ON: beginnings by Meredith Grace Thompson
In the next instalment of Meredith Grace Thompson’s ON_____ series, ‘ON: beginnings’ takes us into the new year, new decade, with musings on temporality, returning home, solitude, waste and what we must push through to get the good stuff.
> take 1
> on: the new year….
> I read once that Kim Jong-un turned the North Korean clocks forwards half an hour to match South Korea, because he was trying to improve diplomatic relations between North and South Koreas, but he quickly lost patience with the South Korean government and rescinded his decision, moving the clocks back to their original position, and moving time between the nations farther apart. I remember reading this and thinking “Holy fuck. Time means nothing.”
>….shit. No. I can’t write this. This is a terrible way to begin a piece about the concept of New Year. Time means nothing, this is true, but it is not revolutionary. Money also means nothing. Economics mean nothing. The claim that things mean nothing, also—inevitably—means nothing. Reductio ad absurdum into nothingness. Not useful. It is not a radical assertion that anything created for ease in our contemporary society is often meaningless and yet I am not a nihilist, so what would the point that I would be making? Also, I don’t know anything about Kim Jong-un. Not really. I know he is the third leader of the Kim Dynasty of North Korea; the son of Kim Jong-il who was the son of Kim Il-sung, who established the communist party of North Korea, or maybe was just its first leader, or maybe it was just when the country became its own country…I’m not really sure. It’s that place where the extreme left and the extreme right meet at the back of the circle and are one weird blob. Communism, and fascism merge into general totalitarianism. I still don’t know why I would start a piece on New Year’s this way. I suppose I’m thinking about fascism, and nationalism, and Marxism, and critiques of social class more generally, and if my hypothetical children will have air to breathe in twenty-five years, and wasn’t technology meant to save us already? And does the A.I. that I can talk to in my phone have rights? And will my generation ever be able to afford dental plans or housing or to pay off their student debt? I’m thinking about the celebrated new beginning that is the turn of the year, from dark to light, even though it makes way more obvious sense to have a new beginning in the spring rather than dead of winter, but the pagans needed optimism at this point, I suppose, right? Days start getting longer? The sun comes back? I’m thinking about how I can make some sort of impact on this institutionalised oligarchy that is pretending not to have total control over the global economy, and if it will make a difference if I ask for a take-away box for the rest of this veggie sandwich because I can’t finish it but I should have brought a container with me if I wanted to take home left overs and what even are leftovers? And what are New Year’s resolutions? The ball dropping? Where did this ball even come from? The end of an era? Start of a new decade? We’re in the 20’s again? That means the 30’s are coming. Time is a flat circle. Turtle shell. Turtles. Turtles on turtles. Turtles all the way down.
> take 2
> on: returning
> It is a strange concept that when you leave a place, the people within that place keep on going. Completely obvious, and yet eternally strange—object permanence in action. They live full lives when you are not beside them, just as all the other people in the world live full lives when you are not there, that you will never affect and will never know and will never matter too. When you leave a place and come back to it, that place has inevitable and irreconcilably changed and that is neither a good nor a bad thing. We are, after all, apparently, beyond good and evil now. Or we’ve murdered God and are now living in the anarchy that follows. Nietzsche wasn’t super clear on that. Forward movement is not synonymous with progress and progress is a word which seems to have lost its meaning. We are arguably no better than we were 200 years ago with the small exception that we have the internet and our systems of defecation are cleaner…..
>….. gross. Systems of defecation. I’m out. Is that how I judge history? The Hegelian swings from thesis, to antithesis, to synthesis; the synthesis being the means by which we figure out how to deal with our unavoidable feces on a massive scale. Isn’t that why we invented the car? Because the horse manure was too much? It got in the air and it got in our lungs and it clogged the streets. But horse manure and human feces are different, I suppose. People don’t usually shit in the street. We don’t even think about our own need to defecate until we are forced to deal with its repercussions. Until we are forced to deal with a clogged main pipe of our house in the middle of the night, on a Saturday, in the frozen Canadian winter, during the Christmas holiday. And we pay the money to the plumber, who of course charges extra for the day and the late hour, and we keep on going—thinking only that that we have less savings in the bank, and that it is fixed, but is it fixed at all?
> This has descended into a discussion of human waste management.
> take 3
> I can’t seem to begin anything, lately. I am awash in a weird, churning sea of beginnings. And I hate all of them. My mother says that there are three kinds of people in the world: people who are good at beginning things, people who are good at doing things, and people who are good at ending things. I always thought I was the middle one—good at doing things. So why do I only now have beginnings? I suppose, for me, this is a part of writer’s block. There is a strange beaver dam in my mind that I can’t seems to break through or scale over and the beavers are all so sweet and worked so hard and I don’t want to destroy their accomplishments. I have no answers. Only questions.
> What are the worst things people have done, for fear of being alone?
> Am I afraid of being alone, when I am not afraid of solitude? Just afraid of rejection? Maybe not afraid of anything. Just the usual: snakes, mice, balloons… I am comfortable with rejecting but not with rejection. I think this is a common, yet self-indulgent stance. There is nothing quite like being rejection to make us panic and betray all of our worst bits. I feel like my worst bits have been floating to the surface, like the bits that you skim off when you’re making stock. I hate the smell of turkey stock boiling on the stove. It smells like human flesh. It makes my head feel as though it is floating three unstable inches from my shoulders, disconnected from my throat.
> I think a lot about beginnings. I find them perplexing. There is a difference, of course, between the beginning of something and the act of beginning something. I know how to begin something: you just do it. There’s no other way. It’s the easiest thing in the world, which is also nearly impossible. You just have to do it. Grit your teeth, make yourself stand up, make yourself write something. That is the only solution. Often, I fail miserably. But I try.
> And I end up with lots of beginnings. I don’t always like them. Often, they don’t hold water. They spring leaks the moment any pressure is applied, and what then? How do you cope with mediocrity? Because most of what we all do is going to be pretty fucking mediocre. And you have to push through a lot of mediocre sludge to get to even the possibility of something good.
> take 4
Text & Image: Meredith Grace Thompson