June 20, 2020

It’s only twenty past noon. So far today, all I’ve done is eat breakfast, clean the toilet, take a shower, and fold laundry – but somehow, it feels like the day should be over. As if it will take forever to be done with.

Which merely leads you to the question – what will you do when this day is over? You go to bed and wake up and repeat the process all over again, unsure what to occupy yourself with at any given moment, and oftentimes staring into space when you should have been doing something else. Looking at the list of projects you’re supposed to be working on, but unable to settle on one. Reading the same line in a book half a dozen times before closing the book and giving up.

I feed the neighborhood squirrels and birds when the weather is good. Yesterday, I saw one of the squirrels lying dead in the road. I’m not saying I blame whoever hit him – I’d like to believe there are fewer people who would do that on purpose than otherwise – but it still ruined my day. I woke up today feeling almost buoyant, but have since deflated completely, like a balloon that someone let all the air out of. Grand resolutions now seem to be nothing more than chalk squiggles on the sidewalk that the rain will wash away.

But I suppose that’s what all resolutions really are, when you stop and think about it. They matter for a few brief moments – i.e., however long you’re alive – but the fact remains that we all end up like the squirrel in the road. Sooner or later.

TV Time

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle

Run, run, run

Hurry, hurry, hurry

As fast as you can

So many things to do

So many things left undone

By the dip of the sun.

Night settles

For the thousandth time

And as you sit

With your drink

Eyes on the

TV screen

Wondering where

The day went

Your mind slows

Peace for now

Until the morrow.

Cyberspace

Electronic beats drop a line

Steady hum and drum on low, back of my mind

Words set out in a row

Black font on a grey background.

Birds singing in the trees outside

Nature mingling with technology.

Social media notifications fall like an IV drip

Click the tab to see what’s going on

Lost in the unreal world of the Internet

Brain disconnected from the body.

In the Snake Pit with Olivia & Arabella

In a film called The Snake Pit, wherein Olivia de Havilland portrayed a mental patient,  she demonstrated a difficulty loving, based on her relationship with her mother and father. Her mother was indifferent, and though her father was loving, when he sided with her mother, she grew angry with him. Then, when he died of innocuous causes, she felt guilt. She compared another man, named Gordon, to her father; and when he asked her to marry him, she felt a sick feeling, on account of that comparison to her father.

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Eventually, she married a man named Robert Cunningham. She was fond of him; but after she fell mentally ill, she felt a passionate love for her doctor, which was more likely than not reciprocated. Yet she chose the love for Robert, because that was what was deemed normal and healthy. She said at the end of the film, when Robert asked her how she finally got well: “It was because I finally stopped being in love with Dr. __.”

Now, is this because letting go of those feelings allowed her to return to the state the world expected her to be in, or is it because the love for her doctor actually was an unhealthy one? I, for one, will never know.

Compare this tale to Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (a book which, no doubt, will be featured in many more essays of mine). Look specifically at the story of Strange and his wife, Arabella. She was fond of him, surely – yet there was that comment about his long nose and his questionable disposition, which may have simply been made in jest, or which may have hinted at something less than true love. Then, after she returns from the hellish world of the gentleman with the thistle-down hair, consider her fondness for no one in the world but Flora Greysteel. Some might argue that this was because of Flora’s own connection to Strange; but personally, I think it was on account of a longing for what’s called “true love,” which Flora always longed for, too, but never found.

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At the end of the book, when Strange is trapped in the darkness with Mr. Norrell, it’s said that he doesn’t ask Arabella to come with him – and that she doesn’t offer to go. Again, the meaning is ambiguous. Perhaps Arabella simply realizes she can’t do him any good; or perhaps she is actually in love with Flora Greysteel, and wants to remain with her for a few years longer.

Most people would say that’s ridiculous. But, you never know.

So – to sum it up. Olivia de Havilland, in The Snake Pit, chose the love that the world expected her to feel, because that’s what helped her to be “sane.” Then, in Jonathan Strange, Arabella promised to wait for Strange until he returned from the darkness, though I honestly believe that she would have rather been with Flora Greysteel.

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Which leads us to the question: Is it possible to find true love in this strange modern world?

That’s all for now. In humble appreciation for your attention to my rambling thoughts, I say to you, “Merci.”

So, I Knew a Guy Who Said He Knew Stephen King . . .

Well, this guy didn’t really KNOW Stephen King. They just used to live really close to one another. One time, this guy said he saw King walking by in the road, and said “Hey.” King looked up, said “Hey” back — very politely, this guy said — then looked back down, and continued on his way.

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This guy also told me a little bit more background about King’s initial success, which I’m sure he didn’t hear from King himself, just from other sources. But it always interested him, I guess, on account of the fact that he’d once said “Hey” to King. Which, admittedly, is pretty cool.

But anyway. King’s first book was Carrie, and he had tons of trouble finding a publisher for it. Eventually, he got so frustrated, he threw the whole manuscript away, and vowed that he was done with it. But his wife went looking for it in the garbage, and went round to other publishers without telling him, eventually securing him a contract. That’s what the guy told me, anyway.

I just thought it was an interesting and inspiring story, so I thought I’d share it. Thanks for reading!

A Strange Art Form.

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Book-writing is a strange art form. On the one hand, it envelopes your entire being; but on the other hand, it is oftentimes difficult to put pen to paper without a drink or two down one’s gullet.

One day, a nearly-finished book appears shadowy, insufficient, and lacking in all its most important aspects. But the next — it is a thing of beauty, a thing of genius. Certain music brings the words to life, invoking thoughts of the sounds one would hear, and the scenes one would see, if ever the book were to be made into a motion picture.

And this is every author’s dream — yes? But it is a very obscure dream. Like blood in the veins; or wine through foggy glass.

But still, we must write. When no one is there to read the words, still we must write. And someday, if millions are there to read the words — still we will write.

FINIS.

A strange art form, this process of book-writing. It is little by little, and it wrings the blood from one’s skin. Yet the blood flows down upon the page — and when we are dead, we may look down from heaven, and see eyes upon our lost blood: eyes upon the pages we have written.

TEXT © C.M. BLACKWOOD 2016.

The Pride of Thucydides.

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The Greek writer Thucydides both took part in, and then chronicled the Peloponnesian War. But he was hardly praised for either effort.

In response to criticism of his literary work, he said:

“The lack of the fabulous may make my work dull. But I shall be satisfied if it be thought useful by those who wish to know the exact character of events now past which, human nature being what it is, will recur in similar or analogous forms. It has not been composed to court temporary applause but as a lasting possession.”

Now, from the first moment I read these words, I related to them. It may not make much sense, seeing as my own work is full of elements of the “fabulous” — magic and the supernatural and what have you — but still, I relate to these words.

Though no one appreciated his work, Thucydides maintained his pride. Or, perhaps he was merely countering the many blows he received, in an attempt to keep himself intact. Perhaps he actually felt very badly about himself. Probably, it would have been very difficult for him not to have done.

There are millions upon millions of people, nowadays, who want to be writers. Well — I suppose they already ARE writers, but they want to be RECOGNIZED, SELF-SUFFICIENT writers. Very few of us are, however. Unless you’re fortunate to know someone in a close-knit inner circle: if you’re a former professor, perhaps, who knows many literary people.

But most of us don’t know any literary people. Most of us are UNKNOWN. But how to become known, you ask? Well, perhaps we never will. Perhaps we’ll keep writing, until there’s not enough electricity or alcohol left in the entire world to sustain our habits . . . and then we’ll fizzle out, with no one ever having known we were here. Or possibly, they’ll discover us after we’ve died, and they’ll say how talented we were! Well, thanks a lot, New York Times.

But anyway. This is about the pride of Thucydides! Maintain your pride; and though you may fizzle out, remember that it wasn’t for nothing. If it makes no difference to anyone else, at least let it make a difference for YOU.

Goodnight, and good luck.

Ha ha.

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(P.S. — This entire post may actually have been written in response to two one-star reviews and ratings which I received within three days of each other. But my “Thucydian” pride maintains that it was not.)

A Bower of Dreams.

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So said a man in one of Poe’s tales, “The Assignation”:

“To dream has been the business of my life, I have therefore framed for myself, as you see, a bower of dreams.”

The sole purpose of this brief post is to relay that quote. It is full of meaning for me, despite the dark nature of the story whence it came.

The word “assignation” has two meanings. The first, “an appointment to meet someone in secret, typically one made by lovers,” is most likely the meaning of the title of Poe’s story. And yet, the second meaning — “the allocation or attribution of someone or something as belonging to something” — may also be pertinent.

The man with whom the narrator becomes acquainted is in love with the Marchesa Aphrodite. Yet their love is a hopeless love, it seems: a tragic love. Therefore, the “mysterious man,” as the narrators labels him, dies a tragic death. His hopes are never realized.

And yet, not so with all hopes and dreams. There is always the possibility that they will end in fire and smoke; but also, there is the possibility that they will evolve into a reality greater than anything you have ever imagined.

Therefore, do not hesitate to dream. And never cease to do it. Perhaps, the tragic death of the mysterious man was only for lack of strength; or lack of faith. Whichever is the case, we ourselves must do all we can to avoid such an end.

For, I believe that the end is already written, for each and every one of us; and I believe that it is only our task to hold onto our strength, our courage and our faith, until the end is reached. If our strength maintains us, the end will not be hopeless.

“To dream,” he continued . . . “to dream has been the business of my life, I have therefore framed for myself, as you see, a bower of dreams.”

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TIME. (An Uncharacteristically Philosophical Article.)

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Time is a very strange thing. Human life is measured by it; but what does it mean?

A person may say, “I possess a certain amount of money; I have no means by which to get any more; and this sum will last me until such-and-such a date.”

But time continues to pass; and what does it MEAN? Is it more, or less, important to the person above described? Are moments more precious — or are they more monotonous? At what point does hope expire?

Perhaps these questions are meaningless. But the subject of TIME, nevertheless, is an intriguing one.

Consider Gollum’s riddle from Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

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“This thing all things devours;

Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;

Gnaws iron, bites steel;

Grinds hard stones to meal;

Slays king, ruins town,

And beats high mountain down.”

From day to day, we are the same — and yet, in small ways or large ways, we change. There was something more comforting about seeing the number 12, standing for the month of December, on my computer’s clock.

Then, I looked — and I saw the number 1, standing for January, with nine days already passed away.

Do these passed days bring us nearer to something greater: a greater hope, a greater reality? Or do they merely tick away the seconds until an end?

Surely the end must still be comforting; since it will be, after all, so much greater a thing than life has been. To sit at Jesus’s right hand, with a host of angels grouped behind — no episode of life can compare to that.

Yet still we cling to life, and we count down its seconds with a morose sort of feeling. Perhaps we doubt our faith. Or perhaps we are merely human — and we suffer from moments of weakness.

The passing of time cannot be stopped. There is sadness at the end of each chapter; but with each new chapter, there is a strange sort of refreshment; a strange new hope.

The moment in which we find ourselves should be meaningful, though in the end we may not be able to remember it. And, most importantly: we must never lose our HOPE, both for the tomorrows of life, and for its end: which is, after all, only the beginning.