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Month: February 2013 (Page 1 of 3)
The words are bouncing against your cranium; back and forth, back and forth. You can feel them smack against each other, enjoying it sometimes, hating it sometimes.
They want to leave your cranium. They want to stampede out of it in lines organized by syntax. They want to copulate together and form sentences that craft a remarkable thought or a rousing literary reflection. They want someone to think something. Anyone to think anything. They want to line up in black pixels against a white background made of light.
Words live to pull out meaning from thin air. Pixels come together. Words come together. Sentences come together. Chapters come together. Books come together. Libraries come together. Everything the human civilization has ever thought, did, or dreamed comes together.
But the words that concern you now are the ones in your head, beating hard against your cranium.
Calm down, words. I’m listening.
These words are anxious to be used. They know their own purpose better than anyone else; better than you. They get frantic trying to help you understand their purpose.
That stuff about the heart being the seat of emotions? Bullshit. It’s the words that matter. It’s the words that make sense of your feelings, your thoughts, and your experiences. They demand to be released, carefully. They demand a worthy officer manning the gate. They want to be partnered with the correct pronouns. They want to go out in groups that make sense, happily separated by fullstops and commas. They are demanding pieces of shit. They start beating even harder against your cranium when you don’t give them enough time to formulate the syntax they want.
Ouch, words, you’re giving me a headache.
Leave. Line up on my screen. Rub shoulders with each other. Make lines of black against a background of white. Create sense out of the chaos in my head.
But oh, you’re so tricky, words. Once you leave my cranium, you take away the flexibility of thought. You create my reality from the thoughts you portray, often without my consent. You choose the thought that sounds most dramatic and you make it real.
Here, leave. Here’s a fullstop. See? A comma, see? A beautiful letter “o”; round and nice and perfectly rhythmic. Oh, are you unhappy with me using too many “and”s in one sentence? Fuck you. You’re mine, words. I choose you.
You don’t choose me.
This is writing advice from Jack Kerouac’s ”Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials”, written in 1958. But screw writing advice. This shit is so good it should be applied to life. My favorites in bold.
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
The minute I walked into Turtle Green, I was greeted by a man wearing a pink dress, whose face was covered with a carefully-constructed mask of aluminum foil.
“Hi, Roba!” the creature said.
I grinned as I looked around and realized that the planned Harlem Shake was taken seriously. “Hi,” I told the creature. “But umm… I can’t tell who you are.”
People were wearing their craziest outfits at 6:00PM on a Thursday, and that’s just awesome. This is why I love Turtle Green, and the people who frequent Turtle Green: no one gives a rat’s ass. It’s collective “tatyeez“.
I gave my red scarf to my barista friend, who used it as a cape. I laughed at the outfits of the other baristas, who went all out, crutches and all.
I went up the familiar stairs and almost fell down as a man wearing an inflatable superhero costume tried to take the stairs at the same time. I am hugged by a person who looks like a huge green caterpillar, but whose face is also covered. An alien waved at me to join him and his cowboy friend. I said hello to construction workers, Santa, a fencer, someone in a hazmat suit, and a hobo.
I felt terribly boring in my office clothes, but I didn’t want to miss seeing Turtle Green turn into a Halloween party. I decided to be useful by documenting the behind-the-scenes experience.
Here’s how the top view was:
Then I decided to see what the situation is with Amman and the Harlem Shake. And I find this, and it is hilarious:
This song and Pink Floyd in general represent an important phase in my life.
Being the extremist I am, my life fluctuates cyclically between ruts of excessive safety zones and peaks of obsessive mania. I’m currently in the latter phase.
This song doesn’t represent now though. I was 19 during the “Hey You” phase. I had just discovered that I wasn’t who I thought I was the week before. I then proceeded to go through a few years of mania, settling back again into safety around 2007.
Of course, I hear the song often. It’s in every music library on all the devices I own. Today though, for some strange reason, I accidentally listened to the song instead of just hearing it. Then all the feelings came crashing down.
The freezing “Islamic Culture” classroom in the Sharia Department at the University of Jordan. Listening to Led Zeppelin at a friend’s house before class. Sitting in Starbucks as a friend taught me HTML. Amigo’s and mazhareyat-il-tequila of Amigo’s. Shawerma. Battle of the Bands.
It was an awesome year, filled with music, new experiences, and new passions. You can feel it in the way I wrote in this blog; my tone was different. It was fresh. It was young. It hadn’t yet gone through shit experiences. That’s the best thing about being a blogger; a recorded testament to who I am and how I changed. It drives me crazy that 2005 was EIGHT damn years ago. Can you believe that? Eight years? I’m so old.
So yeah… Hey you.
Enjoy the song.
To my dearest daughter,
Now that you are ten, I want to write to you about something that is important to me. Have you ever wondered how we know the things that we know? How do we know, for instance, that the stars, which look like tiny pinpricks in the sky, are really huge balls of fire like the Sun and very far away? And how do we know that the Earth is a smaller ball whirling round one of those stars, the Sun?
The answer to these questions is ‘evidence’.
Sometimes evidence means actually seeing (or hearing, feeling, smelling….) that something is true. Astronauts have traveled far enough from the Earth to see with their own eyes that it is round. Sometimes our eyes need help. The ‘evening star’ looks like a bright twinkle in the sky but with a telescope you can see that it is a beautiful ball — the planet we call Venus. Something that you learn by direct seeing (or hearing or feeling…) is called an observation.
Often evidence isn’t just observation on its own, but observation always lies at the back of it. If there’s been a murder, often nobody (except the murderer and the dead person!) actually observed it. But detectives can gather together lots of other observations which may all point towards a particular suspect. If a person’s fingerprints match those found on a dagger, this is evidence that he touched it. It doesn’t prove that he did the murder, but it can help when it’s joined up with lots of other evidence. Sometimes a detective can think about a whole lot of observations and suddenly realize that they all fall into place and make sense if so-and-so did the murder.
Scientists — the specialists in discovering what is true about the world and the universe — often work like detectives. They make a guess (called a hypothesis) about what might be true. They then say to themselves: if that were really true, we ought to see so-and-so. This is called a prediction. For example, if the world is really round, we can predict that a traveler, going on and on in the same direction, should eventually find himself back where he started. When a doctor says that you have measles he doesn’t take one look at you and see measles. His first look gives him a hypothesis that you may have measles. Then he says to himself: if she really has measles, I ought to see… Then he runs through his list of predictions and tests them with his eyes (have you got spots?), his hands (is your forehead hot?), and his ears (does your chest wheeze in a measly way?). Only then does he make his decision and say, ‘I diagnose that the child has measles.’ Sometimes doctors need to do other tests like blood tests or X-rays, which help their eyes, hands and ears to make observations.
People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you’d never be confident of things like ‘My wife loves me’. But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up. It isn’t purely inside feeling, like the feeling that priests call revelation. There are outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and kindnesses; this is all real evidence.
Inside feelings are valuable in science too, but only for giving you ideas that you later test by looking for evidence. A scientist can have a ‘hunch’ about an idea that just ‘feels’ right. In itself, this is not a good reason for believing something. But it can be a good reason for spending some time doing a particular experiment, or looking in a particular way for evidence. Scientists use inside feelings all the time to get ideas. But they are not worth anything until they are supported by evidence.
What can we do about all this? It is not easy for you to do anything, because you are only ten. But you could try this. Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.