Hugh Miller

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The title is reputedly what the intellectual swashbuckler and psychological pioneer William James found he had written down during a drug-induced revelation of ultimate truth: “Overall there is a smell of fried onions”.

In his essay “Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide” he wrote:

“only as sobriety returns, the feeling of insight fades, and one is left staring vacantly at a few disjointed words and phrases, as one stares at a cadaverous-looking snow peak from which sunset glow has just fled, or at a black cinder left by an extinguished brand.”

Flatland

We descend from ecstasy to the ordinary world as if “Whatever goes up, must come down” applied equally to airplanes and inspiration. Emotionally and psychologically it is as if Newtonian physics rules our inner lives. If there is a version of gravity in there I think it’s the inevitable return to the linguistic/rational level of human reality where we conduct all our business with each other. The human mind surfaces here when submerged and re-lands here after being elevated. This is the homeostatic balance of our kind, the default neurological coordinates of return from highs and lows. Notice that highs and lows aren’t being critically evaluated, merely suppressed as not conducive to social intercourse. The default settings for humanity are designed to function as the center of a common Venn chart, an area where we all overlap despite other differences.

This realm of normal life is completely dominated by words and concepts as if they were the fundamental atomic forces and structure here. Concepts and words (within a general logic framework) are everything here from the solid ground to a breathable atmosphere. The human community is contained within this verbal\conceptual structure but only a few even recognize its existence: Water isn’t perceived by the fish. Within this domain, we don’t usually feel limited or cramped but only realities that can be sealed inside words or concepts can exist here. These can be considered, shared and exchanged, but only, like a nerd’s action figures, if still sealed in the original container. Flatland is a reality composed of things with no objective reality, it is equally Plato’s Cave and Keanu’s Matrix.

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There is a behavior within a distinct subset of Seattle drivers that causes a range of negative results from small nuisances to life-threatening. I’m referring to politeness. Actually, that isn’t right. Politeness is simple, lovely, correct. Politeness is the Tao of social interaction.

The problem behavior is Meta-Politeness, a self-conscious attempt to be witnessed personifying politeness.  I believe it may be normal politeness tainted by the social media status update. We now include little unnecessary flourishes with our politeness in hopes of getting a “like”.

The tiny nuisance level is usually something like a driver expressing their profound open-mindedness that perhaps, evidence to the contrary, it isn’t their turn at the 4-way stop.

“Are you sure? It’s ok? Really?”

If this was as bad as it got, I would scarcely even notice, let alone ruminate over it…let even more alone write about it!

Here’s the real problem situation:

I’ve directly experienced this many times. Continue reading

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by Michael Leunig

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken,
Do not clutch it;
Let the wound lie open.
Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt,
And let it sting.
Let a stray dog lick it,
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell,
And let it ring.

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Part I.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, in the cold forests of the north, a little girl was born, the first and only child to a royal family in a small, troubled kingdom. She was named Princess Laurel. The trouble came from the girl’s parents, the king, and queen. Theirs was a loveless marriage, arranged when they were little more than children themselves. Their marriage was demanded by popular acclaim as a peace settlement to pacify and unify the eternally warring adjoining duchies of Laurel’s grandparents. The citizens of the blended kingdom say that the war didn’t so much stop as shrink and restrict itself to the dimensions of the castle and specifically the persons of the King and Queen. Each had their own court with advisors, ministers, elite guards, minstrels and magicians. All these swore fealty to the Monarch of their court and then to the Kingdom as a whole as a bit of an afterthought. The two courts faced each other warily and communicated in an arch mockery of courtly manners that dripped contempt and implied dark suspicions. All participants had drifted into this unpleasantness by watching and imitating the King and Queen during their tense meetings and the ways they discussed each other in private.

The King and Queen lived at opposite ends of the castle, which had been ripped apart inside and rebuilt as two wholly separate seats of imposing monarchial power. Exactly between them, incongruously cozy, pastel and modest, was the nursery and bedroom suite prepared for Princess Laurel.  To each side of her rooms was a heavily spiked iron gate, one to the Queen’s side and one to the King’s. Every morning both gates had to be noisily and laboriously raised and locked open to allow visitors from the other side. This would become the morning wake-up sound for Laurel, and she would often fall asleep shortly after the last thump and clank of the re-lowered gates at night.

It might seem strange that this King and Queen managed to have a child at all in these conditions. Of course, it is and it was very strange, and awkward and stressful for everyone concerned which was, in a sense, everyone. As is common in these things, the arranged marriage was intended as a first step toward true peace and unity for the Kingdom in the form of a ruler native to both clans, able to resolve conflicts with their very body and blood; a human resolution to hostilities.

That was the official reason and goal: That was the hope in the hearts of the men and women of the kingdom and that was the last thing either the King or the Queen wanted to see happen. Neither suspected in this passing moment their superficial similarity of goals, intimate as the moment might otherwise have appeared. Each was the last torchbearer of a selfish, entitled lineage, each one playing at parlay for the time being and viewing their only child, soon to be, as the secret weapon behind their endgame.

Over centuries of war, the King’s and Queen’s families had made alliances with many sources of dark, old magic among the Fey, the Pixies, the Goblins, and the ancient witch covens that lived in permanent shadows where the forest grew as tangled and solid as a stone wall. Representatives of these and more besides resided in the guise of well-spoken gentlefolk among the war courts of the king and queen. Here they spent half their time designing and targeting curses and the other half warding curses away.

In the months leading to the conception of Princess Laurel the scorched iron scent of powerful magic never left the castle and every kind of spell crafter made regular visits to both courts. Every spell had the goal of making the future child of this couple into a powerful yet tightly controlled agent bent wholly on the triumph of one family and the destruction of the other.

Nine months later Princess Laurel opened her gentle gray-green eyes for the first time and took her first breaths… of air strongly scented of scorched iron.

 


To be continued

 

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Friends turned into comic strip panels, children’s book illustrations, and whatever struck my fancy. I learn new stuff by leaning into it and cranking.

 

 

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I’m like a ridiculous little boat, tossed about by my own weather, and praying the storm will end.

Everyone is an assembly of voices, and inner life is their discussion. Our flaws and weaknesses are the voices we listened to more that we should have. Now, when they speak we mistake their voice for our own. These are the voices that confidently led us into every catastrophe. You can slowly change by recognizing this, and opening talks with the ignored and forgotten ones.

When longing is unbearable it becomes a prayer.

The facet of a child that has been damaged beyond the natural repair of time doesn’t grow up but freezes there. It is nonetheless bound unbreakably to the grown-up responsibilities it was always destined to bear. This is the source of the mysterious, exhausted crying you can sometimes silently feel coming from the heart of someone nearby.

Hugh Miller

 

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