“On names, identity, and personal mythology” by Lianna Schreiber

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Is it still an identity crisis if what is causing you grief is a fractal self which exists only in another person’s mind?

I am hyper-aware of myself at all times, and whether or not this roots in being a woman is a discussion best left for another time and thought piece, but the fact of it stands — I curate my behavior to the best of my ability whenever I am in public spaces, even if they are just everyday internet hang-outs. I treat each word as if it were a museum piece, analyzing its possible implications so as to not have my meaning be lost in translation by leaving something I consider to be implicit up to my peers’ interpretation. I do this because I know how easily misunderstandings arise.

Even my own self is parsed through the personal lens of every individual I come in contact with: cashiers, delivery boys, bus drivers, random pedestrians. They each apply their prior personal experiences to my image, together with all the preconceptions born from them; and so a paradox arises. Although they see me, they do not really see me.

They see someone who has my body — or, in the case of online spaces, my avatar and type beat — but whose psyche may have nothing in common with my actual self. They see a simulacrum that talks with my voice without possessing my thought process or intent, and I have no control over how they construct this person in their head.

I must admit that I have something of a fascination with the phenomenon of being seen always yet never perceived fully; even my friends and family possess a notion of me that is, at best, a partial overlap with who I am.

And part of this fascination roots in a kind of raw, abject horror — I am at times filled with such genuine despair over the idea that these mirrors of me are still only ever that, an array of imperfect reflections. This in turn is because to me, being loved equates to being understood, and I want an affection that is full and uncompromising; yet all the same here I am, a stranger in small ways to even the people I hold in confidence. Minute discrepancies will always color every interpersonal interaction I have, in much the same way my atoms will never touch. That space is a world in and of itself, and it is one terribly lonesome.

Over the years, I have come to compartmentalize these alien selves. I index them according to the extant level of familiarity, a knowing which is indicated by the name basis someone uses when addressing or otherwise referring to me.

Case in point: to the world I am known by my legal name, half baptism, half inheritance. When it rolls off the tongue, it leaves behind the oilspill of my father’s sins — and swimming in its black trails is enough Orthodox longing to build a church from the ground up. There is distance, here. The world sees me, but it does not understand me, as our level of interaction is built strictly upon formalities and necessity. The agora makes no effort to know me, and so I do not try to extend it explanations.

Ours is a business relationship: I am a blur of letters left behind on government paper in neat uppercase script and the half-formed, nearly unintelligible signature underneath them. And that suits me fine. I believe deeply in the power of words, you see. I believe in their magic.

To name is to tame, as folktales teach us, and we should never give away parts of ourselves if we are not to receive in exchange something of equal value. You have lent me your eyes, and for that I will make you privy to this aspect of my personal mythology.

In naming me, my mother consigned me to two distinguished crosses.

I was given the first name of Liana, as in “vine”, but also as in “God answers”; due to geography, its etymology is at best convoluted, but no matter which map you choose to trace it on it will always lead you back to a kind of paroxysm. My middle name, Andreea, was chosen to honor an old tradition, that of consecrating children to a saint — the association with Andrew the Apostle is thus inextricable. I and half the country bear the lopsided signet of his suffering and piety, and we may only hope to be worthy.

Growing up in an environment where myth bleeds so insidiously into everyday life has made me wary of life’s fine print. Etymology is important; names are, to me, prophetic.

Thus, when I had to assign myself a professional name, I took ample time to deliberate my options. In addition to personal meaning, I took numerology into consideration, too, and eventually christened myself Lianna Schreiber. The second n was added so as to conserve within the letters one of my arc symbols, the number fifteen; Schreiber I chose for its meaning — “scribe”. That is what I am, at the end of the day. A victim of my muses, a prophet rich in only blood, half mad and always, always raving.

Here, the distance has begun to lessen. My name tells you something about me, because you know it was chosen, not given, and you know the why behind that decision.

But to name is also to own, and pet names between friends always carry an inherent contractual aspect. Mine seem to love and think of me in flowers: I have always been Li, Lia, Lili — more recently, Lilia. I have accepted this nomenclature with both hands, because in truth I have always been the bird just as much as I have been the flower on whose thorns it perches; accepting the symbol did not require me to abandon my skin. I try to live up to it, to bring honey into their lives by being a soft thing, an ointment, a nurturing presence, and all the while I worry about the day I might become a poison.

I think that such worries are only natural — they are born of an understanding love. My friends get to see me at my darkest, and when I sink into one such nocturne, it takes me days to come back up for air. Of course I worry about how that will affect them; when you care for someone, a part of their suffering and joys becomes your own.

And thus the distance lessens further: “Lia” is closer to my true self than the persona I present before the court of my peers, as the intimacy which binds me to the people who have given me the name means they have seen all sides of me.

Still, this is at best an incomplete alignment; for you see, the highest level of closeness is, ironically enough, a nameless one.

In the dark, alone with myself, I am an amorphous thing. All there is to me then is a coil of flesh and a handful of fugitive symbols — I dress myself in them as one would in battle armor, becoming what I need to mean to myself in the moment.

Bird-girl. Witchling. Star-peddler. Absolute c-nt.

My own savior just as much as I am my own destroyer, my own God.

Perhaps taking the time to explain all these self-assigned sigils would help bridge the gap in perception — they are tells, after all, much like the tremor of a deer when it senses peril. Perhaps I would be better understood if I just said outright that the reason I think of myself as a bird, for example, is about more than the metaphor of its hollow bones, that it is chiefly about the freedom their kind has yet never takes full advantage of, always flying in the same exact patterns their ancestors have for millennia. Perhaps dialogue is, after all, the solution to this flavor of hedgehog’s dilemma.

And yet. And yet. And yet —

I cannot help but feel that something is lost when I myself am the one to say it. Is it wrong of me to want to be understood without needing to explain? To want to be deciphered, never needing to meet someone halfway as they have of their own accord followed the map to the proverbial door?

 

 

 

Lianna Schreiber is a Romanian author. A self-described “New Romantic”, her work mostly concerns itself with gods, monsters, and human nature as it is caught between the sacred and the profane — all wrapped up in an overabundance of floral imagery. She can be found @ragewrites on tumblr.

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Meaning-making in Literature and Life: an Introduction to Existentialism by Elizabeth Ruth Deyro

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Image by Ashley Goldberg

In literature, it is the reader who gives meaning to a text.

The process of creating this meaning is in the dialogue between the reader and the text itself. Giving it meaning is their way of understanding it. We should recognize that the text, once birthed, becomes a separate entity apart from its writer, much like a newborn from their mother. The writer’s significance should remain unquestioned, as it is they who has created the text, but they do not hold the power to set a standard meaning for their work. The text speaks for itself; it is no longer the writer’s words, but rather of its own. Should the writer attempt to put meaning on the text, they become a reader. We can assume that the text would encounter several readers, and consequently, have dialogues with several minds; therefore, a plurality of meanings would be created. Some of these meanings may be deemed as the common interpretation of the text, but none could claim to be the right meaning. In fact, there is no right meaning, as it would always be a variation of interpretations created by different people with different experiences.

What we can say, however, is that, without these interpretations and the readers that created them, the text is meaningless. It is but a compilation of words that follow the basic rules of grammar, but it has no essence. Nevertheless, a reader can give meaning to a text without fully acknowledging that the text is meaningless without them.

This is almost similar to finding the meaning of life in spite of its apparent meaninglessness.

The famous poet Francois Rabelais mentioned, in his last words, a “great perhaps” he shall go seek. In my opinion, most of us, if not all, go to seek a great perhaps, for our own set of reasons. This is why we find or create our own meanings of life. Humans seek for meaning because we want so badly to make sense of all things around us.

This desire to understand even encompasses things that are beyond our intellectual capacities. We obsess over reason, which result to numerous theories that remain hypothetical because, in actuality, there are things that we cannot provide definite answers to. Immanuel Kant’s concept of mind-independent external world, which he defines to comprise things that we cannot know, must be deemed relevant. Kant claimed that humans “cannot make a cognition of things in themselves, but only as they appear to us.” Rene Descartes agreed by saying that “the mind-independent external world is mediated only through the ideas of it” and thus, we can only ever know it indirectly. John Locke further suggested that human beings only understand things as how we perceive them to be, and never as they are. Therefore, we can only hypothesize about things that fall under the mind-independent external world, but we can never be able to pin an exact definition to such. An example of which is the origin of everything. How the world came to be has been a lingering question in the fields of science, philosophy, and religion. We understand that, no matter how many theories we propose, we can never truly verify whether or not it is right, and yet, the curiosity among us remains, though we are aware that knowing more about it would not be beneficial in our personal lives. This obsession with finding explanation is less of an effect of innate curiosity than a product of fear to fully embrace the reality that everything is in fact meaningless. This fear may be something we experience either consciously or unconsciously. We fill the void of meaninglessness by interpreting life as such in relation to our existence.

Using the lens of existentialism, we can view life as having no inherent meaning, just as human beings have no inherent purpose. It is us that give life essence; further, it is us that set our purpose as beings. How we create this meaning depends on the dialogue between us and life itself, in the form of our experiences. Jean-Paul Sartre abridged this thought when he coined the statement “existence precedes essence”, the central idea of existentialism. The statement suggests that the mere existence of an individual is more fundamental than his essence, and that his essence is dependent on his existence. Man is not born with a purpose nor value; it is something he creates for himself, whether or not he is aware of the process.

Richard Taylor’s interpretation of Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus gave two ways in approaching the problem of discontent in life: The first one is finding meaning “from the outside,” or in the significance of the product of what one is doing with his life. The second, and the more favored, is finding meaning “from within oneself,” or simply conditioning oneself to enjoy whatever he currently has in life. By giving meaning in life as such in relation to one’s existence, we subscribe to Taylor’s latter suggestion. Taylor even wrote: “The meaning of life is from within us, it is not bestowed from without, and it far exceeds in its beauty and permanence any heaven of which men have ever dreamed or yearned for.”

In essence, to give life definition is not solely to absolve one’s self of its meaninglessness, but rather, also a way of making life matter, which R.M. Hare defined as a word that “isn’t intended to describe something that things do, but to express our concern about what they do.” It is a way to show that life as such is our concern.

However, coming to grips with life’s meaninglessness is not a requisite for an individual in order for him to give meaning to his life. The fear that drives us to find reason can either be a conscious thought or something wired within our unconscious. In most cases, the latter is the more realistic scenario. Furthermore, very few would even entertain the thought of life’s meaninglessness; it is not an idea suited for everyone. Just as a reader does not have to acknowledge the fact that a text’s meaning is entirely up to him and, without his interpretation, the book is meaningless, people can give meaning to their lives even without recognizing life’s apparent meaninglessness.

 

*Previously published in The Cerurove, October 2017 under the title: “On finding what never was”

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro is the founding editor-in-chief and creative director of The Brown Orient; prose editor at |tap|, Rag Queen Periodical, and The Ceruroveand tweets at @notjanedeyro.

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Outlying the Avenues

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Front Album Cover of Corrupted’s 1995 Nadie

1.

Beginning one of his many books, 19th-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard writes a preface. In the book I have in mind this is followed by another and that by yet another. This book of Kierkegaard’s is a book of them. A book of beginnings of books.

i live in san francisco.

I read. I write. I listen to Corrupted and the Melvins.

My aesthetic is the literary and the λόγος, and the zeitgeist of the longue durée–the auld lang syne. This aesthetic is the love of Des Esseintes and jewel-encrusted, murdered tortoises. Like Bernardo Soares, all I want to possess is the sensation of these words.

It’s their image—material and substantial like those scents and colors of the house of Huysmans’s protagonist—that might well be read in trace here.

I want to use them.

As Audre Lorde had said, at Harvard, “In what way do I contribute to the subjugation of any part of those who I call my people?”

As a dead white man once wrote yet another white man to have said about a clearly not altogether completely different question, that is the question, and I aim to see admonishment for infelicities.

As Grace Kyungwon Hong recently wrote, for dehumanizing disavowals.

For that Banana Republic, where all roads lead to a Rome of the worst in us all. If, in the end, there will be things leftover to use, far be it from me to discover them so. I am here to problematize the problematic. I leave it to my work elsewhere to come up with ‘positive projects’.

As Warsan Shire said, we can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should’ve already told us that.

These city lights ever the countercultural moment, I live in the bay view, beneath the avenues built during the fin de siècle of San Francisco’s golden age. Outlying these avenues, I read the books of my intellectual heritage, the west, like an appalling manifest destruction. There’s no science in such catastrophic images. There is horror and subjugation. There are lies and murders.

We’d come to California to kill and conquer—as to the New World, to the Old World—to take. In philosophy, while not at the frontlines, this is no different. Its decadence has already revealed that structures of power are structures of thought—structures of theory, belief, and conviction.

Genocidal structures of no quarter.


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Jacques-Louis David’s 1787 The Death of Socrates (partial)

2.

I am a philosopher. My name is Aenesidemus, for this venture into being terse. I come to be known as someone who had come to be known as a philosopher and I will be forgotten much as they have been—with the little of their work there is it’s enough to note they were a skeptic and be done with it—and there, too, is affinity. The skepsis of the Greeks slew those philosophers for their ways—wrote their treatises about ways to give up their own theories let alone having to listen to the exhortations of the preponderant and domineering acolytes of others.

fuck right the fuck off.

To repurpose something profound published last year by Sara Ahmed—with an eye to recompense by discussing her perceptive and critical thoughts later this year, as a first debt as columnist, I think: “An affinity of hammers.”

To meet hammers. In the end, as Toril Moi wrote, even feminism’s aim is to abolish itself.

To fix this fucking shit and have been fucking done with it.

As Toni Cade Bambara wrote, “The job of the writer is to make revolution irresistible.”

Sublime and profound ideas.

I work to consider myself the consummate professional, in such regard. I believe no less than Dr. Cornel West tweeted just this last Valentine’s Day: “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

I’m an actor of the university industrial complex, as I’ve heard and rather appreciate it called. I might talk the talk with the somewhat ‘best’ of them, I think, yes—I cited the references.

Power reflecting power. And, yes. Plato. It’s called a conversation. One is a part of it, and yet still it’s a thing, yes. Absurd, I know.

This column is bifurcated as a dialogue, and, so, reflects the writer’s interest in logic and the ideas of contradiction and dissent. The dialectic is pedagogical, heaving from critic-as-student to critic-as-teacher and back—helical.

In this rhetorical quality, it reflects my interests in learning and academia. I speak to learning and to teaching as Heidrun Friese spoke to the hotel and the guest, so to speak. Inasmuch as the set eye to phenomenology, existentialism, and the literary—as it is with Aristotle, the proliferation of ways of knowing goes hand-in-hand with that of the same of being.

As the laundry list, I discuss love, art, truth, justice, certainty, insanity, sovereignty, and elements of ethical persuasion. I explore literature and culture.


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Lagoa Henriques’ 1988 Fernando Pessoa statue

3.

“we’ve been devastated by the severest and deadliest drought in history — that of our profound awareness of the futility of all effort and the vanity of all plans.”

That is how Fernando Pessoa began The Education of the Stoic, which comes to us as fragments. History later found the manuscript in an old trunk. Pessoa was dead.

Seventy years earlier in 1851, Arthur Schopenhauer wrote down bleak notes on the “worthlessness and vanity” of existence, unless we strive in vain after distraction despite an abject condition, after transient impermanence, and spent the last thirty years of his life in quiet futility, alone in his house with small dogs. Pessoa drank himself to death. This drought they write of is quite the devastator.

Pessoa was an early 20th-century Portuguese poet and writer who wrote prolifically and haphazardly, and created no less than 60 distinct pseudonyms. Soares was one of them. Pessoa was an artist. He engaged in automatic writing, founded art movements, published in magazines, and held a respected position in Lisbon’s intellectual scene.

Pessoa lived a craft. Ophelia Queiroz, the love of his life, was several times greeted by the fictitious poet Álvaro de Campos instead of Pessoa during their fleeting courtship. He called his pseudonyms heteronyms, and they were identities for most of which he created whole biographies and histories.

They were ideal representatives of intimate and reflective writings.

Last year at a conference in the port city of Porto, off the coast of the continent and country of my maternal heritage, I’d discussed Pessoa’s work. At a philosophy conference, I explained the work of a writer. I described a desire to expand the philosophical canon to writers and minds that didn’t write treatises like Hume or critiques like Kant, yet exemplify those last shrieking lessons of what scholars like Wittgenstein and Feyerabend set down.

That there’s an entire world out there. That it means something, and always has and it’s all nothing new. Our ivory institution has simply ignored it, towering above like some autistic savant.

I aim to be a philosophical skeptic, as columnist. Like Aenesidemus, I will work to extrapolate on what the 20th-century thinks it found out: that finding things out is an open-ended conversation.

I am influenced, and aim to comment on all these past and westphalian goings-on. I make no secret that the relation between the west and the world today is of marked concern, as I aim to illuminate elements of pervasive and problematic ethical and political circumstances that find as their genesis the antagonisms and parasitisms of that relation.

To repurpose the name of an old skeptic from a ‘school’ contending language vicious, my thoughts will be set on the thought of conceptual and epistemic revolution.


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Screenshot of Paolo Sorrentino’s 2013 La Grande Bellezza (partial)

4.

I have ideas for the coming months, though everything flows. I’ll explore Carroll and Foucault on the mad, Kant and Wittgenstein on the conversant, and Ahmed and Spivak on the political. Boris’ Amplifier Worship and Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza might feature. I’ve also got hold of a study of the lives and loves of women poets and writers of the Caribbean, by Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley. Cixous will inevitably show up in places. Los.

The involvement of the writer in culture is organic, and a part of how everything flows. If the past is gone, it is only here as the present. As you and I are. Culture is the multifarious and interpolated existence of myriad and idiosyncratic individuals—whether Deleuze lasts for days, or speculative realism dies the sudden, tragic death of the left behind, or Lorde points to the serious and deficient want of the righting of wrongs.

I want the righting of wrongs. I want the right rules. I want love and honor, not hate or fear.

Some contemporary views note that Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is leading to his Politics, yet the Philosopher—Aristotle’s medieval sobriquet—was not under the odd impression that the most important goal in Greek life—in the lives of those with which he lived—was to be politicians. To think of it as such, is to neglect historicization. The Lyceum is not San Francisco State University.

Aristotle’s point, I think, if we’re bent to give it conceptual space to breathe, is at its most charitable along the lines we heard—from consciousness-raising group to art installation, from demonstration to deliberation—during the women’s rights movement and the modern revitalization of feminism.

If eudaimonia is anything today, it is that the personal is political.

This column is personal, in such a sense. Quite like Pessoa, that I am pseudonymous does nothing to sway this. This column is Aenesidemus as the terse columnist and critic. I’m already responsible for a series of dramatic and musical compositions—tragedies and songs. A columnist, however, is something to add. There’s a sense of relevance.

there’s things to discuss.

I’m under the impression there are a staggering number of wrongs to be addressed, if not redressed, about the world. There is structural, hierarchical, and hegemonic oppression. There is something to be said.

Culture is essential—as lesson and plan. The mantra for this column is that lives are always in the balance. The personal is political. Lives are always in the balance.

We philosophers of the west love our conceptual clarity, so emphasizing that finality, of necessity, there, modally, is characteristic. Emphasizing the lives is what’s overlooked.


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The Winged Nike marble statue c. 200-190 BCE

5.

lives are always in the balance.

Pessoa wrote The Education of the Stoic using a pseudonym he called The Baron of Teive.

The Baron is pure reason embodied in text and character. Due to that drought, Pessoa has the Baron writing us a suicide note.

The preeminent rationalist finding no guide for living because, the Baron writes, the first function of life is action: a wholly intellectual life is an existential contradiction.

To think is to create an interpretation of the universe, he writes, that is a mere hallucination.

There is a metaphor that illustrates what he means in a marble statue sculpted in Hellenistic Greece at the beginning of the century after Zeno began holding his school at the Stoa, and often identified as the most famous piece of the period.

One of its names is The Winged Nike. It’s a fantastical representation of the Greek deity Nike, the goddess of victory. The winged immortal stands tall and forthright, often appraised as forcing her way forward against a strong sea breeze to signal triumph.

This statue is a striking analogue because of this perceived posture and intent, which is reminiscent of the pride the Baron feels in his conquering of that Caesar of Reality by suicide, but also because the statue no longer has its head or arms.

The Baron writes of the simple egoism of the Greeks, their Protagorean man as measure of world, and that modern culture is imbued with a tragic complex of Schopenhauerian temperament.

The statue of victory today is without a head or arms.

Modern reason achieves victory over itself by its own act destroying itself, headless and senseless.

Inorganic and empty, Pessoa’s Baron commits suicide because reason describes only the reasoner.

The world is for the unreasonable and the inhumane. Reality is for the mad.

i am mad.

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

I’m going to do something about it.


July’s Accompaniments

1. Corrupted’s 1995 Esclavo off EP Nadie
2. Joyce Manor’s 2010 Five Beer Plan off EP Constant Headache
3. Dæphne’s 2015 Sharpness Is the Game I Play off EP Full Circle
4. The Melvins’ 1991 Boris off LP Bullhead
5. From Monument to Masses’ 2003 Comrades and Friends off LP The Impossible Leap in One Hundred Simple Steps

 

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The Waiting Room by Wes Bishop

Cyber Pamphleteer: Imagined Stations

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God waited for the end of the universe. God had begun existence lonely, and God would end it the same way. Scanning the universe once more, God was not surprised to find no sentient being left to talk with. At this late hour in the universe, everything had shrunk down to the size of a galaxy. Within the next few moments the entire universe would violently contract once more, this time to the size of a large solar system.

God tried once again to spread its awareness beyond the great mass collected on the horizon but could not. God had never been able to go beyond the universe. Even in the time of expansion, when the universe had raced across empty space, God had only been able to know what was on its side of existence.

Turning back to the sole remaining galaxy, God listened to the flowers that grew on a particular planet with no name. In an attempt to attract herbivores, the flowers had evolved a curious organ in the interior of their petals. When the wind blew through them they released a beautiful humming noise, bringing massive floating grazers who chomped the flowers with their mouths. The floating grazers loved the flower and stems, but found the roots to be bitter, and therefore spit the roots back out as they sailed above the planet’s orange-red fields. Scattered about, the roots began to regenerate into new flowers, and so the whole process was repeated.

Many times, God had taken the form of the floating grazers and sailed in their large herds, hunting the beautiful melodies.

But alas, in just a few moments the gentle grazers and delicate flowers would cease to exist. Suddenly the universe trembled again, more violent then it ever had before. God braced itself as all of existence began to contract.

+++

            God had not always gone without creatures to talk to. At the universe’s height, it had been teeming with life forms that not only talked, but sang, screeched, wailed, honked, exploded, and chirped.

That was not to mean that God was always successful in communicating with the other life forms in the universe, or that the conversations ever amounted to anything. Quite the contrary, most of the time the interaction resulted in disaster for the species in question.

One of the first species God tried to talk to was a fascinating species of intelligent, mobile rocks. The universe had been young in those days; God had been around for barely a trillion years, but it had grown bored from watching matter race away towards the horizon and seeing giant clouds of gas ignite and explode. So when God had finally discovered another sentient being, it had been overjoyed with excitement.

Manifesting before a particular piece of slate, God began the very first conversation in the universe.

“Hello,” God said.

Startled, the piece of slate looked up from its meal of alkaline metals.

“Who said that?”

“It’s me,” God answered, feeling very proud of itself. “What is your name?”

Of course, God already knew the answer to its question. Being God it could trace every single one of the creature’s atoms back to the creation of the universe. But God thought that showing off its long ability to see would be rude.

“They call me Grag,” the piece of slate answered.

This whole conversation thing is easy. God thought.

Looking more closely at God, Grag asked what it had been wanting to know its entire existence. “So the others were right? You do exist?”

“Uh…” God said. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“You are the All-Powerful Mountain, which sprang forth in the beginning to give life to all of us.”

“Oh,” God answered. “Well, not exactly. On your planet, the idea is popular that an All Powerful Mountain gave birth to your people, but that isn’t exactly what happened.”

“I knew it!” Grag shouted. “The Pinnacle Rocks have been lying to us all these years.”
“Well,” God said, “I think they are just honestly mistaken.”

“No,” Grag insisted. “They shattered a piece of quartz last season for denying the existence of the Mountain.”

“Yes,” God said uncomfortably. “I saw that. But you know, what’s done is done. You can’t go back and change it.”

“NO!” Grag yelled. “I will show the Pinnacle Rocks that they are mistaken. I will go to my people and tell them that you have blessed me with your truth. I will be your messenger, and I will- through your glory- spread the truth!”

With that, Grag turned away from God and began rolling away as fast as he could.

“Wait!” God shouted after him. “Come back! I only wanted to talk with you! Maybe we could discuss the weather or something else?”

But Grag would have no part of it. Every other member of the rock species that God spoke to reacted in the same way, until the entire race was at war with one another.

Horrified, God watched as the first intelligent species destroyed itself. Years after its first encounter God witnessed the final rock creature killing its last enemy. As it lay shattered before its base, God once again materialized on the planet.

“What have you done?” God asked.

“Oh, Crystalline Savior! The struggle is finally over, the non-believers have been vanquished. I am ready to reap my rewards.”

“Reward!?” God asked. “Why would I give you a reward? You just murdered one of the last of your kind.”

“But it is written that once the non-believers are destroyed, you will come back and take all that are faithful, polish them, and set them in the heavens to shine down for eternity.”

Following his gaze God looked up at the stars.

“Don’t you get it?” God asked. “There is no eternity with me. Once you die the material you are made of moves to a different state in the universe. That’s all that happens.

“How can I take you anywhere but here? You couldn’t survive on any of the other planets but this one. Where do you want me to take you? A nebula? What would you stand on? Or a frozen moon? Without an atmosphere of helium you would suffocate.”

God finished speaking and sat down in frustration.

“If you are not here to reward me, then what shall we do?”

“Well,” God said looking up in hope, “maybe we could just talk?”

The last rock creature looked at God for a moment and then started to laugh.

“I see, you are not the true God, but are instead the Dark Ravines messenger sent to test my resolve. Very good trickster, but you will not fool me. I will remain dedicated to the Crystalline Savior until he rewards me my thirty blue pebbles and immortality.”

With that, God vanished from the planet, never to return.

+++

            God gazed at the universe once more. The violent contracting had ceased for the moment but it was only a matter of time before it started again. The next time would probably be the last.

The cosmos had been concentrated on the rim of existence, but as it had shrunk, there was now not enough room. Bits of planets and rocks hurtled through burning stars. Comets and balls of gas, previously separated by light years, were side by side. Black holes, no longer isolated in space, were violently sucking everything towards them.

Materializing on one of the few intact planets, God looked up at the sky in wonder. God had chosen a female Ipswitch to inhabit, mostly because their sense of sight had been unparalleled in the universe. Training her seven eyes on the heavens she watched as millions of objects whizzed by.

Materializing on the surface of an oncoming black hole, God chose the form of a male Spobler, mostly because their sense of sound was exhilarating. Every noise the giant ears picked up created an explosion of color in God’s temporary brain.

Slam, crimson; Crash, yellow; Boom; violet!

Staring at the black hole, her Ipswitch eyes spotted the Spobler.

Straining his Spobler ears, he heard the planet begin to break apart.

Then God appeared between the two forms of itself as a Zezir. Their species were fascinating. They took the noises and sights of the universe and turned them into elaborate interstellar dances. At the species height, they had been one of the most populous in the universe, dancing in the void of worlds. God had often wondered who they danced for, since God and passing comets were the only beings whoever saw them.

Awesome images of destruction danced in her Ipswitch eyes. Terrifying sounds lit up all hemispheres of his Spobler brain. Their Zezir plasma limbs twisted, listening and corkscrewing in ways that communicated the slow loss of space in an infinite loop.

And then it was over. The forms were destroyed and God was returned to its formless self.

God thought about creating a pair of lungs so it could sigh a breath of despair, or a pair of eyes to sob, but decided against it. Nothing would change its feeling of hopelessness.

God was going through one of the most terrifying experiences a life form could witness and had no one to comfort it.

But this had been the story of God all along. No form was ever able to fully understand God. Even the ones that did not destroy themselves were unable to satisfy God’s desire for camaraderie.

But as everything was being destroyed, God could not help but want someone to talk with. And not only talk, but also listen and understand what God was going through.

Although God had done so many times before, each time proving to be unsatisfying, God decided to give it one more try. Concentrating all of its power, God duplicated itself.

“Hello,” God said to God.

“Hello,” answered God.

“This is absolutely terrifying,” God observed.

“Tell me about it.”

“I would, but you already know everything I’m going to say.”

“Right.”

Both of them said nothing for a few moments and awkwardly watched a star go supernova in an area the size of small moon.

“So,” God said finally breaking the silence. “Do you really think that we will cease to exist when the universe is done contracting?”

“I do,” God answered. “Or at least we will cease to exist in our present forms. I can’t fathom that we will be able to survive in that small of a space.”

“Terrifying,” God said.

“Tell me about it,” God replied.

“I would but you… well you know.”

“Right.”

Again, the two became silent.

“You know what we need,” God finally said.

“What?”

“We need a Centapadial.”

“Funny, I was just thinking that.”

“I know,” God answered.

+++

The Centapadials had been one of the few creatures in the universe that had not destroyed themselves once God spoke to them. Long, slender, and delicate the Centapadials had possessed elongated brains that made them extremely intelligent. For millions of years they crawled about their planet living peaceful lives. They never evolved appendages that could manipulate their environments, so they never invented cities. And since they never invented cities, they never needed to have governments to organize them. And since they never invented governments, they never needed weapons to gain more power for those governments.

They were just a highly intelligent creature that enjoyed exploring their world and talking with one another.

God had spent many centuries on the Centapadial’s world, crawling with them, and having discussions. Eventually, though, the Centapadials had died out. A fungus on their world had evolved a deadly spore that infected the Centapadials brains, and slowly rotted them from the inside out. Watching them perish by the millions, God eventually offered its help. The few remaining Centapadials had listened to God’s offer, and after some consideration decided against accepting the divine intervention.

“You have been an interesting acquaintance,” one of the Centapadials said as they slowly died. “But our time in the cosmos is done. Everything must come to an end at some time.”

“But, you have been one of the best companions that I have ever met.”

“Unfortunately, my dear acquaintance, you have no companions. You are one of a kind, and just as it is our nature to exist, then disappear, it is your nature to continue existing alone.”

With that the Centapadial slumped over, and succumbed to the fungus raging through their body.

Unable to watch such magnificent creatures continue to suffer God left the world. Eons later God gave into temptation and tried to create new Centapadials, but eventually their sound reasoning always arrived at the same conclusion: they should not be in the universe anymore and God should accept God’s fate.

+++

During these final moments of the universe however, God did not care. It simply wanted someone to talk to in the hopes of calming the rising panic.

“Okay,” God said. “You concentrate on creating a solid place for it to crawl. I’ll make a breathable atmosphere.”

“Alright,” God said once they had finished. “Now you protect it from any other objects.”

“Already done,” God replied. Both watched as an entire asteroid belt bounced off the protective barrier they had created.

“Good, keep that up and I will make the Centapadial.”

Concentrating God created the Centapadial. Bursting into existence the new companion began to crawl back and forth on its planetary aquarium.

“Hello,” God said. “How are you?”

“I…I don’t know,” the Centapadial answered. “I was just created for artificial conversation. How should I be? Since you created me, you would have a better understanding of that than me.”

“See,” God said to God. “Nothing like the clarity of a Centapadial’s thoughts.”

Ignoring itself, God answered the Centapadial.

“You should probably be terrified.”

“Oh. And why is that?”

“Because the universe and everything in it is about to be destroyed.”

“Will it be painful?”

“Most likely, yes.” Both Gods answered.

“I see. Well then to answer your original question, I am terrified.”

All three creatures sat quietly for a few moments. Finally one of the Gods spoke.

“This really isn’t all that comforting.”

“I didn’t think it would be,” God replied.

“Sorry,” the Centapadial answered. “Is there any way I can help?”

“Not really.” Both Gods answered.

“Well then what should we do?”

“We’ll just have to wait,” the Gods echoed.

“Will waiting help ease our fear?”

“Actually,” God said as God began to think, “there was one creature I remember who could make waiting for something very monotonous.” Looking at the other God, God asked, “Do you remember the humans?”

“Yes, of course I do.”

“And do you remember their waiting rooms?”

“Yes.”

“Well, let’s create a waiting room and a human to go along with it. I always marveled how humans took horrible situations at their hospitals and made them bearable by waiting in boring rooms.”

“Do we have anything to lose?” The Centapadial asked.

“Not really,” both of the Gods answered.

“Then we should give it a try.”

“Clear Centapadial thinking,” God said to itself. “Nothing like it in the universe.”

“Okay,” God said. “Here it goes.”

Just as God was about to create the waiting room and the human, the universe shuddered so violently that God felt space and time begin to tear.

“Help!” The Centapadial shouted, but it was too late. The force of the universe tore the safe habitat to bits and thrust both Gods closer together.

“Oh no,” God said to itself.

All around them matter had ceased to retain any meaningful form. Mass became energy only to condense back into mass. Light radiated and ricocheted to and fro in terrible bursts of heat.

“I don’t think there is enough room for the both of us,” God said.

“I agree.”

And with that the two Gods became one once again.

Alone, God began to panic.

Make it stop! God thought as the universe pushed in even tighter. Please!

For the first time in its existence God wished there were a higher being in the universe, one that could hear its prayers. But nothing came.

Staring at the center of the universe, feeling the walls of existence closing in, God tried to push existence back. Nothing happened.

The most terrifying thought racing through God’s mind was not that it was about to die, that at least would have an ending, but that the whole thing was just getting ready to start all over.

It didn’t take a Centapadial’s rationality to figure out that God had once came into the cosmos ignorant of everything in existence, and that this beginning had probably been prefaced with a similar destruction of the universe. If it had happened once, it had happened before that, and before that, and before that. An eternity of being born, existing, violently dying, only to repeat the whole process again.

God wanted out. It couldn’t contemplate spending another eternity watching other creatures live, love, laugh, and die. God was horrified at the prospect of being stuck in a never-ending story, a continuous loop.

Can anyone hear me! God thought with all of its might. Can anyone help me!

            In response, the universe gave its final shudder.

NO! God thought.

+++

In one single moment, all of existence occupied a space no larger than a speck of dust. It had done this countless times before, and would do it countless times again.

Just as the whole of existence was beginning to feel comfortable in its tight quarters something awoke. With a tiny nudge, God sent the entire universe into a violent explosion. Racing along at the front of the spreading wave, God marveled at what it was seeing. In all directions, it watched as the universe expanded and disappeared into space and time.

Fascinating, God thought.

Silent for over a thousand years, God watched a beautiful nebula take form and light up with explosions. Gliding through the universe it saw stars spark and begin to burn, planets violently slam into one another, only to reform at a later date. After roughly a trillion years God began to feel lonely.

Curiously, it began to look for someone in which to speak.

 

 

Braving the Days: It is of No Consequence by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

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I’m sitting in Boston, holding my palms to my chest.

I pitched this column to be of the existential persuasion, which brings a slight bit of pressure for me to insinuate something deep – every month.

I tried to write this piece a couple of weeks ago, referring back to the debut essay, “Braving the days: using a few words devoid of superfluity” to pick up where I left off. Unfortunately, I realized that I cannot deliver what I promised: to follow up that essay by writing on the topic of “Giving people a loophole to demoralize you.”  I realized I didn’t want to write about that anymore because I am in an significantly better state of mind then I was in December.

I had gone through a heavy bought of holiday depression. I always go through holiday depression, but last year’s experience was different. It felt forced upon me as I have grown old enough to not internalize my sadness, but to let it go, allowing it to run its course. 2016’s holiday depression took a couple of months to run its course, moving in on me from when I returned home from an extensive tour in early November right on up until New Year’s Day. I felt helpless with this depression because I couldn’t shake it with my optimistic powers. Coupled with me dawning on my 30th year of life, I went through a “What is it all about??” phase for a little while, questioning the path I had taken in life, wondering if taking on a public career was the right decision as I was craving privacy, a quiet cabin in Aspen and the warm breath of a horse’s moist nose touching mine, breathing with me, giving me love and energy of its quiet wisdom and ancient responsibility.

I didn’t want to be Jordannah Elizabeth anymore. I had fantasies of moving to another city and changing my name and never mentioning my books, articles, travels, modeling photo shoots, Rolodex of successful musicians, publicists and artists. I fantasized about being a school teacher – and even more so, I wondered if I would be able to make friends easier and I wondered if people would treat me differently, knowing I had nothing to offer but just some simple company. I wanted people to love me for me. And it was a very scary feeling because I felt my actual life was very so far from that reality.

People say I’m “down to earth,” but where am I supposed to go? And with the power I do wield, I don’t feel it is an excuse to for me to be in any way rude or abusive to people. Being rude or abusive comes from deeper issues, not a fancy job.

On top of all that, my tour had battered my body and I came home with high blood pressure and a couple of other issues. So, the whole mortality thing was going on too, oy.

Nonetheless, I had worked through all that once New Year’s came, the weight naturally lifted off of me and I had changed my diet to essentially nothing but avocados, granola, oatmeal and almond milk for two months, so once my second’s doctor’s appointment came around, I was healthy again….

So, my deadline for this essay was January 15th and I wasn’t angry anymore. Suffice to say, I had to think about what I wanted to write about…now my deadline is 17 days late and all I have to say is that:

I went through all of that and I sit here writing, essentially the same as I was last fall. I don’t even know what all that stress and anger was for – except for my anger with Kanye West. That has waned a bit as well, and morphed into more of an understanding and even validation.

I was able to foresee his entire episode play out, right up to him taking photos with Donald Trump, sending prophetic revelations of idiocy to my editors. None of them actually wanted to admit Kanye has become a right-wing poster boy and that he is the epitome of male privilege, so maybe I’ll write my thoughts on that next month. Maybe I won’t, because next month, I’ll probably be the same person… going through some existential issue only to realize it was a waste of evaluation because we don’t change.

Our core, our purpose, our relationship with God.

It is of no consequence.

Jordannah Elizabeth is an writer, musician and educator. She’s the author of Don’t Lose Track Vol. 1: 40 Articles, Essays and Q&As.

 

 

 

When chance is a cable bill by Keysha Whitaker

Something to be Said
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Photo by Tyler Merbler

In all the decades I’ve been getting a cable bill, I never read it. If I bothered to open it, I just glanced at the Total Amount Due and shredded it  – after 18 weeks in the junk paper pile. When I started getting electronic bills and went on auto-debit, I didn’t even bother to open the emails.

Today, the start of my second month in a new apartment, I receive a bill in the mail since I hadn’t yet signed up for e-bills. I open the letter and thumb through the pages.

Package lineups.

Old charges.

New charges.

Terms and conditions.

A letter from the company explaining an upcoming increase.

The letter interests me. I decide that I could use it in my upcoming technical writing course – any reason to justify why I don’t have anything better to do than read a form letter from a cable company.

At the end, the sender’s name snatches my breath:

Christine Whitaker
Regional Senior Vice President

I stare at the last name, my last name. It’s not a common one like Jones or Smith. In a supermarket on any given Saturday morning, there are two Joneses in produce and one in the bread aisle. And if your last name is Smith, you have no right to a unique existence.

But Whitaker?

I could count on no hands the number of times I’d been in a class, a room, a group, with someone who shared my last name.

Here I was, on this generic ass day, opening a cable letter addressed to me by someone with my last name in a state that I never should have been in, in the first place.

It’s a coincidence, I say, trying to unspook myself.

A coincidence?

What is the probability of that?

.0000000000001?

I try to see past it, but all I do see are dots that I can’t connect. Signs that offer no clear signal.

I fold the letter and put it on top of the pile.

It’s not like this was supposed to happen, I say. I know it’s a random chance.

I just didn’t know when chance became improbable.