Chronicles of Infection [2011_july]



I haven’t written a blog entry in a long time, marinating instead in my own thoughts as I thought might be advisable and satisfactory to do. Considering it now, I think that it is not. Fuck me. Thoughts are only the disorderly skeletons of the fully fleshed, functional organism of a text and unlike a skeleton they do not even manage to remain in the ground for millions of years for anybody else to discover and gain insights from. They are not even skeletons, they are ghosts, intracranial clouds. No, let me create texts again instead of letting thoughts come and go like so many strato-cumuli meagerly precipitating a confused utterance, a brief bombast or just a pensive look.

There are other, more pressing reasons I haven’t written in a while: G) working on a different textual construct H) preparing for a new professional trajectory I) spending too much time on reading, movies and assorted drama series…

 

…but mostly reading [The conflict between deciding on whether to read or to write from my perspective is an everlasting one: one moment I will think that enough many mesmeric novels have been written and that all there is really left to do is to read, enjoy them, lay aside all vain hopes of writing a thing of beauty in my own right. Then, the next moment, Bolano’s episodicity, Wallace’s didacticism, Borges’ biblio- and nomomania or Morgan’s unnecessary chauvinisms annoy me to no end and I conceive of a grand novel that some-magical-how remedies all these maladies afflicting the gravosphere. It is in this litero-diagnostic mode when finding fault with “what is there” that I feel most confident about the possibility and necessity of an untold story. However, it is when I sit down to write the first few words, which are always very different from the great, diaphanous ideas that appear during reading that I instantly loose almost all hope and want to leave the Mac’s keyboard to its dusty fate of sedimenting skin particles, unreclaimed hangnails and miniature dust-bunnies. And though I’ve only just begun on my long textual undertaking, I know what its essence is: a long, labored, sweaty, patient trudge, years in the typing, at the end of which there might be, at best, a few hundred passable pages. To hope for more is to court philosophico-emotional catastrophe or worse. And moreover, whatever ailments of my guiding lights that might be avoided it will be exacerbated a thousand-fold by my own writerly short-comings. So to avoid both catastrophe and failure, the safe thing is always to steer towards reading rather than writing, which I can enjoy mostly pain-free and where at least I can have some residually good feelings about discovering faults that are none of my responsibility.]

In the late morning and sometimes even in the late afternoon, I can hear somebody, somewhere in our apartment block hawking up phlegm. It makes sense to assume that the anonymous person is hacking at an extremely loud volume. I can even, or at least I believe I can, hear that blubbery sound just as the phlegm comes up, flowing around the epiglottis, into the mouth volume. Though I’m not particularly sensitive about taboo bodily sounds, I do find the noise of somebody hawking up sputum audible through several apartment building walls decidedly revolting. There is also a suspicion that the noisy mucus promoter might not even be aware of the total audibility of his intimate activity and ergo falsely believe himself in the safe sphere of his very own domestic privacy, whereas in reality any and all surrounding neighbors and even accidental visitors [of which there are many in our block, from errant party-goers to avid burglars] are privy to the sounds of his, as it were, up-close-and-personal bodily functioning. This leads to a slight sense of a social phenomenon known to us [German-speaking tribes’ members] as “fremd-schaemen”, which freely translates as “unfamiliar embarrassment” or “stranger’s embarrassment”. The mucus hawker, as I sit behind my desk, is located somewhere ahead of me but is not the neighbor next door. However, one floor above and one floor below that there are distinguished [locally, Lucerne] business establishments so that it is highly unlikely, even for the most obnoxious of bosses to produce such sounds at the above indicated hours. Thus I suppose it must be one of our fifth floor neighbors but if this is so then the original level of the noise [and subsequently also the volume of the sputum pumped up] must be enormous, monstrous. And I find myself wondering when I chance upon a neighbor in the stairwell [which happens with utmost rarity] if this might not be that very mucus monster which I sporadically hear roaring in the late morning or afternoon.

Astonishingly often I sally back into the world of world news, The Guardian lately, to see if there might not be something new happening in the bubble of high politics and international affairs. But unsurprisingly there never is, only these farcical re-iterations of the mistakes that have gone before, historically, phylogenetically, which make one feel like an impotent, ballot-casting, remote-zapping citizen plus savvy media consumer. To wit. I cannot establish any kind of relation between the positive hopeful emotions I had for President Obama and what his present political record reflects. I know too little about the latter and neither do I care nor do I even know what could be a cause for me to begin to care. Furthermore. There is a sense of being callous but I cannot manage to care about A. Winehouse’s death other than simply wishing she would not have died or not have had the inclination to die. And what is more. I also wish the tragedy in Norway would not have happened but this wish and my sympathy don’t affect anything, least of all my understanding of the global situation. “Islamist” terrorism [whatever the heavens that might be supposed to mean] is still considered the top-notch priority, not our home-grown neo-fascist variety. Not to mention. I consider bromidic viral clips and soundbites, the release of the latest iFuck, the latest installment of a brain- and heartless movie franchise and think “Good luck, dear humanity”. So toute compte faite, staying up to date with soi-disant global macro-events is as depressing and cynical as it gets and I quickly scurry back to the biotope of my family and friends, books and drama nights [Breaking Bad and The Wire, now that I’ve completed my third Sopranos go-around and Lost has come to its unsatisfactory conclusion]. What could one hope to gain from a mediated world that is represented through its most pessimistic scenarios and inaccessible personas? Other than its unattainability, its hermetic logic? How dare mere mortals be called the celestial bodies that bring forth life? All of this eludes me and so I consider myself best-advised to elude it in turn.

 

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Island HiJinks, pt. II


The contents of the case didn’t exactly swaddle me but still. From a more Panglossian vantage this could be considered an excellent head start in the business of surviving in one of the better of best worlds. For example: what would I have done without the knife? And how the hell would I have got on without the lighter? Right then at the beginning I didn’t dare think about those scenarios. Also, I was somehow too caught up in the exultation of my improbable luck to so much as conceive of the possibility that I might not be the only survivor/inhabitant of what, at the time, I simply assumed but did not know for an experimental fact [e.g. hiking the perimeter] to be a far-flung isle.


I was sitting there on the beach on the first day of the something-wreck with a successfully opened suitcase full of useful contents. Feeling very good about my achievement of managing to open the suitcase. I was full of luck and happy, as far as I recall it, I was smiling, my head wide open like a split orange.


So I was there, looking out at the atoll and ocean beyond, trying very self-consciously to think of what to do next? What would Locke do? But Locke had been full of shit. What did Sayid and Kate and Jack and those other joksters do? No, that wasn’t a thought worthy of further investigation: it had been mostly running and drama and romance and ended badly; not what I envisioned for myself. And the majority wanted to get back home despite the fact that home was a mess.


I had thought prematurely that I knew the script of island abandonment but the fact is that all I actually remembered were a few events and fragmentary episodes, the whole experience as a gestalt, as a setting for cathartic events. But not in its details and certainly not as a didactic guide to one’s own islandic, survivalist misadventures. In other words, I needed to fuck up and succeed in my own terms.


This realization put a splinter of insecurity in my thinking and some soluble grains of sadness in my bloodstream. The sadness quickly dissolved into a too early sense of solitude. I looked down the beach to my left: nothing but sand and leaning vegetation. I did the same for the right with the same result. And then I looked back out at the sea, a liquefied jade iguana to the ends of sight and loneliness ruffled its vast dark feathers inside me. It didn’t stretch its wings or take flight, just rearranged its feathers which were immense. This alone brought tears to my eyes and I couldn’t help thinking, irked by the truth of the cliché, that one should be careful what one hopes for.


I hadn’t. Because I had considered it so 100% percent unlikely that I would ever be cast away on a lonely island to fend for myself, I had always just gone ahead and fantasized about it in a careless manner. Which is the only way one should fantasize. And trying to remember more accurately, so as to keep the incipient feelings of isolation at bay for the time being, remembering more in detail I realized that these fantasies themselves were quite laughable: myself inserted into well-established survivor-narratives or, worse, just scenic tracking shots of micronesian islands, gleaming beaches, lush, fruit-studded forests, wild boars roasting on spites, nothing much I could relate to or draw upon in those first few minutes. How could I have been such a boor?


I cursed, wiped the ridiculous, premature tears out of my eyes. Then I sat back down in the sand right next to my carbon clam as if somebody might steal it after all. I was feeling a bit weak but was otherwise in excellent health, no blemishes other than that slight laceration. The moist sand cooled my heels and buttocks and the calm sea did likewise for my mind. I decided to first spend some pacific moments on the beach before addressing the serious business of survival and what to do next. I could already envision myself as very busy in the coming days and weeks so I didn’t want to miss this chance at a few moments of post-catastrophic R&R. Judging from the sun and my utterly incompetent reading of the open book of nature, I estimated it to be late afternoon.


The breeze was still going strong, as was the sun and the combination of the two seemed just perfect. Though I quickly brought it to my own attention that the cooling effect would probably make me underestimate the severity of the solar radiation and that moving into the half-shadow of the forest’s canopy was certainly the smart thing to do. As there was no sunblock in the suitcase.


I got up, grabbed it and lugged it over to where the fronds’ shadows created a meta-morphing intricate pattern upon the sand, sliding crossbars of light and shadow. There I sat down again, delighted by my foresight and thinking that this was a pattern I was establishing right now on the first day: that I would outthink all adversity, that I would be at least two steps ahead of anything that tried to finish me off. In that spirit of joyful precaution I took out the swiss knife and unfolded its longest blade, vowing that I would give any would-be predator in the forest behind me the fight of a lifetime. Looking back now, the sun or the post-traumatic overcompensation had already gotten to me a bit but at the time I felt like the genius version of Maitland, minus the Jaguar.


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Chronicles of [Dis-]Infection [VISUAL interlude]


‘Reading’ is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols for the intention of constructing or deriving meaning (reading comprehension). It is the mastery of basic cognitive processes to the point where they are automatic so that attention is freed for the analysis of meaning.

Reading is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. Like all language, it is a complex interaction between the text and the reader which is shaped by the reader’s prior knowledge, experiences, attitude, and language community which is culturally and socially situated. The reading process requires continuous practices, development, and refinement. To continually refine this vital skill set, regularly read Themzini on wordpress.


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Running is a means of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. It is simply defined in athletics terms as a gait in which at regular points during the running cycle both feet are off the ground. This is in contrast to walking, where one foot is always in contact with the ground, the legs are kept mostly straight and the center of gravity vaults over the legs in an inverted pendulum fashion.[1] A characteristic feature of a running body from the viewpoint of spring-mass mechanics, is that changes in kinetic and potential energy within a stride occur simultaneously, with energy storage accomplished by springy tendons and passive muscle elasticity.[2] The term running can refer to any of a variety of speeds ranging from jogging to sprinting.

The ancestors of mankind developed the ability to run about four and a half million years ago, probably in order to hunt animals. Competitive running grew out of religious festivals in various areas. Records of competitive racing date back to the Tailteann Games in Ireland in 1829 BCE, while the first recorded Olympic Games took place in 776 BCE. Examples of present day runners are Haile Gebrselassie, Usain St. Leo Bolt and Themzini.


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An infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host’s resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease. Colloquially, infections are usually considered to be caused by microscopic organisms or microparasites like viruses, prions, bacteria, and viroids, though larger organisms like macroparasites and fungi can also infect.

Hosts [e.g. The Infected One] normally fight infections themselves via their immune system. Mammalian hosts react to infections with an innate response, often involving inflammation, followed by an adaptive response. Pharmaceuticals can also help fight infections.

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A logo is a graphic mark or emblem commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations and even individuals to aid and promote instant public recognition. Logos are either purely graphic (symbols/icons) or are composed of the name of the organization (a logotype or wordmark). An example of an abstract mark is the blue octagon representing Chase Bank, while an example of a representational mark is the “everyman” icon of PBS. Examples of well-known logotypes (wordmarks) are the striped IBM design, Mobil written in blue with a red “o” ,  CocaCola written in flowing red script and the pyroclastic, ubiquitous  Themzini wordpress hexagon.

In the days of hot metal typesetting, a logotype was a uniquely set and arranged typeface or colophon. At the level of mass communication or simply in the high street a company’s logo is today often synonymous with its trademark or brand.[1]

 

 

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Anthropomorphism is a term coined in the mid 1700s[1][2] to refer to any attribution of human characteristics (or characteristics assumed to belong only to humans) to non-human animals, non-living things, phenomena, material states, objects or abstract concepts, such as spirits or deities. Examples include animals and plants and forces of nature such as winds, rain or the sun depicted as creatures with human motivations, and/or the abilities to reason and converse. The term derives from the combination of the Greek ἄνθρωπος (ánthrōpos), “human” and μορφή (morphē), “shape” or “form”. Characters from the story of Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story are great examples of anthropomorphism.

As a literary device, anthropomorphism is strongly associated with art and storytelling where it has ancient roots. Most cultures possess a long-standing fable tradition with anthropomorphised animals as characters that can stand as commonly recognised types of human behavior. In contrast to this, such religious doctrines as the Christian Great Chain of Being propound the opposite, anthropocentric belief that animals, plants and non-living things, unlike humans, lack spiritual and mental attributes, immortal souls, and anything other than relatively limited awareness.

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The concept of a tree of life as a many-branched tree illustrating the idea that all life on earth is related has been used in science (see Tree of life (science)), religion, philosophy, mythology, and other areas. A tree of life is variously;

  1. a motif in various world theologies, mythologies, and philosophies;
  2. a metaphor for the livelihood of the spirit.
  3. a mystical concept alluding to the interconnectedness of all life on our planet; and
  4. a metaphor for common descent in the evolutionary sense.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the tree of knowledge, connecting to heaven and the underworld, and the tree of life, connecting all forms of creation, are both forms of the world tree or cosmic tree.[1] According to some scholars, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, portrayed in various religions and philosophies, are the same tree.[2] According to others, however, the tree of life concept is distinct from the tree of knowledge of good and bad, if only because eating from the latter leads to death and not life, and because it is mentioned in Genesis that there exists a distinct tree of life in the Garden of Eden (although humans are barred from entry to the Garden by the time it is mentioned). The Abrahamic religions are Semitic in origin, and not Indo-European- which might serve to explain the lack of a cosmological tree idea in any of them, as well as in most Semitic cultures.

 

 

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Chronicles of Dis/Infection [LateJune2011 • • • Flight, Grace, Running]



Blisteracious heat today, end of June 2011, summer has officially arrived in town, again. April this year was like summer too, a faveur de by-us-emitted OCO [which I believe is what the molecule approx looks like]. 

On the lack of techno-human grace

This weekend the starkly cerulean skyscape of Lucerne was the playing ground of two [or more] aeroplane formations. I think at least one of them was a fighter-jet formation but I can’t be sure, which is to say, they certainly would be able to drop “payloads” but they might not be very fit for aerial combat [they would most decidedly shot down by the F/A-18 Hornet and even more so, in as far as that even makes sense, by the F-22]. At any rate, they’ve been bothering us Lozaerner [at least me] for the past fortnight in their practice sessions as part of the run-up to the city’s annual Lucerne festival[1]: an unfortunate combination of overblown fair, very bad music[2] indeed and just trop de monde a la remue-menage[3].

So anyway, instead of practicing their slow, tepid loopings and corkscrews somewhere far out over unpopulated, mid-land tracts of agriculture some genius in the AirForce or perhaps a low-wattage bulb of our very own municipality struck upon the idea of having the formations fly practice session a few hundred meters, if that, above the city’s sympathetically humming roof tiles and juddering ventilation ducts and terrified pets and head-clutching migraine patients and anxious aerophobia sufferers and miffed, slit-eyed Jane&Joe Average. Yes, as it happened all of Greater Lucerne was raked for the past few days with high-volume jet-engine noise in a way that was for any citizen with a single brain-cell to save for thinking, not so much irritating as down-right obscure. Because…

A) One got to see most/all of the airborne tricks beforehand meaning diminished excitement/surprise for the actual airshow

B) There was the risk of having a jet go down in densely populated territory

C) They[4] must have managed to rile a minority of the city’s citizenry against them, possibly even to the point of lodging a formal complaint

 

1-person suicide machine

D) Given the speed of jet-engine aircraft and the diminutive size of Luzern, they kept having to loop back and criss-cross at a ridiculous frequency so that the general impression conveyed was that of being in the presence of aeronautical equivalents of manhood-insecure sports cars drivers [e.g. BMW, Triango Revelation, Dodge, a.d. Tramontana, Lamborghini, the unforgivable Ariel Atom 500 V8, Bugatti, the BAC MONO (what on earth?), Chevrolet, the Hunaudieres, etc.] You assuredly get the petrochemically-laced drift.

E) Many of the pets must have been going bonkers. You can be an inconsiderate prick about this and say it doesn’t matter. But if you’re a pet-owner or an actual animal/pet or, for that matter, somebody who cares about other people and beings because you’d like other people also to sooner or later reciprocally give a damn about your well-being and non-suffering, in that case you’d beg to differ.

F) I had the unwelcome suspicion that somewhere someone responsible was sitting behind his desk or was up on the roof for cig-break with a massive grin on his [her?] face, self-satisfied that this aerial grand-standing was impressing the living sheyt out of the good people of Lucerne. [5] 

...beclouded beginnings...

At any rate on this Saturday past I did one of my variegated runs. On this particular occasion I was running home from a family get-together at my uncle&aunt’s up in Seeburg, which beautifully overlooks Lake Lucerne’s northern basin and the single, majestic peak rising from it, Mount Pilatus. Unfortunately this meant that the first three or four-hundred meters were all steeply downhill. Nevertheless I was excited by the change of scenery [along a dirt-road skirting a forest with said view] plus the superb speeds to which one can accelerate downhill if one makes one’s strides shallow, short and high-frequency. Contrary to my neurotic self I even ignored[6] the palpable possibility of an ankle sprain on the uneven terrain. The thing about LU-town is that you can either run amongst beaucoup, beaucoup de monde [along flat stretches] or go for incline/decline-hell granting a modicum of solitude, that solitariness which, to me, is one of the focal attractions of running. So on 25/06/11 in the later afternoon I opted for the former and soon found myself chugging upwards from Würzenbach towards St. Anna[7] where I first touched down on this planet of ours. You need to go hard on the hill, is an inevitable rule of running.

After the hair-needle turn, on the second leg of the ascent, I became aware of the disagreeable roar: the fighter jets. In full formation. It was six or seven of them, I can’t remember [sort of the way Borges couldn’t remember the number of birds, except that in my case I did not take that as an absurd, ingenious proof of the existence of god]. They were banking slowly north, above the basin, moving in an easterly direction towards the Rigi. I wanted at least one of them to crash down into the choppy waters, not a pilot’s death, just an embarrassing emergency landing that would reveal the folly of their airy caprice. No such luck. With droves of people standing on their balconies they passed directly overhead moving towards loaded Adligenswil then came back around again within 30 seconds. I hadn’t even finished the second half of my ascent but I didn’t let their superior propulsion technology discourage my legs.

Four of them did an Indian file looping at a very low velocity, a snail going round in the sky, it was as if they were saying: “Well, you can do a looping at whatever speed you choose, it doesn’t matter”. One sees an airplane hanging in the sky and the sense that human beings should have remained groundlubbers [if you will] is overpowering. That same feeling that befalls one, I assume, while studying air-traffic pollution stats.

No matter, what struck me with the power of a Pambansang Kamao liver punch was the utter lack of techno-human grace. Their [pilots in planes’] motion as against sky was sluggish, lumbering and in every aspect unspectacular. Nor did they spell out any higher artistic intentions as, for example, Carlos Wieder[8] in the skies of Chile. No, they just plodded through their slow-motion choreography, so wide-spaced that there was no visible thrill/risk/danger/chance of collision in mid-air and whatever minimalist, foreseeable drama that would have entailed. Uninjurious failure, not death, crossed my mind.

The sight of the down-tempo red&white jet-fighters, a sight that tore out my heart and tossed it in a spiritual gutter, was overlaid by a memory of a swarm of real air-dwellers: behind the Museggmauer, just last year [2010], a convergence of swallows hunting insects in surpassing synchronicity. How effortlessly they changed speed, direction, altitude and did so when in close proximity as one super-organism. The swallows have natural grace[9], one is astounded how very much the air is their medium of expression. I watched them for a good half an hour with flights of envy. Here and now, the lumbering airplanes were the polar, graceless opposite.

I gained the hilltop, relaxed a few strides and re-accelerated. The jets approximated some kind of inane “V”, two crafts almost touched but didn’t, moving upwards and disappearing behind a big tree’s canopy. I then remembered something else too, namely a video D. White has posted of swarms of starlings[10] over Rome, hundreds of them, thousands, conjuring vast, dotted, metamorphing glyphs upon the sky. You could try to describe it but in this case I might be better advised to do a Wittgenstein. They combine the magic of individuality and the multitude, the Roman starlings, doing their name justice.

By the time I was loping past my birth-place the aerial buffoonery had thank heavens died away behind me and I could pick my heart back out of the debris and my pace up.


[1] It is too bad David Wallace is not around to write a hysterical article on this, the type which would have one doubling over in stitches and wishing the thing would run on forever and beyond.
[2] Think Radio Pilatus and the like
[3] “too many people, in bedlam”, as far as I know
[4] The authorities, the military folks, the champions of airshows and the pilots themselves too to a certain degree, regardless of blind obedience to orders
[5] The obvious perversion that the roar of jets with us [here in the West?] is a source of diversion while just about anywhere else on the planet this sound terrifies people and sends them madly scrambling for their lives and safety of limbs.
[6] I was, I think, distracted by the blubbering fact that three pieces of delectable cake were being savagely jounced while trying to dissolve in my stomach. This inevitably gives rise to certain unpleasantness as concerns evacuation. The term “lahar” seems not inapposite. As in: A mudslide is the most rapid (up to 80 km/h, or 50 mph) and fluid type of downhill mass wasting. It is a rapid movement of a large mass of mud formed from loose soil and water. Similar terms are mudflow, mud stream, debris flow (e.g. in high mountains), jökulhlaup, and lahar (from volcanoes, see also pyroclastic flow).
[7] This being a further aesthetic and almost exaggeratedly meaningful coincidence of my runs in my home town, that I pass by my place of birth as well as the common cemetery on just about every other run, saying an abstract “Hi there” to the newcomers and those that have gone before. But this is deserving of its own post.
[8] http://www.amazon.com/Distant-Star-Roberto-Bolano/dp/0811215865/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1309214163&sr=1-1
[9] keep clicking till you see the birdies http://www.mabonaorigami.com/de/galerien/istallations.html
[10] http://www.5cense.com/10/storni_loop.htm
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Chronicles of Infection [MidJune2011: Running & Room]


Running and Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind (Michael W. Austin and Amby Burfoot)
– Highlight Loc. 1685-87  |
One of the aptitudes of the wise is the ability to put off present pleasure or overcome present pain for greater reward down the road. It takes “the art of measurement,” Socrates tells us, to make right choices. The art of measurement is the ability to see things for their real value independent of present appearances.

 

There’s so much reading material on running, how to do it, how to improve [posture, pace, &tc.], what are the existential ramifications of running, a.s.f yet what stands out to me, subjectively, as a runner is the vast gulf that separates the words on the page from the feet on the concrete. It is bridgeable but the two shorelines run parallel rather than connecting.

For example there is the matter of whether or not running can be, from a subjective perspective, the “only true/truest” experience of being in as far as with each stride one decides to run instead of walking [no pain, usually, depending on distance] or standing still [even less so] thus actuating one’s free will as well as will-power through the very act of running [right, left, right, left, right…] and so becoming a “genuine” individual…again and again and again, until the self-inflicted pain/effort is in excess of one’s willpower.

One of the many problems with this line of argument, in my opinion, is that while there are certainly many times within a single run that one needs to consciously activate or deploy one’s willpower [to maintain one’s pace or to accelerate] there can also be stretches of, for lack of a better word, automatism. One does not need to exercise one’s free will with every stride and I imagine that if this were so, running would become an almost unbearably self-conscious exercise, much like deciding consciously to in- then exhale with every single breath in the course of a life. Indeed, one of the more agreeable sensations of running on a regular basis is that there are phases when one feels almost like being on auto-pilot, like one’s own body has become this well-tuned machine or running robot that can just perfectly carry on on its own. Again, not all the time, but in stretches…sitting there in one’s own head just enjoying the ride, watching the lakes, forests, mountains, pedestrians parallax by.

And just as suddenly, running goes back to being demanding or bothersome or even excruciating: it’s too hot, you are experiencing stitches that make you want to slow down but the second you do, you feel like a weak peace of sh!t for doing so an speed back up to regular pace [my stitches usually last around 5min], you can’t really breath or at least the amount of oxygen coming in seems definitely insufficient [either again because of heat/humidity or for reasons unknown], the freaking ankle hurts [because of how many times you twisted the bloody sucker in the past], you’re “batteries” are empty, meaning your whole body suffers this general sense of exhaustion, meaning you can’t run your usual pace [which is a sort of spiritually bad feeling, as you infer you must have ill-treated your body the last couple of days, somehow], it’s that final stretch running up-hill and you can feel your thighs turning into liquefied muscle or it’s the last one or two clicks and your lungs are becoming something fiery, inside. Not to run away with this but there are any number of physically unpleasurable sensations that come with running, sensations associated with suffering and death.

One of the philosophers I’ve been reading posits that there is such a thing as a “good pain” and that the runner learns to experience the strain in running as something enjoyable. I don’t quite agree. Too me its more about the nameless, indirect satisfaction of being able to exercise one’s willpower even against the body’s desire for [effort-free] equilibrium. There seems to be something slightly perverted about this satisfaction that points in the direction of the circumstance that body and mind are, if not one, if not two, then at least inseparable and thus should work towards the same end. If that makes any sense.

The last few weeks I again took up the Nike+ training regimen for the 10k with the simple goal of improving my time over that distance. I enjoyed the variety of the exercises and how, despite its inanity, the simple fact of the program asking me to run, say, 17k today, motivated me to go out and do so. Despite my soles going numb and what-have-you. After three weeks however, I’ve cancelled it. In the beginning I just thought it’s a matter of slacking, that is, lack of discipline. And this explanation made sense because I usually do one run less per week than the regimen has scheduled. However, thinking through it now, I realize that perhaps running for me after all is about a certain degree of freedom: I don’t want to be instructed, especially not by some heartless computer program [and its ultra-idiotic avatar], to run so and so many kilometers on this and that day. Often I felt like running more or less…and I’ve been of the opinion for a while now that 12k is the natural upper limit of my physique after which the symptoms of break-down are pretty darn blatant. It became too much something to be done [so and so many clicks] rather than something I actively go out there to accomplish: run. And once you fall a single day behind it feels as though you are playing catch up with that last work-out you happened to miss out on, which to me feels infinitely infantile, whereas running to me is supposed to be this adult activity: something not necessarily pleasant, which I choose to do freely but which redeems its time in subjective gold in the medium- to long-term.

And neither is running, in my experience, all that meditative really. Often times I have these massively jumbled, non-sensical, not-inspiring-at-all thoughts that just flash through my head. Which I think might in part explain why people will listen to music while they are running: not the mystifying phenomenon of power/motivational songs but the fact that you don’t want to deal with an absolutely incoherent downpour of thoughts. At least in my case I don’t. I have that same experience before falling asleep occasionally: instead of thinking proper there is this vicious tempest of thought fragments, rapid, tornadic, unpleasant, and the only reason why you’re not afraid of loosing your mind is because beneath it all you are somnolently aware of the fact that you’re moving towards the border of LaLa-land under this massive Stratocumulus of crazed anti-thinking. And I sometimes move through this same identical black cloud when I run so then I’m happy for my mp3, which magically dissolves it.

 

Running and Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind (Michael W. Austin and Amby Burfoot)
–        Highlight Loc. 1802-3  |
And this is clearly one key to reaching the good life: the ability to see through the appearances of things – especially the appearances created by our biology because they can be so powerful – and see things as they are.

• • •

 

unindividual

I am sitting in my ROOM right now.

Typical.

It, the room, has what is considered a high ceiling. The walls are near perfect white: the whitest of white whites. They have a slightly three dimensional texture to the, which looks like vertical columns of the long Morse dashes, varying in depth according to a strange sequence, which yet seems to be, at least in my pattern recognition’s perspective, non-random. My light-brown, wooden desk has five very low piles of books, four of them against the wall which I am facing, one off of my right elbow, resting 10cm inwards from the desktop’s edge. There are two cheap Ikea milky-boxy glass lights sitting between the book piles, dispensing slightly albumescent, cold light. Atop four of the piles and both lights sit smiling family photographs: my brother and sarah, my sister and ray, our nuclear fam, my dad’s nuclear fam, my grand-dad on my dad’s side looking very dire, us siblings on Daniele’s wedding in 2004, which I find hard to grasp is seven years ago. I am sitting in my room right now. I am obviously typing. When you read this, I’ll be doing something else, equally inconsequential I am sure. As are all things: irrelevant. I hope you didn’t expect me to describe my whole room, after all, it’s mine and not yours; I hope you hoped I wouldn’t.

The room in all its specificity lends me a certain irreducible sense of individuality: things will never again be like exactly this: the books’ [dis]order, the two water bottles next to my chair, the Chocolate Chip Cookies down by the left leg of the desk on a black placemat [black in black, shiny continents, matte Oceans] – never again. How the fuck the non-human objects manage to co-constitute my sense of self, I have no theory to even begin with.

I’m having one now: the cookies are delicious. But with the crumbling dough and the melting chocolate chips on my tongue that word itself looks disconnected and irrelevant.

I am sitting. I am typing. I am. You are. We co-exist. Until one of us dies.

 

 

• • •

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The Delights of Local Ignorance [pt. III]


[Dude, what the hell is this shit?]

 

And so then this party of special types, people other people sort of enjoy referring to as nerds or weirdos or geeks because, really, they can’t make any sense of them, this party was coming into full swing as it were. One of the guys, a MMORPG head by the shirt of him, then belts out proudly to a group of semi-attentive bystanders:

 

–       Killed frigging 150 Orcs today if you can believe it.

 

Another person in that group just so happens to be with, improbably, the United States Air Force. Though he does not identify himself he indeed hales from the 12th Reconaissance Squadron near Marysville [California] where they truly know their enemies. He just piloted an RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV through the gentle skies of Afghanistan that very same day, on mission to take out a significant Al-Quaeda operative. This recon guy who has not been so recon at all today steps up in and says:

 

–       Nickel and dime, mofo. Took me down some 14 Afghanis today. Fucking Arabs.

 

A statement that is followed by stunned, real-time silence. In steps the third character, an almost comically bearded guy who is a level 53 night-elf but in flesh life works as a civil engineer, having graduated from U of Illinois Champagne in 2007 after having immigrated to the US in the hellacious year of 2003 from that very same Afghanistan. Being a civil engineer words or other forms of diplomacy are not his strong suit. He steps in up to the RQ-4 GH guy and, swaying and brawny, asks him:

 

–       Afghanistan eyh? Which city? Which city you motherless fuck?

–       Easy Ahmed, easy. Didn’t even know those troglodytes have…

 

The USAF man does not get to finish his legless, chauvinist comeback because the Afghani, who used to be a member of Theran’s equivalent of local Golden Gloves pride, has entirely decked him with a single, megamorph-knuckled haymaker. And in another second he is on top of him, pummeling hard as hellfire, you know, the missiles. The original MMORPG persona who has innocently instigated the whole incident by bragging about Orc-offing is waving potential wannabe mediators [and fist-fodder, given what types are attending this party, the sound-track of which is more or less shamelessly pilfered from WoW and EVE online and the like] is waving these potential interveners off, proclaiming:

 

–       Afghani guy versus actual, true-to-life USAF drone pilot.

 

Though he has just taken the man up on his word. And so then nobody intervenes or at least people stop pretending they are intending to intervene, which amounts to the same outcome: a merciless clobbering.

Later, when the party is over, people are driving home in their respective SUVs and Priuses, etc. to their 84 degrees warm walk-up appartments with a warm glow right there in their chest, thinking” now this USAF bastard really for once got what he had coming. Thinking the machine finally got its due. Think this shit not understanding at all or even one bit their part in the complex play. 

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Against me having children [as in NOT Against children per se, nor Caring for them once they are there, nor Claiming that those who decide(d) to have children are wrong]


Quite a few couples in my circle of family and friends have had or brought into the world a child in the last couple of years. And being around them, seeing strollers everywhere choke up the streets of Lucerne, Zurich, Bern, has corroborated my [temporary?] conviction not to have any children of my/our own.

I do have a bit of an anti-conventional streak [or at least I like to fancy that I do, the way most people like to imagine themselves as special or non-conventional or non-mainstream though in the end they usually end up consuming and stereo-typing as ferociously as the next person], which would dispose me towards knee-jerkingly resisting any apparent majority trend but in this case I have come to the conclusion that that is not what is going on. Not totally.

 

[The first trivial objection, which can be dealt with in a sentence, is financial impossibility: the wallet is incompatible with another mouth.]

 

The second concerns the creature itself, the child. Staying around them a few times the cold but undeniable realization that set in is that, though they are for the most part indeed cute and adorable and all the other toddler-related adjectives, my personal sense of enchantment with pre-kindergarten innocence is always of rather short duration. To be perhaps a bit brutal, I also enjoy the company of a dog or a cat but after a while it becomes: boring, tedious, bothersome. In the case of children that means I can only toss it a toy or hear a meaningless phrase of babble that many times before it looses its luster of ludic innocence. My personal duration of [let me call it] infanto-centric intoxication lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes before exhausting itself [This might well be amenable to a training regimen]. Perhaps I am an emotional colder person than I thus far have imagined myself to be or maybe my parenting genes are FUBAR, I couldn’t tell.

My sister told me to bear in mind that these are other people’s children and that the supply of fascination with one’s own children is near-infinite. So that from being around other people’s children I could impossibly make any logical inferences to having children of my/our own. And anyway, logic doesn’t come in to play very much, allegedly, in consideration of one’s own offspring.

Be that as it may, this brings me to my bifurcating second [and third] consideration: the unconditional love for one’s children. It is good, no doubt, it anchors the good in the world in a very pragmatic way. But it renders me a tad bit skeptical as well. If I set or am supposed to set no conditions on my love for a person [my/our child] then A) Aren’t I setting myself up for major, major emotional trauma? B) Am I not the automaton of some blind, evolutionary program playing itself out for the gazillionth time?           

As for A, my individual truth is that I find it challenging and infinitely complex to love, in a meaningful way, people of my family as well as my partner. As it should be. I mean the type of love that means communicating one’s true feelings and doing difficult things for these significant others and relying on them and trying not to fuck up [too bad] and forgiving and being forgiven and all the other thousand tasks that the word itself, “love”, evokes and yet simultaneously mystifies. And so now for me to somehow muster or “hawk up” or conjure even more of this “love” stuff and attach it to this babbling little helpless critter seems like a terribly risky biographical move. To hitch my emotional welfare-star to a little being that is so totally dependent on me/us when I myself am so very unsure to what degree I can rely on myself, my willpower, my ethical convictions [thus far], [again, not to even mention finances] just seems very much to be begging for some foreseeable psychological cataclysm of the worst kind. In due time I will fail the little one or s/he will fail me and it will be ruination, which I want none of. You can call this either pessimism or realism, your choice.

B) At the level of pure evolution, pure genes to continue one’s species can almost certainly be called “the purpose of life”. However, it is a purpose defined by blind biology, that is, long before the evolutionary advent of the thinking animal homo sapiens. To me [perhaps still flowing in that non-conventional vein] there is something terrifying and sickening about mindlessly heeding the genetic duty to produce yet more of our kind. It would be a caving-in of a kind, acknowledging that, yes, yes, this is the final purpose of life, whereas I believe that I [and my significant others] should try to determine what that is, e.g. finding self-realization in the continued activity of writing and running. It is true that the one does not preclude the other [one can have more than one purpose], yet the other truth is that n) the “purpose of life” argument is very frequently wielded by child-bearers and n+1) it would be the pinnacle of irresponsibility to have children and NOT make them the absolute top-hole priority [i.e. the “purpose”]

And there are also sheer numbers that I want to consider. We are 7 billion strong already, I think that is more than enough. Plus the global population is growing, whether I/we add to that total number or not. The truth is that I am not at all enamored of humanity as a project, meaning I wouldn’t much mind seeing it discontinued. While I love my significant others on an individual basis and like or feel indifferent towards the amorphous rest, our planetary civilization as a whole is simply not very appealing. We enjoy calling ourselves the “thinking” animal but the fact is that there is not all that much “thinking” going on and the one that is tends to be technically/scientifically/intellectually ingenious while being socially/ethically primitive if not destructive. Thus the mental clip of a people-free planet is soothing to me and I should do my part in bringing it about by not having children. I’m asking myself: how can I despise humanity and then happily tag along in its continuation??? I can’t or at least I shouldn’t.

Ultimately, there is the matter of oblivion. In due time entropy or some type of nothingness will do away with all our civilizational achievements, I am convinced. This is nothing to be sad about or lamented as we live in our times and [should try to] do our best. Name one name of a person who lived ten thousand years ago. Imagine who might know anything significant about you as a person ten thousand years hence. Picture the gaggle of descendants to whom your face and name mean absolutely nothing. Yet we often persist in thinking that one’s/our children somehow continue “the legacy” and we subsequently stockpile our hopes onto them, imagining that the boat of fools called humanity will sail to the end of times. When it clearly will not. And so I don’t want to bring forth a further passenger as a fictitious, subconscious totem against the fear of oblivion. Or the thing itself.

 

[p.s. One of those posts where one fears that one might get more earfuls than one bargained for. And which one frantically hopes will not be misinterpreted all too monstrously or put any friendships in jeopardy or anything crazy like that the internet has developed quite a rep for.]
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