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2009-02-17 10:08 p.m.

on solar plexa, and how strange it is to be anything at all

The man walked out of the exact same bathroom stall that I myself had used mere hours earlier. I felt a deep sense of connection to him. We had shared in the same defecatory waters. That means something, man.

Welcome to the Obama era. It's good to be here. Better than where we were, anyway.

I've been thinking about the debt financing our economy has come to be based on, and about how it itself is based on the assumption that there will always be more tomorrow than there is today. But as is becoming increasingly obvious to anyone actually paying attention, that's not a very good assumption. We're so fucked, man.

Anyway, almost exactly a year after last time, I got really sick again. I managed to stay out of the emergency room this year, but the Misery Index was in the same ballpark, and I stayed sick a lot longer this time. The first night in particular my fever was rather heinous, and I had what, if I was a shaman, I might call a vision.

I woke up to find a tree growing out of my solar plexus. I call it a tree, but it changed constantly between being a tree, a high rise building, a citadel, a run-down shack, and nothing at all, among other things. Suffice it to say that it was there. I say I woke up, but clearly I was not in a normal state of consciousness. I wasn't really quite asleep, though, as I was acutely aware of my body and how it was feeling, and I was aware that I was lying on my bed in my room at night.

At the base of the Tree there were three… Foxes, we'll call them. I call them Foxes, though they were also in constant and rapid flux, even more so than the Tree. Sometimes they were foxes, sometimes they were mongooses, sometimes they were members of a heavy metal band, sometimes they were electric guitars, and sometimes they were other things. One was white, one was black, and the third was grey. The white one was female, and the other two were male. I was tempted to associate the White with Order, the Black with Disorder, and the Grey with Balance, but I knew that wasn't quite right.

Each Fox represented some aspect of my psyche. They were fighting viciously amongst each other, and I had to pacify them or else go insane. There were times I feared that if I lost control of them I would never regain it; I would be lost to madness forever. The only way to calm them was to control and focus on my breathing as during Zen meditation.

They were constantly starting up again, and it was a constant struggle to quiet them back down. Eventually I reached a turning point where I knew I had won. The fighting didn't stop completely for some time after that, but from that point on I knew I was no longer in danger of going under completely. I didn't feel any sense of triumph, only emotional exhaustion and great relief, because I didn't consider my ultimate victory a foregone conclusion.

Gradually the fighting was reduced in intensity and frequency until the Foxes and the Tree faded completely back into whatever dark hole in my subconscious they came from, and I realized I was completely awake. I stayed that way for some time until I slipped into anxiety dreams of commerce and chaos. These were merely aggravating, however, and not imbued with cosmic danger like the earlier struggle.

The next night I also had trouble sleeping, and somehow convinced myself that I was in Mark Oliver Everett's house and would have to make successful small talk with other house guests in order to sleep.

I had read his memoir, Things the Grandchildren Should Know, not long before, so maybe that's why it was in my head. I should tell you, that book was REALLY GOOD, and you should READ IT. I'm serious. I don't remember the last time a book moved me so deeply.

Things at school have improved, I suppose. I attribute this to a number of factors:

1. I no longer expect things to work; I'm just happy when they do. We must imagine Sisyphus as happy, after all.

2. My technical skills have actually improved, to the point where…

3. I am now performing experiments that actually matter, so that, as The Man put it, "You are now able to fail on a whole new level."

Anyway, I'm coming to enjoy it more. There's even a new undergrad coming around who does crap for me and calls me her "mentor." I try to keep a straight face.

The other day I laid my head on WTF's solar plexus. This turns out to be an excellent location to hear both the heartbeat and the toilings of the digestive tract, as well as to feel the rise and fall of breathing. This combination of inputs caused me to be suddenly overwhelmed by the reality that she is alive, and to be overawed that anything is alive. And then almost immediately I was crushed by the fact that one day that heart will no longer beat, that stomach will no longer gurgle, and those lungs will no longer cyclically fill with air.

Biochemistry always ends in tears. For now she burns biomass to pay down the interest on her thermodynamic debts, but entropy will demand a full accounting sooner or later, and then quickly tear her apart to balance the books. Biochemistry is a tragedy. But the elegance and pathos of that mono no aware are transcendent.

Periodically throughout my life I have had these mind-exploding moments, where it seems subjectivity falls away and for a moment I can view the true grandeur and terror of existence, undisguised by familiarity, prejudice, willful ignorance, or unthinking acceptance. These moments never last long, because my mind just can't hold that much. Does this happen to everyone?

till our shells simply cannot hold all our insides in,


(and it won't be a pretty sight)