first in a series of series of declared series

I am so frustrated I could file a class action lawsuit! If, you know, I had a lawyer. And money to pay them if they did not want to do all this work for free because I have a hunch the system is rigged and besides I am the most unreliable witness alive.

Ok maybe not the most unreliable. But my credibility and my credit are both shot. Probably it is no coincidence that they would go down together but if I start drawing connections too sharply I am going to look like I am psychotic or something and that would just–

well, underscore the “with psychotic features” portion of my vast collection of diagnoses. Which diagnoses will come up again if I get that far before I die but I am not sure how far I will even get before the coffee wears off or my eyes start aching so badly that I must stop typing and stare at my feet for the rest of the evening.

Personal responsibility. I have a lot of thoughts about that. Of course in late capitalism the persons saddled with personal responsibility are not those persons the Supreme Court saw fit to fashion out of the inherently lopsided autocracies that are corporations. They can do whatever they want; the invisible hand will guide and protect them in its boundless mercy for profit seekers.

The rest of us though. No such protection.

Still I can fantasize that everyone who espouses personal responsibility would actually be happy to take some on themselves and prove to the rest of us that they do believe this responsibility applies to everyone, not just to those other people who are not able to meet the free-market definition of worthiness.

I had the idea today to go out into the world. Because lately I have not been doing a whole lot of that because when I do what often happens is quite a lot like what happened today. I took my camera; I sort of made a new Gregorian calendar year resolution to go take pictures on my block at least once a week for the rest of the year and to try to see things that I have already seen a million times at least differently enough to take interesting pictures. Part of the resolution included posting them, somewhere, for anyone out there to look at. I hope to be able to get to that in between what may be called dystonic storms if what is going on with me is what I think is going on with me.

Really I think this was just an idea I had around the first of the year and I figured well this is a punctual moment so why not start and call it (one of) my project(s) for the year.

Looking up at an old building with columns and wrought iron faux balconies on the boarded-up windows

Today I took pictures of an old building that I am quite certain will soon lose its beautiful crumbling facade when someone buys it and decides that restoring said facade would cut into profits too much and instead they replace the facade with a facile quote of said facade. Because this has already happened to the two buildings adjacent to this one that were built in similar styles some time ago when architectural flourishes were not seen as excessive or if they were seen as excessive then it was still worth the time and money to carry them out in order to simply be excessive.

The point of my field trip was not necessarily the photography although I was aware this might be the only thing I was able to accomplish if I did accomplish anything at all. My general plan was to walk somewhere where there was a place to sit and then to sit there and maybe write a little bit about one or two of the million things that have occurred to me in the last couple of years and then gotten lost in the ceaseless clatter that is my central nervous system looking for itself or America or some other nostalgia-ridden peaceful ideal and that also makes starting andor continuing to write or think on any of these things into a challenge of modestly exhausting proportions.

I got as far as the parklet outside of a cafe over on Valencia just south of 22nd Street. I had thought maybe to try for the library at 24th Street but my back did not like all the standing still I had done while using my camera so I stopped here. I even got some coffee although I could not really afford it because why not go all out?

So I took my coffee to a parklet table and got myself seated which is itself an involved affair for reasons I do not fully understand except that it might have something to do with how I hang half of the things I think I might need from my bag and so they often get tangled up in each other and me and the dozen or so wallet chains I decorate myself wtih besides. Plus today a camera on a strap around my neck and you would think that carrying a bag would make organization easier instead of harder but no. It gets even worse if I put things in or on a backpack with carabiners and velcro and paracord. Backpacks are made to keep things out of reach until you Get There but I usually need things enroute and I should probably just get a toolbelt or something similar that could hold lots of things without using up my hands and neck.

Eventually though I was seated with my iDevice out and my coffee in front of me and I opened a note-taking app all ready to start. And then I realized that my eyes, neck, and head were all throbbing. At slightly different frequencies and also and this has been going on for a while but I do not notice that much here in my house because I guess I do not look down much at home if I look down that is if I bend my neck rather than, say, my waist in order to see something below my current horizon line then my head starts to ache or in this case ache worse. My neck muscles apparently do not like to be stretched that way because the ache starts in the back on one or both sides of my cervical spine and apreads from there to my temple(s) and forehead(s–oh wait. I only have one of those!).

This can be annoying when trying to use an iDevice without holding it up so that I can look directly ahead at it. Holding the iDevice up in that way makes my shoulder muscles angry if I do it for too long especially if the reason I am doing it is because the muscles in my face are angry because they will just spread the love on down to whatever part of me tries to do anything but remain still and as relaxed as possible which often is not at all possible but you have to try anyway if you want to be able to do anything at all the rest of the day.

My nose was twitching. Not so that anyone could see it but some nerve in my right-nostril-flaring muscle(s?) was unhappy or alarmed or something and so sending a repeated signal to a tiny bit of that muscle to contract and then shiver at about 70Hz or so for half a second. A half second of rest and then another signal. You might say it was on a 70Hz over 2Hz sort of signal. Or the other way around.

I don’t know which.

But most of the muscles in my face twitch for short periods at about 70Hz and in the night when it is quiet I can hear them, you know, from the inside, through whatever bone is between the muscle and my inner ear. Because my jaw is trying to shut itself with great emphasis much of the time and with varying amounts of force fueling that emphasis, I can only tell if it is relaxed if I stop hearing it strain against itself. Sometimes this means my jaw can be fully slack, but it usually finds rest somewhere between clenched tight and teeth not quite touching. A point of homeostasis between warring muscle groups, always at a slightly different length of the arc that defines the full range through which my chin can move all by itself. “Slack” jaw for me actually requires continuous muscular effort against the contractive forces almost always exercising themselves. And this generates that same hum slightly higher in pitch than the familiar sixty cycles of AC power. Or wherever those sixty cycles come from. Wall socket I am pretty sure but don’t quote me on that.

My eyes do not hum. They just ache if I try to swivel them upwards or sideways. You know, in their sockets. Not moving my head. Not all the time but if my nose or cheek or eyebrow are twitching it is usually the case that my eyes are not wanting to do any work at all other than the heavy-lidded unfocused meditation gaze at forty-five degrees of nothing. And so that is what I let them do even if I am not formally meditating right that minute. In fact this whole symphony of muscular restlessness will sometimes relent of I meditate on the spot. Or at least I can keep it toned down a little for as long as I look down with my eyes half-closed and my neck absolutely straight or even bent back slightly. If I wait long enough I can say I was meditating even if I was just waiting for the storm to pass and trying to think calm relaxing thoughts to help it on its way as well as to retain my own composure for another few minutes.

Klonopin can help a bit too, so I took a quarter of one and washed it down with my coffee so as to maybe counteract its sleepier-making effects. Oh and also water. Especially if I have eaten recently, half to a full liter of water can hurry my face along towards placidity. Of course then I will be hurrying myself along to the restroom soon enough but I know where all the good ones are in my neighborhood plus if all else fails I can just use the one in my therapist’s waiting room I mean hallway.

And so once the Klonopin and water and coffee were administered I sat somewhat Buddha like in the parklet chair with my head facing forward and my eyes down. People walked past with great commotion of noise and light. They say that the eye thing–if dystonia is the cause or rather the effect become a cause of the twitches and contractions–is a slow spasm of the eyelid muscles, but that does not explain at all why sound becomes all clanky loud and light all knife-edged bright while I cannot look at anything that requires eye muscle movement of any kind not just lid-raising.

In any case. I managed to type two paragraphs into my iDevice eventually but that was all my body would let me do, so I got up and walked home after getting my bag and my jacket and my camera all tied on in the right places. I rifled through the things I keep in my head to write for the one that would be a useful tangent for the story I keep saying that I want to write which is my own story of which there are thousands if not tens of thousands or more and it hit me: fucking class-action lawsuit! The mess I have been in the last several however manies is one that others share and not one of us chose to place outselves here.

But against whom? I start to make a list:

Jack Chick, most definitely, or whatever he left of his little evangelistic comic empire.

The Southern Baptist Convention?

How far back into the multiple, ramified chains of events would one want to reach?

I think the statute of limitations has passed to try to find the dude who raped me.

Not my brother. I know where he is.

The other dude.

How about a class-action lawsuit against the whole of compulsory anatomically essentialist heteronormativity? Who precisely is responsible for that?

Billy Graham Industries or LLC or Incorporated or however his offspring continue to make money by threatening the masses with the Lake of Fire. Oh, sorry. This one belongs up there with Jack Chick. I would not say the Grahams are completely to blame for the heteroassumptions into which they were all born.

I am refraining from naming what might be the most obvious entity to sue if the symptoms that started as soon as I stopped taking Zyprexa and continue to this day are actually somehow even in the most tortuous of ways connected the drug itself or its method of discontinuation. I will just leave this here though.

OK this was going to be a short intro? And I was going to write the story of why Jack Chick is the first culpable party that sprang to mind upon imagining financial compensation for chronic daily annoyance? But probably I have lost most of my audience already so I will try that a little later with some luck and Klonopin and water oh and lots of just. breathing.

 

 

midday of the soul

No matter how early I get up, I cannot stay ahead of three pm. No matter how early. I can get started two hours before sunrise and still three pm will catch up with me even when I have been running flat out needles pegged westward since jumping out of bed and into my shoes. Three pm never approaches any faster or any slower than it has before or will again but always with just enough hurry to overtake me with relentless unconcern almost exactly like so much boring clockwork. Resolute and implacable and without a trace of regret for my alleged peace of mind: three pm neglects even to pause in the face of the shining virtue into which I arose with the first birdsong of the day.

The exercise. The daily gallon of water. The plant-based protein. The modest bedtime and the washing of the hands every single time you visit the toilet. Three pm respects none of these and nothing you can promise it will keep it at a distance. Deep sleep: three pm does not care. Sorting the plastic into recyclable and not: three pm is not impressed. Scooping the cat box daily: three pm never looks at the cat box and expects you to have scooped it twice yesterday without anyone having to ask.

I have experimented with studied patience. Watching. Listening. Taking no action other than that required to remain conscious. Three pm arrives and then three pm is here or rather three pm is whatever three pm is and then without a beat three pm continues on and three pm oh one arrives having approached also for some time and also continuing to stay for no time and all the time I may have left would not be sufficient to chronicle all this passing exactly as it passes as it does so without notable features so from there you will have to imagine how it goes. How three pm goes and then three pm oh one how that goes and whatever might be said to go next or after or then or now. If outrunning three pm is not possible neither is waiting for it whether with patience or resignation or some imagined immune response to the repeated exposures any earth-borne creature must undergo to that which three pm denotes. It passes, leaving nothing, taking nothing, saying nothing, and changing almost nothing almost as to not change even to the eye fully-clothed watching for half a century now.

I have tried taking three pm apart and I have tried to take apart its passing or any other passing for that matter–and if it makes it easier to understand what passing means use time instead although to do that is fairly circular and non-explanatory but it may be more comfortable which is often all anyone really needs at three pm to be made comfortable or to become comfortable or somehow otherwise prone to comfort. Passing falls apart all by itself with only the touch of a glance into the possibility of change and then change as change and then the consequences of change and the memory of the possibilities and the realizations and the consequences and also some tendency or other to measure how slowly or quickly change occurs as though there were a fixed and unchanging backdrop against which we could line up and compare the different rates at which change goes from one somehow inferable moment to the next.

That we have never found such a backdrop has not stopped us from devising clocks and sundials and water wheels and hourglasses and various opaque structures fashioned around some space or another sometimes two spaces and a surface for the reflection of light or shadow and upon which the sun will shine at a predictable angle for a single moment out of all the other moments. There are other sorts of mechanisms and procedures that do more or less the same sorts of things that is make of the acceleration and slowing down of change a quasi-entity that can be measured using a single scale no matter where one applies that scale that is no matter where one is able to locate or stipulate the entity by separating it from the change it is supposed both to enable and contain and then apply the scale to it–or enumerate it as consistently quantifiable while also independent of change.

Otherwise how would we know it was enumerated consistently if that could change at any time.

When I am done with all that three pm although theorized into practical nonexistence remains insistently. This three pm and all the other three pms are not anythings I can describe. They are side effects of one or several desires to measure or to parse or to record or to predict or to regularize other desires and other forces and other impulses without discernible origin all of whom might otherwise wreak change without warning or at least without consistency that is the warning may be always in effect but the exact order of change unknown and unknowable until after the change or changes in question have already occurred and the dead and wounded sorted and counted and sent for repair to a place where appropriate practices are practiced or for return to the elements through one or more of several conceivable routes.

If in the wake of this three pm–this one always approaching–lies every other three pm that had already passed when this three pm did so, this three pm does not notice or care. If this three pm were to have the power to do so this three pm would disclaim any relation to the other three pms even as they follow quickly and emphatically in all persistence despite the other three pm’s once having been followed by this three pm.

Spatial metaphors can only go so far before they drop off the edge of the world or something.

Not that I can speak or disclaim for this or any other three pm I would not even be able to guess how to go about imagining how a side effect of a tendency would begin to speak much less what it would say so when I write that three pm would disclaim any relation to the other three pms what I might mean might be more accurately stated that this three pm is as far as I can make out nothing if not indifferent. So indifferent it is that I can only see it or notice it or remark it after I have myself posited it there in that approximate place–for lack of a better way to clear out room for it–where I then find it.

The one three pm and the other three pm and the other other three pm all run together. That glare in the middle: a dispassionate sun hangs from an uncertain meridian where it unloads everything it possibly can without mercy for us or relief for itself over and over and over and over and over.

Three pm was never my idea. I was handed three pm already fully formed. From there it has solidified in several directions and begun to decompose in several other directions and in several directions besides these it has broken down into unrecognizable components or rather other ideas that are nothing like three pm or noon even or midnight or anything I can think of that has anything in common with three pm or noon or midnight or anything.

As difficult as it is to pick out three pm from some of these angles and as noiselessly as three pm approaches at some of these times it remains as unmistakably three pm as it ever has. It bursts through the blinds no matter how tightly drawn its disingenuously pleading voice well aware that it can continue to plead for at least one moment longer than you can continue to refuse it admission. The plea is its alibi its cover for the nearly absolute power at its disposal should its plea falter but it never does or that is it never did I always gave in at least one second before it had had enough.

I have tried sleeping through three pm with some success insofar as success might consist of not noticing three pm as it approaches and passes and approaches and passes but you will note or I have noted that sleeping does not fend it off.

Sleeping does not prevent its passing nor its receding into the folds of remembered and forgotten three pms or thereabouts.

Nor does sleeping prevent any of them then from reverberating with the boredom of headaches and motion sickness and diesel exhaust and the ride home where hats were hung and heads above the hats were hung and swords above the heads were hung and still hang today despite protestations that no sword has ever been brought into the house.

Which is why nobody goes home anymore.

But three pm will pass whether or not anyone is home and three pm will pass whether I try to pretend I do not see it when I am at the store or when I am at the park or when I am at the library or when I am at the doctors office or when I am in my room which is not the same as being at home my room is much less far less dangerous than is home. My room is the familiar collection of rocks and sticks and needles and dirt and old hair and cast off skins all worn smooth and dry and painless to touch. It is the modulation of heat and noise and light down to amplitudes that do not blare. It is the coincidence of mammalian rhythms and temperate latitudes. It is the stamina of wood and metal and mineral against casual intrusion. It is a modest supply of tools and instruments that can be used to do things or initiate processes that have no utility and no exchange value on any of the most pressing markets neither those by now compulsory nor those remaining optional and so in most modern senses of the phrase none of them follow from honest labor. If the things made or processes initiated have any effect on anything it would be to act on time and space and materials and forces in such a way as to deflect if only at the very most oblique angle such other times and spaces and materials and forces as three pm and heat so deep it piles up in great waves all the way to the sky asserting its persistence: a persistence just as infinite as it has to be to obtain your resignation to its inexhaustibility.

◊ ◊ ◊

I am up early today.
I will outrun three pm with the enthusiasm of six am resurrect and reanimate.

Nothing is impossible until at least noon.

(ex) teaching manifesto

I was trying to write a blurb to offer my services as an educator on gender and on transgendered experiences in general, and I came up with the following. It will have to be condensed considerably to fit on my brochure/web page/press kit. But:

I believe that one must approach questions of how our ideas about gender–or any other conceptual category for human experience–are woven from cultural and physiological circumstances with a very sensitive eye for complexity and subtlety. That certain biochemical realities are going to crop up to worry the social construction of gender is, I think, inevitable. But at the same time, one must be careful not to universalize the ways in which one experiences seemingly irresistible physical constraints. For those constraints not only manifest themselves differently in every person, due to both biochemical and psychosocial variations across individuals; but what seem to us like brute physical facts are always already interpreted “brute” facts, from the moment they emerge out of the indiscernable seam between experience and language into discourse itself. This has happened prior to the moment we even begin to speak of “the somatic” and before we can recognize bodily experience as experience.

I think that one can point to neuroplasticity as one manifestation of this almost prelinguistic coding; without appealing to knowledge that I do not have of neurological processes, I can say that even at a relatively popular level of understanding, it has become clear that the environment, or rather the events that make up an environment, leave physiological traces of varying permanence on our neurological structures. A cursory reading through non-specialists’ literature on the effects of trauma on child development, for example, will make clear that the neurological body is itself prone to physical alteration by what happens to it from its earliest development in the womb, and that environmental “inscriptions” upon our biochemical processes are so immediate that they begin long before we begin to call ourselves “I.”

Whether one begins analyzing the effects of “nurture” on “nature” at the level of neural plasticity or the level of conventional, learned naming of affect, a number of things seem clear to me from here. One is that somatic phenomena and their cultural interpretations are entangled at a level beneath conscious awareness, in ways that are unimaginably complex, and that this occurs not only before we first say a word about them, but before we consciously experience them. Another–and I cannot stress this enough–is that there is no quick leap from recognizing this entanglement to the idea that somehow we have unlimited agency to choose whether or not to “agree to” or “follow” cultural interpretations of the physical. For we receive the physical as already encoded once it reaches conscious awareness; thus its irresistibility is already a cultural irresistibility, but no less irresistible for being cultural. There is no hierarchy of compulsion when speaking of nature “versus” nurture; they are intertwined and cannot be separated out to an extent where any such hierarchy could be assigned.

Of equal importance is that in order to address the experiences of another, we must humble ourselves before their complexity and before our own. We might use what we know of our experiences to empathize with another, but it is imperative not to universalize those experiences, and not to disregard or try to dispose of those differences that will always exist between discrete ways of getting along in the world. This is something I think one must strive for whether one is working in relationship with another individual or with a group of people, and especially when we find ourselves dealing with a conceptual class that is supposed to refer to a specific type of person.

In this latter case, complexity is compounded by the realization that conceptual classes are also cultural productions involved with several–sometimes potentially infinite–bodies at once, and that rarely is a particular person given the choice of opting out of classes assigned to them. Thus a feedback loop develops in which being assigned to a class determines–but in a complicated way–certain environmental effects on the body; those effects then have extensive cognitive ramifications affecting how a person will react to their apparent belonging to a particular class, which will then have external consequences which will have somatic consequences, and the cycle repeats, repeats, and repeats. It is here that much cultural ethical work needs to be done to reduce the suffering that emerges at various eventful points in the cycle.

At a pedagogical level, I strive to encourage students to approach their experiences ethically in this way: to understand that they can use their own self-awareness to empathize compassionately with those whose experiences they do not explicitly share; but more importantly, that this empathy need not–and cannot–be an imperialistic, appropriating empathy which disregards differences in experience in order to function as empathy. To teach students to be aware that one cannot completely understand another’s experience, but that, nonetheless, compassionate empathy is still not only possible but necessary, is one of the most–if not the most–compelling aims of education in the humanities, in my opinion.

In practice, this means that my own lectures are often exercises in trying to ascertain what holds us in common to each other–rather than what we hold in common with each other–without demanding that we conceive ourselves as identical to one another in any way whatsoever. That we cannot ascertain, precisely, what holds us in common to each other is part of what I try to convey–and also that this is not an allowable excuse to disregard the ethical consequences of being so held.

Whether speaking about my own experiences with abstract ethical theory or the everyday concerns of living as a transsexual in the very particular places where I do my living, I strive to make connections between lives apparent without attempting to make every life completely cognizable by every other life. Thus, in that uncanny way in which every paper one writes from English 101 to one’s dissertation often ends up talking about the same thing, I find myself almost always lecturing on ethics, whether I am explicitly explaining Levinas’ thought or reading a poem about the perils of choosing which public restroom door to enter when presenting as vaguely gendered.