Saturday, January 5, 2013

the difference between love and obsession


Happy new year. I have been thinking a lot about what I would write you in terms of new beginnings and endings and the significance of the year, but it still hasn't come to me. I don't know how everything is coming together at all. A lot has happened that could potentially lend itself to the idea of resolutions and lessons learned, but it hasn't had the tidiness of fitting into the dates that would make it obvious for a new year anecdote. For now I will tell you what I have been thinking about since I last wrote you over Thanksgiving. 

Once I mentioned the idea about connections between mind and body. It's a big idea and some people study and write their whole lives about something as big as that and only manage to skim its outer edges. I am reading about semiotics and trying to understand something of the outer edges too.

It's important to have a balance between physical and internal worlds. There are easy ways to make the connection stronger, like eating healthy and exercising and things like that. Some people feel the connection doing something that is dually physical and emotional, like dancing or having sex. 

I have started to try to identify my pathology and the circumstances that are leading me to feeling disconnected. I think of my body as being a neutral color, usually slate gray. I think of the things I don't like to feel or think about as red, and the things I do like to feel or think about as blue. Kind of like a commercial for a tempurpedic matress where they show the muscles in the human body as a diagram where the parts of your body that would be helped by the tempurpedic mattress as blue and the parts of your current mattress that are hurting you as red. 

I think about my breathing, and I count the time between the breaths and I think about breathing in something blue and breathing out something red. I think about breathing as being my most direct connection between me and the outside world. I think about the air oxygenating my system and trying to feel as blue as I can and get rid of the red. 

And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

When I was in Turkey over the spring I had the strangest encounter with exhaustion. I went as part of a project with my Master's class for spring break, and after a week of teaching and studying in Champaign took the 2.5 hour trip to Chicago and then an overnight flight to Istanbul. I could not sleep on the plane so by the time we got to Istanbul I was tired. I was tired from the trip, but I was also tired from the semester of two jobs and graduate studies. And the thing with fast travel is that it takes my mind a few days to catch up. My mind could not catch up to being at the crossroads of Europe and Asia as fast as my body went there. 

The trip was one of my favorites I've been on. I was constantly in awe of everything I was seeing and experiencing. I got a kick out of the fact that I was on three continents within 24 hours. We traveled all over the country with our fearless leader, a Turkish professor. 

By the third day of the trip I had a really weird sensation while I was eating. I felt like I was watching my hands move and I didn't know how they were doing it. I felt like I wasn't doing it. Someone else was operating my hands and I was a spectator. It was terrifying. I thought I would drop the food I was eating. I didn't feel like I was really eating it. Later, while we were making pottery I was positive I was not going to be able to follow the fairly simple steps the teacher was showing us how to do. My hands were not working correctly with my mind and I had no idea why. I told two of my friends what was happening. I asked if I was going crazy. They said, no, I don't think so. They said it sounds like hyper paranoia. I said I didn't feel paranoid. They said that it wasn't paranoia like suspicion but more like a disconnect, or a paranoia that your body might be unable to do the things it should, and when you think about it too much it actualizes. 

"The core symptom of depersonalization disorder is the subjective experience of 'unreality in one's sense of self,'[10] and as such there are no clinical signs. Patients who suffer from depersonalization also experience an almost uncontrollable urge to question and think about the nature of reality and existence as well as other deep philosophical questions. [11]
Individuals who experience depersonalization can feel divorced from their own personal physicality by sensing their body sensations, feelings, emotions and behaviors as not belonging to the same person or identity. Also, a recognition of self breaks down (hence the name). Depersonalization can result in very high anxiety levels, which can intensify these perceptions even further.
Depersonalization is an anomaly of self-awareness. It consists of a feeling of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation.[1] Subjects feel they have changed, and the world has become vague, dreamlike, less real, or lacking in significance. It can be a disturbing experience, since many feel that, indeed, they are living in a 'dream.'" 

At the Lebanese restaurant I work at patrons often come in to ask if the meat we serve is halal. I didn't know what that meant so I asked my supervisor what it meant and if we had it. He responded vaguely that it was some Muslim dietary requirement about how an animal is killed. I looked it up myself and saw that it means the animal was killed in the name of God with a single incision in its neck. The animal usually dies of exsanguination. It is a way of maintaining purity by saying that the animal was killed only for God, which makes the act of killing it sacred.  
It bothers me when someone who eats meat makes a distinction between the morality of eating meat as opposed to hunting. They say something like "I'm not a vegetarian but I definitely couldn't go hunting," to signify that they are uncomfortable with being close to the killing of the animal but will utilize the product of the act at a more distant vantage point. I don't know how someone could justify passive complicity in a process like killing an animal by eating meat and then admonish other people who decide to take a more active role in the process. Hunting seems to me to be more humane than condoning the fact that an animal be born and pumped full of drugs and then die in a plant somewhere to be packaged up and look more palatable. I think it's easier for people to ignore realities that they do not want to consider than to acknowledge hypocrisy. 

The more I think about it, the more I dislike comparative morality in most ways. I really dislike it when people absolve themselves of shortcomings by pointing out the sins of other people. 

"Grief was physiological, a disturbance in the blood." Eugenides

I think sometimes things that are seen as misfortunes are really life's way of telling you what you need to do. Sometimes there are two different options and you would choose the one that's wrong for you. Sometimes something not working out is life's way of taking the choice out of your hands because it knows what is in store for you better than you do.

"He thought of all the people going to sleep or reading or listening to music, all the lives contained by a great city like this, and, floating up in his mind, rising just above the rooftops, he tried to feel, to vibrate among, all those million tremulous souls. He was sick of craving, of wanting, of hoping, of losing." Eugenides 

I think about giving blood, and watching the blood go out of my arm and into the catheter. 

I think about how that makes me feel more human than staring at a computer screen sitting in a cubicle.  

I was thinking about everything too much. One day I couldn't stop the waterfall of thoughts so I went to a bookstore on Capitol Hill to buy The Little Prince. I had heard of the book being simple, for children, but having connections that made it a metaphor for something else too. I wanted to look at things with the simplicity of a child. When I got to the store I felt immediately better. There were aisles and aisles of used books spilling onto each other and it had an air of knowledge in disorganization, like an absent minded professor. The lady at the desk told me that they only currently had The Little Prince in French. I asked if they ever had it in English, and she said that they did, often. She said people buy it all the time. She said buying The Little Prince at a bookstore was like going to the post office to buy stamps. I said I would come back. I knew I wouldn't come back for it though, I hate waiting for things. So I would buy it somewhere else sooner.

I sat down in a chair thinking about reading the book I had in my bag. But then I noticed a book about Gertrude Stein, it was called In Pieces. I sat there reading until the end of my break and then bought it to finish. 

Once I heard someone say that the reason that people often feel alienated or alone is because they are comparing their own inner feelings with the external projections of other people. If you feel like you are falling apart or nothing makes sense, or that your life in general has gotten out of control, you probably won't say that to most people. When someone asks you how you are doing, most of the time you will respond with some variation of 'alright.'  They will say that they are also alright. 

When I was flying from Baltimore to Chicago I noticed that when we hit a certain elevation I could see the flickering Christmas lights and porch lights in a way that gave them a pulsing, deep shimmer. The ariel view showed spirals of concentrated light in the neighborhoods and more scattered lights farther away from them. It looked like an artery of light with veins stretching out into the dark.

I thought about the similarities between the veins and capillaries in my body and those that can be seen in the universe. The recurring patterns that manifest and occur on different scales. The sameness of different parts of existence and the idea that everything is somehow alive. 

I like to think about these things, because if I feel more connected to the world, I should, by an associative or transitive property, feel more connected within myself.