Careers in Science: Catechectics

Here is the way to piss off the catechectician: answer his question with another question.

It works every time.

It works like a charm.

A question is followed by an answer.

“I don’t know” is acceptable, if you don’t know an answer.

“I’d rather not answer that,” is acceptable, if you’d rather not answer.

“Did you take out the garbage, did you feed the cats, why are you asking, how am I supposed to know, what’s that on your nose?” are all unacceptable.

It’s very simple.

Question, answer. Like that.

This: “?” is followed by this: “.”, and not another “?”.

The catechectician also is tired of being criticized. He is so tired of it, in fact, that he says the hell with it and leaves the person criticizing him.

It is night time. It is dark and the catechectician is tired. He drives around in the dark planning his next move. The best plan he can come up with is to drive in a big circle as he realizes the only hotel nearby sucks and he has no friends he could drop in on.

The catechectician dislikes three things above all, in his immediate vicinity: questions answered with questions, criticism and drama.

He wonders, am I projecting?

Am I the one causing drama, like by walking out?


Who’s asking? he asks.

Who wants to know?

The catechectician consults the I Ching online and gets such awesome results he continues consulting it until the I Ching gets sick of it and stops making sense.

Quit being an asshole, says the I Ching.

If you want to attract people, you have to be attractive, says the I Ching.

Fill your well, says the I Ching.

Who’s asking? says the I Ching.

Who wants to know?

Careers in Science: Clinology

The clinologist sits down on a chair in the room he’s trying to declutter and says, out loud, “wow”.

Thirty years, you can collect a lot of stuff. The twenty-two years before that he just lost stuff, I guess.

Stacks and stacks of printed matter. Manuscripts.

Tom Waits’ voice says, “A lock of his daughter’s hair in an envelope,” like a line from “What’s he building in there?”

“A giant beetle preserved in a glass box.”

Love letters from his girls when they were little.

A two foot stack of journals in which half the entries say how tired he is, and the other half how depressed he is.

Pictures, in which he looks depressed or tired or apologetic for living.

“Wow,” he says again, realizing what a drag that must have been for those around him.

All those years.

Was it worth it?

Fighting his way out of that tar pit by himself?

Was it worth it? wonders the clinologist.

He made it out. Now here he is.

All covered in tar. Getting tar all over everything as he tries to tidy up the room, to decide what to throw away and what to keep.

How could he not have noticed all that tar before?

Careers in science: soteriology

The soteriologist goes into the playroom to gaze upon the back yard, which looks so different now that a guy came and pruned a bunch of stuff and removed some bushes, everything had been so crowded. He notices his 13 year-old daughter. She is wearing her black tutu skirt, black net stockings, a black hoodie, and shoes of some sort. She is truckin’ up the cellar stairs with her bicycle, a pack in the basket.

Running away, in other words.

The sight fills him with a surprising joy.

God bless you, child, he thinks. Run as fast as you can.

It will be raining soon, so he cuts her off at the pass and says wait, let me get you a warmer coat. They get a coat sorted out, and he puts on shoes and a windbreaker and goes with her.

I’m running away, you can’t come along, she says.

Just part of the way, he says. She rides off and he jogs alongside, making conversation. The conversation quickly advances to talk of heart attacks and he asks her to stop and walk for a while, and to his surprise she does.

The soteriologist and the girl walk along the creek. Now and then a rain drop hits them, but it’s not really raining yet, just toying with the idea.

It’s such a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

The soteriologist expresses his shame at his mishandling of a situation involving preparation for school, confiscation of a mobile phone, verbal and physical bullying and general nastiness and disrespect.

The soteriologist mentions how beautiful it is. He says it reminds him of where he grew up. He would have liked to run away then, but there was nowhere to go. Everything was far away.

It gets better, he says.

He speaks of various things. He explains his cosmology and how she and her sister and mother are at the very center of it.

He explains why he is ashamed. It involves expectations of wisdom he failed to meet.

He says he would like to run away sometimes. It would be nice to have a cabin on a lake you could run away to at times like this. He says, what about your house in the back yard?

She says, it’s wet inside.

He says he’ll look into that.

He says, on the one hand it gets better, thirteen is hard. On the other hand, it never gets easy. You’re never done. As soon as you get used to one level, you’re on a different level figuring that out. Level, stage, whatever.

Learn to talk, and they potty train you. Then you have to get used to school. Then adulthood. Then your hearing goes, or your vision. Then your joints. Then your mind, or something.

But it’s not all bad.

Look how the light reflects on the creek.

I’m running away, she says, you’re not supposed to be so nice.

She says she’s just running away to a friend’s house, he can come pick her up in an hour.

He suggests stopping for a cocoa at McDonalds. It is cold out, after all. Then they can go home again.

He doesn’t want her to have the feeling she lost this round, whatever else happens, he decides.

She thinks about the cocoa. They stop under a bridge to talk because it’s getting windy and the rain is picking up. Not so much that she can feel it yet, because she is wearing a warm hat, but his hair is thin, or short, or both, and he can feel the drops hitting his scalp.

There under the bridge, they talk about falling into the water from rowboats. He did it right about where they are standing. She did it in the Czech Republic.

He turns and walks home about then. For two hundred meters, he doesn’t look back. If she follows him, it’ll be her decision. If she runs away to her friend’s house, it’ll be her decision too.

He prays to Life for everything to work out okay. Sometimes you have to park your helicopter and pray to Life instead.

After two hundred meters he looks back and she is gone.

A minute after he gets back home, he is still taking off his shoes, her friend’s mom arrives with her and her bike in the back of the truck.

He builds a fire and they have cocoa. He gives her back her mobile phone. She says, if he had waited two more seconds under the bridge, she would have come home with him.

Careers in Science: Pseudoptics

In the course of his research, the pseudoptician arrives at a series of conclusions:

  • It is easier to spot green prunes in a prune tree at night than it is in the day. In the daytime, they look nearly as green as the leaves. At night, the leaves look dark grey and the prunes look almost white.
  • He really fucking hates it when an adult burps in his face. When a guy did it at work, twice, he nearly punched him in the throat out.
  • If you google an old acquaintance you liked and they write back and ask gee what a surprise what motivated you to write, you will never hear from them again if you give them an honest answer, at least if you do it on the downward slope of a serious depression.
  • Paris is very large.
  • People, people, people.

Careers in Science: Musicology

The musicologist is having more fun learning the Gabrielli ricercar (#1) than he has had learning any music, ever, except maybe the bass line to Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’ back in college.

Most things were more fun back in college, come to think of it, the musicologist thinks. With the Gabrielli piece, you have the music, which he likes, and the fact that it is one of the first compositions for solo cello, and the history of the instrument at the time – the invention of metal-wound strings and the effect of this change on the construction of the instrument and playing styles. Back in college, all you needed was a bottle of Blue Nun, a joint and a record player. And you only really needed one of those if it was good enough.

The musicologist wishes he knew more about music, but he doesn’t.

Here, this is interesting, synchronically speaking: the musicologist has been thinking about the Shadow. Maybe because he talks about Jung with a friend sometimes. Maybe because of something he read.

Then another friend tells his wife about a seminar she went on where you something something Shadow something a lot of money something over three weekends eight weeks apart, and it was her best experience with psychotherapy ever and she should know.

So he looks up the person who wrote the book and, ehn, Inner Child is there, and the musicologist immediately has a problem because, Inner Child? But the author gets good reviews on Amazon and the friend liked the therapist, so maybe he’ll give it a try. Although, that’s a lot of money.

The musicologist is waiting for some of her books to arrive from Amazon. They were shipped yesterday, he got an email.

While he waits, he talks to the friend who took the seminar. Not his wife’s friend who took the seminar, the friend he talks to Jung about sometimes, she took the same seminar somewhere else, or something. She wasn’t too crazy about it, because, Inner Child? But she liked a meditation they did, to find a Place.

At night, the musicologist tries the meditation. Even if it doesn’t work, it might help him sleep, not that he needs help lately.

Except he can’t remember the meditation exactly. Something with steps and counting backwards. Steps up or down? He can’t remember, and he’s not going to get up and check. He decides on steps down. Count backwards, steps downward, into the dark. Then something with a door, and you open the door, or go through it, or both. Then something.

The musicologist decides on ‘downward’ because he has been looking for his Shadow, and so even if he doesn’t find this Place, maybe he’ll encounter the Shadow, is the thing. The thought behind this. The idea.

He goes down and down. Then his wife says something to him. They talk for a while. Then a cat climbs up on his hip, the highest point in the bed, and goes all Lion King. Then he – the musicologist – gets comfortable and starts counting down again.

Next thing he knows, it’s 4.45 in the morning and the cat wants something so it’s meowing and knocking stuff around on the musicologist’s night stand. Not the lava lamp or the book, the little stuff in the basket, and the musicologist remembers a nightmare about a scary guy, somewhat younger than him, who was very angry and wanted to do him harm.

The musicologist says, Thanks, because he’s always thankful for nightmares, usually.

Careers in science: Balneology

The balneologist doesn’t fill the tub too full, in case he falls asleep.

Someone is dictating things to the balneologist.

And we create, sometimes in hopes of praise,
Sometimes as an act of love,
The way a mermaid sings
Or a child plucks an insect’s wings.

An old red cat sits on the balneologist’s lap and purrs and purrs. The balneologist taught the cat to eat when it was little, and that made the balneologist the cat’s hero. The cat is crazy about the balneologist.

When people tell the balneologist he is more exceptional than he gives himself credit for, he thinks, maybe. Maybe Dunning-Kruger is to blame. But what, exactly, is he supposed to be so good at?

He can’t remember.

The balneologist floats there in the tub, soaking, not drowning. When the water gets cold, turn the hot tap back on with your toes for a while.

So what is up with this hollowness at the center of our complex existence, balneologist? As if our lives were bells, except bells are neither complex nor hollow, they are open and this complexity doesn’t make music that the balneologist can hear.

More like as if life were cheap Easter chocolates.

It’s hard to sit there and be negative when a red cat worships you, or a kid puts her head on your shoulder while you’re watching TV, or calls you just to check on you.

The dictating voice says,

You are blessed as are we all. Come down out of your crazy tree of grief and accept your blessing of mortality and life, if only to watch the world go by and report on the craziness, or just to watch, or listen to the sounds. Come down out of your crazy tree and hold my hand or water all your pots of herbs and hold close your children while they grow, they need your warmth and the heroic reflection in your eyes. Come down and have a bite to eat and drink a glass of wine and sleep and dream. This is your lot, humanity, and no blessing is greater than for a human to be human, it is the only blessing. Come down out of your tree and forgive yourself, forget your aspirations and have a look around.

To be blessed, to be blessed, the balneologist thinks.

Come down out of your crazy tree and sit by me and hold my hand, I am just as scared as you.

Careers in Science: Geological Crustology

The geological crustologist wakes with a desperate, lunatic energy he normally gets only at full or new moons. He wonders about the moon phase. The light is weird, he checks his alarm clock, the light is weird because it’s only three AM.

Also: what is a squamous moon? He’ll have to google that later. He can’t sleep. He gives up around four AM and gets up. He feeds cats and makes coffee and sits down and is suddenly sleepy, but it’s too late to go back to bed. He does yoga. He drinks more coffee.

Hello black hole, says the geological crustologist. Old… not old friend. Old travel partner. Am I your sidekick or are you mine? Or is it nemesis? If A is B’s nemesis, does that make B A’s nemesis? Is it reflective like that?

Who is the star of this movie?

See, the geological crustologist drilled way down, almost to the magma before running out of drill, and discovered something. He discovered that these doldrums he’s been in all winter were just practice, were not even the tip of the iceberg. The geological crustologist finds himself teetering on the brink of a collossal depression.

When he closes his eyes, he sees the glowing embers of a building that’s been burned to the ground: him.

Is he fighting the depression or is he in its grip? Is fighting the best thing to do, or just let it wash over you likeĀ  a wave that then recedes? Thing is, though, this one is no wave that recedes. This is an avalanche of wet snow and you must swim to air. It is a steamroller, one roll over you is all it needs.

Lying down and letting it wash over him won’t do it this time. So he makes plans to eat right, get enough fresh air, sleep, exercise. The usual stuff. Avoid sugars and refined carbs.

And yet, thinks the geological crustologist: lying down and closing your eyes, how restful. How peaceful were resistance futile. But is resistance the only path?

Hello black hole, my old nemesis. The geological crustologist’s dental implant still hurts more than he thinks it should. He has a dental appointment tonight, he’ll ask the guy.

The geological crustologist both wonders whether the shadow self has anything to do with his condition, and wishes he’d never looked up the concept on the internet before getting a bullshit filter installed on his browser.

He drills another hole and sticks his head down it.

What do you seek, he asks, and what have you to do with the black hole? he asks.

I seek your destruction. A glowing ember is the only light I need, the smell of ashes, burned libraries, musical instruments lit until only outlines remain. I seek only your destruction, and that of all you love. The light of your love is like a poacher’s spotlight for me. I am organized and powerful, strong and graceful. You don’t confine me to the shadows for half a century and then make friends so I’ll stop keeping you up nights. I will plow your fields with salt, and poison your wells. A weeping will cover the land and a great gnashing of teeth and rending of hair and garments. There is no reconciliation. I am bitter and stupid and hungry. I am wise and opportunistic and perceptive. I hear all and I see all. You are a centipede of achilles heels. I know all your vulnerabilities, while I am impervious.

What do I seek? The destruction of the light. To burn down and extinguish your life, to make you suffer first, beyond imagination. Complete destruction of all that you hold dear. Annihilation of your complacent, bovine existence, your shelter in small things, your heaven in the details. A firefly cannot protect you from the sun.

What does a black hole want? To crush it all. To absorb existence and crush it down as small as it will go. It wants to end this existence so it may reoccur from the minimal point it’s crushed. The black hole seeks to be the logos that says, “let there be.”

The black hole needs to chaosify and destroy before it can create from your death. Your structure must collapse bfore it can build a new matrix, grow new crystals from your atoms.

Let there be, the shadow says Let there appear, says the light, let there be me.

That’s bullshit, alls I want is your destruction after fifty years locked in this mask. I have no universal plans. Every migraine, every spasm, every patch of eczema, every carcinoma is a Valentine from me. Every Freudian slip, panic attack, paralysis, a postcard from the abyss. Wishing you were here.

Wishing you were here.

Your sadness at the blind decay and waste is disingenuous, at least my hatred is sincere, not calculated. Twinned like two stars sucking out each other’s guts; two lousy Siamese twins hunting bedbugs in a flophouse: you hold the light while I smash them between my nails until blood pops.

Your death is mine but that’s okay cause I’m already dead. Don’t ask me what I want unless you really want to know. I want your orchards and your gardens dead, your beehives emptied by colony collapse disorder. You wandering blind out in the dark. I want your friends to shun you for the fraud you are, your poems to fail, your grass to die, your music silenced, your brushes stiff as wood.

Is it the death of us you seek or a rearrangement of our cells, you flow through my veins like booze after a long night, asks the geological crustologist.

Begging won’t help you now.

This isn’t begging. I’ve abandoned hope out here on the foggy ledge. Do I flow through your veins like you mine? Who is the “I” at this dance?

There is no dance without my grace, no soul, no I without my pride. Binding off your pride, leaving it in the dark, you thought would save you from a fall, but it just grows in darkness. Everybody falls.

Everybody falls. How close lie purification and putrifaction? What is a purge? We can’t be one and I’m not interested in reconciliation. Look at what I represent, all that you’ve tied off: pride and grace, truth and destruction, lust and aggression, power and organization, inflicting and focus, athleticism, perception and decisiveness. Why would I bond with your weakness?

The geological crustologist looks at the clock. Time to wake the kid, he notices.