Rivulets of Thought


Poor Gene Wilder died recently. He was one of my childhood heroes, Blazing Saddles being a lifelong favorite movie of mine. In the movie, Hedley Lamarr, forever being confused with Hedy Lamarr, stated, “My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.” And this is what came to me today following a series of ideas from writing Saturday night.

I got through chapter 4 and started chapter 5. What’s happening in this section of the novel is that the main character and his daughter are traveling by boat up the coast to Sweden when a sort of preternatural storm carries them off to the northwest from Belgium. They are trying to avoid eventually landing in Scotland, due to rumors they’ve heard (this is in a future world), and decide to scout the western shores of Ireland after sailing through the channel between the Orkney Islands and northern Scotland. However, they are jammed by a large Viking longboat (I’ve actually sailed in one once–it was so cool), and something…terrible…happens. The father and the old sailor navigating the boat decide they must now land, and this is where they end up edging up on the wondrous and amazing Cliffs of Moher. I can’t wait to write this scene…it’s very weird and almost trippy, I guess.

In thinking about horror fiction, or ecological weird fiction, that is not really horror, per se, I am investigating the idea behind a charnel ground, which is a metaphor talked about by Tim Morton and Jeff Vandermeer. A charnel ground is a good way to look at death and rebirth. Literally it is an “above-ground site for the putrefaction of bodies, generally human, where formerly living tissue is left to decompose uncovered.” (Wiki) Reanimation and rebirth happen with decomposition. It’s just a fact of life. So wherein horror might be seen with death, beauty might be seen in the aftermath. From the same article linked above, “From a deeper structural significance and getting to the substantive bones of the Vajrayana spiritual point of view however, the charnel ground is full of profound transpersonal significance.” The death of ego.

I had read about some of these concepts before, but found myself writing them accidentally, as the father experiences an event of nightmare proportions and feels himself disintegrating.  This writing also paralleled some anti-supremacy thoughts; I’m thoroughly sick of the news of one particular narcissist potentially becoming the president of my birth country. I’m tired of hearing that one person or one country is more supreme than another. Transpersonal has been defined as “Experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos” (Walsh, R. & Vaughan, F. “On transpersonal definitions”. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 25 (2) 125-182, 1993).

A very rough draft (without spoilers) piece of chapter 5, where the death of ego begins to occur in the father, is:

As the fog burned off, the sun tiptoed across the misty particles and sunk into the ocean. I felt myself go with it, all my selfish entitlements in life–the expectations that I rose above a jellyfish or that I was so significant I was due to be forever granted the things I wanted in life, like Ana and Jasmine. My spirit was sucked into the air, misted above the waves, and began to rain down into the ocean ripples, not submerging but freely floating, as if pieces of me would decompose naturally and feed whatever sea life remained or float and continue to rot indefinitely.

The father character’s ego begins to sluff off due to various reasons, but he’s really had just about all he can take. Will he rise again or will he die on this boat?

A big part of the storyline still needs to happen, and the journey will be kind of bizarre and metamorphic. I thought of a trippy dream scene involving a butterfly, but how stereotypical is that? Maybe a sandworm like in Dune, or something that burrows. I’m not sure yet.

Yesterday was my walking lunch, and today my first run of the week. Yesterday I did an urban hike and decided to walk through a nearby cemetery, as the charnel ground was heavy on my mind. Cemeteries do not freak me out. However, if I were to die, I don’t want to be buried or burned or shut into a mausoleum–I want to be put into a charnel ground after my organs are donated.

I honestly do not get freaked out talking about this. I felt peaceful there, extremely respectful. I got various photos–the feature image one of a pretty red tree over some grave markers. I walked along, reading names on the markers–all kinds of names: Chinese, Indian, Irish, English, German. I looked up at the distant sky merging with the city skyline, which was dark with clouds. I wondered if I had too much of an ego. I don’t think so since I look out far more than looking in.

The night before I had watched the movie A Good Lie, based upon Sudanese refugees from the 1990s to now, many of them children, who walked hundreds of miles–their elders maybe being 10 or 11. I looked at my Charity Miles app, which has been going since sometime in January, and saw 225 recorded miles since then (not counting times I forget to turn it on or don’t get any GPS, like in Ireland or the deep woods around here). I thought about the “lost boys and girls” torn from Sudan’s civil war, and how far they had walked. From Lost Boys Chicago:

They walked for days, then weeks, then months and finally for over a year. They walked anywhere from 700 to 1,000 miles, first to Ethiopia, then back to Sudan, then south to Kenya, looking for safety. Ten and eleven year olds were the elders. Seven and eight year olds became each others’ parents, binding one another’s wounds, sharing sips of muddy water, burying their dead. When the littlest ones became too weak or tired to continue, the older boys picked them up and carried them. Some boys, too exhausted to go on, simply sat down and died of starvation or dehydration. Others lagged behind, becoming easy prey for lions.

The movie really made me think about our/my everyday selfish motivations and how some people have it so hard, harder than we could imagine at all. How my Charity miles (though donated to charity: water) were so lame comparably.  And what can we do? My heart sunk when I read about the humanitarian aid trucks being bombed in Syria’s Aleppo province this morning. Shouldn’t we let in refugees (again going back to Trump’s sickening views–and his son’s huge gaff recently, likening Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles).

I think the key is to become outward-thinking, not inward-thinking. My niece recently said a beautiful thing to me when describing how she explained death to her daughter, who had become afraid of it recently. My niece Kate said:

I said that the cycle of life itself is good–because if we could live forever, why would we try? There wouldn’t be good, no one would strive so hard to live fully, to love and invest in others. The ending of it all drives us to make the most of it. The most important thing, I said, is that we live lives that are good. That we love others, and care for them, and let them know through our words and actions. That a life filled with love is a life worth living, and that death isn’t so scary when you’ve fully loved others every moment of that life. That you can look back and know you loved. 

It’s a beautiful sentiment, including the actions. Love has to have arms and hands and feet. To me, it cannot just be heart-felt, because hearts alone do not go far enough.

See what I mean by rivulets of thought? This is what running does.

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