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The book I will begin next is Oracle Night by Paul Auster:

“Several months into his recovery from a near-fatal illness, novelist Sidney Orr enters a stationery shop in Brooklyn and buys a blue notebook. It is September 18, 1982, and for the next nine days Orr will live under the spell of this blank book, trapped inside a world of eerie premonitions and bewildering events that threaten to destroy his marriage and undermine his faith in reality.

Paul Auster’s mesmerizing eleventh novel reads like an old-fashioned ghost story. But there are no ghosts in this book – only flesh-and-blood human beings, wandering through the haunted realms of everyday life.”

Last Page

This is the end of the novel, and perhaps explains so much better than I possibly ever could, what the Ideal Existence is to me but few would call it existence at all. It just doesn’t seem ideal, especially not to someone as grounded as the Shadow. The Shadow represents the burdens and weights of reality.

‘You yourself created this Town. You made everything here. The Wall, the River, the Woods, the Library, the Gate, everything. Even this Pool. I’ve known all along.’

‘Then why did you not tell me sooner?’

‘Because you’d only have left me here like this. Because your rightful world is there outside.’ My shadow sits down in the snow and shakes his head from side to side. ‘But you won’t listen, will you?’

‘I have responsibilities,’ I say. ‘I cannot forsake the people and places I have created. I know I do you a terrible wrong. And yes, perhaps I wrong myself, too. But I must see out the consequences of my own doings. This is my world. The Wall is here to hold me in, the River flows through me, the smoke is me burning. I must know why.’

My shadow rises and stares at the calm surface of the Pool. He stands motionless amid the fall snow. Neither of us says a word. White puffs of breath issue from our mouths.

‘I cannot stop you,’ admits my shadow. ‘Maybe you can’t die here, but you will not be living. You will merely exist. There is no “why” in a world that would be perfect in itself. Nor is surviving in the Woods anything like you imagine. You’ll be trapped for all eternity.’

‘I am not so sure,’ I say. ‘Nor can you be. A little by little, I will recall things. People and places from our former world, different qualities of light, different songs. And as I remember, I may find the key to my own creation, and to its undoing.’

‘No, I doubt it. Not as long as you are sealed inside yourself. Search as you might, you will never know the clarity of distance without me. Still, you can’t say I didn’t try,’ my shadow says, then pauses. ‘I loved you.’

‘I will not forget you,’ I reply.

Long after the Pool has swallowed my shadow, I stand staring at the water, until not a ripple remains. The water is as tranquil and blue as the eyes of the beasts. I am alone at the furthest periphery of existence. Here the world expires and is still.

I turn away from the Pool and begin to walk back. On the far side of the Western Hill is the Town. I know she waits for me in the library with the accordion.

Through the driving snow, I see a single white bird take flight. The bird wings over the Wall and into the flurried clouds of the southern sky. All that is left to me is the sound of the snow underfoot.

— Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

It doesn’t feel like much is left. But it’s enough. And the shadow, who loves the character, wants them both to go back to reality together. But the shadow doesn’t know what it means to the character to live in the Town, merely existing. And the two part.

The End of the World

What then remains, but that we still should cry
For being born, or, being born to die?

I finally finished Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World last night after having begun it in January. Admittedly it took me at least 4 times of rereading the first few chapters and I even attempted going the audiobook route. While at first it was hard to get into the novel, by the end I was completely enthralled and I was biting my nails to see if the end would match my hope. I’m not really certain if I am supposed to like the ending but I did, immensely, because I felt some sort of agreement to the end decision by the character.

The novel alternates between two different worlds that for the most part seem entirely unconnected. One takes place in a futuristic sort of place and the other in an isolated island of sorts that is completely enclosed to the reality outside it. The former seems to be the main story while the latter was actually my preferred. I enjoyed the strange ‘basic’ island in which there was no music, no enjoyment, but also no pain, no struggle. In many ways this second world was someone’s version of a stripped down Utopian society.

I’m not sure I have much of note to say about the futuristic world because it was just the driver for moving the plot along and connecting the two worlds together. The connection comes very late in the novel so for some, might be a surprise.

Yet whilst with sorrow here we live opprest,
What life is best?

The two quotes above come from Francis Bacon’s poem, “Life.” I found the first quote scribbled on a scrap piece of paper which prompted me to read the poem again. It presents a similar idea as the novel in my interpretation of it.

Only where there is disillusionment and depression and sorrow does happiness arise; without the despair of loss, there is no hope.
― Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

While this is supposed to be a convincing reason to live, I’m not (convinced). I’m not so sure happiness is worth the trade. I don’t value happiness all that highly to be willing to accept disillusionment, depression, sorrow, despair. Those feel worse than happiness feels good. Or otherwise I have not known such happiness.

Most human activities are predicated on the assumption that life goes on. If you take that premise away, what is there left?”
― Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

It’s true. I feel like the driver for many of my activities depend on the fact that I will still be here tomorrow. I do today what I must only because otherwise I’d be fucking over my tomorrow. It’s not a fantastic way to live, but it does force my hand to act rather than remain inert. But if there were no tomorrow, I feel an alternative is an eternity within our minds with no timeline: a self-containing bubble where nothing you do effects anything else. You just are, in existence. I’ve mentioned many times that that is my ideal. To just be. And nothing more.

Time is too conceptual. Not that it stops us from filling it in. So much so, we can’t even tell whether our experiences belong to time or to the world of physical things.

Honestly so much of this novel is quotable. I’m not even sure where to begin or how many quotes to memorialize in this post.

Now for a good twelve-hour sleep, I told myself. Twelve solid hours. Let birds sing, let people go to work. Somewhere out there, a volcano might blow, Israeli commandos might decimate a Palestinian village. I couldn’t stop it. I was going to sleep.

– – –

But like a boat with a twisted rudder, I kept coming back to the same place. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was myself, waiting on the shore for me to return.

Was that so depressing?

Who knows? Maybe that was ‘despair.’ What Turgenev called ‘disillusionment.’ Or Dostoyevsky, ‘hell.’ Or Somerset Maugham, ‘reality.’ Whatever the label, I figured it was me.

– – –

When microorganisms die, they make oil; when huge timbers fall, they make coal. But everything here was pure, unadulterated rubbish that didn’t make anything.

– – –

And now I feel I must begin a new post just for the cherry on top of the novel. The moment I was waiting for, rooting for, but that perhaps is the ultimate self-made illusion.

Addict for dramatics.

Heart-strutter maintains a fairly steady separation of church and state. Acts of free will vs. mandated acts. Things you like doing vs. things you must do. Which is church and which is state depends on your personal beliefs.

However, seeing as this blog is my home away from home, my (semi-)secluded respite, or otherwise at least a hotbox of my nonsensical emotions and thoughts – I should forgive my bowdlerization. Besides, hotboxing does lead to a more elaborate and hyperbolical analysis of any given expressed notion so memorialized within its depths. The key here being memorialized as this is a free-roaming internet and also you can’t necessarily erase things completely from it either.

But I guess my basic point is to say that I should not  omit certain parts of my life because they are the less pretty bits. Though maybe that would mean to remove, “vaguely” as my crowning adverb in the blog’s description.

I think my blog has shifted into a very Tumblr-esque existence as of late because all the things I would want to talk about are of the non-vague, non-pretty kind. And those sorts of things have a tendency of being obligingly brief and temporary.

I think it’s easier to portray an idealized version of your ‘self’ as social media so aptly proves. We capture the great moments because we know those will be worth remembering and sentimentalizing. The bad parts carry so much stigma. We’re supposed to be happy, we’re supposed to be successful, we’re supposed to suppose (that other people are achieving all of those things, so should you). But truthfully, life isn’t that kind of beautiful (perfect). Life is beautiful because it is imperfect; it harbors change and evolution — it’s a moving picture not a static photo.

Honestly I think this particular post was spawned by a friend, who hopefully won’t mind my quoting:

I also feel like I’ve been censoring my writing more because I want to appear happy. This is because I actually am happy, but I’ve been ignoring my other emotions. I guess I felt it’s been too happy a time for anything to go wrong.

Right. Life is just ‘supposed to be’ happy, otherwise we are not succeeding at it. But why? It takes a smart man to know he has failed, but a wise one to admit it. Admitting makes it real. So often failure and hardship is only temporary, so why admit it, asks the smartass man.

Maybe I’m just saying that problems of the “first world” variety deserve as much expression as the truly hard problems. After all, our individual “truly hard” is relative and different. Some people could survive one thing over the other. You push a bird off a cliff and instead it soars. Or slide a flapping fish into the water. We’re all differently made. Writing about the things we cannot survive, even temporarily, is acceptable, so long as the writing caters to you and no one else. Writing isn’t a show or a showcase, when it’s honest.

So I’ve hung a portrait of a girl that listens to music and loves film and fashion but that’s halfway dishonest. I’m also a girl that needs guiding authority but can’t follow orders, a girl that is suddenly unsure about her passions, a girl that internalizes everything then explodes like a firecracker, a girl whose first loving relationship is far from perfect (life is not that storybook). All firsts require trial and error.

So here it is:

For a month I haven’t been working. For longer I’ve been struggling with sometimes debilitating depression, again. These situations are not new, which make them harder to excuse. Shouldn’t someone learn from their mistakes, not repeat them? But I think my record’s hit a crooked groove and it’s repeating the same line all over again. It’s like I’ve been transported back to 2012 when I was depressed and not working for a period of six months.

This can go two ways: you fall down, and rise up again. But when you fall again, you’re falling from higher ground. Splat! Like a second attempted suicide from a ‘better’ height. The second time it’s a harder fall. The silver lining: at least you know what to expect and you know what it takes to get back up/stay down. It’s going to be harder because you’re trying hard to retrace steps but hopefully not end up back at the same place.

The second way: you get back up because you know you got up the first time. Like an ongoing collection of varied bell-shaped curves. Good times/bad times/good times, etc. This just isn’t a good time. But it’s important for motion to continue to get onward and upward for the next available vertex.

Take a ticket, please. We’ll call your number soon. So long as you act, react, and accept that you must take a ticket first, you are being proactive. But if you wait and fail to move and act, you will never go up, you’ll stay just where you are. Sometimes you don’t need to go up anymore, or can’t, and you stay content with your current situation. Some people are that way. Mediocrity comes to mind.

I don’t accept mediocrity. It’s time to build systems (not goals). The building blocks to the completion of goals are systems. Like an elevator to the penthouse. The elevator goes up, goes down, but is so structurally sound as to take you back to where you need to go.

So why did I take all 20 pills I had, so instinctively, a week ago?  Granted it was half the lethal dosage but I never stopped to question what I was doing. One moment I had the bottle in my pocket and the next I counted them in my hand and swallowed? The moment happened so fast. I stopped to consider nothing. I just crawled into bed. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. I slept for nearly two days.

It was the start of my period that eventually got me out of bed. Blood was excreting from my body saying, “you’re hurt” and this is a normal bodily function. I’m not saying this is an analogy for justifying a would-be suicide attempt but at least that feeling hurt/pain/sadness is normal. It’s the reaction afterward that counts. You allow the bleed to come and go, not stop it altogether.

“My world is fire and blood,” where everyone “is reduced to a single instinct: survive.” – Mad Max

And that’s how you go on living. You survive. We are born and bred to survive. Once you stop surviving, you die. But in all the spaces between you survive countless times, even times when you think you just won’t. But you do. You do. You do survive in the end. And what you don’t, will kill you. But until then – if you are breathing, you will survive.

As the world fell, each of us in our own way were broken. — Mad Max

And do you see? Memorializing, sentimentalizing, writing in digital ink, the words take on such heavy meaning. One moment in time converted to 1,200 words. The hyperbole is astounding. But it’s all true.