Notes From the Wasteland No. 8 ‘Is silence the worst thing you can hear?’

Is silence the worst thing you can hear?

What do you think?

When you look at someone and all you hear is nothing.

When you ask the darkness something and get no reply.

When you hope against hope to hear (from someone) but never do.

Silence.

The sound of your skin hardening. Your ears healing over. Closing through neglect. Never to reopen. Sealed forever. Bound with the grim whisper of the tomb. Skin and bone combine to fuse and form a permafrost.

The small scald of neglect, that daily burn upon your skin when the absence of attention you expect but hope against occurs once more again. Once more. As before. And again.

The words here are like the mirror that used to hang somewhere in the house but has long since removed yet every time you pass the spot where the mirror used to hang, you still look to see your face but find yourself not reflected anymore.

When you walk the world knowing that no one has anything to say to you today or any other day. You could walk the same path with the same steps for several lifetimes and be safe in the knowledge that only silence will accompany you.

Perhaps that’s a comfort.

Some people prefer solitude. The simplicity of silence. Of not having to engage. Ask. Joke. Laugh. To share.

Some people prefer to ignore those that surround them. That fill their space. Perhaps for fear of making that space a shared one? For, they might argue, who wants to share their space with anyone? As if intimacy is a pathogen only worth disinfecting; like washing your hands instead of stroking their face.

I’m sure these people find this act of ignoring others liberating.

Others find this same act terrifying.

I know where I stand. What about you?

Notes From the Wasteland No. 7 ‘How do we know where we’re supposed to be?’

How do we know where we’re supposed to be?

A question probably more easily answered in the negative.

We probably know where we’re not supposed to be and that’s normally where we want to be.

That’s where I want to be right now – where I’m not supposed to be.

But how do we really know where we’re supposed to be?

I have all the basic weights that pin me to a particular point on the planet; child, house, spouse, career, but some of these weights weigh heavier than others, and by doing so belie the simple facts of geography.

I have defied geography several times in my life, moving, shifting, relocating; each act of defiance larger than the last, from home, to town to, ultimately, country. And with every act I have felt that I was growing, changing, developing, responding, engaging, rearranging, changing (once more), and, growing (again).

But what happens if we stop defying geography?

Does this prevent us from further growing, changing, developing, responding, engaging, rearranging, changing (once more), and, growing (again).

I don’t think that it does. I hope that it doesn’t. I really hope that it doesn’t but as I write these words I’m really not sure.

That’s the why of these words, I guess.

Notes from the Wasteland No. 5 ‘I am a Doctor of Philosophy.’

I am a Doctor of Philosophy.

With letters before and after my name. And if you look carefully in the dustier parts of the internet you’ll find my doctorate published by an international university press.

It was a massive effort to complete. I lost (almost) everything in the process. My relationship. Friends. Possessions. Addresses.

My mental health suffered. There were times when I couldn’t imagine carrying on with it. It was all too much all of the time. Unrelenting in its need to be attended to. Like some curious tumour that demanded everything I had and much more.

Much more.

One more idea. Just one more. Another word. Another sentence.

One more.

More words. Another chapter. And another.

And. And. And.

More. Just more.

But I endured. Battled. Wrestled. Fought. Endured.

And completed. Because completing is everything. There is nothing else. The whole thing is just too much to not succeed. There is nothing else other than completion. I saw too many other people around me stretch out their lives by extending their registration. Going from full-time to part-time. Three years to five, seven, eleven, forever. Just adding more time to their lives. More. Endless. And then discover that there is no end. No completion. Planets have stopped rotating on their axes for less.

The process was like digging a hole as deep as you can possibly dig, toiling each day to shift tiny amounts of soil, pushing them to one side, tamping them down, making sure that too much soil doesn’t fall back into the hole. But the digging was everything. Everything.

Picture the hole I dug over three years. It was roughly ninety-six thousands words deep, not counting footnotes. But the hole’s dimensions can be measured in many ways. Not just word count.

Hours, obviously. The time it took to type each word, each sentence, each and every paragraph. To edit and rearrange, delete and rewrite.

I wrote in a tiny cubby hole overlooking a vast reading room in the university library. Perched high above the room like a furrowed gargoyle. Watching people come and go as I remained. Returning each day to dig a bit deeper. To change a word. Delete a sentence. Correct a spelling, for the millionth time.

I am proud of the effort. It took everything I had but I’m proud of myself. More importantly, the effort rewarded me with a career where my doctorate has been valuable.

But I can’t stop thinking about the hole I dug.

You can’t dig a hole that deep and not wonder how else you might measure its depth.

That’s what I’m doing right now.

Notes From the Wasteland No. 4 ‘There’s something stirring.’

There’s something stirring.

It is the usual something. That same something that it always is.

Something about where I am and where I want to be.

A distance, if you like.

At certain times of the year I am too tired, too happy, too crushed, or simply just too unaware to consider the actual distance of this distance.

At other times, like this time, I am all too keenly aware of this same distance. And when I am, like now, this same thing always happens. This distance compounds, extends, multiplies, unfurls, reveals, makes plain and clear just how far I am from where I want to be.

So, where do I want to be?

And the answers are complex and further compounding.

Not here. Not there.

With them. But not with them.

Not that. Not there (again).

Never here.

Somewhere. Elsewhere. Anywhere.

Not here. Not now. But there.

Just there.

Nowhere else.

But I’m here.

Once more.

Again.

Notes From the Wasteland No. 3 ‘Hey 2021, I’m ready for you.’

Hey 2021, I’m ready for you.

It’s that time of year when I think about family and friends, failings and futures, fallings-out and forgiveness.

All the things that forever whirl and eddy in my mind and find focus at particular times in particular ways.

Those particles of hurt and the hate and love and lust and loss and longing that rotate around the atom that is my heart. Like rocks drifting in space, separate yet caught, bound by the same gravity that causes my breath, like the tides, to always go in and out.

At this time of year I always feel the keen smart of new hope replace the dull ache of past failings. I don’t doubt that I will be crushed again as I have been crushed before; laid low and marvelling at just how many tears it is possible for one man to cry in the same lifetime. But I know that this marvelling will pass because it has before and I hope that it will again the next time.

And so the action of typing these words is the same action as living my life; plotting and planning, checking, editing, erasing, hoping to finish the next sentence and then add the next and the next.

And as the paragraphs grow so I still know that the page of my life is still temporary, still shaping, evolving, ripe for more editing; my ambitious heart beating in time to the cursor that waits for my next words.

Happy new year.