Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"Celan is sick"

The world we live in: mostly a dense tangle of artificial constructs that we erect and then use like handrails. Outside of the handrails, it's just the chaos of...well, it's just chaos; we don't really know where the chaos comes from; we can't know the nature of it. I guess, really, our minds are- at their- core, chaos, and so the hand-rail building ensues...we try to cram structures, i.e. ideas, labels, ideologies and so on...we try to cram those into the horror, make it seem less frightening, more respectable.

The horror is formless. It resists our shaping...but we're able to fool ourselves, and perhaps that's enough. It seems to be. Most of us live life without screaming through every waking second.

I don't know if there's a non-handrail world that we can actually touch with our minds, I suspect not. I mean, it's out there; it's just obscured behind all of the hand-rails we live between, fully out of reach.

I suspect we just wake up in a human reality...let's call it a holodeck now, or if movies are more your thing, the matrix. We wake in the matrix- it has been built and constructed by others, and then to varying degrees, we add our own pixels and constructs as we go along through life.

People afraid of change add nothing, just glide along through the simulation, watching it unfold, careful to keep their arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Creatives sort of resent all of the pre-existing shit (the constructs and value systems and handrails) and try to tear down as much as they can, re-configure the matrix as they see fit. I don't think there's an outside to any of it...a primordial reality we can reach; an exit. There is no genuine tearing down of matrix bits, just replacing old matrix bits with new ones. This is either good or bad depending on which words you use to describe it. It can be inexhaustible surplus, it can be a prison, etc.

Handrails. Choose your handrails. Look away from the horror.

Trying to get out of the matrix...this is what got Heidegger into trouble. He realized that we were all living inside of this big simulation; the world was culture and language and, anyway, handrail stuff; so he began to write about what escape would look like. Dasein, our existence, gets bored and anxious, you see. In moments of day to day life, our mind secretly notices that things are just weird, alien stuff, and we hide that fact with concepts and labels and ideas. We hide the formless horror behind the matrix. Over time, humans forgot they were in the matrix. It's a pretty good gig, so we let ourselves forget. Heidegger, on the other hand, couldn't not see the matrix; it was too vividly artificial to him; he wanted out.

How do you get out of something so ancient and sturdy and tenacious? How do you escape the big human construct that's swallowed up all of our minds and blinded us to both reality and ourselves? Heidegger- and this was his Faustian moment- he thought it would take a huge amount of strength. Heidegger, who had previously seen philosophy as disconnected from politics, began to feel like humans needed a big, cultural prison break, and this would only be meaningful if it took place in the political sphere.

He began to dream of a strongman who could come along and tear down the matrix.

Tangled together in his Faustian moment were a few factors: Heidegger, around the late 1920s or so, became obsessed with Plato and the cave metaphor. He became obsessed with it because his elitism found something he liked in the metaphor- the lessers (as Heidegger viewed them) stayed in the cave, fooled by the shadows, but one person- one brave, authentic person- escaped the cave and found reality, truth. This escapee...this strongman who broke out of the matrix/cave- then needed to go back into the cave and educate the silly lessers, so that they could escape as well.

Another thread in the tangle: Heidegger was having these thoughts during the brief reign of the Weimar Republic.

Democracy had come to Germany and he hated it. People were free to think and support any given belief system. Again, Heidegger's elitism couldn't take it. People needed a shepherd to guide them through life, not the freedom to entertain this seemingly endless procession of noisy, squabbling values.

Democracy didn't discriminate; this offended Heidegger.

So his philosophy- channeled through the Plato stuff- turned political. When Hitler came along, Heidegger's dreams felt tantalizingly real- here was someone who could sweep away the matrix (exit the cave), tear it all down- someone willing to kill people to kill the ideas in their head. All of that annoying democracy stuff...Hitler was going to brush it away.

Heidegger enthusiastically embraced the tenets of national socialism; he joined the party; he even became the dean of a college all so that he could implement the new fuhrer policies.

He saw the matrix...wanted out of it, wanted to make human life something real, authentic...and this desire literally turned him into a nazi. 

After the war, after the de-nazification committee released him back into the wild, his writing became conveniently mystical and cryptic. It's like, “I'm taking my toys and going home now.”

He's holed up at Todtnauberg, thinking, “Fuck politics; I'm too weird for you people anyway. I'm just gonna sit in my cabin now and make up a bunch of words.”


Topic switch; I don't know why. It's the tangle effect: I'm reading Safranski's Heidegger biography, and periodically having discussions with my family, so it all mixes together.

I think about the use-value of the matrix, of our fun little reality-generating holodeck, any time mom says my brother is “sick” or “mentally ill”.

I think, really, he's none of these things...I think these words are just handrails. They help make sense of horror.

I think, somehow, he can't see the matrix at all...probably just fragments; enough to know it's there, not enough to feel like he's living inside of it. And what he's left with is just raw, screaming chaos.

Maybe, in some instances, that's what depression is: matrix failure. The illusion drops away and you're powerfully alone with, I guess, nothing; you become strange to yourself; the world becomes the horror.

I suppose some feel enlightened by nothingness. The difference between enlightenment and depression, as each encounters the nothing...I don't know what that difference is. Choice? I don't know. Tell me on Twitter if you know.

The word “nothing” is misleading. I don't think “nothing” is blank, I'd say it's the opposite- it's stark, overwhelming texture; vibrant, all-consuming information, too much for a mind to absorb.

This is what religion fears when it fears the face of god; when it turns away from divine representation.

In my own struggles with bouts of depression, I think some part of me always retained an ability to create handrails...just something, anything, to hold onto. Philosophy, for example, helps me intellectualize the horror, make it manageable; popular culture helps me intellectualize the horror. I worry it's just a beneficial cowardice.

With my mind, and it's connection to the world, there was a dropping away and I would feel powerfully lost, to the point that death seemed like an exit. Death as ultimate handrail. But I remained in the matrix; the dropping away only went so far. It's terrifying watching what happens with my brother. I don't think he can halt whatever happens with his thinking. He drops away and just keeps going.

Not all the way; not yet.

For now, he stays in some sort of tortured balance between matrix fragments and formless horror.

Heidegger could see the matrix too clearly; little brother not clearly enough; both extremes result in, I don't know; agony, madness, one of the handrails we use in these situations.

Mom says, “We didn't realize how sick he was.” This after he tried to hang himself in the county jail.

Mom says, “There's just no good help for the mentally ill.' This after he attempted suicide by police.

I've lost track of what has happened, the full accounting of incidents; or the stabilizing part of my mind blurs memory.

For now, there's the vague outline of a pattern: isolation, isolation, months of it, building up a dark energy, then rage; as the rage peaks, he begins to hear voices, turns more furious, incoherent; wildness ensues, with erratic/threatening behaviors, extreme binge drinking; then he's jailed or institutionalized, usually both, in that order.

Then isolation, isolation; He's sent home, builds dark energy, and so on.

Mom says crash, poison, broken bones.

Mom says depression.

I don't think he's sick or mentally ill...sometimes They tack on new labels; sometimes They remove them, admit confusion.

I just think there is formless horror.

Anything I say, any label They apply, it's just a handrail. And it's a handrail designed for our comfort, not his. It's our way of looking away from whatever it is that he sees.

Heidegger had an after; he had Todtnauberg. I don't know what brother has, can have. He just falls.

I don't know if he can retain those last remaining fragments when the pattern finally changes.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

older than everything

May, 2007

Dark day, clouds low bruises; rain grazing the window, the roof.

Talking, talking.
In the middle of a sentence she says, “Childhood depression.”

I say, "I felt really old when I was a kid. Not age-wise old...more like exhausted, like someone who has been awake for a long time. Old in a way that has nothing to do with time. I would talk to other kids...and it was like I was really far away from them; I could feel this huge distance between us."

"Did you feel more mature? The kids I work with...spectrum kids...I hear a lot that they prefer interacting with adults."

"I didn't really feel more mature. It had more to do with feeling tired. I just felt so emotionally exhausted all the time, and it made me feel like I was very different, sort of alien compared to others. I think, in reality, I was immature, even for a kid...my social skills never kept up with my actual age. But emotionally, I thought others kids seemed much younger than me. I had trouble feeling any connection to people my age."

"And what about now? Today?"

"It's different now that I'm in my 30's, almost the opposite situation. I'm literally older...but most people my age are married, furthering careers, raising kids...you know? Doing meaningful, difficult things. And I'm just hiding from the world, alone. I don't have any money. I feel...I don't know...juvenile or something, when I compare myself to others now. But when I was younger...I would interact with kids...and something about the differences between us, it just made me feel beat down and old. Today, I don't know. I don't know what I feel anymore."

It's quiet for a bit. I listen to the rain. She looks off to the side, thinks. She says, "During my residency, I worked with terminally ill children. Kids who had a very short amount of time to live..."

"What do you do to help kids in that situation?"

"You help them understand what will happen. You answer all of their questions, very directly. You help them prepare. And what was striking to me: these kids, emotionally, grew up very fast. Once they grasped what was about to happen...they seemed to very quickly become old souls. In many cases, there was almost a role reversal with the parents...the child would begin to take care of the parents, at least emotionally. Mom and dad, understandably, would become distraught...and the child would try to console them, help them through it. I saw that more times than I could count, those little hearts maturing so rapidly, reaching out to take care of others."

I'm a little shaken by the discussion. She's calm, no emotion.

She holds out her hands, makes them into fists, looks at them. She says, "I used to see a little one...this sweet girl, she had advanced rheumatoid arthritis.”

“I thought that was an older person thing.”

She shakes her head, says, “Any age. She was hit particularly hard. We would have free-floating appointments...I'd see her when she was not in agony. She was 8, and was already having numerous surgeries on her hands. She told me one time, 'I feel so old,' and I asked her how old she felt and she said, 'Old. Older than everything.'"

Monday, December 8, 2014

What We Know So Far

Excerpts from the Encyclopedia of M

Birds are feathered meat-clocks. We don't know yet what their inner workings do. Probably they run on springs, cogs and pixie magic. Birds make a characteristic "chirping" sound; the strange ones eat pennies and gopher droppings. They are common to: north coastal regions, mountainous caverns and the dreams of wounded pie-cooks.


Grabby heat-machines; used in the de-softening of bread.

Toasters are nocturnal breeders and emit horrible urine when frightened.

George Washington-

Famous for inventing the Optional Axe Handle. You could use it, but you could also not, a concept which revolutionized the hacking and the chopping. Washington had the speaking voice of a dead ox but sang like a bag-pipe. He died in his pajamas.


Unknown. Probably the droppings of cloth pigeons.


Foot-encircling stink-curtains. According to scientists (from Sweden) they are driven to enslave feet out of a blind need for aromatic suppression. Socks are inert when frozen. They are made from cotton and hate.


Toothy, sex-mongering vegetarians. They live in holes and screech horribly. Rabbits are currently ranked #47 on the list of "Animals That Will Not Eat Pencil Erasers". They hop, not from glee, but from a humorous leg deformity. That's all we know about rabbits.


Wayward happenings; things we do. People arise in them and despair accordingly. Trends, like naps, steal thoughts and guide us to quiet automation. The trend of studying trends led scientists (from Sweden) to discover that science itself is a trend. "People arise in them and despair accordingly," concluded the scientists, a fact recorded here previously.


A fail-shaped ball suspended absolutely nowhere. It is gigantic and irrelevant. Probes and comets crash into it out of spite. Future astronauts will fly past Saturn, point at it and say, "Worst planet ever." Scientists speculate that the famous "rings" of Saturn are merely stains and connote poor hygiene.


Magma is important. It is the bones for planets. It holds together what's inside, but we don't know what that is yet. It might be lava. Lava is what happens when the magma cries. You can touch magma and it's okay, but you can't touch lava.


The words animals use when speaking the stink-language. Much like invisible telegrams, they bring tidings of our sexual compatibility. "I am athletically inclined and shall produce mighty spawn," some pheromones tell us. "I am bookish and therefore distasteful," relate others. Science has yet to discover the body part responsible for pheromones. (But it's thumbs.)


Genital-encircling modesty-curtains.They were invented in 647B.C. after humanity began to evolve out of it's naturally occurring modesty-pelt. Rampant nudistry declined as bits (strange bits) were exposed and people (now unsightly) cringed.


Tiny ducks. Their pointy bills are in the wrong place and will sting you. Wear that bee-keeper suit when duck hunting.

Bees were first discovered by Viking scientists out on one of their educational looting sprees. It was an exciting time.


Not made by ducks. It floats and glows and is probably irrelevant. Scientists landed there decades ago. They hopped about in air-suits and looked with their investigation faces. They discovered: boulders, no ducks, a modicum of dust and a great many teflon deposits.


A spoon is for the careful holding. It can bring, to your lips, a soup. Invented in 1377 by dainty vikings, it is now common.

A fork is for the wanton piercing. It can bring, to your lips, a ham (the soup goes right through it). This pronged utensil can be thrown at wayward socks.

A knife is for the rumpled spreading. It was popularized during the Norwegian Stab Riot of 1687.


Unknown. The sun goes, but it's confusing. It drops away, elusive. Research is under way to discover where exactly the sun goes at night. A NASA press conference was recently held to announce the creation of this study. "I mean, where is that %@#* thing going?!" raged sun-expert Fen Yurley.

Most scientists now believe that the sun is either 1. a celestial, heat-producing object around which our planet rotates, or 2. a lonely glow-whale whose immense size alienates it from the rest of god's creation.


The saying of, the wording. Composed by those of us in the know, it then seeps outward and binds. It subjugates tongues. See also: linguistic feudalism.

Koala Bears-

Marsupials found in southern Australia. Described as "cute and harmless" by 18th Century explorers, these tree-dwelling leaf-addicts are now the primary cause of species extinction and global deforestation. Their chewing...their bleak, inexorable chewing...cannot be slowed or reasoned with. Our planet will die.

Warm Bread-

Not to be confused with room-temperature bread, warm bread exudes heat. Eventually it molds and then you have a decision to make.

Warm bread was first discovered by viking lunatics in 877 AD. Without warning, it popped out of a volcano and was found to be delicious.


A sky-smudge. Pinkish. Inedible.


Shapes are what makes things stop. They are the edge of them. Shapes that are different are called "something else". Shapes that are the same are called "another one". The smallest shape ever is a lady bug.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Night shift: toothpaste

These are stories from a previous job. For the privacy of those involved, names and details have been changed. (Previous posts: meds, Walter in the waiting room, quiet type.)

Summer 2008


I'm standing on the sidewalk, in front of a grocery store. Next to me is Walter, a client from the psychiatric facility. He has been out of toothpaste for days, I finally talked him into a store-run. Before leaving I said, "Walter, I'll need you to speak quietly at the store, okay? If you yell, we might get into trouble."

He nodded. And he'd been having a good week. And you can't avoid store-runs forever, they go with the territory.

We loaded up, hit the store. Toothpaste: acquired, then purchased. As we were leaving, Walter stopped, placed his right hand to his mouth and began yelling. He barked, "Hey now, drop it! You fellas stop the bitching!" Hallucinating, interacting with voices. I couldn't get him to lower his volume or follow me to the car. Staring off into space, hand at mouth, he continued, "They found copper wire in Nixon's attic! Check it!"

So that's where we are now. Just standing. Me urging Walter to walk quickly, to follow me. Walter barking odd phrases into his hand, which to him is a communication device. Customers openly staring, give us a wide berth. Through the front door, I see one elderly woman speaking with staff, pointing at Walter.

I say, "Shit." Take my cell phone out, call Marcy, my supervisor.

She answers with, "How bad?"

"I don't know, Marcy. Medium bad. I'm at the store with Walter. He just deteriorated- out of the blue- started yelling into his hand. And I can't get him to move at all, he's just standing there."

"You're in the store?" Marcy asks.

"We're in front of it. And he's just too psychotic right now to hear me. You know, it's the usual stuff, he's not agitated or anything. It's the usual harmless stuff. He's just loud, and I can see people kind of freaking out."

She sighs, says, "Yeah, I can hear him. Jeez. Have you tried pulling him along at all?"

"No. You know, we tend to be hands-off, policy-wise, I didn't want to risk it."

"I'm giving you permission. Just lightly tug his elbow, see if he'll follow."

I try it. Walter gently pulls his arm back, continues yelling.

"Nah, he's not moving," I say. "And I see more than one person on their cell phone now."

"Well, M...shoot. I would send staff out to assist, but to be honest, I think this'll be resolved one way or another by then."

"I agree."

"Basically, continue to ask him to leave. If he hasn't moved on in the next few minutes, it'll be out of your hands."

"Yep. Okay. I'm sorry about this, I thought we could be in and out."

"No worries. Like I said, this is out of your hands now. All I can do at this point is reinforce privacy law: no disclosure of a client's personal information. Of any kind. Police get there, you're not to provide information about Walter...and you're not permitted to identify yourself as staff."


"Just say what you can, observe, document afterward."

I nod to no one in particular, reply, "Okay." Walter begins laughing, stamping a foot. Into his hand, he says, "He fired that one up! It shot plum through the chimney!" He laughs more, till he's red in the face.

I see two police cars pull into the parking lot. I say to Marcy, "Yeah, they're here. I'll call back."

"This happens; don't worry. It's out of your hands at this point." I put the phone away.

Customers now begin to stop, spectate. They keep their distance, but slowly form a semi-circle around us. Walter yells and laughs and stamps his feet.

The police cars stop about 20 feet away. Two officers stay in their car and watch as two officers from the other car get out, approach.

Walter laughs, yells, "They found copper wire in his asshole!"

I fake smile and say, "Morning, officers."

They walk up to us. Walter is yelling into his hand, laughing. The officers watch him for a moment.

One says, "Sir? Could we have a word with you?" Walter doesn't hear them, he's too busy interacting with voices.

"Sir? Can you lower your voice? We just have a few questions."

"Nixon's horse didn't mind," Walter says, "they bribed it with whiskey." He stamps one foot, belly-laughs, continues yelling into his hand.

I speak up. I use a low-voice, try to sound half-bored, half-tired. "Walter means well, he's just having a tough morning. It's my fault...we should have stayed home; I apologize."

The first officer ignores me, continues to ask Walter if he can have a word. The second officers says, "Follow me over here."

We walk to the other side of their car. The officer asks, "So, what's going on.?"

I say, "He's just having a tough morning. He can be like this, and it's loud, but I promise he means well."

"Does he have any history of violent behavior? Any problems with anger?"

I shake my head "no", say, "He's sweet...he can just struggle with the volume sometimes."

The other officer asks Walter if he can look in his grocery bag. Walter doesn't reply. The officer tries to take the bag from him, but Walter won't let go of it. I say, "It's toothpaste. We just came for toothpaste."

The officer grabs his wrist, pulls the bag out of his hand, looks into it. He hands it back to Walter. He says, "I need to search his pockets. He have anything I should know about? Knives? Needles?"

"No, sir. He'll just have a wallet."

He searches Walter. The second officer looks at me, asks, "Does he have a diagnosis?"

I stare at my shoes.

"Are you family?" he asks. "Staff?"

I stare at the back of my hand.

First officer completes his search. Looks at us. Shrugs. Second officer says, "So here's the deal...several people called in, reported that an adult male was acting disruptive, angry. He doesn't strike me as angry...but I have to agree that this is disruptive."


"We're gonna have to take Mr. Walter here and escort him off the premise. But you say he's a nice guy, and I'm not gonna feel right sticking a nice guy in a jail cell. If we were to process him through the emergency room, have him admitted to the hospital's psychiatric ward...would you feel like that's an all right middle ground?"

"Yes, sir."

He nods. First officer takes out handcuffs. I say, "Oh...handcuffs?" Second officer says, "Sorry, that is written-in-stone policy. No way around it. We'll get them off quick as we can, once we're settled at the ER."

The officers take the grocery bag out of Walter's hand, give it to me. They take his arms, slowly move them behind his back, cuff him. I'm relieved to see Walter go along with it, he just continues to talk to himself. I was a little worried that he might react when they took away his communication device, but he seems oblivious to it all.

Once Walter is in their car, the second officer says, "You could meet us there if you wanted, but I'm guessing he'll be unavailable for awhile."


They nod, leave. The other police car drives off in a different direction.

I wave at the dozen or so spectators, then flip them off. I get in my car, drive back to work.

Once there, I pull open a file cabinet drawer. It's filled with color-coded incident reports, each one intended for a different supervisor, committee or department. I stare at them for a moment.

I call Marcy, describe what happened. She says, "Okay. I'll let his case manager know where he's at. I'm sure he'll be there a few days, at least; until his meds are adjusted."

"Which will probably work miracles. Always does."

She says, "Yup. Anything else?"

"Oh, I couldn't figure out the incident reports. The color-coding deal just confuses me. Which ones do I fill out?"

"I thought every department had a little laminated chart that breaks it all down?"

"We used to have one taped to the cabinet. It fell off years ago, disappeared. I guess we forgot to get a new one."

"Okay. So...with this being off-site, and the police thing...you need three forms. The gray, all-purpose incident report. That goes to me. Then you need the blue form...that goes to the Safety Committee. Then the purple form...that's for the lawyers, goes to Mike. With the Safety Committee, you want to keep it brief. Say as little as possible, otherwise they'll just make a new policy. With the lawyers, you want to provide as much detail as possible. Otherwise they'll just make a new policy. "

I laugh, say, "Okay."

"Grey, me. Blue, Safety. Purple, Mike."

"Got it. Thanks, Marcy."

"Thanks, M. Get those in. Go sleep."

I grab forms, a clipboard...I lay on the couch, fill shit out. I cram envelopes in the inter-office mail tray.

Finally, before leaving, I place Walter's toothpaste in his bathroom cabinet.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Incipient Turvy cameo appearance

As part of their Autism Awareness Month series, the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism is featuring one of my posts today. Nice of them to do that, you can click here to see the post.

Be sure to leave a comment and check out the other articles that are up, and that will be running all month. The site is a great resource; it's terrific that they are featuring works by writers on the spectrum. Bonus points: awarded.

Thx, more soon...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

nihil novi

(for the doctor)

not long after this recording, she lost use of her arms; prodigy, then fading, then early death.

faith is white noise for loss.

metronome...time goes by...

it raises more questions than it answers...

and the answer is always the same: a poacher

coded language, cold-storage

a crypto-tradition

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Nightshift (part 10)

(for the privacy of those involved, names and details have been changed.)

March, 2007

I wake up at 10p.m., get dressed. I sit around for a bit, listen to music, then head to work. I start my shift at 11. The evening staff fills me in on her night, tells me about the clients, about a few med changes. I don't say much, I just listen and nod. She gets her things together and leaves.

I make coffee, hang out in the common area. I turn on a television, watch news with the sound off. Saul walks through the room, on his way to the kitchen. He says, "I need a snack." He makes a sandwich...asks, "Can I have some of that coffee?" I say, "Probably not, Saul. You'll have trouble sleeping if you drink coffee this late." He doesn't say anything. He just sits across from me, in a recliner, eats the sandwich.

I watch news. Saul eats and quietly hallucinates. He looks off to the side...points his finger at something, goes back to eating. He laughs a little and asks, "How do they keep getting out like that?" I just smile a shrug. Saul looks off to the side...stares...gets up to throw his paper plate away.

He returns, sits in the recliner again. He says, "They get wound up sometimes. Do you see them, when they get like that?"

I say, "No, sir."

He laughs, continues; "Boy, they get wound up. They start squabbling and fighting. But they're so small, it doesn't do any harm, you know? They're like kids. I mean, they're old...they're ancient...but they're like kids, in the way they think."

I drink coffee, watch the news. Saul hallucinates, then says, "I wish they'd go away. They don't mean any harm, but I wish they'd just leave. They get rowdy, you know?"

I ask, "How was your snack?"

"Oh, it was good," he replies. "I just needed something. I tried to sleep but got hungry."

I rub my face and say, "Ugh, I'm sleepy, Saul. Having trouble waking up."

He says, "Well, you get more of that coffee. Anyway. I'm going to bed, see if I can sleep."

"Okay, Saul. Goodnight."

As he walks away, Saul says, "If you see one, just give it a good talking to. They don't mean any harm, but they're like kids. They need discipline."

I don't say anything. I just watch the silent television. It shows images of firemen, of storefronts, of weather maps.