(On Turning 51) 1 (of 11); the day you’re born
‘An elegantly simple experiment with floating particles self-assembling in response to sound waves has provided a new framework for studying how seemingly lifelike behaviors emerge in response to external forces.’
1: Twain and Melville.
…it was quite windy for a couple days last week, a shudder a shaking from the northeast, chilling and nipping, a lying wind, a trickster thwarting expectations of the continued lovely April sunshine. On the first day I went for a short walk to grab a coffee at the bar on the street nearby. Down the stairs, out the gate, left to the east then left again north – into that unwarm, oddly white iced air. The buildings lining the road funneled and accelerated its speed and strength, a sting or stings that shifts thoughts from one place to another, from where you might have been mostly or even a little into the present, if you weren’t already here. Things and more things were flying by both above and along the road’s pavement: a saddened menu stand from a distant restaurant, a clanging metal tray, papers and bags and even a pot’s lid – maybe in an effort to save its friend (the scraping menu.) The lid a crackly blue-purple color. The menu was green and black with white writing.
Papers and bags whipping around, scrunched faces to and fro along the sidewalk, a few displeasing steps forward into the wind, then a pause. Look. A young couple – still seated at a white metal table – twirling down the road, a pot of tea on the table. They didn’t seem at all panicked at their circumstance, instead smiled at each other, so happy. Love, love, love. The two of them didn’t have an Italian air – pale skin, straight hair, awkward body language. Northeast. Maybe they’d floated down from the Czech republic. It seemed to fit them somehow. I turned into one of the bars lining the street for my morning coffee.
The next day the wind had gathered force, stronger still, almost nothing outdoors remained fixed, messes everywhere, hodge-podge things mixing, trees like New Yorkers with mussed hair in a February gale, fainting plants begging for care, plastic and cardboard and the oddest of stuff mixing together like forming galaxies. From inside I had to step outside onto my kitchen balcony to sweep up shares from an old glass that had fallen and broken, its once useful form now lost forever into jagged pieces promising danger. As I began to shake the remains into a bag… a goat flew by, still chewing grass. Its body had found an eddy in the flow in the somewhat sheltered balcony air and hovered there a minute, looking at me. ‘Baaaah’, she said – it looked like a she – before twirling out again into the open. I presume she landed somewhere in Lazio maybe. Or further south. Anyway.
On the third day it softened, that wind. I went outside on the other terrace – and found such a mess, storage boxes scattered, old papers, leaves and unidentifiable strips of clothing and somehow beneath a silver metal chair, evenly distributed around a pair of shoes—small wood chips that must have been blown from one of the boxes into which had been thrown away a dried orchid plant, who knows how long before. Things set aside are forgotten.
It’s true, this last part, literally. Real. That is, fact, no metaphor, no exaggeration. All the mess everywhere else but the small dark chips had somehow managed to flow in that wind first around a corner – the terrace is an L-shape: to the north exposed to the hard wind, then lining the west side of this building – they’d found or been pushed by an eddy behind some boxes along that red wall that sheltered the chair from the wind and finally had laid themselves there beneath, perfectly distributed as if by human hand. Or something. Energy. So.
It reminded me, (not really – I’d merely been avoiding the doing of it, or waiting for something without really knowing precisely what,) that I’d turned 50 last December and, being an epochal number, like many thought I might summarize things, so to speak. What, why. Who, for others. But a week passed, a month, then the winter and on it was sliding into spring. Like other things set aside, it might have been forgotten. Except that it was still there, in the present, represented somewhere: a thing to do. Unlike the orchid’s abandoned plastic pot, (no longer relevant, no longer in the realm of ‘something with which I have to do’.) So. The even distribution of a bunch of chips of wood under a chair on a terrace reminded me of, or to. This.
Maybe you’ve heard the hallmark card-ish phrase, the two most important days of your life: that of your birth, and the day you discovered why you were born. (Mark Twain.) (So many cheep ironic or vulgar or both, jokes one could put, so few pixels.) Call me… my name. Find me a whale, or someone else after the same. (Ahab. Or Ishmael. Or Nick. Or Jay. Or…) But what’s in a name. I’m digressing. Before that goes too far let me take a look at… Ahab, so to speak, and Moby Dick.
Entropy, temporality, systems, expressions… stuff. The words that describe are tools, the sentences being composed are tools, the rhythms in the lines are tools still each expression is only one, n is always n, not merely ‘of’ n – only n.
In the last line I had misspelled rhythm, again. I always do except when I google the thing, not looking at the dropdown menu but the keys – and then always spell it correctly as I type in the word. The expression of my misspelling it outside of there, the google search line, remains in tact. Something in me presumes, infers, either its unimportance or correctness, of that misspelling. You could break it down to different kinds of memory and learning but… that, I think, isn’t enough to model why.
Everything is always in a dialogue. So what should I do then when I get to rhythm, the word, to spell it right? Open up a page in google and re-spell or try, consistently, to remember it correctly, write it down a hundred times one day then a hundred times again the next. (By hand though. It would likely work.) In that latter I would force it in. But I won’t do that. I’ll still misspell the thing in the future and likely still go to google again if I’m on-line and there, likely still, write it correctly before pressing the search button.
Moby Dick. The day Ahab was born. It starts a bit earlier than that, if you can even identify the start of anything. (You can’t really. You can only create it, the beginning, very much like you can only create a story, not identify it. Because… you can’t really identify you. Only create it, infer yourself. There are no qualia as such.) So the stuff that dialogued with itself, all those systems, growing from the first, carrying the need to be expressed through time, each of those expressions evolved and evolving entropically… responded to themselves. By the time Ahab was born so much had already been said, so many whales already searched for, so many walls punched through (it’s an allusion. I did have a very problematic familial condition…) so many misspellings and corrected spellings – representations change – and misspellings again. N… is always n. Topography. Repeat it again: topographies, multi-dimensionally representing complexity.
Let’s get back to a more readily identifiable subject or narrative before I loose anyone trying to follow along, including me. Context. Is likely what the cliché (Twain’s the two most important days of your life,) aims for. The first, that day of birth, is presumed not to have been decided on and in some regard, if you delineate enough, identify anyway there was and is still a you and a beginning to things, a beginning of consciousness, well, of the ‘your’ kind of consciousness. You’re born into a place. (It’s a bit hard to read those last lines but try, slowly, again. Create an understanding from the parts.) On the day you’re born you still haven’t really developed enough to separate yourself from that place yet, those people and things – but that will come rapidly, usually. The story, your story, you’ll begin in a few years though you’ll keep on making lots of biological hardware to represent it all, everything you can – it’ll be 10 years or so before the harder decisions come, when you’ll stop taking it all in, when what you’re supposed to do, predicting unawarely, the systems that make you prune those networks, biology again, into a more useful, leaner structure in some regards while bulking up some gray matter in the places you think will be more important to operate from. But the style, at least, of your symphony – the themes – will have been written down and remain.
So. In my case – it is me having turned 50 here – there were, leading up to that birth-day, a lot of whales and misspellings just like with everyone else. Like I said, it’s hard to delineate a beginning, when you began and begin. But let’s say for this note the beginning is in the womb. A bit different than usual, if there can be a usual. Relatively rich networks describing (no, not describing, not yet. There isn’t a describer, a human storyteller of any kind at all before 23-24 weeks and likely really not until you pop out and get all that juice, hormones – wake up, slap, wail for a whale (ouch) – so to speak. The awake you then still isn’t much like the awake you later. When do we begin…depends on who writes the, and when and where and how, represented or inferred aspects of the world that weren’t me or self, or weren’t going to lead to the expressed affect of me. Those last lines might be a little tough again but if it might please, read them twice. It gets clearer.
Timing is so very important… like the Japanese saying, how a story ends is as ‘big’ as where it begins. At a certain point or points –then, in this my story – my mother likely sent me a message, call it a stress response but you can suppose other possibilities of kind and kinds, all that complexity, all the differences between one person-stuff developing in one womb and another and even the different ‘yous’ plural, in the same. The message was something like: ‘the place-circumstance you’re being born isn’t going to be easy. At all. Like, it’s gonna’ probably suck. Talk amongst yourselves and start making the necessary adjustments. Deal with it.’ That led to other questions based on answers and other questions internally. A lot of them. (You know. Rythm. Rhythm. Rythem.) Do we want to be born? Do we want to survive? Which parts of us will we have a better chance to … continue? Do we want to reproduce the carrying parts, the body, the species? Hetero, homo? Who or what will you look for? How will you look for them?
Well, a lot of those last bits are articulated much later but not entirely. Because – all of those outcomes represented will have already happened before. Let me repeat that to myself: all of those outcomes represented will have already happened before. Not to me as in the forming me. But to those systems that were developing into a me. Partitures of a symphony, even if some themes, a personal style, will already be in place. That style is the last thing to go, (to borrow an Oliver Sacks phrase.) Topographies, again.
(Pause. Before going on – for the first time, it’s important, I always loose my way, rather don’t loose my way but wander and open and move from one… place to another, not one story to another, not one narrative – it’s the same narrative. But where you are can change. Places in the scene. So I’m writing this main notion: The expression of information in our universe evolves entropically but is represented temporally. It’s a problem. They look the same at first but between the two is an unending abyss. We, there is, always tango, a jiggle, between the two. End pause.)
Hmmm. I promised myself limits in numbers, 15 notes without going much beyond a couple thousand words in each, keep the total below 30k. Yet here I am already pushing 1900. Compactedness…I suppose I won’t pay attention to that idea, mostly. Few if any will read this anyway, at least for a good while. But I will have to shortcut a little to keep it from sliding away, at least this first one – I’ll title it ‘go’. Rhythm. Italian. The me inferred that will write is not exactly the same as the me that will search on google. Italian was the first language I was exposed to a bit too briefly as an infant, and even tough later I read English…something about the process of sound to symbol remained. So I misspell today in two languages. So again. Ahab. In the womb. Timing.
…results, to cut short, of the time and timing before and after Twain’s first day, the day you were born, or I in this case. Forgive the shortcut for those fewest, maybe that only one, still here but who aren’t in a relevant field. Conceptually it likely isn’t necessary but still: An hysteric HPA axis, rapid post-part development, test scores on the categorize-able side of the bell curve line, language comprehension on the .99, likely pre-disposed dopaminergic roads vta-up already about as narrow as… mule trails, big attention on those bulky networks reading, or listening, to place and people, eyes, postures, scents, movements. Detachment. And rich internal worlds. And attachment: big appetite, big laugh, big play, big love – toward in-group, a ‘larger’ me. No possession, no symbols, give away things from the beginning, toys are just toys, clothes are just clothes. But fields, the snow, water…things you can touch and swim with body and mind into…were and are love. And love… is family, and friend, one at a time: steven, chris, peter, leonard. Groups are (I’m using are as I describe that me then) always… groups, places I can’t belong to, just visit. Love-less, problematic, false in some way. ‘Little johnny hairy head’…. sing-songed, ‘lit-tle, john-ny, hair-y, head,’ Me as others sang the tune. But…thank heavens for football. Give me the ball those 2 or 3 times per game only and score I did, touchdown, every time basically, how strange from the odd and ugly little johnny hairy head, his carrying of kids jumping on top, trudging along across the line. Quietly. Unwavering. But rather incompetent in anything and everything else having to do with groups. It’s not only indulgence: those early moments count, a lot.
Autobiography is discouraging. Here it’s not even really the point but unavoidable to get to understanding. So … you sometimes fall into streaming voice, joyce-ish-like, anything to avoid an, the, ‘I’ expressed to self, your self. That discomfort is mostly a result of… development, in and out of utero, as mentioned above. Still that felt discomfort of expression is supposed to be displayed later because it came later. Not only in and from the set-up but in the articulation, the development after Twain’s first day, birth, but before the second, expression or meaning. So, to get to a point which would have been ahead, jumping over all the middle, the chronology, the plot, thematic development: narrative, our fabulated notion of time – back to the tonic, to the arbitrarily set beginning of even this note, its sort of god, its n that is always n, Twain’s phrase and Melville’s metaphorical elements. Circumstance. Family.
But there are practical limits, and here I’m already at what, 2400 words or so. So this first note will have to be dived in two. And the next will be named … 2?
Old notes – I Always Loose My Way, 2: The day you detach
…back to Twain’s two important days, (birth and the day of discovering why you’re here.) Expression and context. I’ll add at least a third, extend the cliche: The day you leave wherever you were. Detachment. It’s not the same as discovery though it goes in a similar direction. Not something inevitable but motivation, again that word, plays its part. (And, below, an old post in Italian on the same.)
I hurt my shoulder a couple months ago. Rotator cuff(s), good and torn. Likely at some point I’ll need to get it operated on in order to return to, say more than 75 percent functioning. Later. It’s my right shoulder, the same rotator cuff(s) (a different one this time,) I detached about 36 years and one month earlier. Playing American football, high school, junior varsity. Third day of double sessions, hit the pad hard during a drill and…snap. (What the hell?) I played through the season with the rip, likely making it worse, much. From time to time it would re-snap and the quick-crawling pain would shoot up then down. I’d let my arm dangle and head for the sidelines, get to the ground and writhe about for a minute or so, asking my body to pay attention to other inputs, until the arm-crawl-pain eased. (Sophomores usually don’t get much love in varsity play, all the more if they’re…quiet. Something silly, maybe. One should learn to keep howling, without so much intent. Most of the time, we do.)
In itself that wan’t an important moment, then. It remained an unused memory until lately. But its temporal vicinity to another important moment makes it relevant to this…memoir? (Thesis? Essay? Story?) A couple days after screwing my shoulder, during the intrasquad scrimmage, I was placed opposite my best friend and training partner at the time, Jim. Big Jim. Big boned blond, full chin, small brown eyes, giddy young smile and white skin. He was the second youngest on the team, I the first, and had the strongest upper body, I the second, in our grade. He played center, I defensive middle guard. We were pre-ordained to be the anchors of the offensive and defensive lines in the years to come…except that such never happened. I was quicker than he, faster as well and had unusually strong lower body strength. Though a silly game still the route motion of ‘besting’ him wasn’t hard, though it wasn’t my intention. Play after play I stayed low and whipped through him, and others, making backfield tackle after tackle. I was gassed, and like the games years earlier when I’d get the ball those few times and trudge down the field certain to score – certain. Not of scoring, of course, but that ‘all’ of me was present, and certain of the knowledge of my relative strength. To get me down was difficult – I was certain I could pass through anyone, even 2 or 3, on the field to get to the ball carrier, running back or QB, didn’t matter. It’s what I was supposed to do. So it went.
Until at some point… Jim tried to hold me a couple times, grabbing my jersey, to no avail. But on one play he must have grabbed on hard enough that the motion and force of my body pulled him off balance. He fell, his leg below my forward-moving right foot. I don’t know whether it was the foot or his fall but… I felt it. The something not right beneath, stopped in the middle of the play and turned. To see Jim beginning to howl behind his facemask, grimacing just horribly as he reached for his left knee. Whistles, play stop, attending trainee to him, the rest of us moving away to keep the scrimmage going some yards over to the right, ‘part of the game’, the coach cried, part of the game.
I’d blown up his knee. I was on the field for only a couple more plays before the next kid got his chance. My confusion was likely discernible. It felt..awful, and stupid. No game was worth that. Still, it wasn’t the look on Jim’s face, the unstiffled howl, the moment of detachment. That came a few hours later… and had to do with refusal.
Backtrack. This is an autobiography of sorts, and the second in a series. Why did I skip over so many years, as if the above moment of detachment came from someplace….. automatic, from nowhere or no where? It’s a question I’m asking myself right now, as I write these lines. Possible answers are many layered. And came in the first note: all of those possibilities had already happened. So why and where do you create the story?
Return to Ahab, his whale, the context, the attachment. Could the story have gone another way? Ahab, his whale, the ship the crew the directions taken, chance, a sneeze, a slip, a love affair gone well, a felt brother or sister, a dog, a bad piece of meat, a warm wind, a storm. Any can the course of a ship or the people leading it, or on it. Moby sushi. But non of those happened, really, or did they? Did it go another way after all, the story? Does it now? And where is the story, in words and flow of language, in the way we take in and infer the characters, when did you read it, the abridged version (it’s usually, or was, required reading a bit early, so to speak,) as you read or after the reading, from a movie version, from a spoken summary, from bits and other bits of related experience you fold in, Moby Dick, small representations from documentaries, from writers talking about the novel in various ways, all the wooden boats you’ve seen, in magazines, on-line, in person, in movies, every one of those tiny things like a stone dropped or skipped in a slowly moving river, or fast, or still, the ripples interacting and reaching out so circular at first then mixing up their patterns until the design is so complex you don’t really know anymore where one wave, one shape, came from. Still you try, always, to complete enough meaning to make an image, a topology of the whole, if you can. It always had to fit. And the whole thing brings up a word, motivation, and the word itself seems to bring itself back to center. Where does motivation come from? How does it develop? How many strata might there be before you actually not say but do-this?
Let me stick to the thing, mostly, being described here. That would be the author, me, in some way. How he developed. My household, my family, very loosely connected to distant relatives at first but then utterly isolated, was comprised of 4 people including me (and one dog.) The 3 other people each had significant… problems, which, alone, might have been at least mitigated but placed together, well… a 3 times catalyst. My mother would be diagnosable as psychotic in the DSM, the book from the US that categorizes mental disorders (though you could call it…. Definitely Serious Money,) paranoid delusional, stress modulated. Words. Conceptually it might be easier to consider her and people, untreated, of the same as being about 12 or so. That is, imagine a relatively smart 12 year old girl living in an adult’s body, under stress not actually able to distinguish where…. her narratives, the story she and we all tell ourselves to make sense of things, come from, wether the data was created from within or from without. Reality it’s often termed, problems of hippocamp-al, a small thingy in your brain that’s awfully important, placement. Time travel, so to speak, hormonal responses – can be very large for anyone without such or other problems but on her that sort of influence is, well, often determinate.
Maybe utterly so in defining her relation with my elder brother, the second familial element, whose entire life is basically… himself, or symbolic representations of himself. Think Donald Trump – the similarities in their behavior and even gestures and expressions is… unnerving. We call it psychopathy or psychopathic narcissism. Remorseless, criminal, a deep need to manipulate others until, wherever the scene might be, he can dominate. (pause. Here, I confirm why I thought I jumped over so many years: it’s rather hard to write. I get a tug on my hands, arms and throat, a pervasive bitterness and approaching panic. There are things that I didn’t feel back then, at all really – because I was developed in such a way not to. But the thing about such mad, self-referring systems: they don’t end. Ahab will chase his whale to the bottom of and again through the oceans. So consequences, if one doesn’t leave the story in time, are often…tragic.) There are a host of changes that take place whenever we meet someone and don’t turn away, your group, your lover, your friend. Literally your minds sync up. Those sorts of changes are much more pronounced, usually, with your children, in mothers all the more. Oxytocin (or oxytoxin, yukyuk) and such, what you are, what you must do, what the world is changes as does your place in it. My mother tied herself to her first born child in way a religious fanatic ties himself to his god. Something between a bible tale and a Hitchcock movie.
link – The Plasticity of Human Maternal Brain: Longitudinal Changes in Brain Anatomy During the Early Postpartum Period https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318549/
And that dynamic made the already utterly, again, mad relation between my father and mother even more problematic. Because though she had trouble keeping reality in her mind, my father was more literally a bit out of his own. That is, unbeknownst to him – wether due to ignorance or fear (some stones, his brothers might have thought, would be better left unturned) derived from growing up in real poverty, or other things – he had lost the majority of his left pre-frontal cortex, the part of your brain from a little past your ear going forward. All your brain is always talking to all, or most of, the rest of itself, and stuff, behaviors observable and under the surface, emerge more than are decided upon. Like a giant chat room but with a hierarchy and with a resulting symphony, the partitures, individual sections music, that emerge. In most of us, little chunks specialize in schematic ways. Very broadly, the left part up front can be very important for a bunch of things, from updating information into new models of what you’re supposed to do, to controlling impulses often emotively influenced from other parts of the brain, to hearing, so to speak, and deciding which of the symphonic-mind partitures will be louder in the emergent symphony that is you. And other stuff. In word: he was more than a bit fucked up, and likely it was only his big intellect, the breath of the connections in other, un-damaged parts of his brain, that allowed him to function well enough quickly enough to appear, most of the time, mostly normal, at least functional.