July 29th, 2011


can't be every thing

Forgive me for evoking a tired cliché, but it seems that for every two steps forward, I take one step back. I'm not feeling up to typing today, so I'm using the dictation software again. Tuition fees for the fall semester are due next week, but come September it might be decided that I need surgery. What should I do? I guess this is a conversation I need to be having with the college, so I'd better call them on Monday.

My arms are coming along painfully slowly, but I'm reasonably confident that they're coming along, considering that a few weeks ago I thought that I might as well kill myself. Visions of living in an assisted care facility were dancing through my head. Pain was going to turn me into a new, lesser Martha Mason. Now I am not quite so worried – and oh look, here I am typing again – but for how long, I wonder?

As it turns out, not long -- I need all the rest I can get. Don't even ask how angry I am that I busted my wrists and elbows at a fucking call center job for $10 an hour so I could go to school this year, just to have it turn out that I might not be able to. I gambled with my well-being and lost, big.

Even now my neck strain is driving me nuts, but that I can attribute as much to lifestyle factors. The physiotherapist showed me how I can sit with my shoulders back and reduce the strain on my neck and back. This seems to be helping a little bit, though I think what I really need is a new computer monitor so that I don't have to sit four feet back from my laptop and use my eyeballs to correct the angle! Actually, I might as well just get a new computer, because this one won't function well as a pretend desktop. Even if you get a docking station, you still have to open the lid just to turn the computer on.

Wait, I think I have a cheaper workaround - I can just go to the hardware store and get some little pieces of wood to put under the legs of the desk and just elevate the desk. That would put everything else at a better height, too. Alright, I've got something meaningful to do tomorrow!

Finally, my legs are ameliorating tolerably - the exercises bring instant relief and do a pretty good job of staving off subsequent pain. In fairness, though, it's pretty easy to follow instructions like “don't cross your legs (with one knee resting over the other)”. It’s much harder to follow instructions like “don't use keyboards, mice, or game pads” - those things are my life! Oh shoot, I just crossed my legs again! :-!

Anyway, you may be pleased to know that I have no plans to speed up my own demise. Even if I can't do the things that I wanted to do, I still might be able to help make the world a tiny bit better, even amidst all the disease, decay, entropy, unfairness, hostility, aging, and broken dreams that make up our existence. I might have gotten a head start on my inevitable breaking down and dying, and I may yet die a virgin, but that's life -- not everybody gets what they want, and being strong doesn't mean anything without there being the weak.

The determination of living things to go on living is nothing short of astonishing, but if it were any other way there would be no living things. Enjoy the life that you have, and live while you're living. If you presently sustain the widely-held fantasy of living forever, take a moment to recognize that everything around you is rusting, oxidizing, drying up, breaking down, and falling, and ask yourself why you are any different.

A materialist outlook can only take you so far, though. It's possible, at least in principle, to explain the broad outlines of what makes the nuts and bolts of what we are: a little physics, a little geology, a little biology. But there's no explanation for why you are being you -- that is, why are you experiencing the story of you right now? At least there's no explanation for those (among whom I count myself) that don't believe in souls. It's quite outside the scope of science as we know it today, and as long as we might live it might not be enough time to find a testable answer. Sure, once in a while a narcissist comes along and claims to have an answer -- the truly charismatic ones can found entire religions!

Narcissism, by which I mean the desire to be perfect, seems to be a rather ironic part of humanity given that perfection is always at least a little bit out of reach. I suppose it's kind of like makeup, but for social status. (By that analogy, narcissism can't be all bad!) I went back to university mostly for the status and power that I thought was attainable -- the potential knowledge and expertise were just means to an end. I suppose I'm an “armchair astronomer”, but I seldom look at the sky, and I think the thing I liked most about astrophysics was the label! It didn't occur to me that, bright though I may be at times, I might not have had the particular combination of talents required to succeed beyond an elementary level. I might yet be “grad school material”, whatever that means, but it wasn’t going to happen in that field.

I fell into a narcissistic trap of my own making, but at least I was smart enough to get out of it, and it's not nearly the most ridiculously narcissistic thing I've ever done – of the many contenders for that title, I can present you this anecdote: At Sainte-Anne in 2007, I was railing on and on about the language lab not working the way I expected it to. I later apologized to the lab assistant, but I also discovered that the third person in the room, who listened to me shouting “I want everything to be perfect!”, was a Rwandan genocide survivor. (Hi! Welcome to the West!)

So really, I'm not as far removed from the cat lady on eHarmony as I'd like to think: “… and I want them in a basket, and I want little bow ties…” ;-)
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