Archive for July, 2012

Transits

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

It’s been long enough, and I need to shit or get off the pot. The “pot” being some sort of public inertia. The “shit” being this blog post. So please remember to wash your hands after reading.

Fiction writing has slowed and crawled, mainly a victim of life. I don’t want to be one of those writers who sacrificed family for the intimations of career, so the free-time priorities have centered on hanging with my boy, doing home stuff. Meanwhile, I have backpedaled into some sort of journalistic sideshow, writing about Scotch and nerdy stuff. And I’m learning Ruby on Rails, just to keep the programmer partition of my brain active.

Also, I have poked out from the shell a few times, then reeled back in.

What? An explanation. Remember the transit of Venus? Some folks paid attention, and some people went all-out bananas. Astronomy used to be a juicy topic for me, way back when I had a cheap telescope and the vague notion that something might be out there. Later, I became less inclined to stare into the astral heavens. For one thing, my vision has been on the steady decline, so I have to wear glasses, which results in a sort of 3D theater experience where many things in the center of vision look great, while the periphery, the zone that really helps define giant depth and infinite possibility, is destroyed. So I don’t look up as much as I used to. Also, in recent years I have drawn my world inward, from city to neighborhood to house to bedroom. I have the soul of a hermit and the temperament of a curmudgeon, which means I will return to this earth as a hermit crab. Hermit crabs don’t care much for the great beyond (I know, I had a pet hermit crab when I was a kid – that was my pet), and don’t want to be reminded that the security of the nest is a simple fallacy, squelched by the vast sky.

So I was mildly interested in the Venus thing, but not too concerned. I mean, I don’t exactly have a religious faith, but I also don’t need to see a planet traversing the sun to understand the profound size of our solar system.

Our neighbor, though, was generally into it. He set up a telescope and rigged it with a digital camera, so we could use the camera display to live-view the silhouette of Venus against the sun. Checking out his rig was nearly as interesting as witnessing the transit. And it was cool, and I felt better for having seen it. Beyond that, I had a chance to chat with this interesting guy, to exchange more than our usual five or six words.

You see, the five- or six-word exchange has become my norm for chatting with neighbors, family, and generally anyone who I don’t see on a daily basis. And many of the daily people, such as co-workers, are subject to my multi-paragraph monologues. I enjoy writing about characters, constructing imaginary conversations, but, in the face-to-face, I suck at it. Sometimes I just don’t think fast enough, can’t process it all. Other times, I’m just not attuned to the general wavelength, be it from an individual or a group. It often results in a feeling of profound loneliness in a room full of people.

So we talked a bit, escaped my normal constraints, and that was about it. No breakthrough, but it was pleasant, and I felt, well, normal. The next day I had lunch at a cafe, alone, and sat at a bench in the front window, watching people stroll the sidewalks. And that was when I was blown away by the transit.

The transit of people, our passing and eclipsing of each other throughout the course of a day. Each person is just as complex and vast as the solar system, but the frequency of our interactions, from physical proximity to actual conversation and engagement, multiply that complexity into fractal beauty. I might not be able to keep up, to hold a conversation that, at some point, doesn’t collapse or stagnate or flip into monologue, but I can sit and watch and appreciate the privilege of being human, of being allowed to experience these rich worlds contained within each person, expressed through dress and composure and gait, through humor and anger and ignorance. These transits are happening all the time.

We are marvelously complex.