A Little Tangent
I vape at night. It’s become a ritual. They don’t help me sleep but, the ritual; lying in bed, a reading light, book and the smoke, I am cocooned. Me, the book and each eventful drag pluming out over the page like a crashing wave over the side of a ship. Since I started my late night ritual I’ve eased into sleep a lot more easily. The day winds behind me as I dive deeper into my cocoon. I step away from the day’s worries and tomorrow’s tasks.
That little cocoon is my world unto itself; drifting away from the moments of the day I enter a world of my own. In that world ideas, inspirations, thoughts, images and the words on the pages I read run rampant. It is a private little space.
Days matter. Hours matter and so do minutes. These are the pieces of life. Our imagination can deceive us, as can romance. But, they also drive us to make, from minutes, new realities from dreams.
Take this writing. The writing I am now typing. It comes from fantasy. The idea of writing something, anything. Sculpting words into a world, a cocoon held by meaning and syntax, something new; new, with or without meaning. It is a whole.
Writing is a step in the direction of a fantasy. However, by paradox it is the inverse to fantasy as well. Born of fantasy it becomes realized itself; with every stroke of the keys a fantasy is made real and if it holds, if it sticks, if a coherence is produced a concept is born, an idea that is a synthesis of old and new, past and present. Ready to be read and interpreted in another cocoon; ready to enter another world.
All activity requires time; time to cultivate ideas, time to cultivate skill and time to cultivate the ideas that one wants to pull from inside and express. But time and life being what they are have a habit of requiring some reality from us. Reality is required to make space for fantasy; reality in the form of time.
Within any day, with every minute there is something to be done. Something other than fantasies. These fantasies are like umbrellas standing between the ourselves and the mechanics of time. In the real moments in which our hearts beat, bills accumulate and the needs of of the world around us gather.
Imagine the earth. In all the particles of sand, soil, stone, rock; at an long view it’s not much more than dirt. A mass object hurtling through space, the massively impersonal. It will orbit the sun and as it does time passes, time passes with it and the larger universe that of which it is only a microcosm.
We need a little romance; a little more meaning than the inevitable. A little something to believe as we look at ourselves in the mirror and see age; we crave meaning. We as human beings are hungry for significance. Otherwise we really are no more than waking, sleeping and defecating and destined to die.
Fantasy, illusion, the push that drives ritual; the self we imagine ourselves to be. Our personal and our social mythologies. Magic and romance, they are the reflection we see in the world around us. The truth we glimpse in those moments is the world inside, the fantasy to be made or realized. How we stand in relation to those things is the wellspring of meaning in our lives. Look around and wonder; what meaning do I have and what meaning do I give?
For all it’s illusion belief gives the ability to find meaning. And it is illusion. The belief that there is more significance to our lives than the inevitable is just not true, or so we are told. But that our beliefs and ideas, that our feelings and our desires play directly into our lives is a hard fact to ignore. That we have beliefs and that they are shared increases the depth of what brute fact would have us believe.
The idea of that person we dress, the self we project; that is a person to get us through the day. If he or she does get us through a day that person has a reality? Certainly in as much as they have force, be that the force of illusion, be that as it may.
Words also have all the force of illusion. They veil reality in their act as signs. Words are incomplete also, they tell you what you think I mean but, they hide my meaning from you. There’s always that little bit left over. Sometimes it takes a book to express an idea, sometimes the form of the sentence is enough. But, how often is it really the word.
But, we need words just like we need mathematics to measure and describe. Neither words nor math are perfect but, we’re better off with them in our lives. For the most part they do a pretty good job.
Do words exist? Does math exist? Or, is it the what they communicate that exists, independent of them. If there is something independent is it the idea in my mind or the idea itself? In their imperfection they betray their own unreality. They are certainly not the things they imperfectly point to.
Now I’d like to make a leap and suggest that words are much like fantasies. Fantasies are an abstraction we impose on the world to make sense of it. In the same way we must impose language on our thoughts to express them. Words are the fantasies of the social, the metaphors that join together the ideas of the minds. They create the a world between people as they join to form and to express our ideas. It is those fantasies that make the world real (in the human sense).
Meaning on the Bus?
“It’s my first office job … At least I get to fire people” she said. “I fired someone today, have you ever been fired?” she asked.
“Yes, I think they just needed an excuse”… the girl continued to describe the situation. She described how someone else had done something wrong and how, despite her efforts on to correct the situation she was ‘let go’.
You hear all sorts of conversation on the bus. The conversations that take place are private. On the phone quarrels are amplified, not by their noise but, by cover of the crowd. The bus is a hive of people who otherwise don’t belong together. Behaviors are amplified.
You pray that you won’t get the weirdo sitting next to you. Some guy who’s drunk beyond reasonable sense, desperate for conversation. Worse still, someone sober who wants to share the short time you have together getting to know you. Worse still someone unhinged, lost in their mind.
On one journey a man seemed unable to decide if he was afraid, angry, sad or otherwise. Dressed in a purple painted leather jacket and green trousers, wrinkled from ‘trip’ he rushed to the front seats and cowered toward the corner. Like a man about to be attacked he folded himself, origami style so as to protect himself from some unimagined threat. Every time the bus stopped and the door opened he looked with horror. It was no small sigh of relief when an old lady sat next to me.
And there, several sets of fantasies. False realities played to different effects. The fantasy of authority, the fantasy of friendship only to be lost at the next bus stop, the fantasy of a false reality, only to sober up and the third, the fantasy of an acid trip, only to be relieved from his psychosis when the brutality of his nightmare evaporated.
Fantasies are practical?
Fantasy is practical in as much as they work. Our fantasies can be a self fulfilling realities But, too much fantasy and not enough ‘reality’ and we are lost. Too much fantasy and not enough hard reality and we’re fucked. But, the same is true the other way around.
Ultimately meanings, whatever they are, are social kinds of things. We share them just like we share words. The you that you want to see, or do see, they’re shared, just not with someone else. For it’d be a strange kind of insanity if we didn’t have a dialogue with ourselves. It’s in that dialogue that we can correct ourselves, play with who we are and who we want to be.
And what’s practical bit. Our ‘extra-real’ imaginings serve us through the day. By dressing in our suit a uniform gives color and meaning; it says something extra about who we believe we are or want to be. By doing things because we believe in the reason we do them we actually do and are doing something.
This may seem tenuous or even banal, but think of the alternative. Imagine you didn’t believe that you were going to make some difference in a day. Imagine you didn’t believe that your day or its efforts were going to add to much. What would be the point in doing it? In having that day?
As human beings, conscious and hungry to be something other than a bag of flesh ready to rot we want perspective, both for the world, ourselves and our place in it. The idea that we could put a number on our days, that our actions are predictable by virtue of the sheer mechanics of life; ultimately that we are irrelevant. These things are offensive to our sensibilities. When we’re faced with the irrelevance of our lives we become small, powerless, pointless.
But, that pointlessness misses something essentially human. It’s at the scale of human life that we fantasize, make characters out of ourselves and dress those characters with significance and that significance is… dare I say it, significant.
Moments Matter Most
So, in those moments that I lie in bed with my electric cigarette I do a little role play. I imagine I’m in tweed, in an armchair circa 193-something and I’m going to have a conversation with the writer of the book I’m reading. As I open the page and start the chapter the author is there, he’s having a smoke with me. Between puffs of atmospheric smoke the words get said, with each puff thoughts are had and we share in an exchange of minds.
Of course I’m not mad. But, in my little role play I have had many very interesting conversations with some of the greatest minds in the world. All with a lovely electric smoke, in the dark, with my book and complete silence. A Little Tangent
It’s become a ritual. They don’t help me sleep but, the ritual; lying in bed, a reading light, book and the smoke, I am cocooned. Me, the book and each eventful drag pluming out over the page like a crashing wave over the side of a ship. All in complete silence.