Virtuality Check (not your typical blog)

I pinch myself. Is this my life? Or am I asleep on a beach having a vivid hallucination-induced dream. Like the convoluted geographically intricate dreams I wake in the middle of. Dreams in which I don’t know where I am, but there is a staircase or a porch. Something specific going somewhere or leading away. It is often made of unlikely objects, like wine crates, or giant pencils the size of barn beams. It seems plausible if a little unsettling, as the dream progresses. Sometimes there are moments of relief, joy, empowerment that explode unexpectedly. Other times I must take flight to escape a predator of uncertain origin, or a horrid dream-world plot twist.

The dream is invariably more real than any idea I might have about the dream. Or anything one might think of as actual, perhaps glimpsed through a curtain of eyelashes: a sun-soaked beach, the blue, distant horizon, a sandpiper at the edge of my beach towel.

But I don’t feel like I’m on a beach. Or otherwise plugged into a matrix of hallucinatory alternative reality. But still. I look around me and I can see the brush strokes in this “real life” and beyond, in the virtual world humans have created. The realm of tweets and counter-tweets, airbrushed, bumpstocked, drydocked, flimflammed reactions, counter-reactions, hyper-reactions to… that’s the part I don’t know.

Who wrote this version? Is there a theme? Is the theme the gradual dissolution of social consciousness and the relentless creation of narcissistically motivated power?

Times like this, other places I’ve been, or lived, seem more real and near than the place I find myself now. This chair, that table, this window, that bank of snow. Where did they come from? The story of their arrival is known to me, but is it known to me because it took place or because my brain trusts it as real? The brain that invented the whole story, perhaps, in a detailed mental construct, a subconscious screenplay, complete with smells and tastes.

The feeling of having my hair brushed and braided by a father dead now many years, a truth that lives even now at the very edge of my scalp’s sensory receptors, is more real to me (sometimes) than the sweat under my breasts as I grunt my way through class at the gym, the smell of my favorite coffee shop, or the talking heads analyzing why no one actually in power wants to do anything about assault rifles in the hands of killers. For example.

What I realize is that my brain, powerful organ that it is, loses its power over reality. I reach out and touch something. You, if only you were here. Or maybe the cat. Or the keyboard. Virtuality check.

My heart is what is left, in the end, to know the difference. To know that the madness “out there” is not “in here” –and never needs to be. We can stay in truth. Or try hard to. That place where the versions intersect and something immutable is imaginable. Conceivable.

A fellow blogger recently reminded me of the Wheel of Fortune—the ever-spinning, ever-rising, ever-falling wheel upon which we can be racked, or whose center we can seek. The seasons will turn with or without me, you, Twitter, Starbucks, or the grid. The sun and the moon will rise and set, and shed their influence, and their light, upon the world, regardless of where on the wheel we are, at the moment.

For the past 24 hours my power has been (mostly) off due to a snow and wind storm. The still place in the center of the maelstrom of 2018—I glimpsed it for a moment in the night when everything was completely dark. The wheel moved slowly, and I could see the spokes as they seemed to float past me in their circling path. But at the center, nothing moved. Head back, to look up at the darkness, I felt maybe, barely, the shifting of that slowly turning hub, but in that moment, I was able stay still and centered and realize, “I exist.”

13 thoughts on “Virtuality Check (not your typical blog)

  1. I got very real goosebumps at the sensation of the hair brushing, hair braiding.

    The Richard Dawkins TED talk I mentioned before actually spoke about memory…he asked the audience to recall a memory, one that is so clear you can actually see and hear and feel it, after all, you were there, weren’t you? Or were you? It turns out not a single atom of you was there. All of your matter has since been replaced.

    Where are those memories stored, then? What is it that’s actually stored?? Reality as a construct.

    I keep looking around and thinking, “Are we still pretending this is normal?” “WHY are we still pretending this is normal.” “Why are YOU pretending this is normal?” or “Do you actually think anything at all, if you stop the just-for-shock-value schtick? Surely there’s a reasoning, feeling human underneath the show.” I think my brain has shortened it all into the single word refrain: REALLY?! (a.k.a. WTF?!)

    The only thing that keeps me sane, I think, is recognizing that I am NOT the only one…harder than you’d think, considering I’m married to a woman. (Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, the frustration of being the only “woke” person in a lesbian relationship. When I mention with all appropriate ire, “Did you hear Trump fired Andrew McCabe?!?!?!” and my wife says, “Who?” Then I’m left with guilt for thinking, “Will you pay attention when it finally impacts you directly? You know, once it’s too late??” Or I come home from work dancing, rejoicing because iheartmedia is filing bankruptcy, and I crow that I flip them off every time I drive by their location a block from where I work, and my wife asks, “What’s wrong with you?” I understand the disinterest in America because I am confronted with it daily. I do NOT understand HOW though, not by a long walk. How does one close one’s eyes to it and still sleep at night????)

    Your wheel of fortune and seasons turning with or without us brought to mind Angkor Wat, and the reclaiming of the jungle, and the hope that what we leave is as beautiful in its dissolution as it was in its creation.

    I hope that your winter is glorious, and that your power grid is stable for the rest of it, and that it passes as quickly as you’d like. Thank you for asking about me. I don’t know if you could feel the tiny obstruction blocking the avalanche (a more apt metaphor might be a finger in a dyke [EDIT meant literally* and not eeeewwww]), but I am so damned grateful you plucked it up and out of my way.

    (* My brain is trying to wrap itself around a literal figure of speech. What the hell is that, Laura? If you have to make up new figures of speech, you are doing it wrong.)

  2. I’ve just this moment read about Maryland, and my first thought was of you. It’s the first time I’ve thought “teacher” and “danger” in the same thought. Please be safe.

  3. Hey there! Saw this note and the other one too–where you talked about the decade of subjugation at the hands of a predator. What the hell,girl? So glad you are out of that. And living with someone who is in total denial about how fucked up this country and world are. That HAS to be hard. One of my deal breakers when I date men is, if they are not comfortable talking politics… if they don’t insist that it is vital to talk about the state of the world, I want nothing to do with them. Funny. Most of the guys who don’t want to talk about “that stuff” are on the right side of center and probably have no idea how to stand up against the crushing logic that eviscerates every milque toast platitude they could come up with.

    I’m on a little road trip to Charlottesville, VA and it’s snowing here, too. Can’t get away! But I love it here. Come often. My old stomping grounds.

    Spring will be here soon. The tragic state of our climate and all the mess that ensues will mean we probs go from nor’easter blizzards and tornadoes to nor’easter hurricanes and tornadoes, with a few hurricanes thrown in for good measure. Yay.

    Take care and glad you unstuck. 🙂 xo

  4. Enjoy the trip home as often as you can. With the melting icecaps, you’ll have to swim to get there before long. I have spent the day coming down with a fever and sore throat, and am now fairly convinced I will die. LOL I am going home to find magic blue liquid ibuprofen pills and the comfort of my bed. Be blessed, dearest lady. And stay warm! xox

  5. The term nor’easter is completely incorrect. It’s northeaster, but sou’wester. The reason being that in the days of sail when the crew members were all yelling and screaming in the chaos to be heard over the gale, that north and south could sound too much alike causing problems, as you can imagine, for the unlucky sod at the tiller. Dropping the “th” in “south” made it easier to distinguish from the word “north”, but since no one knows how to sail anymore the proper terminology got lost. Most everyone gets it loused up.

    I have cancer again. Incurable this time around. But I’m the lucky one now that the world will have to deal with that god damned bastard Bolton. Makes me wish I didn’t have a kid and his son to worry about. Fortunately I live in an area where everyone hates trump and is willing to talk about the horror of what’s going on and to curse the SOB. Best wishes.

    • M,
      First, I am so very sorry to hear about your losing battle with cancer. I do not know your story, but it seems this is a late chapter in a longer tale. I understand your fear about leaving loved ones behind in such an uncertain world. Last night I had the pleasure of hearing Khizr Khan speak in a rather large auditorium filled with hopeful people open to and eager for inspiration. It was part of the Virginia Festival of the Book (something I love coming down to VA to attend if I can). Mr. Khan was one of the big draws this year, and he was featured in an evening event that was, as I mentioned, very well attended.

      I am thrilled I went because I, like everyone else, was inspired, as much by his passion for and understanding of our nation’s constitution but also his abiding optimism in the face of the current administration. He truly believes the nation will correct its course in the next several elections. He is trained as a lawyer in his home nation of Pakistan and as a lawyer also here in his chosen country, where he has practiced for many years and often does pro bono work protecting the rights of, for example, women. His eloquence was powerful. He has written a book I want to read and that you might find hope in too –An American Family.

      As for your lesson in etymology, I love that! I am a word fan and an etymology nerd. Curious, I Googled this for more info. the most succinct thing I found that addressed the etymology of the word was on Wikipedia–I realize that is not necessarily a “sure thing” in terms of scholarship, but so often the articles are very well researched and supported. In any case, here is the link to the etymology of the word “nor’easter” that is given by Wikipedia:

      You might find it interesting and that it might spark further study!

      Best wishes,

      • M–It occurs to me that I sounded patronizing when I said it might spark “further study” as if you had been incorrect. NOT AT ALL. I find that the deep hole we can dive into when tracing a word’s history is seductive and often has many paths branching from it. I just sensed you’d be curious to hear more of that history… that’s all I meant.

  6. I sympathize with the man from Brunswick. It’s an interesting article. I like to think of men scrambling on the decks of overloaded ships in unimaginably strong gales, waves breaking over the decks, sailors tossed overboard yelling, “I didn’t hear the ‘TH’ you bloody twit!” as the ship crumples on the northern ledges.

    • M. I just realized who you are. I did not connect the dots… though I should have when you schooled me on etymology. But when you used the word “twit” … all came clear.

      My human empathy has become deep and personal sorrow at your news. I feel at a loss. V

  7. Thank you. I feel sorriest for my wife, L, who has been an incredible source of help and inspiration. She will be lonely.

  8. Thank you. Much appreciated. Being in the dark as to my identity must have made my comment totally bizarre. Knew, or at least felt reasonably certain, that “twit” would clarify things.

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