Tuesday, 28 July 2009


I can't guarantee you'll understand a word of what's going on here, and I'm not even sure that I'll like this in the morning, but I've just spent way too long writing this thing, so I'm here showing off before I change my mind:


He sat in front of his computer keyboard, totally at a loss. He didn’t entirely understand what he was doing here in the first place. He’d felt an irresistible compulsion to sit down and write, but how could you feel compelled to write when you didn’t have any specific thing you were anxious to write about? Could he be deluding himself – attempting to pigeonhole himself into the role of “writer” for the sake of some kind of smug self-satisfaction?

He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms, staring defiantly at the computer screen. And why not, he asked himself? Was anything worthwhile ever done not out of emulation and an aspiration for self-realization? Why must everything be justified? Why must the justifications he is only making to himself be so protracted, so clinical, so scientific? He seemed enslaved to the judgements other people weren’t even making. He felt oppressed.

He squinted at the blank screen and bit his lip thoughtfully. There’s a thought – can you be oppressed without an oppressor? It would require you to inhabit an alternative, virtual reality. Staring at the virtual page under his proverbial pen, he wondered what to make of the fact that this was the very method he intended to use to get himself out of his virtual prison.

He was getting a little confused by now. He gazed at the screen for a little while longer, rubbing his temple and forehead, then abruptly got up. He walked over to the fridge to get a drink of water.

Bent down, peering inside it, he paused. What did he need? What are you looking for when you find writing? He searched the bowels of his refrigerator and was embarrassed to be actually surprised they didn’t provide an answer. He stood back up and closed its door distractedly. He looked around in confusion. What was he doing here again?

- - -

Back at his computer, cup of water firmly in hand, he stared intently at the forbidding whiteness of the page in front of him – at the surgical lines, dull grey, and vaguely mathematical-looking implements encompassing it – and realized for the first time how dead it all looked. At the same time he noticed how representative it was of his own state of mind and spirit. He sipped at his water, then laid the glass down and placed his hands resolvedly on the keyboard.

He licked his lips. There was something wrong here. He was trying to fight fire with fire – self-suffocation with self-analysis. It was not a study and exploration of himself that he needed. What he needed was emancipation.

He breathed in deeply and shook his head. A familiar restlessness was beginning to take him. He shrugged wearily and supposed he’d walk it off.

- - -

He closed the door behind him and looked around, and up. It really was beautiful, being outside. He admired how the sky and the trees and the wind and the anonymous smells floating towards him seemed to just happen, with a graceful effortlessness. It was a pity that he only let himself enjoy them when an emotional disquiet more or less forced him out of the house.

But kind of representative too, on second thought. He wasn’t effortless. He’d never been even remotely spontaneous. If he didn’t make a conscious decision to go enjoy himself he simply wouldn’t. That wasn’t the way he was. He was methodical and analytic. It was, as they say of superheroes, his gift and curse. It was his identity.

He walked over to a patch of grass and bent down in it. He put his fingers to a blade of grass and felt gently around it. He scowled at it in confusion. Wasn’t the fact he saw value in this conclusive proof that he was not, in fact, a soulless automaton? The anemic language he seemed enveloped in appeared to obscure something fundamental to his experience of life.

He stumbled over to a nearby bench, now completely exhausted. He leaned his head back and breathed deeply a few times. Then he leaned forwards with his elbows on his knees and his hands joined together, staring underneath them at the grass again.

His mind was the mind of a mathematician. If he could convert ideas into numbers, he’d probably do it – it would make it that much easier for him to know his way around. This was simply how he understood the world. It was not, however, how he enjoyed the world.

A sudden burst of restless energy sprung him up from the bench again. There was a discrepancy here, between how he thought and how he felt – how he talked and how he lived. This was not an insurmountable discrepancy, but it made him uncomfortable and so he ignored it. Instead of keeping his innards and communications separate, what he should be doing is expressing himself.

But the coupling of these two modes of existence seemed so absurd! His “soul” was irrational, visceral, impulsive, and violently alive, while his thinking was cold, calculating, and intensely discriminating. The two seemed antithetical. Yes, the goal here is to express yourself, but can you express yourself in what are essentially mathematical formulas?

Yes, he decided suddenly. Yes. You can do what you want.


  1. The disclaimer at the beginning is totally unnecessary- this post is fun to read and crystal clear.

    I think you're struggling with a problem that isn't there. Which is why the ending is nice. What you have to understand is that rationalization comes after the fact- you wrote this post not because there was any logical reason to write this post, but just because you wanted to. If you can't find a reasonable excuse for this behavior, don't beat yourself up about it. There's no conflict here except for you trying to rationalize and failing.

    But if I may take a crack at it: you want to feel that your life has purpose, even though you see your surroundings as banal and meaningless. Writing about yourself (very well, I might add) in the third person makes you feel that your life is art, and you think that art always has a purpose. When you touched the grass, there was nothing inherently meaningful about it. Before you touched the grass, you had already subconsciously decided that touching this grass would be the part of the story where the hero finds meaning in his life. So you touched the grass, and the story was written, and it was the sort of story that you'd enjoy and say "Ooh, that felt profound!" about. And if you're the hero in that story, why, your life is awesome.

    Rationalizing is fun.

  2. I'm not sure that I understand the ending: if the seemingly insurmountable problem is integration of the emotional and rational modes of thought, can it be solved purely by an act of will? Maybe it can, and that the hero was just afraid to try in the beginning?

    The ironic bit is that I think that writing IS an ideal way to integrate those two modes and the hero of the story doesn't get through his writers block. Or is that what happens in the next chapter?