We dream what dreams we can afford


Two weeks of chronic headaches, that eventually made work on a computer physically unpleasant, leading me to stop answering email (though the intention is still there), hardly bothering to read websites that before I regularly read in order to all the sooner turn the machine off, and not drift off into hours of aimless website reading that gives rise to yet another headache, has naturally made me wonder about this whole thing. When I type I don't actually look at the screen a great deal, though the drone of the CPU fan is still there. I have sat for hours thinking about being caught up in some activity I no longer understand the meaning or purpose of. Some people say they like reading what I write here. It means something to them. I suppose that is important to me. But frankly I grow increasingly weary of this entire routine, the headaches have simply enforced a retreat for a while. Clearly I still feel a need to express something or other, or why else would I turn this damn machine on at 5 in the morning to record some thoughts about nothing I can really engage with. Already I can feel the pressure behind the eyeballs, saying hurry up, get it over and done with, you can't rely on drugs to keep the pain away, you must change the way you do things, your values, turn everything on its head.

The web, and people constantly chattering away, or chuntering away to themselves perhaps, still goes on in our absence. I have long expressed a kind of two-mindedness about the web. I have expressed a distaste for internet addiction, how our lives slowly seep away their reality to be supplanted by some grotesque cyber-state we mistake for networking, a bonhomie with friends one has neither seen nor heard, who seem as good as friends and acquaintances in the real world, and after all they are in the real world too, it's just that all they really are to you are electrons, words in an email, without even the distinguishing mark of the pressure of a hand on paper, the loop of a 'g'. I guess we have just got used to a different kind of relationship with some people, and now accept it as normal. Yet how quickly it all disappears when the act of switching on your computer becomes physically difficult, and all to do with a computer becomes a tedious chore and, at worst, something that makes you feel sick and gives rise to sharp pains in the eyeballs.

It's something to talk about all right.

This week I have been reading Michel Houellebecq's novel Platform, which has been lying gathering dust since I first mentioned buying it with great enthusiasm here in this journal, some time or other I can't be bothered to discover. I have been waiting for a time to begin it. But in practice my time was bound up doing work on the PC, I just happened to have been doing an awful lot of web-design stuff before the headaches began. So out of boredom and nothing to do, in the silent shade of the switched-off computer, I began to read it. I haven't read a novel for a long time. The sunny days when I might have read it in the garden are all but gone now, I seem to have spent more of that time than I would have liked sitting at a computer reading some fool whittering on in his blog on the other side of the world, or pursuing at great length some vacant need to learn about yet another fucking metatag to stop some other fucking web-robot dead in its tracks, stop it doing something here that I didn't like it doing, telling myself I enjoyed learning about all this stuff, this never-fucking-ending stuff that has been giving me headaches.

So, in a way, the headaches gave me what I wanted. A break from it. It's weird how quickly one can realise one no longer cares, about much, sometimes about anything. Even the yearnings I used to feel seem dulled. Houellebecq had an interesting line: 'We dream what dreams we can afford…'

There's a lot of truth in that. I've been thinking about it, pacing the room, sitting on my cushion, the two things I probably do most in my life (the rest being excursions from the norm). We have dreams that we think we will never achieve, and yet those dreams have to be within our means! When I dream of travelling the world, I dream it in a way that may be possible, in a way that could even be possible right now, not in a way that would require me to win the lottery. It's strange to think our aspirations are curtailed in this way, since an aspiration is by definition a going beyond our present circumstances. Yet we go beyond in a way we think we can manage. Ludicrous really.

Of course, when you write you can escape this to an extent, since to write you don't need much. A paper and a pen will do. Yet how much can I really manage to write with paper and pen these days without the thought that at some point this will need typing up, this will need cutting and pasting and rearranging and knocking into shape. Nietzsche apparently had few possessions. The clothes he stood up in and a trunk. The trunk contained paper, pens, and ink. Maybe a change of clothes. He would haul the trunk onto stagecoaches and travel between hotels, staying nowhere very long. Everywhere was just a place to write, a different view from the window made a change, and no-one who knew him very well around the place. Hard to imagine writing that much by hand these days. Hard to imagine even writing that much. That much good stuff at least. Anyone can churn out trash, well, no, that's not true, I can't, unless this is trash. Always possible it might be.

But I'm getting to be beyond caring about a lot of things. A huge indifference settles on me like morning mist into hollows, into the cups of flowers, condensing into a lack of drive. Some people who read me I'll admit I am quite repulsed by the shallowness of them, it makes me wonder who indeed I write this for, who I have ever written anything for. Ultimately, I write it for no-one but myself, I am talking to myself. I am one of those people who when working in an office liked to spend their lunchbreaks alone. I do indeed spend a great deal of my time alone. But even now I am not alone enough. Probably, in time, I will regain some sense of who I am, and the distant din of the chatter of feeble minds will die down, but drive and ambition seems like a lost continent. I am not even looking for a solution, an answer, any more. Not even contentment, I seem to have gone beyond the need for that. I believe I still have a need for expression, but I tire of knowing I am read, I tire of wanting to know what people think of it.

I don't think I realistically understand any of the things any more that some suppose me an authority on. That's not too bad, it seems to evoke distant memories of something read in a book of Zen long ago, when I had ambition. That guy who tore up his treatises on the sutras when the tealady asked him which mind he wanted to refresh and he realised all his learning was of no help. In some ways it's surprising he allowed a smart-ass tealady to belittle his learning and knowledge, but on the other hand I don't suppose he really thought the tealady any kind of master, she just added the straw that broke the donkey's back. Why indeed carry around all this knowledge? Why tie yourself to a dead stump? Change is happening for me, but then again change has always been happening for me. For a guy who's fuzzy-minded in his own terms I can't help but notice I have a clarity of mind few seem capable of reaching. But still, it's no solace for me to shine merely by comparison with a dull crowd. That's why I do have some kind of drive left to me, a drive to perpetually escape, to perpetually move on. Doubtless I'll still be here with this same drive in years to come. Change is always happening for me. I've already said that.