* WARNING: THIS BLOG POST IS JUST SO MUCH NONSENSE *
The number of blog posts on this thing that I have published is keeping ahead of the number of blog posts that I have begun on this thing to draft, but only somewhat barely.
Starting things for me has always been a bit easier than finishing them. By that, I think I mean that I find starting things more fun, and finishing them less fun. I endeavor to change this – the prioritization of fun over not-fun – and other things, through practice. The title of this post came from that very idea.
The other day, I posted a list of these drafty drafts which I’m slowly picking away at (or else perpetually parking). Feeling experimental, I then offered to commit to completing one of them based on reader vote, come hell or high water.
There was overwhelming and unanimous consent among the vote I did receive (thank you ellie894!) that Hand me that Ratchey Riggamajigger was to be the next draft I would attempt to un-draft into a living, breathing blog post.
Dunno about you, but when I start drafts, they are sometimes partially or completely incomplete. Sometimes (as in this case), they are only Inklings, manifested in blog post title form. You can think of them as blog stubs – reminders of something I would like to think more about, and of course, perhaps someday write more about. You know – later, when I get to it. Well, I’m getting to this one now.
When I re-opened the draft of Hand me that Ratchey Riggamajigger several days ago, intending to complete it expediently, I had hoped that perhaps I had begun writing something in there, and that picking it up days or weeks later would be easy, and the words would now flow where they hadn’t before, and that it would be easy and awesome.
Instead, I found nothing whatsoever in the draft blog post – only empty space, and a vague recollection of wanting to write about incrementally (and decrementally) improving my own self, through practice. Maybe it would be a short story, loaded with ham-fisted metaphors about self-improvement, and possible techniques for achieving it.
I have made several runs since then at trying to fit words into the subject, and each time, have felt as though I’ve been too wordy or too off the mark. I’m doing it even now – writing lots of words and saying very little.
This is fine – what I have always wanted to do with this blog is stumble about and learn out in the breezy and public open air. This particular post will be imperfect and will go on too long. The next one might well be brief and impactful… who knows? I am practicing.
You can imagine the sound of gears and cogs advancing something in the background – the sound of ratcheting forward, with elbow grease and the best of intentions.
I will now give over the narrative to one and more of my many fictional selves. Maybe some little part of what I had hoped to express when I first decided to start yet another unfinished thing might somehow find its way through all the too-many-words, and into the wide open.
If not, there’s often a next time 🙂
Principles of Personal Ratcheting
Most fittingly, Oakely’s own memoir – published to no great reception seven years and a day before the end of his life in one world and his return to life in another – began first as an Inkling, inspired by a common question; the question was, why am I here-now, and not somewhere-time else? And the Inkling (he was often inclined to have them in response to the most common of questions) was this: That the point of his being at any given place-time must always be to do some Thing, and therefore that Thing must most surely be about himself.
He then-and-there went on to write, in an (arguably unsuccessful) attempt to clarify this:
Where-whenever I might happen to be,
that where-whenever seems then-and-there to be all and about me;
One is surrounded by the place and time in which they are, in every time and place-
entirely enfolded within it, and at the very heart of it.
What-and-when else must there-and-then the Thing be for and about,
but all about and for the very one who is there, right then?
This Expanded (and awkwardly obtuse) Inkling might well have been inspired by the title of some far-better book from Earth, circa its seventeenth Awakening Step (roughly two-thirds of the way through) – which I understand is no means at all of time-and-track reckoning which the Reader might be aware of.
The Earth author’s name may have been something-something Kabat-Zinn, and the book’s title must itself have sprung from one of that man’s many Expanded Inklings into something much more, which is now, as it happens, part-and-parcel of our very own Here and Now, as we both write and read this.
When those of Oakely’s ilk speak of Time and Space as one thing, Human Folk often get queasy, unless they happen to enjoy science, and/or speculative fiction. It is not so surprising then that Oakely’s memoirs, which he curiously called The Nine Principles of Personal Ratcheting, did not sell so many copies in that particular and peculiar time-place in which he had had the notion to write and attempt to publish it.
We will not dwell any longer upon his short and unsuccessful attempt at becoming an Author of Wide Renown, a thing that would have perhaps served him well enough in the there-and-then in all the ways that seemed to matter to the Folk of the place, but instead consider the wider canvas upon which he had landed himself, and the many lives with whom his journey enabled him to intertwine.
[I have just been told by my in-line editors that I should speak more commonly, which to me implies that I should remove all of myself from the story, a thing which might eventually become problematic, as I most certainly became and will continue to become embedded within it, in spite of my better intentions. We shall try in any case, as the conditions of my compensation for the work requires that I do so (that is: try, in any case) – B.N.]
You might say that the Inkling and its soon-after Expansion occurred to Oakely (then Bently, please recall) as he stood upon Bee’s old stoop (still at that time attached to Bee’s old house), holding for the first time in his awkward arms a severely swaddled and tiny infant girl, watching with her the stars above, as they all stood backdrop to the launch of Humankind’s first manned flight to Io, a small moon some distance from there.
Manning the helm of the rocket was a woman of stellar character and courage: Commander Sylvie Arsenault. As the bright tail of her rocket shot high heavenward, and took a wide bend just above the stratosphere, Oakely, his lips moving faintly (the baby saw the movement through his beard, a curious thing among a lifetime of many she had only just begun to observe intently), silently asked the ship’s Commander to be this young girl’s patron saint; though he had been sent there and then to protect her, he knew nothing of protecting anyone – not even himself as it had turned out. His time had all this time been growing shorter and shorter still, and there was no key to be found to unlock that condundrum.
Oakely, as it happened, could Speak Good Thoughts Over Great Distances, when the inclination (a more evolved type of Inkling, you might say) struck. He did not choose to do so often, as it took some strength, and every choice to use his strength those days required some careful and most considerable consideration. If you have ever tried to stretch a too-short paycheck from one remote payday to the next, you may understand something of what I – that is, we – might mean.
That very night, when the astronaut’s long first day in space had ended, and she slept without physical gravity next to a small, round window pointing back at her rapidly receding home, she was visited in her dreams by a curious child of seven or eight, swaddled in blankets, holding a turtle, and bearing a thousand-and-one questions about what it was like to leave everything behind, for the sake of everything. The next morning, as she began to awake, the Commander wondered if it was herself as young girl whom she had dreamed of, or if it was perhaps a daughter she had not dared to hope she might someday have and hold, who had come to ask her questions from either her past or her future. But the scientist herself soon fully awoke, and got back to the science at hand. Still, Oakely’s Good Thought had found its mark.
What follows is the first draft of Bently’s (who was in fact Oakely, please recall) journal entry on Personal Ratcheting Theory. It was left sadly incomplete, as he dropped his notebook midway through writing it at the commence of an unanticipated Lightning Gun shootout (Lightning gun shootouts are unanticipated at least three-quarters of the time) in an Elder Falls parking lot, next to the Tim Hortons, on Second Main Street. The fragmented notebook was found later and returned to him through circuitous means by an interloper who, for reasons of journalistic integrity [Thank you -mm] must naturally remain technically anonymous:
Oakely’s Fragmented Memoirs, October 32, 2042
From an online dictionary, offered up by the most current search engines available:
1.a device consisting of a bar or wheel with a set of angled teeth in which a pawl, cog, or tooth engages, allowing motion in one direction only.
2.a situation or process that is perceived to be deteriorating or changing steadily in a series of irreversible steps.“a one-way ratchet of expanding entitlements”
Very often I must remind myself of something I should like to do or to be, or else stop doing or being. The thought creates a story, which is often just a reminder about the thought, but somewhat more interesting than a normal reminder, of the kind one might put in a notebook, and then immediately forget.
I imagine in this particular case an engineer, asking to be handed a tool that will help solve some mechanical problem, at some dramatic moment – presumably, a mcguffin which needs adjusting in one direction only, or else bad things are sure to happen.
I would like to improve myself, in many ways, incrementally, before it is too late.
Sometimes – in the case of aspects I seek to dial down – you might say I would like to make decremental progress. For example, I would like to drink less sugar water (a common drink in these parts, with which I have become somewhat enthralled), by degrees, and then not return to drinking more sugar water later. Ratcheting down.
Other times, the case calls for dialing something up. For example, improving my skill at understanding of how the young think, and what it is that they might need. Children extend a population’s hopes into the future, which is where Time likes to ratchet material things along in one, inescapable direction. Children and their own children are our future hands and eyes and hopes – understanding their needs is how the aging can help fix things in times and places they will never directly see or touch with our own eyes and hands.
I wish to not forget the lessons I inevitably learn every time I attempt to serve the needs of the young. I wish to build upon them. Ratcheting up.
The metaphor of the ratchet is important; a freely spinning dial can get moved this way and that on any old whim, while a ratchet permits movement only in the direction one wants to go, and prevents slipping back into where one was before. Different machines for different means.
I shall try now not to go on any longer with metaphors, but will, of course, soon and inevitably fail.
Thirty-seven hours ago, when I thought writing a memoir would be straightforward (like fixing a simple temporal stabilizing hex-bolt), I began by writing about how I was feeling.
Bee told me to do this – write about how I feel – and since she would not let me leave the kitchen until I properly promised that I would, and since Bee always knows when I will break a promise in advance, and since I needed to leave the kitchen immediately for reasons that were urgent at the time but no longer relevant in this one, I had no choice but to 1) promise that I would, 2) choose a time and place where I would, and then 3) follow through with the promise.
Since Bee then let me leave the kitchen (after giving me the Seven-Second Glare), I could assume that I would in fact follow through on the promise, and so I did, at the appointed time and place (which was approximately eleven minutes ago). Simple. I have more often than not enjoyed my interactions with Bee, because they go (mostly) like clockwork, a rhythm most close to my heart.
There are two parts to the resulting personal journal entry which resulted from that promise. When I have completed a memoir of similar journal entries, I will sell them for money, which I will then use to repair Bee’s shed, replace Older Edgar’s bass guitar, buy supplies to recharge the Lightning Pestle, and then acquire cheap camping supplies from Too-Toonies (where everything is priced in multiples of four Canadian dollars, for reasons I have been utterly unable to ascertain).
With the remainder of the royalties from my memoir, I will buy gold bars [reminder to self: use the Internet to locate the nearest goldsmith], and bury them in the woods, as a hedge against global economic collapse.
The first part of this journal entry is serious, and involves emotions. This will fulfill my promise to Bee. The second part of the journal entry will describe in some detail an experimental act of Intentional Magic which I performed on Halloween, which was last night (which was October 31st, I can only now presume).
All of this time, I will be ratcheting up an ability to express myself with the written word, for reasons I am somewhat confident will become clear at some later time.
Section I: Personal Feelings Log
I have come to believe that I suffer from a thing called anxiety, and so it must certainly be true that I am.
When I think about why this might be, I see justifications for it everywhere. This world – this place and time – is not well; life is challenging and full of unexpected surprises, and I am just barely getting by at the moment. Any major new problem – an illness of a loved one, a leak in the roof, a natural disaster hitting too close to home- and I might fold in upon myself rather suddenly, letting friends and family fall all around me.
I think about short-term problems as well as long-term ones, about decisions made and not made, actions taken too spontaneously, and others delayed for too long. I struggle with bad habits of consumption, and inefficient use of personal time, talent, energy, and resource. I tackle too many projects, and in too many directions, worried that I will drop too many balls, as though they are all mine to carry and juggle. (I drop the ball of avoiding metaphors here – they are a shorter path to the truths, at times, mixed-up as they may get).
I have Shiny Idea Syndrome, and also, I think, depression, which I manage. I am privileged and lucky, and still struggling to feel truly and fully secure for even one moment of the day. I need something people here call a vacation, despite feeling as though I am never working quite very-hard enough.
I do not like hearing myself complain, given the billions of people in this world who have problems far, far worse than I.
These thoughts spiral and reinforce themselves. This anxiety turns to guilt about anxiety, which creates more anxiety. I use hope and humour to keep my head above the waterline, but I am always treading, encumbered by problems of my own design.
This completes my obligation to Bee, who required that I write about my feelings. I believe that I feel better having done so, but I also believe that I might now feel worse. I did not expect this, and will need to consider whether a second journal entry describing any additional feelings will be a good idea or a bad one.
Section II: Intentional Magic – The Tire Swing Experiment
Roughly forty days ago, I had an Inkling that I needed something else – I believe the Inkling meant to mean that I wanted to move forward. I wanted to break my cyclical thinking and make incremental progress, as well as decremental progress; I wanted to increase the good habits and thoughts, and decrease the bad ones. Things were going in directions I had not planned, and the Principles of Poor Habits were expressing themselves in too-vivid detail. I did not any longer wish to oscillate between Better, and then Back Again.
I chose at some point then to commit to living in a world where my anxiety, expressed as some integer on a definable scale, would be one-or-more less than it had been before. To accomplish this, I chose to perform an act of Intentional Magic, a thing I have not attempted consciously in some years now. I recognize that Intentional Magic is considered quite fringe, and is naturally resistant to scientific proof. I have had somewhat enough of scientific proof at this point; my time here has made me nearly forget that there is more to Things than only that part of them. Folk are rather obsessed with it here, I have found. This is not uncommon during the 12th through 18th Awakening steps, according to the better texts I have encountered, or otherwise been made aware of, so I am remaining hopefully optimistic we’ll all get through this.
Following is the summary of the ritual I performed this Hallow’s Eve. I believe it to have worked, and perhaps that is all that now matters.
[Unfortunately, this appears to be precisely when the alleged Lightning Gun shootout took place, and Oakely’s description of the Intentional Magic Ritual appears to have been destroyed, or perhaps gone missing. His assailants might have absconded with them – this is a chilling thought. We are still analyzing the fragments that were found, and searching for where the latter half of his small note book might have gone. -B.N.]