by Kevin Mercurio
This post is a dedication to the obtuse and practically unreadable novel Ulysses by James Joyce. To give it a chance, read the story online here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4300/4300-h/4300-h.htm.
Never have I looked at the sky for so long, distinguishing clouds for their individual identities, from what is globular to slightly slanted, hate fills the heart inside my chest, so desperate am I to rid this darkness, where is the answer, where is the post-anger triumph that proceeds the inevitable conclusion of betrayal, how could they have done this to me, or more specifically why could they have done this to me, miniature dogs blur through the field, BARK BARK BARK, oh Hamlet so absolutely relevant you are about such circumstances, slay the wormwood lurking in the arrays, so devious are they to fool the already damned, why am I damned, history is a nightmare for which I am trying to awake, so dispensable that in the night people gaze so obviously away in pitiful disgust, there is something wrong with me, deformities hide the honest truth from the surface, did they see that, did they see me and run, like Shelly’s monster for the mob, where am I, swarm of flies whack against my ears, was it even real, it seems so fucking fake forever tormenting the fool, remembering memories so recent for signs of change, failure try again, failure, failure, turn over or you’ll look like an undercooked salmon, what makes their feelings valid and just when the balance of power was tilted in their favour, bringing up past demons, forgetful youth, to be pleased every waking moment of your life, breathe, you are unable to control bloodflow, waves crash into the docks, subside, breathe, they met the family, they planned for the future, what does that say about future trust, can their be trustworthy discussion when this was said and not kept, no body understands so why should you, just hate, it feels right to hate, so easy, so palatable to the senses, I am pleased, temporarily pleased.
Temporarily pleased, why did that thought manifest, the glare of the sun burns the retinas, I continue staring to feel pain, to feel anything, give me a sign that I am still a human, or was, I am tired of thinking I am not from this planet, deities if you are listening I will convert to follow in the prophet Pinocchio, give me strength, give me satisfaction, mainly relief from this treachery, love loves to love love, why did you trust someone so strongly, how did you not see this coming, with more reveal shows more disgust, like poison it is, dose-dependant, bactericidal and potent, how could you be loved by someone so perfect, not perfect in the societal sense but perfect in a personal sense, hola, buenos tardes, let me think again, the train has left the mind, can everyone just leave me alone and let me THINK, smiling like it’s the new year, surprise it’s just another year, love is one of those things that if you give all of it away you are left hoping that there will be rewards in the future, but could it be that love’s power comes from one’s capacity for it, like currency without investment, to show someone that they are able to be loved, that’s it, able to be loved, so scared to be loved by someone that when it happens you can’t resist imagining what life together will be like, pleasure mixed with hardship mixed with joy and loss and everything everywhere all at once, transporting through infinite dimensions an attraction so powerful civilizations could fall, is that an investment, guaranteed happiness, that’s what was lost, shame accumulates, you are broken, temporarily broken.
I did it again, I did it again, I am not the Omega, they are not your saviour, I repeat, they are not your saviour, let me save you from the inevitable abyss, emergence from beneath is no darkness but polished rock, you are capable to receive, loneliness, marriage there, dating there, children playing on the escalator, why is self-awareness the solution to the complex mind, empathic power proves volatile and infectious, contagion, mask up, mask up, cough in a concealed direction, bring it to the moment, this is no disappearing story, dissent in the mind is the true tragedy, rotting neurons made of wormwood, excavate and clear, supply with learned lessons, like what you pathetic troglodyte, enough, breathe, find serenity in the emotional carnage, unlatch what happiness left tethered and find connections within, remember your circle, remember you are exactly who you need to be at this moment, bring it to the moment, over 7000 km away from home, almost 3000 km away from familiarity, make yourself a promise that you can fulfill, red flag, surrender to deterministic principles, white flag, recheck luggage for documents, choose acceptance, choose meaning, choose progression, me, and me now.
I attempted to read James Joyce’s Ulysses as part of the Scalene Writing Book Club all the way back in January 2022. I made it to the third chapter before I realized what an impractical use of my time this would be to continue my attempt at understanding such a novel. For those who don’t know, the story is essentially about the events that occur around one man, Leopold Bloom, during one day, on the 16th of June. You can think of Ulysses as a modern epic, where Joyce almost painfully writes in great description about how these events unfold. The book is known for its writing style, stream of consciousness, in which Joyce claims to mimic the circumstances within the mind. Although there is a storyline, there is also fleeting thoughts, memories, observances, reminders, coming and going throughout prose. Now, if books were, like how reality is likely, hyper-dimensional, and the reading experience would thereby also be among various dimensions, this writing style could work for me. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
However, that got me thinking about story structure in more general terms, in more realistic terms. Stories as they occur in the real world are rarely linear, in fact they are unanimously non-linear in form. How could the circumstances of your present moment not be caused by actions of others in the past? Direct actions such as arguments with colleagues or fruitful discussions with friends, even indirect actions like the manufacturers of the devices you are currently using to read this blog post. All of these other moments had to occur to give us the present, no recollection required.
I reflect on this past year by fully understanding that my actions cannot always conclude with outcomes in my favour. What do I mean by that? I mean that despite wanting, and even through logical reasoning, that a certain procedure of actions should lead to projected outcomes, this is not always this case. But that’s obvious, you might be thinking, as I myself mentioned earlier that life is a complex, non-linear, hyper-dimensional expansion from a single point, a moment, combining with others. Like a dandelion blowing in the wind. However, it is not so simple if it involves linking positive emotions to something other than yourself. We do this naturally, to loved ones, to our work, people or things external to our physical and spiritual bodies. In fact, it’s what brings us ever closer to achieving empathy, feeling the emotions of those around us or how our effort in work impacts the greater community. Then, when plans do not function as plans do, this once fascinating tether becomes a burden, so difficult to overcome except with the passage of time (ironically, a finite dimension).
In this stream of consciousness work called Wormwood, I try and mimic what Joyce does in Ulysses by writing my thoughts to a story in chaotic fashion. It is three paragraphs, detailing the progression of the protagonist through the stages of grief. For those who need to Google what those are, in the simple model there are 5 stages of grief: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression, and 5) Acceptance. I experienced grief for the first time since I left home to do this PhD, almost two years now. The inception of that grief does not particularly matter, but what I think is a more interesting exercise is the epitome of said grief, and the amount of self-awareness that it took to deal with it. This continuous reflection is like eating wormwood, a bitter plant used in making absinthes, of which this work is named after. I first heard about this plant when Hamlet utters its name twice under his breath, during the play-within-a-play scene of the Shakespearean play. Now, it’s important to note that I wrote this during my travel in Ibiza, a Spanish island, and therefore there is particularly random sentences that I kept to be true to the art form. The first paragraph combines the initial two stages, the second combines the third and fourth stages, while the final paragraph is dedicated to the final stage. Further explaining the complexity regarding stream of consciousness prose is like sifting through the manual of insanity, so rather I will end description of the work there and allow the reader to draw their own opinions.
This is not to say that 2022 only had grieving moments. This would be an utter lie. I finally got to see my entire family (brother, mother and father) this year. Also, I think I’ve travelled to every corner of this wonderful country. Rather, this year has awoken in me a feeling I actually never thought I would feel. A feeling of familiarity in this far off land, a feeling of wholesome residence, of community. I have never appreciated my family more, my friends more, my colleagues and collaborators more, even my cat, for the roles they play in progressing me through these moments, positive and negative, moulding me for the future. All of us are hyper-dimensional and our stories are far from over. We are people with exceptional power over how we perceive these ongoing stories and the way they affect us. In the end, all we can hope for is that we stayed true to the values that guide us along the journey. Be in the moment, despite its bitterness, for as Joyce said, “Me, and me now”.
As I do every year, I would like to share with you now the blooper reel of 2022. From the bitter, to the sweet, and to the incredible people I know and love, here’s to a year of conscious grieving!