Samsara

Dalai Lama: (puts a drinking glass over a wasp, goes back to chopping up a squash, finishes, gives pieces to wife.)
Mrs. Lama: Thanks, honey.
Dalai Lama: Don’t mention it. (goes into living room, checks facebook)
Mrs. Lama: Did you have anything planned for this wasp?
Dalai Lama: Oh, gee, sorry! I was going to let him go and got sidetracked. (pauses video of moose cooling off in a wading pool)
Dalai Lama: Wow, that looks like I set a booby trap for you, doesn’t it. (Gets newspaper, whips glass off counter onto newspaper, but can’t find wasp.) Er… (Looks around for wasp, spots it on the newspaper, puts glass over it, fumbles glass, catches glass.) Oh. (The glass is devoid of wasp. Looks for wasp. Finds wasp on his arm.) Fuck!
Wasp: (Stings Dalai Lama)
Dalai Lama: Son of a bitch.
Mrs. Dalai Lama: Is it dead?
Dalai Lama: (Rolls up newspaper, swats wasp, which is now on floor) Yes. (Picks up wasp with paper towel, carries out to garbage, stands in front of garbage cans looking back and forth between compostable garbage bin and residual waste garbage bin, opts for the latter.)

Deprivation, isolation, floating

What say the slain?
One day, months ago, during a brief respite from political ranting during a drive into town with Gamma, we listened to a radio program about a sensory deprivation / isolation / floating tank business in Vienna.
“I’ve always wanted to try that,” I said.
Gamma filed that information away neatly and guess what my daughters gave me for Father’s Day?
This is how I found myself sitting on a shady bench in a Vienna cemetery yesterday evening. I was early for my appointment at the Sargfabrik, an apartment complex in Vienna with a theater instead of a parking garage, and down in the cellar a room with a floatation tank.
Floatation (or floating? not sure) tank is what used to be called an isolation tank, and before that sensory deprivation tank.
I prefer sensory deprivation tank, but understand one must market the things.
Like I was saying, I was early as always and took a walk around the neighborhood and disliked the park (too sunny, for one thing, and generally unlikeable, at least yesterday evening, for me, at that spot) so I continued onward and found the cemetery next door and went in and found a shady bench and watched the gravediggers work, and read the dates on the headstones, as one does.
Then I thought, Ah! Cemetery – Sargfabrik, I get it!
I guess the Sargfabrik used to be an actual coffin factory until it was converted into housing.
Then I texted the floating tank guy that I was already in the neighborhood, in case I could get in early, and I did and there I sat, no longer in the cemetery, in the cellar, in a dimly lit, cool room, being orientated.
Epilepsy? he said. Claustrophobia?
Nah, I said.
Goals? Hopes? he said.
Curiosity, I said. Father’s Day.
He looked a little disappointed, (but I might have been making that up, there in the dim light) so I added, maybe get an insight into this deep sadness I lug around all the time that is kinda the mortar holding my world together? Or into this yapping I have been doing with my wife?
Okay, he said. I dunno, he didn’t look real relieved so maybe it really was the dim light after all.
He said he’d knock on the outside of the tank when my time was up, and left.
I took a shower and got into the tank and shut the lid.
I spent a long time getting comfortable which is weird because what could be more comfortable than floating naked in a shallow tub of super dense saltwater in the dark?
But such is life.
I floated there in the dark listening to something hum. Something was fucking humming! What kind of sensory deprivation is this? Maybe it was the ventilation.
More of a buzz than a hum. And not loud, but still.
It wasn’t me.
Then either I got used to it or it stopped.
I listened to my breathing for a while, and to my heartbeat.
After a long, tiring day, I was surprised I did not fall asleep, or even get sleepy. After lunch I had been nodding off at my desk.
I sort of meditated for a while. I hummed a little. My mind was pretty blank a lot of the time.
At some point I woke up, or regained consciousness, or something. So I was out for a while, in one way or another.
Toward the end, trying out different ways of holding my head and comparing relative comfort, I got salt water in both eyes and was really glad the orientator had showed me where the kleenexes were in case that happened. I opened the hatch and wiped out my eyes and closed the lid again and eventually the stinging stopped.
One’s ears are submerged in the tank, so sounds are muffled.
I lay there listening to my heartbeat.
Thump-thump-thump! Then after three thumps it stopped again. Weird, I thought. I tried various positions to hear my heartbeat clearly again like that. Then I did, I heard it again. Thump-thump-thump.
After doing this a few more times I realized it was the guy knocking on the outside of the tank that my time was up.
He went away again and I lay there for a minute, thinking, Well that was an anticlimax.
No jumping out of the tank and running around like a caveman like William Hurt in Altered States. No hallucinations, no epiphanies.
It didn’t even seem all that different from my normal, daily life, I thought.
Then I thought, my normal, daily life is like an isolation tank.
Then I thought, there’s an epiphany for you after all.

Frustration: Guest post by the hobo spider

hobospider

Allow me to
change your life.
Sit there on that
pile of
kindling and
listen.
Put that phone
away for a second
this will not
take long.
If you are like many
people,
frustration
bedevils you. Things
turn out
differently
than you plan or
hope, or intend,
and this
frustrates you.
Someone stands you
up.
A child disobeys.
A feeling is
not mutual.
You following me?
Frustration is
the product of
mistakenly
considering
the imaginary and
the real
to be the same
so when what you imagine
does not happen
you perceive that as a loss
and ignore
what is
in front of your face.
There is no
should.
The real is
all there is.
Examine it closely.
The next time you
find yourself abandoned
on a street corner,
look around for
the unexpected
treasure. The
nickel on the
sidewalk the pretty
clouds. The Sikh’s
moustache.
Watch for the
adventure
chance brought you there
to have. Watch the
city bustle
as it wakes up,
or puts on its lipstick
to go out.
Or goes to bed.
When a child disobeys:
regard the real child, not
the perfect one you had
imagined.
Put your phone away.
The real child is
more interesting
and richer
than anything you
could make up.
Have awe for the
miraculous, and
compassion,
even that in
yourself.
This moment is more than
what you had hoped for.
It is all there is.
That will be two hundred dollars.
You’re welcome.

Just like that

The God of the Office snaps out of extreme (he took this test that’s what it said) depression just like that and takes a walk in the sunshine. He calls his wife no answer. He calls his daughter no answer. He texts his wife. His daughter calls back and they talk for a while but she’s in a bad mood (maybe) and she sounds as if her phone is at the bottom of a long pipe ROWRROWRROWR and then before he can cheer her up the connection breaks off. His wife texts back. He thinks,
Yes this is awesome!
Lilacs and wisteria blooming at the same time.
The God of the Office thinks,
Hopefully no crow will show up until after I’ve been to the deli and have food for him.
One of the Mossad guys from the Israeli embassy is walking down the sidewalk six feet in front of the God of the Office. The God of the Office tries to act nonchalant.
The grey crow swoops down.
Hi, says the God of the Office. I don’t have anything for you now. Hang on ten minutes, til I get back from the store, okay?
He wonders what the Mossad guy is thinking.
A minute later, the crow buzzes him, a real close swoop, he can hear the wind in the feathers.
This is one of his favorite things.
Once again, the God of the Office explains the situation to the crow.
At the store he buys a sandwich. He was going to buy a salad too, but the store is out of plastic forks. So he gets some trail mix and at the cash register breaks down and gets generic Oreos.
They cost practically nothing.
The crow meets him up the street, a couple blocks up from the store, at the usual place. He gives it some curry chicken sandwich and they stand there, watching each other and eating. Then the God of the Office strolls up the hill, towards the office.
The crow comes back and he gives it some more sandwich. At the next street corner, a second crow, a black one, arrives and he tosses it some sandwich, the last piece, but the grey crow flies over and takes it.
Here have some trail mix, says the God of the Office. The black crow pecks at that. The grey crow comes back and the God of the Office gives him some trail mix too.
And that was lunch, mostly.
There were other things of course. The long line at the cash register. Wondering if the Israeli was really Mossad – wouldn’t Mossad agents have better-fitting suits? You’d think. Maybe not, though.
There were a lot of attractive people at the store, and a few less-attractive ones.
There was the Invisible Hand, about which the God of the Office has been thinking, in the sense of it being a bullshit justification for an unjust status quo the exact same way kings used to be kings “by the grace of God.”
Now they’re kings by the grace of the invisible hand.
The God of the Office is trying to figure out what the proper expression is for such bullshit justifications.
And a few other things.
And that was lunch.

Roses, 29 November 2014 (2)

roses_2_29112014

This is the second plate I took of the same red-and-white roses that day – in a glass vase on a table in front of a wooden fence. Outdoors, drizzling and wintry and starting to get dark, so the exposure on this one was 90 seconds. Same wooden German travel camera from sometime in the early 20th century, Carl Zeiss lens. (I guess I can stop writing that since this is the only camera/lens I currently have.)

f3.5, 90 seconds. Lea’s Portrait collodion #2, ordered from Mamut in Prague, and the first time using homemade developer (I spilled the last dose of store-bought developer I had). Black aluminum plate 13x18cm (5×7″).

This picture is a lot softer than the previous one, which is largely due to the different collodion recipes used, I think. It has a lot of streaks on it, which I am assuming are from the new developer I am using – maybe a different formula? Could also have something to do with the temperature, it was getting cold and although I poured everything indoors, the plates were outside for a minute or so each.

Roses, 29 November 2014 (1)

roses_1_29112014

Weather is grey and drizzly and no one in the family wants to sit still for the minute or so it currently takes for an exposure in those conditions. These are some dried red/white roses in a vase on a table in front of a wooden fence. Taken with a wooden German travel camera from sometime in the early 20th century, Carl Zeiss lens. f3.5, 75 seconds. Old Workhorse collodion (IIRC), and the second-to-last dose of developer I ordered from Mamut in Prague. Black aluminum plate 13x18cm (5×7″).

Weather is weird

Weather is weird.
This is no season. This is no proper season. Seventy degrees in November.
This is no season.
How are you, he tells the kid.
There should be fog covering that field, but there is only warm dry air.
How are you, how is a person supposed to answer that, he says.
Someone asked me that, he says, once, and it totally threw me because I paused to think about it instead of just say, fine.
The kid chuckles. Yeah.
I was all like, objectively or subjectively?
By whose standards?
What time frame are we looking at?

You walk to the store. A kid has a party, another kid says, your cat is so cute, the first kid says, that’s not my cat, and suddenly you’re walking to the store for extra catfood on your lunch break, plus something from the bakery in case a crow passes your way.

Of course it does.

Every day is the same. Get up, make coffee, read, clean something, feed cats, take shower, get dressed, go to work. Get lunch, or don’t get lunch. Read. Go home. Clean something, go to bed.

At a certain level of magnification, anyway. At a microscopic, sub-atomic level, I suppose things vary wildly. This electron will only ever be exactly here once.

This quark, now you see it, now you don’t.

Just say you’re fine.