“Ridiculous the waste, sad time Stretching before and after” –T.S. Eliot
I don’t think I’ve ever written about being sad.
I write when sad, sure. Black ink scrawls on paper etch out melancholia across fields of white, staining the pristine with thin lines of morose sighs until some other mood is conjured from the sigils and glyphs on the page.
Certainly, I also type when sad. Crafting something of meaning through these blue-lit interfaces suffices enough to waken in the soul some glint of hope, and then the work is done.
Hope is what we live on, yes? I guess some live on money, or land, but I live on hope and dreams and love.
I’ve plenty of dreams, you know. Books half-written or all-written waiting for the time they can see the light, become glyphs on paper rather than shapes on a screen. Cobbled streets in the rain of memory of past and future, places I’ve left bits of my heart so to return for it, places I hope to leave other bits.
Love, too. Oh, yes. Quite a bit of it. I met a man before Beltaine, a man who lives elsewhere. Words over screens and speakers, weeks and weeks of nightly talks despite distance, and then a visit. Those things aren’t supposed to go well, and I don’t recommend them–a man you’ve never physically met arrives off a plane and spends the next 8 days with you. Typically only in films does such a thing go well.
My life is never a film, but that was fucking fantastic, what felt to be an entire lifetime over little more than a week. Nights around a fire, sweat and fur and flesh, mornings of contented and warm sighs and smiles, walks through forests, along river and stream, thoughts and words and two men striving to get at what precisely consists of the other in this realm and the other.
But he’s gone for now, and I shall soon be, too–at least from this town, until he and I can meet in another city.
Eugene is a strange land, deeply impoverished people living alongside obliviously opulent hippies. I’ve met almost no one without an alcohol or marijuana addiction in this town, and most of those I met without such problems were those I’d met through other means previously.
There’s an unemployed stoner alcoholic sitting in the dark in the living room as I write this, watching a television series and looking hurt whenever I ask if I can open a window to air out the pot smoke. This makes me sad, actually–not really for him (he’s in great company in this town), but for myself, because I find myself being the aggressor in happy-stoner-ville, the thuggish interloper in the isle of the lotos-eaters.
I used to live with similar folks, though the addictions were video games. Not the few hours a few nights a week sort of thing, but the “every moment you’re not shitting or sleeping” sort. When I was depressed, I’d fall into this trap, too. That is, when I was hopeless, I needed something to do with my time to endure its apparently endless march. Fortunately, I got myself out of such situations, but not everyone does, and it’s loathsome to see, even as they watch television too loud or their skin grows translucent from lack of sunlight.
I utterly acknowledge the existence of clinical depression; however, for me it’s always been circumstantial. I don’t suffer from chronic depression except when there’s a chronic condition in my life which is causing it. Those conditions are easily named: poverty and work.
For most of us, to gain the means of survival, we have only one thing to offer anyone in order to gain wealth: our labour, measured in time. I can sell my time to a restaurant as a cook, or to a social service agency as a low-level counselor, and in either case, they’ll compensate me for that time at the lowest rate that I’ll agree to, which in Eugene has been 9.40 per hour.
Had I other skills, my time would be worth more, or I could negotiate a higher wage. But time is time, regardless of what it’s worth to others, because it’s really all most of us have to sell, unless we’re artists or crafters. And if you’re really lucky and start out with money, you can be one of the sorts who buy other people’s time so they can make more money for you.
But most of us aren’t that lucky, and even a lot of us are not even lucky enough to get the chance to sell our time to anyone, though I’m not sure why we should consider that fortune at all. I’ve had bouts of unemployment that utterly wrecked my sense of self along with my body (eating cheap food is kinda bad for you), and so I find it utterly fascinating that we call economic downturns “depressions.”
And, of course, if you’re compensated less than others, you have to work harder to survive, scramble for what you need in order to maintain your ability to sell your time, and so much of the time you’re not selling is being “spent” on recovering from work and doing what you need in order to go to work the next day. I’m in the middle of ten days straight of work, trying to brace myself for a 12-hour shift tomorrow, and well–I’m a bit exhausted.
I’ve got three hours before I need to sleep in order to wake up rested enough to work those 12 hours tomorrow, and that’s not much time, and that makes me sad. I’ve got a tarot reading to do for a friend, I’ll be talking to my lover tonight, I want to watch the moon a bit, and I wouldn’t mind exploring my dreams some. But I really don’t have time for that, because I have to sell my time to someone else so I can feed myself.
And this makes me as sad as being poor.
But you know what else makes me really sad? I’m not just writing about myself, you know. I’m writing about you. You’re doing the same fucking thing I’m doing. You’re in the same situation, the same trap. Your time might be worth a little more than mine to others, and you might have better access to the things that you’ll need to recover from work. Or maybe you’re worse off. Or, you might have someone doing all of those survival things on your behalf, a mate or a family member so that selling your time doesn’t hurt so much. Or, you might be that person doing all that on behalf of someone else, choosing not to sell your time so that a mate can do so and not suffer so much from it.
But we’re all doing this, and this is ridiculous. It’s also really fucking sad. I’m writing while sad, because I’m actually exhausted and feeling a bit hopeless about this, and not just this-as-me but this-as-all-of-us, and I should really be cooking the last bit of my rice and sitting down to read Tarot and then call my lover, and I will, but really–
This is sad. And also one of the reasons I’m so fucking angry all the time, because one grows tired of being sad for lost time and very irritated by resigned assurances that this is the way it must be or has always been.
But I’m mostly just sad.
I hope you’re well. I will be. And hey–let’s stop doing this, yeah?