What did I used to do in summer as a kid?
I have no idea. Literally no idea. I have one or two fleeting memories—images, more like it.
© Aron Hsiao / 2000
There is a room with a north-facing window that overflows with sunlight that somehow fails to remedy darkness. There is a cedar fence. Green grass lies beyond. There are some waterslides. There is a picnic table in a canyon somewhere. I don’t know. Not much more than that.
The summers of childhood are a blank to me. I don’t have any “fond memories” of them. I don’t have any memories of them at all.
I have a feeling that all of my childhood summers passed as this one has—rapidly and imperceptibly. I have no idea what I did this summer, either. But it’s over nonetheless.
I’ve been in a bipolar emotional state about fall the last few days. I veer wildly between a deep distaste for the reality of fall’s arrival—not usual for me—and a kind of intensely sweet romantic sickness that’s bound to be let down by the banality of the actual days but that’s pleasurable nonetheless—usual for me at this time of year.
The fact that there are moments when I’m not okay with fall’s arrival this time around has something to do with the fact that I don’t know what happened over the summer. It’s vertigo, in a way—the vertigo of a disjunction in time. Time is meant to be continuous and oriented, like a bezier curve, not discontinuous and dispersed like a scatter plat of random data.
Summer is meant to be distinctly summery so that fall can be distinctly autumnal, and in the difference between the two lies the order of the universe.
When both appear the same in some way, there is trouble afoot. The sun is meant to set in one direction, not all of them. All of them is more symmetrical, yes, as are an indistinct summer and an indistinct fall, but symmetry is a warning against life.
Maybe I’ll come back to that.
— § —
Meanwhile, I’ve had writers block for a month now. Note the lack of posts. There are at least eight or nine posts typed out here in Byword that never went online because—frankly—they were crap.
They were me doing my damnedest to “write something” because I felt as though I wanted and needed to do so—but not as though I wanted and needed to write anything in particular, which is sort of how it has to go if the words are going to be worth the time spent typing them out.
© Aron Hsiao / 2004
People say “writer’s block” as though it’s this objective thing—like a Great Wall of China in your mind erected by far-fetched emperors of consciousness that are somehow distant from the life you’ve been living until you, the cognitive tourist, suddenly arrive at the wall in the midst of a the mental tour of foreign lands that writing is meant to be, etc.
But that’s nonsense.
Writer’s block is repression. Let’s not beat about the bush. Writer’s block is what happens when you don’t want to and won’t and can’t face the things that you’re thinking—that you would be thinking consciously if only you could dare to be aware, but that instead you’re thinking subconsciously with enough determination to cause the little homunculus of the self to rise up and begin to beat it back with swollen hands.
You get writer’s block when you don’t want to be where you’ve already gone, in one way or another, physical or otherwise. So you shut yourself up in the dark closet of unmarked imaginative vacancy and keep the truth outside at bay. Whilst inside, you can’t even come up with words that you know you’re looking for. You have to consult a thesaurus because your inner homely librarian, anachronistic polyester-clad bureaucrat that they are, won’t let you have any words unless you sneak them out. It’s like the underground railroad for vocabulary.
Only even when the words escape, they’re too busy fleeing for their lives and adopting new identities to come together in collective effervescence.
Have I taken this too far? (I have.)
— § —
In any case, I’ve always had a deep distaste for symmetry.
Other people see a ceramic-potted houseplant on one edge of the table and they go out of their way to move it to the center. I’m the opposite—when I walk past the table and see something in its center, I have to move that something off to one side.
© Aron Hsiao / 2003
People have asked why I only have a tattoo on one arm. Don’t I want a tattoo on the other arm so that I “feel balanced” or something?
No. No, I don’t.
I have the deep suspicion that there is an affinity between symmetry at scale and entropy—that true randomness is most likely to have a fairly even probability distribution is most likely to begin against all odds to have a kind of transcendental symmetry.
It’s strong asymmetry that actually represents order, the investment of energy into the universe. For everything to be on one side of the table or the other—that required effort. That’s unlikely. That’s life, rather than thermodynamic death.
Asymmetry is full of vitality and dynamics. Asymmetry is potential energy—negative pole and positive pole, mountain and valley. Symmetry is static and dead. A sine wave, perfectly symmetrical, is just a droning tone—which our brains have been taught by evolution to filter out, as it is informationally equivalent to silence.
Information—which is also potential—which is also life—which is also being—is not carried by sine waves. It is carried by modulation.
Symmetry is just-so. Asymmetry is evidence of will. It demands a reckoning. It brings with it the insult and the joy of the presence of another who has taken the liberty of unbalancing the world, as we all do by our very presence.
— § —
I wrote this post backward.
I’ve realized that I often do that these days, when it works. I start with something. Then, I move to the top of the paragraph and type another paragraph just above it. Then, I move above that one and type another paragraph just above it.
© Aron Hsiao / 2005
This happens continuously until at some point I realize that I’m done and then I pop down to the end (i.e. this bit that you’re reading now) and type out one last section that somehow ties it all together.
This is the sort of thing that used to drive my ex-wife nuts. All of this, actually.
Desiring asymmetry and being bothered by symmetry.
Doing essay writing mostly backward, but not even backward, because after the backward I stop and return to forward, but only for one section.
Thinking that there’s some relationship between thermodynamics, potted plants, memories of summer, and writer’s block.
And so on.
It’s why we could never get along, and why we probably wouldn’t get along still if we had to be in close quarters. She lives her life intentionally centering the plants on the table and writing things from the beginning straight through to the end. Then I come by and slide the plant to a corner of the table and return to writing by putting my finger somewhere in the middle of a random page, or by completing the ending so that I know what the beginning might be so that I can complete the ending all over again.
It’s all nonsense, I know. But at least it’s unbalanced nonsense. That’s something, at least.