Friday, January 25, 2008

Untitled

Anyone who has ever posted to Blogger will know that above the textarea for the main body is a place to add the title. I have always started from a title, as my posts are never entirely pre-planned: I have something I want to say but there's no concrete destination in mind when I begin. My title provides a succinct frame of reference, keeping me focused in some direction or other.

Today a title eludes me, although I don't quite know why. At 7.30am I was set on getting straight down to some novel editing, just as soon as I reached a suitable place to leave the book I am reading ('Barking' by Tom Holt). Then my concentration drifted and I lost interest, not because the book is bad. It offers Tom Holt's usual blend of off-the-cuff fantasy with chuckles and I've read enough of his books to feel qualified to say that, in my opinion, it may not be one of the best novels he's penned, but it's certainly not one of the worst.

So I dragged myself into the world, feeling somewhat weary in spite of an early night, which involved missing half of Star Trek. I'm thoroughly aware that as of a week on Monday, Bravo's scheduling of The Next Generation at 11pm will be far too late for me to enjoy it without suffering the consequences severly at 6.40 the following morning. It is a minor, yet acutely experienced, inconvenience - a symptom if you like. Like I can predict where Tom Holt's narrative will take me next, or second-guess the character reactions of the crew of The USS Enterprise D/E, I know that this is my Level 1 stress response kicking in.

A momentary digression into the wonders of spelling: why does 'took' use a double 'o', when 'stuck' does not? It was 'struck' that 'strook' me before - the realisation that I think in words, and in the same way as I occasionally lapse when writing and get stuck on 'stuck' if I think too hard about it, I did the same in my thoughts. In fact I got so caught up in the spelling I forget now what I had been 'strook' by. However, grammatically I am certainly stricken.

Back to the issue of a title for this post: it seems that when I ponder what it should be I develop either a twitch in my right eye, or an awareness of it. Both are appropriate to the meaning of 'stress' - emphasis, tension, focus, force, accent. It's a good, concise term that has the privilege of being one of those words unlikely to suffer ambiguity even out of context.

Every person experiences the effects of stress in a very different and unique way. For me it is mostly this sense of total exhaustion and disengagement. If that doesn't boot the stressor into touch it's followed up by some pretty brutal abdominal pain, physically real enough for me to have long since abandoned my appendix. On the plus side, knowing one's stress responses can be an effective means of tackling the issue head on. Unfortunately this also assumes that something can be done about it when in actuality we are rendered powerless, if only by the stress itself.

Passive use of the verb 'render' in the previous paragraph is intentional, hypothetically no less so than the Wachowski brothers' presentation of pure Foucauldian hell that is The Matrix Trilogy. We carry those little pills in our pockets, moving them from one garment to the next with loose change and receipts. If we ever notice they are there, we do so knowing that we can take neither. The only free will we possess is bound to those pills remaining in our possession.

I loved parts 1 and 2 of The Matrix Trilogy and I possibly don't need to explain why, considering that the above examples of my interests in fiction depict alternate realitites that are far better than this. 'Revolutions' killed the hopes built in 'The Matrix' and 'Reloaded'; Messrs Wachowski must bear this responsibility to their graves. Even when we have the power to create the illusion of a free universe it is beyond us. We remain constrained by the discursive binds we tied ourselves and merely tighten the knots when we struggle against them.

Only Rodenberry managed to produce a vaguely utopic vision that endures, with a blatant disregard for the efforts of his successors to deconstruct or even destroy it. The further he ventured away from mainstream US culture, the harder it became to maintain those counter ideals in the face of increasing awareness and acceptance of diversity. It gives me hope, not that the future will be a place driven by self betterment instead of accumulation of wealth, although that would be nice, as would the required eradication of poverty and disease, not to mention a military presence rightfully bestowed with pride and honour. No, my hopes are not so grand or naive.

Returning to my own education was a head-on collision with something introduced to me as 'the sociological imagination'. I've since grasped that it's just a case of opening the curtains and looking out of the window rather than walking away. Ideologies aside, a quick glance will tell us that this is not the place we believed it to be. It's much better and yet much worse than that all at once.

I foresee my own narrative heading into post-modern apathy - the lack of title assures it. There will be no revolution, bloody or otherwise, not out there, I thought. All your grand theories are just keys jangling from the jailer's belt. Then I held onto that moment and let it turn to introspection. Where do I go now? What do I mean by 'out there'? If I follow where I lead then the freedom of which I write is that created by the mind, in the mind, hopes and dreams cast in ink or light and thrown to the void.

And I turned to Ginsberg's ghost and said 'I am beat!' and he took my hand and pulled me to my feet and replied 'Yes you are.'

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