The Plague of Devia Mara.

1/4/99

Effectively divorced from my skin and all sensory stimuli, I felt myself descend as if into the proverbial rabbit hole, leading me towards what either constituted a lucid dream or another plane of existence. The debate is still raging. In either case, I was awake and knew this was not mundane reality I was literally falling into, and so I feared the entity that had attacked me so often when this sort of thing happened might lunge at me, so in response I resorted to a technique I had picked up in my Occult readings and refashioned to my own satisfaction. Chanting the made-up word only I know three times, I summoned my protective shield. Evidently, the conditioning I had subjected myself during my ordinary, waking life paid off, as it occurred without effort in precisely the way I always imagined it to function. Starting in my chest area, a white, glowing ball of energy swiftly grew to encompass my entire form, cocooning me in a protective bubble of energy.

To my relief and amazement, the vicious entity without certain form never showed. Though I could be mistaken, I do believe that this was the first time that I had found myself awake within an otherworldly space and not ultimately been subjected to his relentless violence. As I continued to fall down this nonphysical well I saw floating Gray alien heads strewn all about as if I was underwater, which did not seem to be the case, until I ultimately came to rest in an alternate version of my bedroom. There, my lucidity depleted significantly.

What followed, at least in the notes that, judging from my handwriting, occurred immediately afterward, constituted various non-lucid but certainly vivid dreams. I cannot be certain of their chronology, the degrees to which I succeeded in remembering them or whether they were separate dreams or part of a single, enduring narrative, but they were of an uncommon clarity and an eerie, dark overcast. Two scenes have direct relevance here.

Inside what I know to be a long building with a large parking lot that in retrospect I surmised must have been a bar or restaurant, I am sitting at the bar, a friend to my left and a girl sitting to my right. She dragged off a cigarette held between long, frog-like lips positioned beneath buggy eyes, and I got the overwhelming feeling that she was depressed. For some reason, I also felt that she looked like a Jennifer.

In the next relevant scene, I am introduced to what I explained in my notes as a sex-crazed girl in a dark room. I saw her as if from below, sitting on her sofa chair as if it were a throne. Leaning back, sprawled on the chair quite comfortably, she had her right leg bent at the knee and leisurely aiming to my right, with that foot resting on the chair, the other leg casually hanging off the edge. She was clad in a black shirt and pants, her shoulder-length black hair the only discernible feature when I focus on her head, which is entirely draped in darkness.

Though I would much prefer to think that I walked, given the position from which I initially viewed her I would have to say that I was on my hands and knees and crawled toward her, eventually atop her, though her position did not significantly change as I did so. Looking down, I spied her belly, as concave as my own at the time, and her comparatively loose black jeans, void of any belt. So inverted was her tummy that I could not only discern that she wasn’t wearing any underwear but clearly see her finely-shaven vagina. I then asked her a question, I think whether or not she would be my girlfriend.

“No,” she replied. “No Sex.”

In the dream notes, I mentioned that she for some reason looked as if her name would be Devia, though I have never, up to the time of this writing, known any girl by that name.

***

Sometime after having this dream, when I again decided to try my hand at fiction, I wrote a short story inspired by the dream, which I entitled The Hole in the Universe. It dealt with a group of guys who hung out at a bar based partially on the one in my dream, which was run by the girl I had called Jennifer. Their typical, end-of-the-workday routine was interrupted one evening when a biker entered the doors, offering cautionary tales to the group regarding a girl he was attempting to hunt down called Devia Mara. He claimed that though he had never met her himself she had taken home some of the guys at the biker bar down the street and brainwashed them, drained them of all will, and those that returned to the bar after nights with her came back changed, not at all themselves. After ascertaining they had not seen or heard of such a woman before, he told them to be careful and departed.

As the story progressed, his dire warnings proved to have merit, as she had evidently moved her territory from his biker bar to their own and started plucking them away one by one — though in this case, none of his friends ever returned to the bar or were seen again. The last member of the group and the one qualifying as the protagonist of the story feared she was seducing and then killing them and, despite the fact that he had still never laid eyes on her, soon became obsessed with hunting her down himself.

Ultimately he encountered her on the stairs at a bar, where she bit his lip and he passed out, only to find himself bound in duct tape to the passenger seat of a car upon awakening, with her in the driver seat. They engaged in a rather aggressive conversation, during which she insisted she had not killed his friends but only helped them to accept their true, individual natures and open up to life, leaving their group and the bar behind them in the wake. Though she eventually releases him and they walk together along a bridge, he stubbornly refuses to trust in and be swayed by her as they allegedly had.

Up to this point I feel my story was okay — not great by any measure, but all right — though in retrospect I certainly feel as though there was far more I could’ve done with it. I am, on the other hand, entirely unsatisfied with the ending, where she revealed herself to be something akin to a psychic vampire or parasite of the soul and left him alone on the bridge, paralyzed, slowly disintegrating into dust, falling into the water below. It seemed dreadfully inconsistent not only with respect to the promise I felt she had in the context of the dream that inspired the story but in the story previous to that point. For her to reveal herself as some simple personification of evil after teasing true depth and complex motives through their conversation seemed cheap, and the ending rather predictable, at least in essence.

To make matters worse, there are suggestions that this was my intent from the very moment I began writing the story, though I can neither recall any specific intentions nor have I managed to uncover any suggestive notes.

For instance, I do know that there was a good reason I chose the last name Mara for her. By the point I had written the story I am sure I knew that a mare or mara was said to be an evil spirit essentially synonymous with mythical creatures such as the succubus, Incubus and the old hag in that they were said to straddle the chests of people as they slept and suffocate them, giving rise to bad dreams or “night-mares.” It should come as no surprise that they are currently thought to be hallucinations caused by sleep paralysis. I knew all this as I had one such experience myself in March of 1995 and had subsequently engaged in obsessive research — and in an era that was BG (Before Google), no less. The sense I got from my research was that such entities were essentially psychic parasites, which is clearly reflected in the ending of the story.

Though I am fairly certain that I had no knowledge of it at the time, I have also discovered that Mara was the name of the demon that tempted Siddhārtha Gautama on his path towards enlightenment, which is to say to the trajectory that terminated upon him earning the title of Buddha. Mara is therefore considered in the eyes of at least some present-day Buddhist sects to be the personification of all that seeks to keep one bound to the wheel of death and rebirth.

In essence, my intention seemed to ultimately present her as a seductive entity that enslaved others and drained them of their power.

***

Though her face remained concealed within the dream, once I introduced her in the realm of my writing I gave her definite features. I was rather taken aback when I read it again, as it seems to describe Hypnotic Haylee, who I only stumbled upon far later, rather accurately:

“Her green eyes dug into me like a knife,” I wrote. “Her forehead was tilted further outward than her chin, and locks of her black hair fell across her face, reminding me so much of a predator fixating on her prey.”

While I never delved into how it was Devia changed those who became entangled in her web, hypnosis would fit nicely, and had I known enough about it at the time I feel certain I would have included it in the story as the means by which she “brainwashed” the guys at the biker bar. In any case, I’ve come to suspect that this is why I ultimately gravitated towards Haylee so many years later. She fit the profile of Devia in the dream to a startling degree and at least physically in the story that it inspired, suggesting that I have been psychologically projecting Devia onto her.

Advertisements

The Flying Phantom and a Dangling Dustbunny.

9/15/17

T’was in the last week of this August and just after eight in the evening when I stepped outside my apartment door. Before I even fully turn around to close it behind me something black zooms passed my head. A near collision, too. Though it caught me by surprise, it didn’t strike me as unusual until it hit me: I’m not outside. I’ve merely stepped into the hallway of the third floor of the complex.

Turning my head, I watch as the bird, bat or whatever books down the hallway at record speed and smoothly banks to the left, towards the stairwell. It was too perfect, too smooth of a maneuver, as if it had intended to turn down the steps the entire time, as if it was well-acquainted with its environment.

Perplexed, I do what I typically do: examine the weirdness only to the extent that it doesn’t threaten my sacred sense of sanity and then ensure both of my feet are resting on solid, practical, mind-numbingly mundane ground by behaving as if it never happened. I turn down the opposite end of the hallway from which it came and make my way down to my car to go to work, wondering all the while whether the whole thing actually happened.

This is the issue, living the life I lead: I feel I have to constantly call any experience of mine that falls even slightly out of the realm of the ordinary into question. Anything even mildly out of whack with conventional expectations brings my experience into question. At least some part of me begins to doubt my sanity, though at times events I make a big fucking deal about in my head or on paper inspires nothing more than a shrug from the people around me when I tell them. I end up embarrassed over having evidently made something out of nothing. Conversely, I sometimes mention something under the assumption that while not conventionally spoken about in public discourse is perhaps a kind of thing relatively common, just not something people tend to acknowledge, and I receive a rude awakening when the person looks at me with a strange, worried, almost frightened look and may even tell me I’m crazy.

The safest waters with respect to confessions of the seeming weird are the people in my life that I know and trust infinitely more than the rest — people like Moe, Channing, Elizabeth and, when I feel confident it will not inspire further worry in them regarding me, my family. I told both Elizabeth and my parents about the bird/bat-black-flying-thing, and I received an ambiguous response with respect to the largely subliminal or unconscious realm of the Underneath — which is to say in the language of nonverbals, tone of voice, and vibe — but nothing short of dismissal as if it was nothing unusual on the Surface, which is to say the direct form of communication people of every form and flavour are well-acquainted with. It was probably a bird or a bat, they told me, just as I had suspected myself.

I had even surmised that, given this was not some hallucination, it — most likely a bat — must have squeezed itself through an air vent or something, and upon inspection I discovered that my memory had served me well in this case, as there was just such an air vent in the hallway, and it was positioned on the ceiling from the direction from which it had come.

No notices had been hung by the doorway, however. No sign that anyone else had seen a damned thing.

I wanted a definitive answer and, as with so many things, I solemnly presumed the mystery would maintain its status and I would be left in the dark forever. When I came home this morning — September 15, 2017 — just after my third shift had ended at five, I had picked up my beer at the Circle K in town, and so perhaps forty minutes past five in the morning. As I came up the steps of the side entrance to my apartment building I saw what I first determined, despite my natural inclinations, must be a monstrous dangling dust-bunny from the vent a short distance from my apartment door. It was the same vent I had earlier suspected the black flying thing must have squeezed itself through.

Fixated on it, I was compelled to take a closer look. It was a small bat, dangling from the air vent, peacefully wrapped up in its wings like a living burrito, sleeping away in the early morn. A grin blossomed on my face. From deep within me bubbled up a beneath-the-breath laugh. I was right after all: it had been a fucking bat. To make sure it was real, I even took a photo with my iPhone.

I like mysteries. I always have. But my interest in mysteries stems from an intense desire to know the answer, to in the very least gain greater understanding if I ultimately fail to determine the truth. There is such a sense of relief when a mystery is solved, when a plaguing question is answered, in the moment when a known-unknown becomes a known-known, that I cannot fathom why anyone would prefer ignorance and come to equate it with bliss. Lust should be reserved for reality, and it is sad that this is not always the case. We should flirt with ideas, but only so as to ascertain their true nature through observation, correlation and experiment. Creativity is a prize to be honored, a talent to be exploited — but if honesty and facts are not the aims, such focus is ultimately dangerous.

Mindless Trolling Mindful.

Those lies
you tell so blatantly,
contradicting
yourself within the context
of the same damned
run-on sentence,

you’re the stereotypical needy child,
hopelessly narcissistic,
jonesing for a cocoon of psychophants
and not merely acceptance.

No understanding.
No empathy.
Devoid of the vaguest semblance
of compassion.

Just build a wall.
Isolate the cult.

Convert or degrade
all those who strayed
from your Kool-Aide, 

excommunicate or eliminate
that wretched resistance.
Given we survive, serve to remind
us of what all we became:

mindless trolling the mindful
as the blind lead the blind. 

The Fine Art of Pissing It All Away.

When people approach me desiring not to spill to me like some atheistic priest but to engage me in conversation, I all too often find myself frantically, desperately grasping for words, trying to ignore the sting of awkward silence as I initially choke, as I fail to say anything at all — though ultimately fill the silence with something stupid and void of true substance.

It happened late Saturday afternoon as I stopped at the dollar store nearby my parents house in the hopes of procuring a graduation card for my sister’s boyfriend. I was going over the cards in the isle when I thought I heard someone say my name, then convinced myself it must have been my imagination until I heard it again. It was a guy I had gone to high school with, and my social awkwardness initially seemed to lead him to believe I didn’t recognize him.

This happened again during the outdoor party at my parents house, where a guy my father had gone to school with and for a time worked with attempted to have conversation with me. He suggested I try and write, draw and self-publish a children’s book for my niece and nephew. Not only does it stand as a good idea, but this was by no means the first time it had been offered to me. Even so, I felt as though I was constantly standing him up — at best, arriving late — when it came to the give and take characteristic of friendly conversation. I wanted to engage but my mind kept leaving me hanging, anxiety rushing in to fill the vacuum. I found myself seeking an exit despite actually wanting to engage, too.

This is perhaps why his suggestion is so dead on: we now live in a world where if I played my cards right I could not only avoid social situations altogether and work from home but even someone as anxious as me could manage to make money off of his passions rather than the kind of shit job I have now — or the factory jobs him and my father no doubt hated but felt they had to acquire in order to support their families. Yet I’m not taking advantage of the freedom inherent in my personal circumstances — namely, my childless bachelorhood — or the technology that provides greater opportunity for me today than there would have been for him and my father, even if they had been neurotic, childless bachelors themselves.

I’ve been pissing it all away.

Or not entirely, perhaps. I did finish my book, after all, though I have yet to try and self-publish it, or even really figure out how to do so. Is it truly the anxiety, or am I just lazy?

How Nora Broke My Heart.

It was about two years ago when Claire, the love of my life, suggested the show The Leftovers to me, which was then, if I recall correctly, at the very beginning of the second season. I was a bit wary at first, as this seemed to a bit too “rapture” theme for my atheistic taste, but after the first episode, I was hooked. Having binged on the first season, I then began watching the second, though quickly got frustrated with having to wait for the next episode, having grown used to watching the show in bulk. My only option was to distract myself, to ignore the show for awhile — which I did quite successfully until a few weeks ago when I finally came back to the series. It had been so long that I felt it was best to start at the very beginning and work my way up to what I discovered was the third and last season of the series.

It was an epic show.

My most beloved scene in the entire, three-season series comes at the very first scene in the second episode of the second season, entitled “A Matter of Geography.”

“Look, this — if we’re going to be, um… We can’t just,” Kevin pauses, considering his words, digesting his emotions so he can better articulate himself, inevitably landing on: “We don’t really know each other.”

“Okay,” she says, with an apparent frown, and at this point I expect her to either get pissed off or tremendously hurt, ready myself for her to make a scene or convey herself in a more extreme fashion by saying nothing at all, and in any case ultimately exiting the house in response. Instead, she does this unexpected and somehow vaguely sexy maneuver of the neck and head and continues with, “What do I need to know?”

And bam, he tells her. Lays it all out on the table. That he’s been walking in his sleep. That he had been taking medication and, thinking that this might be the cause of it, tossed his pills — but then he had woken up in his car in the wood to find that he had kidnapped Patti Levin while “sleepwalking” and brought her to a cabin with the intention of killing her. When he tried to release her unharmed, she ended up killing herself, and so he had buried her in the woods with the help of Nora’s brother, a preacher.

“And nobody else knows,” he was sure to explain.

Just when you thought he was done with his confession, he added — not arbitrarily, either, but as if he were saving the worst for last — three gentle words: “And I smoke.”

Cut to Nora and Jill sitting on the couch across from him, silent and unmoving, the expressions on their faces dangerously ambiguous, reflecting both your hopes and fears simultaneously as you view the scene and anticipate their response just as Kevin would have.

Nora’s response? “I hire prostitutes to shoot me,” she replies, and then turns to Jill and confessed that she lied to her about the gun she kept in her purse, promising to never lie to her again. Looking her in the eye, Jill says that it’s okay, with Nora echoing her words involuntarily in a voice that conveys the extremes of both surprise and relief. And Jill’s response — “it’s okay” — seems to make up for any confession she might have made on her own part, and there was certainly a good deal of material that she might have drawn on. Regardless, it all manifests as the perfect expression of the general consensus in this holy fucking trinity of dire fucked-upness, a fact that became clear when Nora then turns to Kevin and tells him, “it’s okay.”

And yeah, I cried. Fuck you, I wasn’t sober.

So Kevin left out shooting the dogs. And hallucinating Patti, the woman he buried, if indeed that was happening at that point in the series (that’s what I get for indulging in The Leftovers over a single weekend like I was cramming for a goddamn exam). In any case, it was Kevin who really ignited this group confession. He broke the ice of honesty and delivered the heaviest load to the collective depth. He accepted them as he was accepted by them. It made my ocular cavities ooze fluid because it’s all one could hope for in the social sphere: to have a sense of community like that in which everyone accepted the wounds and mutations they fought with every inch of their might to conceal from the eyes of the greater society. They had a tribe in this maddening wasteland where they could be honest and yet somehow still expect support — not through pity, either, but through mutual understanding.

And then Nora just had to fuck it all up.

She had to handcuff him the bed-frame in a not-at-all-kinky-and-therefore-inexcusable way during the seventh episode of the second season, “A Most Powerful Adversary.” Why? Because as difficult as it was for him, he was upfront and honest with her. He told her that he sees and speaks with Patti. Her reaction was to simply condemn him as crazy and take his family away from him as he slept.

He interprets this as her being mad at him for having lied to him, but her ultimate response, as exemplified in the “deal” he made with her that assured a route by which he could come back to her, necessitated him getting rid of Patti. It was not that he had, at least by omission, lied; nay, it was that he had the experience in the first place. She left him because she considered him crazy because he was talking to someone no one else could see — a hallucination, a dead person, it made no difference, and that was plain and simple to see. After all, he had to get rid of that clingy ghost before Nora would accept him again. For Nora to abandon him and — albeit unknowingly — seemingly validate the perspective offered by his heckling hallucination in the process, increasing his trust in this seeming ghost to the point that he subsequently risks his own life in the hope of getting rid of Patti just so that he can honestly tell Nora she is gone all to get Nora back… it strikes me as betraying the trust that seemed to be generated and mutually embraced in the earlier, tear-jerking episode.

You broke my heart, Nora.

Of Spinning Wheels and Skipping Records.

Though it has been plain to me and has, in fact, plagued me for a good, long while, I only recently came to learn there have been various terms for it in psychology: fate neurosis, destiny neurosis, and most recently, it seems, repetition compulsion. In essence, this is an individual’s unconscious impulse to repeat their history over and over again, in many cases while remaining exceptionally blind to the fact.

It appears to me as if there are at least three steps to repetition compulsion. The origin of the skipping record is typically perceived as a “seed story” or circumstance one faced while in childhood and as a consequence tends to deal with the relationship one had with one’s caretakers. One may have been neglected or abandoned, physically or sexually abused, or perhaps suffered under the reign of an authoritative parent. Another dawning situation, as it is with one dear friend of mine, may be a home life that breeds parentification — a process in which the child is forced to take on the role of the parent due to the actual parent’s general incompetence when it comes to parenting. There are potentially endless scenarios for such a seed story.

Whatever the circumstances, there comes a time when the child is no longer technically a child and so she wastes no time getting the bloody fuck out of dodge. Consciously determined, she then attempts to make her own life, but the subliminal aspects of her being, addicted to that familiar story, immediately get the shakes and they quickly intervene. Though she isn’t aware of it, she then finds herself unconsciously gravitating towards people and finding herself in circumstances that have an uncanny affinity with the people and circumstances she had just managed to escape. Like a shadow, the weight of her history appears fundamentally inescapable: the past, it seems, is forever present.

After successfully anchoring herself in the familiar, the phenomenon of transference takes hold, prompting her to exhibit conditioned reactions in her new context and inevitably, through projective identification, generates the desired reactions from the other person or people in question. In this way, the feedback loop creates and maintains the familiar circumstance.

Repetition compulsion can also come in one of two forms, the most direct being what we could call the Remake. If we can conceive of the original story as a sort of movie, every subsequent regurgitation would constitute a remake. I say this because the distinguishing feature of a remake is that it honors the source material, plagiarizing where it can get away with it and striving to pay homage where it must yield to the call for modernization.

The easiest personal example I can offer is Sandra, who was a longtime friend before I finally had to sever the close tie. Part of the reason was her overall lack of empathy and compassion, particularly with me, despite the fact that I exercised such empathy and compassion with her. The second reason, related and more to my point here, is that she was unable to see the Groundhog Day nature of circumstances, particularly when it came to men. She used to come into my room in the house I shared with her and her brother, lay on my bed and spill her soul to me, raw and unfiltered. This in and of itself is not unusual, as even total strangers tend to do this with me. I don’t mind. But over the course of countless failed relationships, I was hearing damn near the same exact story. No matter what part of the story she happened to be in at the timeI could tell her not only how she had gotten there but where it was going.

It should have been for her like it was expressed in that Nine Inch Nails song, “Everyday Is Exactly the Same”:

“I believe I can see the future
because I repeat the same routine.”

But she never saw it. I have often critiqued her for being unable to see beyond her own head to understand others; the truth of the matter was that she seemed utterly incapable of seeing so much as herself. Her deafness towards her own skipping record life soundtrack was heartbreaking and endlessly frustrating.

By no means is this phenomenon limited to her, of course. I certainly see it in my own life — but for me, that was and remains the difference: I see it. If nothing else, strive to gain some degree of self-awareness, for fuck’s sake.

Another way in which repetition compulsion can play out is in the form of Role Reversal. Whereas in the remake the person always plays the ego, the role they played in the seed story, here the person plays the role of their shadow, seeking out or forcing another into their previous position.

In many cases this can lead down a rather dark path: while you seek out the same general circumstances inherent in your core story, you now abandon your dawning role as the victim and put on the costume and mask of the victimizer. The song “Prison Sex” off of Tool’s album, Undertow, encapsulates the essential nature of this, perfectly summarizing the underlying aim with the line: “Do unto others what has been done to you.”

There may be various underlying motivations for repetition compulsion. Seeking out the familiar, no matter how painful, provides a greater sense of psychological security than the health and safety that may be possible, even probable, given a different pattern, simply because familiarity offers predictability, and therefore the illusion of control — and that’s certainly part of it. Also, as has been said in the case of recurring dreams and flashbacks, it may be an attempt on behalf of the unconscious to discharge emotions or desensitize one to the stimulus through relentless redundancy. Conversely, it may be an unconscious attempt to master the circumstance, to find a solution, to achieve resolution.

This sounds an awful lot like the Hindu take on reincarnation, which is to say we keep repeating the same damned cycle, our story, until we ultimately extinguish our desires. Buddhism offers a different take on the matter: one can take charge and work towards escaping the cycle now, within this lifetime, within this most recent adaptation of our recurring story. It involves transcending the ego and, as a consequence, the circumstances it compulsively perpetuates through mindfulness — through witnessing rather than engaging with the mind.

There may be additional measures one could take to escape the chains of their existential echoes, however: creative outlets. Just as our seed story can manifest in our objective circumstances it can also manifest in our music, play, writing, art, as well as in dreams and hallucinations, making us more mindful through the reflection such creativity offers. Carl Jung’s Active Imagination technique could potentially accelerate the process, too.

Nine Years Gone By.

9/7/08.

I. Lazy Stalker Without a Spine.

Sighing out a cloud of smoke, I reflect on how in a way I’m sort of like a stalker, only without the vaguest sense of ambition or the tendency to behave in accordance with conventional logic as a response to my desires. Or are those core elements to the profile of a stalker? Fuck it. Doesn’t matter. I drop my face to the ground and flick some ash from my cigarette, watching it fall to the concrete my feet are resting on. It’s just before my second class of the day, around eleven in the morning, and I’m sitting on the third step up from the patio below Cunningham Hall. I’m uncomfortable, restless, nothing new.

Head up, my eyes are scanning the river of people flowing by on the sidewalk. Just people-watching, mind you. Typical. Really, I’m not looking for her. That’s what I tell myself, but I’ve been known to lie to myself when I feel guilty about the truth. When the internal assertions become a mantra, I know I’m trying to play over some whispering truth, trying to drown it out with a rhythmic lie, so I change my tune. I turn it off. I just shake my head and admit it. Truth is, I’m desperate to see her. All of this is stupid on multiple levels, not least of which is the fact that even if I knew for certain what she looked like I wouldn’t have the guts to talk to her anyway. That firmly in mind, I dig my butt into the ashtray behind the garbage can, walk up the steps, go inside and meander into the lecture hall some ten minutes early. Because, really, fuck this. I mean, I’m not going to find the courage to talk with her anyway.

After taking my seat, I suddenly realize only half of the class is here today. Only those with last names beginning with the letters ”A” through ”L” need attend today, as we were told last Thursday; the rest are to attend this Thursday. We’re taking a field trip on campus to look at plant life. The idea is, as Sasquatch tells us, that we walk to some grassy area on campus, toss a hula-hoop randomly, and wherever it lands we describe, on paper, the various forms of life within the hoop. I’m serious. This is a college course. This is how irreversibly idiotic this class is. If they gave us crayons to write with and had us break halfway through counting blades of grass for nap time, I wouldn’t be all that surprised.

From my chair in the back of the room, I continue to feed my lazy stalker instincts. As Sasquatch gives us the run-down from up front, my eyes scan the back of every female head before me, neck-gazing, looking for her. My eyes keep coming back to one, about the center of the room. Reddish-auburn hair tied back into an almost-ponytail, wearing one of those boxy ball caps; almost the dimensions of a policeman’s cap, but felt, not stiff, and colored army-green. Sexy neck. Relaxed, cool and confident posture, like she’s calmly holding in an atomic explosion worth of intensity. Self-contained, as if she needs no one and nothing, only wants. Wants and knows oh-so well how to get what she wants. And the vibe, even from this distance. No doubt about it, it’s got to be her.

After Sasquatch gives the word, we all shuffle out the door of the lecture hall, out the doors a few paces away from me, through the doors in the vestibule and out the doors right on into the outer world. As I push out the last door, I hold it open behind me and glance over my shoulder. It’s her. She’s wearing those big, seventies-style glasses. Down the steps to where I’d been sitting prior to class and onto the sidewalk below and she’s beside me. Window’s open. I can feel it. She notices me, it seems. Is it my imagination? It’s like she’s waiting for something, anticipating it, but perhaps I’m misreading it. Or misreading the direction. I mean, why the fuck would she be waiting for me in particular to say something to her? You think of all the guys in this class she could be interested in, why would she specifically be waiting for some creepy kid who had sat behind her last week, who she probably, in all rationality, didn’t notice, why would she be waiting for him — for me — to say something? She’s a fox and I’m dirt, I’m nothing. I’m a lonely, intense, withdrawn, fucked-up, going-nowhere almost-thirty-year-old with a total lack of self-confidence which may very well be justified. So I surmise this was just an unprecedented moment of arrogance talking.

Either way now is my chance to say something. Whenever I do say something in such situations, though, all I can come up with in the grips of my growing anxiety attack is either something off-the-wall weird or overly pessimistic. Something that makes it sound as if I’m trying a bit too hard to break the ice, maybe, which just happens to precisely be the case. I’m always so extreme, too intense, especially so in moments such as this. Better to stay quiet, to hold it all in reservation. Better to remain a nobody in her eyes than a somebody to avoid because she sees him as weird or, worse, a total jackass. So I fall behind, let her walk in front of me, figuring if I can’t help but look and take her in I may as well do it from a vantage point where she’ll be least likely to notice it and I’ll be least likely to make her feel uncomfortable about it. I note that she has that enticing hourglass-like figure, and that’s when I realize that she kind of reminds me of Anne. So it’s Anne who has become a yardstick for women once again.

I tell myself to shut up. To just shut the fuck up. Back to the matter at hand.

Usually, we’re cooped up in a classroom. She could sit anywhere; I could never have the chance to talk to her. This is the perfect opportunity and I’m screwing it up. Just fucking talk to her, Ben. Get to know her. Say something, anything. You’ve got nothing to lose and could gain anything, everything. Something would be more than you have.

The professors tell us to split up into groups of five, to follow them and the grad student in groups of twenty. I could go with her, but I don’t. I don’t move fast enough. Purposely. Conventional logic would dictate that if you admire a girl, want to get to know her, want to see her face, you maneuver in order to get into her group when you’re in a class that demands you split into groups during some retarded outside function. I intentionally do the opposite, however. I go with the group going in the absolute opposite direction. Reason is, of course, that I’m scared. Terrified, and so I distance. I always distance. Always fucking alienate myself. So she remains a girl without a face and me, a lazy stalker without a fucking spine.

Typical, really. Nothing new.

II. Smell of Roses.

Way back when, I never used to visualize — or have spontaneous visions, for that matter — of the sex act. I saw a pretty girl and felt that burning, aching need, but there was no imagery to go along with it, just a feeling. An intense inner yearning. A girl would elicit a raging, sensuously volatile internal psychic substance in me, but it would just be a bodily experience. That substance would not take form within my semi-private headspace in motion-picture format. Now, though, now the imagery blossoms in my headspace all too frequently, involuntarily, as some release valve when the pressure gets too high in my body before a sexy member of the female of the species. Now it’s so vivid in me sometimes I can almost taste it, almost touch her with my mind. I know I do this because I don’t have what it takes to get with and ”do” her. I know I’m sublimating. In my mind there plays this action-packed Kama Sutra sneak preview of what could be ”coming soon,” so-to-speak, but never will unless by my own hand because I don’t have the metaphorical balls to exercise the necessary skills to get to the handshake, let alone plot the course from the handshake to so much as a fuck, let alone something substantial and meaningful. What kills me most is that feeling I get sometimes, rarely, but sometimes around a particular girl. Where the visions in my mind, however intense, are fully recognized by me as being more than just cheap, more than just an insufficient substitute, but rather the high-ranking through-the-roof granddaddy of all shame. Where I feel certain that if I only had this girl, just for a night, just for a few hours, and just had the chance to let myself loose on her, damn it, I’d not only make it worth her while but all the shit, every lump in the sea of shit in my life would evaporate swiftly into sweetness, the smell of roses, that all in life would be perfect and beautiful, if only for an instant, if only in a moment in the midst of the perpetual flux of existence. And maybe if I said and didn’t just think so much. Maybe if I did, not merely imagined. Maybe, but alas.

III. Hegira via Illeism.

On a beach with her sister, collecting seashells, her parents off somewhere in the distance. I can see her in the inner eye’s wide lens. She holds a cell phone to her ear, talking to her boyfriend, telling him how much she misses him. How she will be back soon, on August eighth. How she’s going to bring him a photograph of the sunset out here, she says, because it’s so beautiful. She says to him how she wishes he could see it. He asks her to bring him back a tumbleweed if she can. And — get this — she didn’t think it was weird.

Next time she calls him, she’s crying. I can see her through the zoom lens. She tells him how her mother found out that she’s smoking pot and locked her out of the house. How she might be coming home early. He felt sorry for her and thought her mother cruel to be doing that to her own child, but had to hide the simultaneous excitement inherent in the prospect of her coming home early. Every passing second without her was utter agony and he didn’t understand it. He had never felt this way before. And he knew it was silly, he had no reason to doubt her, but he feared losing her. Feared she wouldn’t return. He couldn’t even believe that he had her when it all came down to it. He never thought there would be anything, and now she was everything.

Without her, he was nothing.

A stick figure with skin. A big head, a fat nose that served as a breeding ground for blackheads, a mustache that didn’t feel right to him without the goatee, which his job would not allow him to grow. He wore flannels and faded dilapidated jeans and hid his thick, dark brown hair beneath a black ball cap. He drank far too much coffee, smoked way too many Marlboro cigarettes. Thought too much. Felt too much. Said, did too little. He worked in the kitchen at McDonald’s in a nearby shit-towne. He was a boy on back line, or a BOB, as his girlfriend liked to put it.

His girlfriend. His. Girlfriend.

She was slender with shoulder-length red hair and eyes that changed color in accordance with her mood. Blue, gray, green. Those wonderful, intense mood eyes. Soft lips, soft skin. She had freckles and twitched involuntarily, and often violently when she was falling asleep. There was a tattoo of butterflies on her belly, a moon on her thigh, and a Celtic sun on the back of her neck. Her tongue was pierced. She smoked a lot of marijuana. Since as far back as she can remember, she has practiced what she has come to call candle magick. She rolled the candle in her hands, carved something into its surface, lit it and meditated on it until it burnt all the way down. To end someone’s pain. To bring someone joy. To bring something or someone to her. To extinguish a grudge or get over a heartache. Sometimes when she was angry she would write her feelings down on a piece of paper and burn it to banish the anger. And however it worked, it worked for her. She never learned it, not in this lifetime, not that she could remember. It was a natural part of who she was. It seemed to all be a reflex with her.

She knows how to utilize her pubococcygeus muscle and utilized it when he was inside her. Hugs from the inside. Her favorite flowers were daisies. She didn’t like giving blowjobs but had no gag reflex. She didn’t like the feeling when a guy went down on her. She grew up a Mormon, but had relinquished it and had an intense interest in religions in general. Intense. She was so intense, so mysterious. She was an insomniac and they often fucked themselves to sleep. She worked at Arby’s and McDonald’s for a while; now she just worked at McDonald’s. She worked mornings while her scuzzy, stupid, going-nowhere boyfriend worked evenings. She liked the bands Godsmack and 30 Seconds to Mars. Her parents lived in Barstow, California, the setting of many Tarantino films, and her father worked for the factory depicted in the movie Erin Brockovich.

She left behind two things at her boyfriend’s house, before leaving for California to visit her parents, just visit them, just for two weeks. It was only supposed to be two weeks. He had no photograph of her, not a single one. But she had given him a little ET figurine he kept on the dashboard of his car. He had a blue comb of hers. Aside from the people around him, so few, that remembered her and brought her up, he had no other evidence of her existence. For all he knew, she was a dream that might end, leaving him in a cold, hard reality made all the more cold and hard set against the background of that amazing, beautiful dream if she didn’t come back. So she had to come back. She would, would come back.

He walked around the basement of the house he lived at in Kent with two roommates whenever she called him from California. Right before she left, right after they had sex, she told him what he made her promise never to tell him. Three. Bad. Words. She called him at work one day and before getting off the phone he said those same words to her, those dangerous words he had vowed never to utter again. Three. Bad. Words.

Sometimes he felt responsible for how people he knew got along with one another. There were countless previous girlfriends he didn’t want to introduce to others, secretly, because he thought they might not like her, might not get along. With her, though, there was none of that. It evaporated. He wanted her to meet everybody. No one disliked her. She was an anomaly in so many ways. So perfect she couldn’t be real. The mind couldn’t even manufacture dreams this wondrous. That she existed was amazing enough, but she was with him. Him.

When he was nervous or tense, he bit his lips, licked them. They were always chapped and bleeding. When she came into his life, they became as smooth as his skin. He felt vibrant, healthy, alive. She was the antidote. And when she didn’t come back, the pain was physical. Without her, the antidote, his blood was poison. Life was a nightmare, devoid of meaning again. All the colder because of this cruel joke it had played on him. She was worried about her mother, sure. Her father, sure. She missed her family. It killed him when she didn’t come back. Her boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, that little bitch he was, he’d go on whining about it in his head for years. Reflecting on little snapshot in his memories, the only photos he had of her, locked in his cranium. The showers in the morning. The water they drank after the sex. When she was in pure agony on his bed, having her cramps during her time of the month, and he felt so sorry for her, so powerless to stop her pain, so deep in pain just watching her, feeling her. The way she’d stare down at him as she straddled him in bed, staring at him in the eyes. The candles she would position and light around the room. Their first night. Their last night. A dream. Slope into a nightmare.

The injustice. An indifferent universe.

That kid, that boy, he should just get the fuck over it.

IV. Lament for an Infant.

With a high-pitched, drawn-out fart noise the door opens, closes, opens again as fellow college students trickle in like urine out of an old man’s ding-a-ling — and then in comes this with girl with a stroller. There is no doubt that the annoying door has met its match. You couldn’t hope to miss the obvious displeasure in the wriggling infant she was wheeling around as — he, she; let us settle, for the sake of argument, on the neutral ”it” — shrieked and wailed with such deafening, agonizing intensity you half-expected it’s little developing baby cranium, unable to take it, would have exploded like a balloon filled to capacity with red Jell-O and dropped from a seven-story building onto the cold, hard concrete. The professor came in, doing an admirable job of screening out the obnoxious screaming as he took attendance and went on to his lecture. It seemed fewer of us were able to ignore the auditory equivalent of an elephant in the room as time went on, however, and in fact it took fifteen minutes into the class for someone in the back of the room to finally say to the prof, ”Yeah, uh, I can’t hear you with this baby crying.”

The professor here in Literature in English I, he’s an active old guy, always moving and really enthusiastic about the material it’s his job to convey to us. His glasses sit on the bridge of his nose and he leans down, head beneath shoulders, occasionally staring at a student in particular, and dead in the eyes as if addressing them specifically. He often ends a string of high-powered words with a “right,” sometimes under his breath, sometimes more loudly, but undoubtedly as a subconscious reflex. And either way, it’s his verbal equivalent of a period, less often a comma. He wastes no time jumping on the guy’s comment about the baby, having been waiting and silently preparing it the whole time, having no doubt been irritated with the noise since he walked in the class but reluctant to say something about it himself without prompting. As kindly as he could eh suggested that she maybe take the child from the class until it stops crying and with that she quietly, slowly, solemnly took her portable shitting, pissing, wriggling alarm system without an off switch out the door, held in a nurturing way to her breast.

Having lost his place, he backtracks a bit. The topic had been the reading assignments, The Wanderer and The Wife’s Lament. Pushing aside the religious references, I must say that much liked the content and style of The Wanderer, though Wife’s Lament struck me as little more than a whiny, melodramatic, archaic sort of diary entry. A ”woe is me” passage, if you will. Really, this poem could be the precursor to everything emo. After empathizing that these were two poems, not verse, even though they were rewritten when translated in verse form, he reflects on possible ways in which poems, in general, come into being.

He wastes no time offering the perspective that “god bestows them upon us,” hitting that ball of petrified bullshit, to put it in a graphic way, right off the bat. This was, of course, allegedly the case according to Bede in the case of Caedmon, the cowherd-turned-monk-through-revelation, who created (but not literally wrote, since he was illiterate) his famous Hymn, and this had been our first assignment for the class. In a way, and to a point, I found Caedmon’s story interesting. People would get together in a building, have a feast, pass around a harp to each other and sing songs. Caedmon would always attend these feasts but when he saw the harp would soon be passed on to him he made some excuse and left, for he wasn’t at all versed in the Anglo-Saxon art of song. On one such occasion, he had gone back to the cattle shed it was his duty to guard and went to sleep. There he had a dream that someone appeared at his bedside and urged him to sing about the creation, which, with some reluctance, he eventually managed to do. In the morning, he went to his boss and told him the story, and then brought before learned men, to whom he told his dream and recited his poetry. He was instructed to make more poetry and then take his monastic vows.

Still, I don’t know if it’s simply the material we’re reading that prompts it or some religious viewpoint he personally harbors — for a few reasons, though, I’m increasingly suspecting the latter — but he keeps referencing this Christian god thing and it’s making me wince. Making my teeth grind.

But in The Wanderer, he says, we come across another means by which poetry comes into being; what we might call existential despair, though these are not the words he used. More faithful to the way he put it would be to say that poetry is a product of man’s awareness of how fucking difficult life can be, as such hardship can often ”move” or inspire us (in the passive, impersonal Aristotelian Unmoved-Mover kind of way, it seems) to bleed it all out through pen and onto paper. He goes on to explain how the Wanderer’s condition is representative of what all of us eventually come to face — namely loneliness, isolation, pain, suffering, exile, some sense of homelessness. So one simple thing the poem does is to let us know that we’re not alone in this respect, no matter how much we might feel that this is the case when plagued with such a state of mind and being, as these emotions, thoughts, conditions are universal. Its our human heritage, if not the heritage of all forms of intelligent life in the cosmos.

Aside from merely addressing the issue in the poem’s content or message, however, the poem also provides potential answers to the question of what we might do about this type of human experience. First, it seems to recommend we not be ”too hasty of speech.” This suggestion no doubt derives from a particular code or custom referenced in the text that dictates that one not engage in self-revelation, that one not express ”woe is me” sentiments, at least not in a reactionary way. The poem states that ”no one can become wise until he has wintered into wisdom,” and this seems wedded to the concept that only through silent endurance can we truly ”winter” into such wisdom. One should learn to think clearly, that one should be patient, reflect over one’s experience and think over what one wishes to say, let one’s experience gestate, you might say, before one goes about expressing oneself. This silent endurance of life’s “winter” — life’s pain and loss — makes it necessary for us to ask questions. To gain not merely knowledge, but true insight and understanding. Once such a wanderer has once again found a home with a king and a kingdom, then, once that period is in retrospect, he can feel free to express himself to others.

To illustrate the idea of not being ”too hasty of speech,” the professor makes convenient use of the child that had been wailing in the classroom not all that long ago. He motioned towards the door, trying to display some sympathy for the wailing infant that had been delivered from us through it, saying that though it wasn’t the child’s fault, it was screaming because it was unhappy. It was scared because it was in a strange, foreign environment, and it obviously didn’t want to be here. We aren’t like that child, however. As we grow, we learn to hold that sort of thing in. To ”man up,” as my friend Moe often puts it. While we might be bored in this class, he said, not wanting to be here and waiting for this guy up front to shut up, we don’t express that in the here and now. And while he doesn’t say it, I think our instincts to shit, piss and fuck also apply here, as out in the wild, without any culture, as animals run on pure instinct, we’d exhaust the primitive desires in near-immediacy; within culture, however, we don’t just shit when we feel we have to shit, piss when we need to piss, or pin a girl to the wall and fuck the shit out of her when that incredible, mind-boggling sense of need strikes us as lightning. We hold our breath, in a way.

The poem not only makes commentary on it but also, in a way, exemplifies it. Whoever it was that wrote The Wanderer was using a strategy, a technique that kept this code in mind and delivered the contents in a way that remained faithful to it. It was also based on the awareness that how something is said is just as important as what is said; how we might make effective use of words. Or as I’ve always put it, the package and delivery of a message is just as important as its underlying content; something I could never seem to get through to my old friend, Grim, so many years ago. Specific to the poem, an acceptable form of self-revelation, with the code in mind, would be to pass on one’s experience as if someone else had lived it and expressed it. What the poet does is use passages, which are contained in quotations in the translation, which express the thoughts of the wanderer. Other passages, not in quotations, are of the narrator; the poet himself. This gives us the impression that the poet is not the wanderer himself, but sharing a message he had received from another; the truth may be that he was merely expressing his own voice through the character of the wanderer.

Some girl in the class comments how the Wife’s Lament doesn’t seem to abide by the rules expressed in The Wanderer, and that it does indeed sound like unreserved whining. Indeed, the narrator seems to boldly proclaim her right to whine in light of her circumstances. The girl said to the professor that she was thinking maybe it was that way because women are more emotional than men. He smiled nervously, nodding cautiously, saying, ‘”I’m glad you said it, because if I said it, that’d be an entirely different matter.” He was quick to add, however, that the wife in the poem explained how though her heart was aching she faces the world with a glad continence. She was able to transfer her weeping into poetry in order to maintain that; expressing her feelings and circumstances in words presented a way of dealing with that condition.

By expressing oneself immediately in words as a release valve in order to maintain our mask of strength in life, as in The Wife’s Lament, or by expressing oneself only after enduring the metaphorical winter, after reflection, after the birth of not just knowledge but true insight and understanding — either way we choose to sublimate our existential despair and it’s sweet and bitter fruits — perhaps we share this with others in time, perhaps in literature form. In so doing we add to the wisdom of those that came before us. At the same time, we can all experience the reservoir of experiences piled up by those that came before us vicariously, through such literature, by means of the empathy it elicits. Through their words, we can gain wisdom from specific experiences we never had personally. We can also, at the very least through the universal themes expressed therein, gain a sense of community.

Rumination Station Playlist.

Meditation has brought me to realize, yet again, the rampant, automatic nature of my monkey-mind; that my mental radio is locked on the rumination station. I have been paying extra attention this time, deliberately trying to increase those periods of self-awareness in which I adopt what, in the wonderful world of writing, is referred to as the third person perspective, and what in meditation specifically is referred to as observing, witnessing or witness consciousness. I have come to do this not only for the 21 minutes I sit following the breath every night but frequently during the workday as well, all in the attempts to identify and categorize the shit arising in my mental space.

I also came upon some notes recently which I made during my previous period of mindfulness meditation in which I noted some mental patterns that have thus far escaped my awareness this time around.

Let’s begin with my Radiohead Syndrome, which is to say the presence of this ongoing and frequently disappointing soundtrack to my life. Two or three weeks ago, I listed at least a short list of the songs that echoed in my head during a two-day period. On Sunday, I noted that I at first replayed Sleep Apnea by Chevelle, from their SciFi Crimes album, then the Twelve Days of Christmas, and finally Go With the Flow, by Queens of the Stone Age. The next day I catalogued the song, George of the Jungle, and then Letters from a Thief, another song from Chevelle’s aforementioned album.

Though I had been listening to Chevelle on Spotify through my phone as I cleaned dining room during the last hour of my shift, it wasn’t always the last song that I heard which got stuck on loop in my mind the next day. It could also be triggered by something I saw or heard. One day recently, for instance, I remember having seen a plush Winnie the Pooh doll on the shelf in the break room and as aware as I was, try as I might, I could not, for the life of me, get the Winnie the Pooh song out of my head for a good portion of my shift.

Imagining myself being interviewed (as an artist, writer, musician or for reasons unspecified) has for long been my default scenario for depicting inner dialogue. It seems I do this for self-reflecting purposes and self-analysis. It is significantly different when it comes to what I call my Narratives of Justification, however, where I imagine the dumbest scenarios, such as explaining to someone why I put things in particular places or positions on the shelves while doing stock, talking in a similar fashion to cops who I imagine pulling me over, to my landlady as to why rent is late, or talking to cops that end up at my apartment door because someone smelled me smoking weed.

Other spontaneous daydreams involve fictional scenarios in which I rescue or save people, as in during a hold up in the restaurant in which I work, or when a customer grabs a hold of the arm of a girl on front counter. In any case, I cast myself in the role of either defending people or calming them, sometimes both.

On other occasions I find myself taking an imaginary guilt trip, doing something that inadvertently harms or even kills someone else. I hit a dog, a child, or an adult with my car, as an easy example. If I am unharmed or crippled as well, they suffer greater damage, typically death.

Another form of catastrophizing I engage in is imagining my own death. I am only torn apart by the reactions of others — either their grief or the lack of effect my corporeal departure had on them — not in reference to my own state.

Consistently I have found myself looking back on the present moment from some imagined point in the future, viewing the present as past, the now as later. As one example I documented some time ago, I was sitting at my computer desk, putting on my shoes to go do some errands, running through what I was to do in my mind. I started damning myself for being too lazy to add getting quarters to do laundry to the list — as if I had already gone out, not gotten them, and came back despite the fact that I had yet to leave.

More frequent is my imaginary fighting or arguing — with my mother, my boss, old friends, the fucking prep lady. Even imaginary people in totally fictitious scenarios. I get pissed off about arguments I never even had and I notice it primes me, at times, to have such arguments in real life, or bitch about those people in the attempts to blow off steam and circumvent such confrontations. This is clearly a waste of energy and it just makes my life more miserable.

Then there are the flashback bitchslaps: sudden, intrusive memories of high emotional intensity. These are of events which I feel — perhaps at the time, but surely in retrospect — made me appear stupid, inauthentic or pretentious in others’ eyes. Or the episode may have dealt with me having hurt someone. This may have been done intentionally, albeit while in the grips of consuming rage, or I may have only realized I had unintentionally done so out of ignorance or insensitivity just after it occurred. Far worse, I may only come to realize, or in the very least suspect, that I unintentionally hurt them only in retrospect, when the flashback hits me. Instead, I may realize that I had plagiarized someone else, which makes me feel phony, or that it at least had likely seemed that way to the other person.

The flashbacks in question may have been of events that happened earlier in the day, but may also be incidents that transpired weeks, months, or even a shocking number of years ago. In any case, in toto these flashback bitchslaps deal with me doing or saying something that I fear inspires others to perceive me in a way I find unfavorable.

I immediately, automatically and aggressively try and swallow it down in my mind by beating myself up inside through guilt, shame, embarrassment and anxiety in tandem with automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) in the more traditionally-conceived sense of internal dialogue — “judgements” might be a good label for them. So far in my personal notes, my personal judgments include the following phrases:

I’m such a turd.
I’m such a fucking asshole.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
Why do you get like that?

At some point years ago I began engaging in “thought-stopping”: things you say in response to the negative thoughts, emotions, memories and fantasies that arise automatically in your mind. I often find myself saying it aloud, as if in an attempt to talk over the noise in my head as I cringe inside:

Who the fuck knows?
I don’t fucking know.
Stop it.
I don’t even care.
I don’t give a shit.
I don’t even understand.
Oh, shut the fuck up.
Fuck that shit.

As a consequence, thought-stoppers like those listed above have become automatic as well — which is unfortunate, as thought-stopping not only fails to work but exacerbates the issue, leading to what is known as thought rebound. Pushing thoughts away is no more effective than clinging into them. Where attention goes, energy flows, but also: what you resist, persists.

Evil 23, Deathbunnies and Other Synchronicities.

Analytical psychologist Carl Jung was the first to introduce synchronicity as a concept, variously defining it between the 1920s and 1950s as an “acausal connecting principle,” “acausal parallelism,” and perhaps most popularly as “meaningful coincidence.” It serves as the unifying force behind most, if not all, of what is considered paranormal, parapsychological or psi phenomena, which is to say the effectively hidden connections that allegedly weave together all that is.

During high school I got my first whiff of what synchronicity was, though it was not until I spoke with my friend Channing that I learned of the word or how the particular manifestation that I had been experiencing at the time had plagued others in frighteningly similar ways. It began when I had written in the editorial of the online magazine a few friends and I had begun publishing at the time. In the editorial I had made the passing comment, more or less just another bitter and sarcastic comment of mine, on how I expected to be dead by age 23.

Shortly thereafter the number began to appear everywhere. I grabbed a bottle of cooking oil at work and the number was magic-markered on the white cap on top. One of the manager’s children approached me later in the day and had the number on his shirt. I’d look at the clock and see that it would be 5:23. The next time I’d look, it’d be 7:23. I’d get an order at a restaurant and my call number would be twenty-three.

Only after this began happening did I learn through Channing that others have had the same experiences with this number. In his 1977 book Cosmic Trigger, Robert Anton Wilson writes of the experience where, it would seem, all this shit with the number 23 started:

“In the early ‘60s in Tangier, Burroughs knew a certain Captain Clark who ran a ferry from Tangier to Spain. One day, Clark said to Burroughs that he’d been running the ferry 23 years without accident. That very day, the ferry sank, killing Clark and everybody aboard… In the evening, Burroughs was thinking about this when he turned on the radio. The first newscast told about the crash of an Eastern Airlines plane in New York-Miami route. The pilot was another Captain Clark and the flight was listed as a flight 23.”

Burroughs went on to keep a list of strange coincidences, discovering along the journey that 23 ended up in quite a bit of them. When Robert Anton Wilson heard about this, he began documenting such coincidences as well. The 23 synchronicity was also eventually incorporated into the Principia Discordia, a book that inspired Discordianism, an intentionally-disorganized pseudo-religion borne from the minds of certain members of the drug culture in the sixties. They worshipped Eris, the goddess of Chaos, who is associated with the number five and, by extension, 23.

Though I initially treated it as a joke, over time it’s humorous aura evaporated and it began evolving into a far more sober curiosity and concern. Though many insisted I had been unconsciously hunting for the number — that I was unconsciously seeking it out, remembering when I saw it and forgetting when I did not — my experiences often suggested to me that it was this vile double-digit that was doing the stalking. There were times when the synchronicities got so high and so fucking ridiculous that this explanation seemed quite difficult for me to swallow in all seriousness.

I revisited this synchronicity with numbers yet again roughy a decade later, when I finally began attending college, and it was at that point that it became quite apparent to me that the number 23 itself did not bear any cosmic synchronistic property. After reading up on Douglas Adams, who once attested in his books that the meaning to life was 42, I began seeing that number everywhere as well. And after reading up on the Eastern mala, which traditionally has 108 beads, and watching the television show LOST, which deals with synchronicities involving all the aforementioned numbers and then some, I began seeing the number 108 everywhere as well.

And there was, of course, the fact that this phenomenon proved to extend beyond numbers. This I came to realize shortly after 23 started haunting me. I began to notice that despite the fact that I would talk to different people who did not talk or even know of one another, they would nonetheless bring up the same subjects with me, suggest the same things, make the same observations, pose the same questions, indicate the same ideas, reference the same sources. In rebellion against any semblance of rationality it often seemed as though some force behind existence was pointing towards or away from a particular direction through use of countless tiny fingers: call them omens, warnings, signs.

Sometimes I’d be innocently thinking of someone I haven’t thought of or seen in a very long time and within the day I’d bump into them or they’d call me or otherwise reach out to me. On other occasions, I might think of someone — a girl — not so innocently. Though it had, like that evil 23, first began as a joke, I noticed more and more often that when I had a particularly powerful sexual fantasy about a girl while masturbating that she would contact me or cross my path within a day or two — even if I had not seen that girl in months or years. Though relatively rarely, in a few instances the girl in question confessed to having had a dream of me, often sexual in nature.
For a long while, I thought that telepathy stood as a sufficient explanation across the board with respect to my whack-off voodoo, and in many cases I think this still stands as a worthy explanation. In other cases it just didn’t seem to fit the bill. During college I had milked the man-meats to the thought of a girl I had not seen in a good while and the next day, as I was sitting at a table, she had walked by me on campus — but I was fairly certain she had not seen me, and so it seems unlikely that she had sought me out. I had a hard time chalking that up to mere telepathy. Nor would telepathy account for my synchronicity involving numbers.

Other instances were even more difficult to define specifically. One morning in the Spring of 1999, before my first move to the college town in May, I woke up and recalled a few details from a dream. This was what I often refer to as a “busy dream,” as it was long, drawn out, and involved many characters and a lot of activity. All I could remember specifically, however, was a scene in which I was driving my car into the parking lot of the library of a nearby town I visited nearly every day. In the midst of pulling in, I spotted Felicia, a girl I hadn’t seen since the end of high school two years ago. Her and I rarely spoke, she was not a part of my circle of friends, and to be honest, I never thought much about her. For some reason I tried hiding my cigarette from her as I drove passed, anxious for some reason about her seeing me smoking.

Since the dream fragment didn’t really seem to be anything important, I paid it little mind. I woke up and went about my usual, unemployed daily activities: I hit a few restaurants in the aforementioned town, drank some coffee, smoked cigarettes and wrote. As I circled the town square, not thinking of the dream at all, I saw the library and, on a whim, decided to pull in and do some research on dreams, which I had been researching at the time. As I was pulling into the parking lot, my stereo blasted my dubbed version of Sad But True off Metallica’s self-titled “black” album. After walking into the library, I found my eyes directed at the front desk, where I saw a familiar blond haired girl. I suddenly made the connection with the dream and thought it funny that the girl looked an awful lot like Felicia. As I walked closer to her, I realized that it didn’t just look like her, it was her. Mind blown, I approached her, breathed deep, swallowed, and tapped her on the shoulder. She looked at me. It was indeed Felicia. I greeted her and she asked how I was. A casual conversation ensured, but I could sense that she was put off by my approach and strange attitude, so I cut it short and went about my way.

When I was alone and found my place in the library I let myself digest all of this. My dream of the library that morning might have subliminally prompted me to actually visit the place, as would the fact that I was currently researching dreams. Even so, how in the hell would I, at any level, know that Felicia, a girl I never knew well and had not seen in two years, would actually be there?

Upon finally returning to my car and starting it up, the song that had been playing when I pulled in continued: Sad But True. It struck me that this song was about the dark side, our inner anti-ego, which resided and presided over the unconscious, dissociated aspects of our minds — essentially about what Jung called our Shadow. Might my shadow the puppet-master behind the curtain, busily pulling these synchronistic strings? Subsequent episodes of weirdness not limited to synchronicity have provided further suggestion that this is the case.

Another mystifying sequence of experiences involved what I have come to call the deathbunnies. On July 17, 1999, after I had moved into the apartment with Sandra that May, I was driving my car and, for some unknown reason, reflecting on an incident that had occurred one evening the year before, in the summer of 1998. Channing and I had been hanging out and he had just driven us back to my parent’s house, where I lived at the time, and we spent some time getting deeply involved in conversation while meandering about the front yard.

We had been gawking at a picture in a CD he had bought that depicted a woman clad in black, surrounded in snow-white bunnies, and then had gone on to talk about our hopeless plans to date two girls we were interested in, who happened to be friends themselves. We considered the hopeful though remote possibility that down the road at the house of the girl I liked they might be talking about us in a similar fashion when something peculiar happened. This rabbit jumped between us — though to our eyes the speed and height at which it jumped, it’s abnormally long legs and relatively small body, assured us this was no ordinary rabbit. In addition, it both appeared out of nowhere and vanished in just the same way, and in the aftermath we just stood there, spooked, amazed and incredibly curious.

After we began speaking again, confirming to ourselves what had just happened, we engaged in speculation. Channing pointed out the previously unacknowledged associations we both had between bunnies and women, at least on that particular evening. Not only had the strange rabbit appeared just as we had been talking about women, after all, but there was that CD image we had been collectively entranced by.

Later that evening (or morning, as the case likely was), after he had left, I decided to drive to Dairy Mart in a nearby town to get a cappuccino. Right after pulling out of my driveway, I decided I wasn’t up to driving there after all, however, so I quickly pulled down a nearby dirt road that led to Hades Hollow park. I figured I’d drive around the block, listen to some music and smoke some cigarettes. Halfway down the road, I saw something dart out of the darkness and under the wheels of my car, feeling the hearing that horrible noise as I rolled over it. This disturbed me greatly, for save for finding a bird stuck in the grill of my first car some years back, I had never killed an animal with my car, or at all, for that matter. The thought of having killed an animal, or perhaps having merely hurt it and leaving it there to suffer, struck such guilt in me that I had to stop the car, turn around, go back and look at it to make sure it was dead, to ease my conscience. There was no mistaking the corpse for what it was once it was illuminated by my headlights. However normal in physiology, it was undoubtedly a bunny.

Though I cannot be certain at all why I was reflecting upon that experience that day in July, in the midst of doing so a baby bunny ran across the road right in front of my car. I was sure I had missed it, but was unable to ignore the strange coincidence, giving what I had been thinking about. Further down the road, perhaps some fifteen minutes later, it happened again, and this time the thing had just been sitting in the middle of the road. This was also dodged near death, however. I failed to note my destination when taking notes about this instance, though I did note something daunting on my drive home. In two different locations on the same road — the same locations that I had seen the two rabbits, for all I know — there were rabbit carcasses, each being pecked at by three crows.

Within a day or two, I walked into the apartment to find a lit fish tank on a table in the living room. Confused, I approached it, only to find a baby bunny inside. Soon I learned that Sandra had run over it’s mother while driving her cousin, Terra, and they were doing their best to nurse it back to health. Upon checking the tank when I awoke on July 20th, I found it dead.

Synchronicity is not always predominantly mystifying in character, however; sometimes, it can be downright annoying, as was perfectly exemplified in an experience I had in October of 2000. Though it may have no bearing on the incident that followed, I recorded in my notes that the evening previous I had listened to the “Alpha-Theta Train” program on my Mind Gear PR-2X mind machine — a device that utilizes pulsating light and sound to alter brainwaves through a phenomenon known as entrainment. After waking up, I had tried print something out on my computer and it refused to do so, which left me incredibly irritated to begin with on my way to work. As I drove, I put in a random mix tape. It turned out to be Metallica, which I was not in the mood for at all, so I ejected the tape to put in another and to hear what was on the radio in the meantime. To my dismay, the radio was playing Metallica, which only served to reinforce my annoyance. I put in another tape, hoping that it was Stone Temple Pilots, as that was the band I was in the mood to hear, but it turned out to be Godsmack. Agitated, I took out that tape to put in yet another, thinking that perhaps something better might be on the radio this time. Unfortunately, it was Godsmack. This pissed me off more than it amazed me. After parking my car to write this all down, I was listening to Oleander on cassette, which was finally getting on my nerves, mostly because I was still unable to find a tape with Stone Temple Pilots on it, so I ejected the tape — only to find Oleander playing on the radio.

Over the years it has also come to my attention that the broad-spectrum weirdness in my life often comes in waves which peak in intense clusters of experiences. These clusters can span over the course of months, weeks, and in some cases, even days. In September of 2002, I had just such a cluster of odd synchronicities.

On the first if the month I was driving home from work, for some reason thinking about the Hermit card of the Tarot deck as I made my way. Upon arriving home I was blown away to discover that my mother had bought a deck of Tarot cards that very day. The following day was even more replete with weirdness. I awoke from a dream in which I had put on a jacked made of newspapers. After exiting my room I found that my father was wearing a T-shirt with a newspaper on it. Unprompted, he also told me about film he had made of when I was a kid in which I was rolling around in newspapers lain about the floor. Later, when at work, I also noted that I had not seen a particular regular at the fast food joint in some time. Shortly thereafter, he strolled on in through the door.

Upon waking up on the third, I went downstairs to find mom and some lady talking about yellow finches. Just as they were in the midst of talking about it, a yellow finch stopped at the bird-feeder in our backyard. I then got in my car and left to go to a restaurant to write. As I was driving, a yellow bird flew in front of me quickly. I hoped that I hadn’t hit it, but upon looking behind me I saw a yellow dot in the road. At work, I find the health department had come in. I had just thought about them yesterday.

Some synchronicity would fall into the category telepathy, others more likely constituting clairvoyance, precognition or retrocognition. In other cases it seems as though the mind’s capacity to influence probability is being demonstrated — what parapsychologists refer to as micro-PK. When we typically think of psychokinesis (PK) or telekinesis, as it’s sometimes called, we often envision bent spoons and levitating objects. This is known as macro-PK, but this is not the form of PK given the most attention by parapsychologists in the laboratory. They are instead focused on what is known as micro-PK, which they define as the deliberate or unconscious ability to influence the probability of events to fall in favor of a designated target. After determining the statistical likelihood of all available outcomes of a tossed die, a flipped quarter, or the results of a random number generator, in other words, they would then instruct their subjects to attempt to sway the odds in a statistically significant fashion through intention alone. Such experiments were statistically successful in defying the odds.

For some time it has seemed to me that if what is apparently occurring in micro-PK experiments were to occur on the macro level, what you would observe would not be macro-PK, but something altogether different, suggesting it might be an entirely distinct psi ability — the ability to manufacture coincidence. If conscious intent can cause a rolled pair of dice to have a greater likelihood of coming up as a pair of sixes, might conscious intent also be able to affect the probability of events on a grander scale?

Anomalies Amidst Mindfulness Meditation.

8/19/17, 1:15 AM:

I sat in my chair and decided to set the alarm on my old iPhone for 21 minutes his time. For the past two or three weeks, since I picked up mindfulness meditation as a daily practice again, I had been doing 11 minutes a day, and the last few days 16. Along with cutting back on the drinking significantly, I found it simply made me feel better: more present, more focused, with more periods of equanimity. I feel I’m getting more out of sleep when I actually manage to get some shut-eye, too. Why I abandoned this for perhaps two years or so is beyond me.

I had been noticing the same weird stuff happening during meditation, and even outside of it, that I had the last time I’d routinely engaged in this practice. Though it has gotten better the past few days, I find that when trying to focus on my breath coming in and going out through my nostrils I would experience what I can only call localized, transient, fluctuating dysmorphia. This is to say that one nostril would seem large and close up to my face as the other would be barely noticeable, giving a lopsided kind of feeling. It would never be stable, however; the nostrils would seem to change in size independently and with varying speed, making it difficult to maintain a steady focus. Typically this happens near the beginning of the session, giving way to stability as I keep at it without fighting this illusion.

Another thing I noticed, and which had happened previously, is that as I meditated on the breath I would reach a point where I would suddenly and quite drastically become more aware, my mind became silent. At that exact moment I would feel and hear a sort of crunching sound in my head as I felt myself coming to entirely inhabit the area behind my forehead. It’s almost as if I’m feeling my brain shifting gears. Once seemingly inhabiting the area behind my forehead I would feel a pressure right above and between my eyes as well as within and around my nose, particularly around the nostrils, the area which I’d been focusing on. Since picking up meditation again, this has also been happening while driving, an activity that generally makes me anxious and during which I fight to keep focus, as I’m constantly phobic about something going awry.

Neither of these things — fluctuating nostril dysmorphia or the crunching sound and sensation within the head — are things I have heard happening to people under meditation.

On this particular early morning, however, after a few minutes of meditation, I found that I kept falling into a vivid, detailed dream state and then popping back out again. At first saw a carpeted floor by a door before quickly popping out of it, focusing back on my breath. Next time, I found myself in a similar environment, though I was now sitting on a chair. I bent down towards my feet and then crawled down onto the floor, looking for something. In the process I hit my forehead on the chair — and that was what snapped me out of it again. As my awareness returned to my body abruptly I could still feel the pressure and tingling sensation on my forehead, where I had hit myself in the dream.

When I slipped into the dream state again, this time I leaned down from the chair and picked up what turned out to be a small child, perhaps some rendition of my new nephew, who I then held for a brief moment before snapping back. Each time I came back to my body my awareness was more clear and crisp, and it was easier to focus on my breath, as my eyes seemed fixed behind my eyelids.

This act of popping in and out of vivid dream environments also happened sometime recently, either during my daily meditation sessions or when I listen to Michael Sealey’s YouTube video, “Guided Meditation for Detachment From Over-Thinking (Anxiety / OCD / Depression),” in bed before sleep. In any case, I would see these dream scenes play out at a distance, like from a third person perspective, and deliberately try to push myself into them so as to experience them from the first person, but I kept losing consciousness when I pushed in, only to regain it briefly before snapping back to third person perspective again.