Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Birds, and other dangers

I haven't posted anything for a while because i've been spending most of my time making bent-frame vinyl windows and reconsidering my basic ideas about things.
I think the alternate histories I've been writing say all sorts of pretty damning things about my views of other people. There is also the problem of history being an ongoing thing, as a writer you want things to reach equilibrium so you can stop writing, but the more you elaborate on that equilibrium the more contrived it begins to seem. I'm slowing starting to suspect that long-term-oriented relationships are a bad idea, which sort of makes me glad I'm not in one, but then in a lot of ways it seems like you are screwed in either case; I vaguely remember reading some Greek guy who said that you can't really judge whether your life is ok until you are dead, which seems applicable, if a bit useless.
Today the cooling water evaporating out of the glycerine vinyl bender filled the production floor with water vapor. It was also sunny outside, which meant there were absurdly distinct beams of light running through the place at about thirty degree angles. It was like nothing I had ever seen.
This is something I wrote on summer solstice last week, one year previously I had been in the Enchantments, doing the, until then, boldest climbing trip of my life.

In our dreams we are birds
Birds and not men
And as we flutter into the sky and soar against the blue 
All our weariness falls away like scales from our eyes
As if a pall has been pulled back from the world
A cataract loosened
All the sepia tones washed clear and blue
The fire in the pit of the cave put out
But then we wake up
And we are men
Men and not birds
And the aroma of our toil is the more acrid for having been forgotten


  1. 1 Would you explain this equilibrium, please ?
    2 The juxtaposition of self-deprecation and your sense of superiority is always interesting.
    3 What do you consider a long-term oriented relationship ? Not one with parents and siblings, then, or are they all a bad idea too ? Does it matter how it originates, and for what purpose ?
    4 If a method is impossible, it has no value. So instead of waiting until death to judge one's life, isn't it best to experience every possibility, and then compare ? A lot really is relative, after all.

    1. 1. In this context, equilibrium means all the major conflicts being resolved. In novels this is really obvious: Lord of the Rings ends with all the generally good people killing all the generally bad people, such that Tolkien could not have even written a sequel. Most fantasy and science fiction epics follow this same pattern and, while less obviously, most other novels do as well, at least in a thematic sense. In some (bad) historical writing this is used as well - the allies win WWII or the civil rights acts are passed or the Renaissance happens and everyone lives happily ever after - but the reality is that all the conflicts are never resolved; we are not all moving toward some end point where everyone will be peaceful and happy. So unless you have specified an alternative present day, I’ve found it remarkably difficult to wrap up an alternate history without seeming contrived.
      2. I am honestly not sure which precedes the other
      3. By “relationship” I meant romantic relationship; with parents and siblings you can always keep your space. By long-term-oriented I meant not necessarily long term, but the kind of relationship that would, if all went well, become long term.
      4. The intent of the original observation was not that one should literally wait until the afterlife to make judgements about one’s life, but rather that one should recognize that however well, or badly, things seem to be going, the situation can change appallingly quickly. Which is not to say that there is anything wrong with your try-anything-once philosophy, although it does have some fairly obvious limits (methamphetamines, adultery, pyramid schemes, etc.).