Confused Signs of Life

I’ve lain low and been quiet for more than 15 months. In the meantime, a lot of things changed, some for the better, some for the worse.

General ill health slowed me down considerably and prevented me from taking part in a conference last autumn, as well as from completing an academic paper early in 2014. I solved the health problems or brought them under control, but that used up a lot of precious time and delayed other endeavours – both important daily routines and larger projects.

The musical project I was part of previously collapsed and disintegrated. My partner, whom I jokingly called boss in an earlier post, transformed into an actual big boss. I was no longer an equal participant and that made the work unbearable and creatively useless. Despite that, my musical abilities are still very limited and things might have gone wrong anyway, so I can’t really predict what might have happened if not for the asymmetrical shift in roles. What’s done is done; that-which-might-have-been remains fruitless speculation: time cannot be reversed.

Because of all this, I’ve been hammering away at the theoretical part of my thesis since, roughly, the end of 2014. To be honest, it’s a tiresome task: one needs to read and digest mountains of abstract literature to produce just a single 15-page chapter of theory. When I’m in the deep of it, the days roll by unnoticed, and the work only ever crawls along, even at the best of times. Despite the snail-like pace, I now have more than 80 pages of completed theory deliberations. This amounts to about 2/3 of the plan so I can write it down as a hard-earned partial success.

In a different academic track, I am working on a paper about warfare and ethics in Banks’s Culture series. The paper might get published sometime next year (in the summer perhaps). If the revisions go smoothly, this could become another small project completed and another publication on a topic that I find very relevant.

Taking control of my health issues was another matter altogether. There was the required running around, from one doctor to another, and a number of small examinations. A CT scan confirmed that I have the very annoying but otherwise not very dangerous condition of chronic sinusitis. This gets regularly exacerbated by a mild pollen allergy; both are under control now. In parallel to this, I went on a diet and lost around 14-15kg, kilos that I kept away by irregular physical exercise – which luckily also prevents back pain and other muscle trouble due to endless hours in front of computers and theory books. Another small victory there.

In the end, my creative writing suffered a lot through all of the above, but has picked up speed once again. I’ve come to realize that putting down strange words on both simple paper and the virtual pages of a computer screen is one of the saving graces of human existence today. If I turn to any source of news, all I see is poverty, war, a million inequalities and persistent, pernicious discrimination, but in art, the mind can change and slowly turn things around. Granted, only very slowly. What’s vital is that slow change may move at a glacial pace but it moves palpably, visibly, inevitably even. This confuses and soothes simultaneously.

Absurd and obvious as it may sound, confusion rises again as the central sign of the times. How one copes with it depends very much on what one chooses to fight for – or on the choice not to fight at all. And me? I’m just as confused as everyone else. Then again, as long as there are destruction on a grand scale and deepening inequalities and divisions, and as long as life still holds beauty and truth and pleasure in seemingly impossible multiplicities, I will be moving about. These might be confused signs of life; barring unexpected catastrophes however, they are robust and stubborn enough to persevere.

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