Nature. I mean, “I become a transparent eyeball etc. etc.” What the heck, Emerson? Whatever you’ve been smoking during your trips (as in drug trips), quit it, it’s not making your writing any more transparent.
As David pointed out in his comment/suggestion, consistency is a diagnosis of its own. I collect diagnoses, so I naturally couldn’t miss on this one. I’ve been pathologically consistent most of my life, and so far I’ve discovered that it’s good for one thing only: proofreading. Otherwise it sucks. On the other hand, I’ve made a huge improvement. Professionally, I’m still so consistent that I annoy the shit out of everyone, including myself and my cat (whom I feed consistently at 7:30 pm, not 7:29, for example), but on the blog, I don’t care. That’s my anti-consistency therapy.