On fear

Fed up with resetting every clock in the household twice a year, Mig split the difference and set his clock back 30 minutes last Sunday. Since then, he has found himself trapped in a limbo half an hour off and full of technophobic pedants complaining about how everyone else partied like it was 1999 when they should have, actually, partied like it was 2000. On the other hand, he faces less traffic while commuting, he is enjoying his new powers of invisibility and no one has noticed yet at work.

Somebody said something recently that got me thinking. I forget what the hell it was they said, or even who said it, or in what context, but it had to do with fear.

Mig was saying something to someone recently about leaders controlling populations with fear, and 1984 blah blah blah, but that wasn’t it. It was somebody famous, I think.

And it was some minor, side remark they made, something mentioned in passing, nothing big, but it got me thinking as those things sometimes do.


This is what it got me thinking: I used to think life was like a battlefield in some crazy movie, bullets and ricochets everywhere while we crawl on our bellies through mud and blood and people hollering “Medic” and “Incoming” while we slither on through the mud, every second another near-miss. Every additional second we live a gift of chance that none of these visible and invisible dangers surrounding us have chanced to claim us.

And there I was, crawling away. On and on. After 47 years, I stopped for an instant, and listened.

I hope I’m not jinxing anything by saying this.

I listened and I heard nothing, no bullets whizzing. Some people yelling, okay, but where were the dangers, exactly?

They could be invisible dangers.

But I could also be making them up. Just looking at things empirically, letting go of everything else and viewing this situation empirically, one could also say: I have been here for 47 years and nothing really bad has happened, and much good.

The television says, war there, there and there. It says dead zones and economic collapse and transfats. But if I turn all that off and looks around, here in my two square meters of mud, all is well. I accept that others suffer dramatically, but that is their suffering, not mine.

I have spent 47 years in fear of the visible and invisible. Mostly the invisible. There are two possibilities: this practice has protected me from what I fear, or it has been a big waste of time.

I don’t know which, I’m still thinking about that.


  1. Friday night, for the first time in about 20 years, I read, in public no less, to someone other than my kids. Although I may or may not have appeared to, I enjoyed myself greatly and things went fine, but for a bit of hoarseness (mostly sore throat) even though my brain tends to fall asleep around 9 PM. Thanks Horst, for inviting me to take part.

  2. Saturday, accompanied Gamma to a great workshop on composing at our music school. The teachers were so wonderful, so knowledgeable and so able to communicate that to an audience ranging in age from about 7 to about ahem 47. Gamma was cracking John Cage jokes when we walked back to our car that evening, is how good it was. “Now I have an earworm,” she said, referring to his composition “4.33”. Also, she wants to play it at her next piano recital. “At least the first movement.”
    Beta wants to accompany her on harp. Or at least sit at the piano with her, turning pages.
    They are going to have a 3-month composition program at the school. Gamma and I are discussing whether to take part.


Oh yes that reminds me, my wife said the evening before last.
(Have I mentioned that, right after I arrive home from work, I am generally in a disoriented state of mind and need, usually, ten minutes in a sensory deprivation tank, which I never get?)
So I said to my wife, whatever the question is, the answer is Yes.
She and Gamma, who was in on the question, both laughed. So we can take the hedgehog over the winter?
I sighed. After the last ones, I had sworn off hedgehogs. They made a big mess in our cellar, see, with their feces, marking their territory as high as they could reach. Also, their live mealworms all got away and infested our cellar.
I thought about it. I released those two into the woods the day Gamma was born.
Meaning this would give her an experience her big sister had enjoyed. So, yeah, sure, okay, why not.
They bought hedgehog supplies yesterday and picked it up at a friend’s house and brought it home.
It was curled up, motionless, in a shoebox full of maple eaves on our kitchen floor when I got home.
There had been some disagreement on the hedgehog’s name, and even on whether our friends wanted to give it up after all. They had kind of fallen in love with it. It was very cute and my wife’s friend’s husband had prepared a large box for it and written “Hamster!” on the side of the box, which I guess he thought was a cute name for a tiny hedgehog.
Did you know that there seem to be two types of hedgehogs (at least)? Some with black faces, and some with lighter-colored faces?
This one had a black face, so Gamma had renamed it Blacky.
She had to think about it for some time; something with Black, she knew that.
She finally settled on Blacky.
We cut some newspapers into strips, Gamma and I, and fluffed them in the big box and carried animal and box upstairs. It has to be light and warm, Gamma said, the room where we stow Blacky. I finally convinced her that “light” meant during the day, and that it was okay to let it sleep in a dark room at night.
We put dishes of food and water in its box and left Blacky alone.
I know hedgehogs are supposed to be wild and curl up when threatened, but it sort of bothered me that not once did I see Blacky move.
And I looked close. I put on my reading glasses and sat there watching for the rise and fall of a tiny ribcage.
Hedgehogs should weigh over 500g if they want to hibernate outside. Under that, you’re allowed to help them survive the winter. Blacky looked like it weighed 150g at most. It looked under 2 months old.
Blacky is tired, I told Gamma.
When she got up this morning, she went straight to our office where Blacky was, and checked on him.
According to Gamma, Blacky was breathing.
We might have to take Blacky to the vet, I told her. Blacky’s not looking that great. Now let’s go have breakfast and let him rest.
After breakfast she was straight back up watching him again. I dunno. She had a big German test at school today, I didn’t want to upset her with my suspicions. In fact, I was under direct orders from Alpha not to upset her with my suspicions. Like, the fact that Blacky didn’t move at all during the night and was still in the same position doesn’t bode well.
We’ll check him over this afternoon, or this evening, when I get home, I told her. Maybe he’ll have to go back to the vet, I said. Maybe he’s already hibernating.
She is so happy to be saving a little hedgehog, you see.

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On advice

Any advice for me before I leave on my trip with school?
Why you asking me?
Everyone else has been giving me advice, I just wanted to give you a chance, too.
“Have fun,” I guess.
Dad, we’re going to Auschwitz.


Alpha and I went hiking with friends in Southern Styria last weekend, along the border with Slovenia, and bought a few cases of wine. The weather was a bit foggy the first day, and clear the second. Perfect, in other words.

Relative speed

According to Albert Einstein, time passes faster when you spend the day watching theremin videos on youtube and google video.

Must have

Baby, baby, baby. Something has displaced

  1. A carbon-fiber cello case

  2. A carbon-fiber cello bow
  3. A carbon-fiber cello

from the first position on my wish list. This is a Theremincello (more here, which is where I grabbed the image from). Leon Termen, the inventor of the theremin, was a cellist before he was a physicist. He invented this instrument, some think because it would be easier for him to play. He played it for a while I guess. Some were produced. This would be back in the 1930s or thereabouts. They even produced a lower, bass version, but it was abandoned because the subsonic sounds (or whatever you call them) it produced made bass players nauseous.
There are not many of these around anymore. I may look into having someone help me build one. Then I could finally play in a band. Imagine. Looks like a cello (sort of) and it’s a theremin. Meaning: you can’t play it badly!