Against the Blog

Been feeling a little bit weird since my last post. I always feel a little strange after writing a blog post.

Though the irony is not lost on me, let me explain what I mean.

I've been listening to the audiobook of Against the Day at work. It's 42 discs. I checked it out from the library and it took me the course of a whole weekend to rip them to mp3.

As I listen to the book, I can sort of let it wash over me in a way I couldn't do when I read the actual book. For one, the book (I bought it in hardback) is fucking heavy. It needs two hands or a table. Second, reading the book, because it was so long, became a bit of work over the course of the 16-or-so months in which I read it. I don't mind reading as work (I'm the sort of literary masochist who paid for the opportunity to read Being and Time on a schedule of three weeks just to eventually earn a certificate of some sort) but you necessarily experience the book in a different way.

As I hear the book, I am realizing it is absolutely fucking beautiful. I don't want to discuss Pynchon from the context of literature; again, this is like holding about ten hefty books in one's hands: work. Good work, sure, but work all the same.

The story of the novel, on the other hand, is just so wild and untamed. Totally free from typical literary constraints, it is free to just ramble on and on, like the landscape in the Western US. Have you ever driven across Wyoming, or Kansas, or Utah? Each view is magnificent, and it folds into the next as the horizon rolls forward, passing such landscape oddities as holes in the ground, dead trees, roadside trash, and trucks and trucks and trucks. The Western US is in bad need of an editor--and there is no shock that most of it has still never claimed a place on any best seller list.

And it just rolls on like this, going down the state highway roads of Merle Rideout, The Chums of Chance, Webb Traverse, (I've only just made it through disc 3) and all these other crazy characters in this gigantic space opera of a historical fiction novel, never worrying about getting off course, because the narrator knows he's got an unlimited tank of gas. Imagine where you could go with an unlimited tank of gas. This is the true cost of being on the road these days. It cost me about $600 in gas to make it from NYC to Oregon in May 2007. This was traveling for two weeks. That's barely a novella! But with an unlimited tank of gas, you could sleep in the car, and just have to scrape together enough for food. But who needs to eat, really? Listening to an audiobook is like driving without getting hungry or tired. You just keep going, stop, and keep going, like the sun's light going around the earth.

This last simile being a pointer to the point of the book (without discussing what it really is, or whether book's have points), as is all in the title. Enough said about that.

But it got me thinking, as I will do.

It got me out of that little individualist home-life bubble I get into, and sort of thinking in that state of mind I get into when doing something like driving across a continent. That feels of all that massive amount of land, man; not in a manifest destiny opportunistic vein, not even in an "On-the-Road" speed mentality, or even in a John Muir wide-open-natural-space hippie glee. Megan describes the fear of looking upward at the night sky sometimes, the horror of the phenomenal knowledge of traveling on a hunk of rock traveling around the sun. It's similar, but a bit more planetary, not so galactic.

It's as if suddenly you are caught in a massive earthquake. This is the big one. The sky line is crumbling around you, people are screaming and trying to save themselves: the moment during a boat fire when suddenly everyone realizes it is time to jump into the sea, because it's safer than the vessel. And just as the floor drops out beneath your feet, and you feel the sudden sensation of weightlessness in your joints, which being attuned to gravity from the time of their development, know only a harsh reaquainting with the effects of weight will soon result, and lock up in instinctual and reflexive fear of the void of orientation, and the perpetual pain hiding just beyond--yes, just at this point, time seems to freeze. The sound of shearing concrete and bending steel becomes mute, and you are caught in a stasis. Perhaps you have passed out, but instead of feeling nothing you feel enveloped, surrounded, as if buried. Suddenly an awareness comes to you, and you know your are not simply covered, but ensconced, held, and veiled by a... something. And then the something starts to speak.

You: Who are you?

It: I am the North American Plate.

You: The what?

It: I am the literal ground beneath your feet. I am the continental shelf, the mountains, the broad back of land you have been wandering over for the majority of your life.

You: And you are talking to me?

It: I don't have a lot to say, so when I pipe up, most of you are incredulous.

You: Oh. So what do you have to say? Is this some sort of cataclysmic anuciation of your own sentience?

It: No. I had a cramp. My back was really hurting. The edge of Juan de Fuca is pretty uncomfortable.

You: So after this, it's back to sleep?

It: It's not really sleep. There are no dreams. There is full consciousness. It's simply life as part of the earth's crust.

You: Does it feel good to shake the cobwebs loose every some years?

It: Not particularly. Barely like a muscle twitch, except for the pain.

You: What does pain feel like to you?

It: Do you feel that?

You: Yes, it hurts every time I move.

It: You've broken your arm.

You: I see.

It: What you are feeling now is as similar as you could imagine to what I feel. You are covered over, pressed upon by all sides, but with a great pain pressing in upon you, constricting your movement. Your back is hot, pressed to the fires from which you are constantly made and destroyed. But your front is cold, exposed to the thin cover of atmosphere, and beyond that, space. Yet it is not freedom in front of you, because the only substance you have is that you gain from being tied in a knot of your existence with all of your siblings, packed into a sphere from your combined weight. You, human, are free to walk over my face, twisting your body in all directions like a particle set loose in a vacuum, your only constraint being time, the constant circling of me and my siblings, beneath your feet. You need never think of us, except when we are forced to stir as now, because we have become a plane to you--a floor, a mere constraint of existence. But do not forget, we are the boundary of your world, and its extent.

You: So you just wanted to remind me of this, for my own good?

It: I don't know good or bad. I know stillness, and occasional pain, and the contact of my siblings weight, and my surface, and our unstoppable rotation. Now you know these things too.

And then you wake up, inexplicably in the middle of a street, with buildings torn down around you, with a broken arm, and a very strange feeling that you have wandered onto the back of a sleeping giant, and you could walk for years without knowing exactly where to jump off.

This was sort of the way I was feeling today, minus the broken limb. Feeling as if I didn't know whether I was proceeding with, or against the day, but suddenly conspicuously aware of the day, and filled with the general idea I should probably be considering it more, whereas only minutes before my life was lived in obliviousness of it.

I'm not sure to what this translates exactly. I'm not about to quit my job, or anything like that. But I feel like I need a bit of a purge. I feel a bit off course, like maybe I need to see exactly what in my pack is so heavy and poking against the back of my ribs, and see if maybe I should leave it on the next street corner.

But I feel pretty good about many things, such as my personal surroundings, my living space, and my protein intake. This is not some massive paradigm shift. It think it is more of a strategic reappraisal--not a change in strategy, but making sure I still know what the strategy is.

Perhaps things have been a bit negative in my world-of-thoughts lately. Too many foul clouds, the Nietzschean bad air. Sometimes I think total information awareness is a poison, filling the blood stream of thought with impurities, not letting enough good ole oxygen in.

Maybe I listen to the radio too much. I love the way I can flood myself with information. Podcasts, RSS, radio, constantly piped into my awareness--it's all possible, easy, and free. I can know so many things this way. Be up to date, whatever that means. It feels good to be in tune, to be a receiver, to vibrate with the wavelengths shooting through the ether.

But it goes without saying this gets old. Especially when the signals are often poor, or disagreeable. I can't stand commercials, and often turn the radio off in the car, which I never used to do. I would rather hear the sounds of my struggling transmission than the transmission of another mind-distortion ad campaign. I close my eyes to the bumper stickers, the email alerts, the constant stream of important announcements, because sometimes it is too much to hear what everyone would like me to think. I have thoughts too, and they don't have to be about whatever is going on, whatever is good or bad, and whatever else is trending.

I think it's time for an RSS purge. I'm going to cut some sections out of my newspaper. I need to load a collection of time-tested, lyric-free albums to the player, and put it on random. I need some emotive-content, not just rich-content. I'm going to post without reading, without referencing, without considering, without confronting. I'm going to write without a plan for a while, without any goal or literary-sound in mind, avoiding my usual word bank of tender, choice, and succulent vocabulary words. Build some sand castles, maybe. I'll read a book I've already read. I think I'll get drunk in the afternoon, and take a long nap. I'll just keep walking, and then take the bus back if I get tired. I'll eat something, maybe. Or maybe just make tea. I'll buy a magazine I've never read before, and only look at the pictures.

Let's see: it's May 15th. Still time to make some monthly plans.

Well, there is secret project M. I'll work on that (don't you worry about what that is, yet).

I could probably finish a short story.

And how about this--I'm only going to blog about stuff I really like. None of this Interdome of Interrogation for awhile. I think that will be nice. For the rest of the month, it's only Awesome Interdome around here. Not a hot list, not a brag or blow-up sheet, but stuff that is simply great, for fact of itself.

I've been making plans and lists like this for awhile now, in the effort of getting shit done. I don't know why I'm posting them here--no need to make this a Live Journal. But I didn't know why I was sitting down to write this post, either. And here we are, at the end.

Let's just say, the sun, and it's good friend, the North American Plate told me to do so. Yes, I like that. If you ever are called on to justify something, simply say it was a direct order by an entity which no one can question the existence of.

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