Aug. 18th, 2017 04:54 pm
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these are the bones of it
purposeless, needless, left bleached out 
in the middle of the desert, removed from any causality or blame
we could trace these bones back a hundred years 
(or fifty, or forty, or ten)
and find your ancestors here, or mine - 
what face did this skull once wear, what
quivering brood begat here once -
we could argue over the history 
of this place, the tribes that fought and conquered
whose bones these are 
and what killed them, what broken path
led us to this

(we could imagine something living)
but I tell you now these bones 
are no different from the rock or sand, worn into
their shapes by wind and grit and time
I have cleaned these bones myself and made them
sterile, scraped the meat from them until
my fingers bled, I have dragged them
into obscure designs
I have labored here
to make them unrecognizable

a living thing is too much yet to bear
too fickle, too vacillating in its intentions, too uncertain
(I cannot adequately defend it) 
too much prone to revision
I have brought you here to show you
the dead, as it is, inarguable

there is nothing left to understand
but the bones of it

Blue Whale

Aug. 18th, 2017 02:11 pm
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From the Lithuanian / From the Russian
  1. On the arm blade cut f57 (blue whale, 4: 20) / Carve with a razor "f57" on your hand, send a photo to the curator.
  2. Wake up at 4:20 and watch scary video / Wake up at 4.20 a.m. and watch psychodelic and scary videos that curator sends you.
  3. Cut lengthwise veins of the arm (not deep) only three cuts / Cut your arm with a razor along your veins, but not too deep, only 3 cuts, send a photo to the curator.
  4. Draw a whale on a piece of paper / Draw a whale on a sheet of paper, send a photo to curator.
  5. If you're ready to become a whale you write "yes" kn the blade leg, if not, do with their hands whatever you want (doing a lot of cuts and so on) / If you are ready to "become a whale", carve "YES" on your leg. If not-- cut yourself many times (punish yourself)
  6. In code / Task with a cipher.
  7. scratched f40 / Carve "f40" on your hand, send a photo to curator.
  8. Write in the status #I'm a Whale / Type "#i_am_whale (rus. #я_кит) in your VKontakte status.
  9. Should overcome your fear / You have to overcome your fear.
  10. Get up at 4:20 and go to the roof / Wake up at 4:20 a.m. and go to a roof (the higher the better)
  11. It is necessary to scratch out a whale on the hand (or make a drawing on the hand) / Carve a whale on your hand with a razor, send a photo to curator.
  12. The whole day watching scary video / Watch psychodelic and horror videos all day.
  13. Listen to music that they send to you / Listen to music that "they" (curators) send you.
  14. Cut the lip / Cut your lip
  15. Poke the needle arm / Poke your hand with a needle many times
  16. Make yourself hurt / Do something painful to yourself, make yourself sick
  17. Go to the roof of the largest and stand on the edge / Go to the highest roof you can find, stand on the edge for some time.
  18. Going to the bridge / Go to a bridge, stand on the edge
  19. Climb on the crane / Climb up a crane or at least try to do it
  20. Check to trust / The curator checks if you are trustworthy
  21. It is necessary to talk on Skype with a whale / Have a talk "with a whale" (with another player like you or with a curator) in Skype
  22. Sit down on the roof of the feet / Go to a roof and sit on the edge with your legs dangling
  23. Again, the job with the code / Another task with a cipher.
  24. Secret Mission / Secret task
  25. meet with whale / Have a meeting with a "whale"
  26. You say the date of death, and you must accept / The curator tells you the date of your death and you have to accept it
  27. 4:20 go to the rails / Wake up at 4:20 a.m. and go to rails (visit any railroad that you can find)
  28. Do not talk with anyone / Don't talk to anyone all day
  29. Give an oath that you're a whale / Make a vow that "you're a whale"

From 30-49 you every day you wake up at 4:20, watch videos, listen to music, and every day doing one cut on her hand, talking to a whale.
We jump (hangs up, jump out of the window, you go under a train, negativeside tablets)
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Compassion's an animal virtue, but it's all we've got! 

The Snail

Jul. 30th, 2017 06:54 pm
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"I have no hands," said the snail, "and so everything I own I acquired through mere accretion." It sprawled limply across the ground, its body slack and undifferentiated, as if even the effort of speaking was too much for it to bear. "Everything I crawled through, everything I rasped up against, everything I took up for a moment and forgot to set back down - they all left their traces on me, particulates -"

Its voice dripped with disgust. "The crumbled remains of bone," it said, "left rotting in the damp places. Wood-ash. Broken shells. Limestone and sediment, fossils, debris - things dead for decades. There was something living wrapped in these once, something vital, and I -" Its voice hitched. "I don't remember how or when I got them. I only remember their presence as they are now, atop me, this fossilized arrangement. I passed through the world and I kept things beyond all worth of keeping.

"There was no plan in this," it said, and gazed up at the spiraling tower of its shell, eyes dull atop its stalks. "I mixed no mortar, laid no brick. I never once imagined living here. This began as a tiny lump on my back from the moment I was born, a calcified knob of bone. I resented it at first, this useless vestigial thing, longed to be rid of it. I flexed my back, strained myself hoping to pry it loose as it cut sharply into my flesh. But instead I've scabbed over the edges again and again, built it up imperceptibly along the lines from which it was first formed. It has grown, and grown, and grown, beyond my control or volition, from everything I've ever abandoned, ever forgotten -  

"Is it beautiful?" the snail said. "It is beyond my comprehension." Its eyestalks swayed and reeled, tracing spirals, until it grew dizzy and lowered its head. "I could not have made this willingly. And yet I bear it all the same, and watch it overshadow my flesh ..." It stretched out its neck, twisted and turned to show the glistening texture of its skin. "Am I beautiful? Or do I carry beauty with me, distinct and separate, as a thing that will outlast me? A thing I only came to build by gnawing habit. That I could never again reproduce. That I could not help but build if I was to keep living."

The snail let out a breath. "Well, yes," it said. "It is quite useful, I suppose. I retreat into it for shelter, and for comfort, and it is smooth and well-formed against my skin. I could not live without it. But, you see - 

"I have a cousin, a slug," the snail said, its voice trembling. "And we are otherwise alike, in form and capacity and function. My foot is no less strong than hers, I can climb and crawl just as well. Except - except I carry everything I own with me.

"And she survives, just as well as I do, and finds comfort and shelter and - and that sense of safety, all without a shell to hide her.

"That's all usefulness is, isn't it," said the snail, and shrunk back, resigned, disappearing inch by inch into its shell until only the shell was visible. "It's everything we've accumulated that we can no longer live without." 
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The Questing Beast was not named for the fact that it was quested after (although it was, perennially), but for the howls and yelps that emanated from its belly, "the noise of thirty couple hounds questing." Such confusion is understandable (and perhaps intrinsic), as the Beast by its nature conflates two different definitions of what it means to quest

As a transitive verb, to quest means to ask, or to search for, and thus is necessarily used with an object: there must be something to quest for, be it treasure or an ending or an answer. As an intransitive verb, however, quest refers to the baying of hounds on the hunt, and needs no such object of desire. The Questing Beast's name derives from the latter definition: the sound of thirty pairs of hounds howling aimlessly, never ceasing or relenting, never biting down, never satiated, constant as the rushing of blood through the Beast's arteries. 

Questing after the Questing Beast was thus a confusing proposition, as it was difficult to determine whether it was being hunted or not - whether or not the questing was transitive or intransitive, and what exactly (if anything) one was tracking. From a distance there was only the baying echoing through the woods, which might have been the sound of one's own hounds, or the hounds from another hunting party, or (very rarely) the Questing Beast itself. The hounds themselves were similarly confused at trying to track down something that sounded exactly like they did, and at times kept up the baying simply out of a confused excitement, or sheer comradely instinct. Attempts to capture the Beast frequently devolved into a farce of hunting parties chasing each other in circles.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that there was never quite a clear consensus on just what the Questing Beast looked like. The most widely-distributed description held the Beast to have the neck of a snake, the body of a leopard, the tail of a lion, and the hooves of a hart - in other words, a medieval attempt to construct a giraffe. Perlesvaus, on the other hand, described it as a snowy white creature somewhat larger than a hare and smaller than a fox; i.e., some sort of stoat or weasel in its winter coat. So at the very least the boundaries were set: the Questing Beast must be no larger than a giraffe and no smaller than a hare, its color anywhere between a tawny orange and a snowy white (though theorists would differ on where white should stand on the color scale, and thus on which spectrum of colors was plausible). In the heightened atmosphere of a hunt, with the baying of the hounds omnipresent, any hapless animal that should happen to cross paths with the party could easily be taken for the Questing Beast - and who knows, any of them could very well have been the Beast itself. 

From strict point of fact, there was no reason to hunt the Questing Beast at all. There was no danger it posed if left to roam free, no rewards promised for its capture. Even the howling emanating from its belly was interpreted as a sign that the Beast's days were numbered: it hosted a brood of snarling children that would eventually tear it apart from within. Any mystical significance it held was as a symbol of some internal threat that would eventually lead to society's collapse - for some it was the tragic of King Arthur's incestuous coupling with his own half-sister; for others, it was the Jews. In any case, the Questing Beast was merely a grim portent instead of a threat itself, and was certainly nothing that should be deliberately sought out. 

We may imagine that those who hunted the Questing Beast were simply confused by its name, and took it as an imperative rather than a description. Or, rather, we can imagine that the Beast successfully conflated the two possibilities so that there was no longer such a distinction. King Pellinore, for example, hunted it simply because his father had, as had his father's father before him, and so on - a duty passed down hereditarily, like kingship, and with no more reason for it. For Sir Palamedes, on the other hand, hunting the Questing Beast functioned as a form of displacement for his frustrated romantic impulses - as Palamedes could never win the favor of his love, neither could he slay the Beast (a parallel that defeats the purpose of displacement entirely). In any case, both men hunted the Questing Beast without any hope of ever catching it, suggesting that, much like a hound, they were preoccupied with the action of questing itself. 

Hunting for sport, after all, is an end on its own, and may be counted as a success regardless of whether or not one returns with game. The goal of hunting becomes simply to be hunting, to feel the thrill of the chase, to view all of nature as potential prey, to take the sound of hounds baying for blood as music. For a knight, this would be akin to the fulfillment of a single-minded devotion, taking up their swords for a quest of unimpeachable cause. Perhaps, then, it was to the benefit of all concerned that the Questing Beast could never be caught, could never be narrowed down into a single form or species, could never be resolved or be found wanting. Rather, as a portent of some impending calamity, it was ever just beyond reach and yet imminently attainable. It lurked in every forest, its howls emitting from every mouth, it wore a thousand furs and skins. It was monstrous and yet endlessly pursued. It justified every expense and effort taken to capture it. With every fresh hunting party and every pack of hounds, the Questing Beast was born into existence.

We may imagine, given all these ambiguities, that the Questing Beast simply never existed to begin with. That it was a convenient fiction invented by those in power. Except when we turn our attention to the woods and from the depths hear the sounds of questing - ever-present, inexplicable, keening and bloodthirsty, the sounds of a savage brood tearing apart its mother from within - the Beast unmistakably sounds its call and it becomes impossible to deny the truth. 
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My first impulse would be to say that I was "violently unhappy"
always that particular phrasing,
as if I can only understand unhappiness through demonstration
as if, when left untreated, unhappiness lashes out,
resorts to violence, makes itself visible 
in form of lash and tear and welt,
as if it forces its way out through the skin 
as if we had moved past the usefulness of advice and frank discussion
as if I had to be restrained somehow,
through urgent intervention,
made unable to hurt myself or others
before any further progress could begin

You'll note the subtext here
"as if," 
meaning that I was lying
not just about the nature of unhappiness, mind you,
but the idea that I was ever unhappy to begin with 

If I had been unhappy 
instead of just malingering
surely I would have been able to identify, however vaguely,
the source of my unhappiness,
surely I would have had some conception of something lacking -
this absent happiness, what it might look like,
and how I might achieve it - 
instead of just these fantasies of violence,
of wanting to be unhappy,
to be helplessly, uncontrollably, congenitally unhappy,
just to have some irrefutable evidence of my distress

If I had been unhappy
surely I would have wanted something better for myself than that
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If you're pretentious enough for it, start your story with an epigraph. A quote without context becomes an artifact, something to be displayed in a museum. The line might have been  unremarkable in the original work, a pretty line serving a purpose as banal as exposition. But when displayed on its own, all we can see is the strangeness of it. Every word takes on a disproportionate significance. A pot can be used to carry water back and forth to the well each day in quiet thoughtless necessity. Or you could shatter it and put the shards in a museum, and extrapolate an entire culture from the pieces.

Avoid adverbs. Adverbs sum up tone and emotion and purpose in a single word - haltingly, nervously, knowingly, kindly - obliterating the nuances of what actually occurred. Don't say, "He smiled kindly." Who are you to say how he felt at the moment, what was going on inside his head? Even from your third-person omniscient point of view, even if you stripped him naked and vivisected him and probed every nook and hollow of him, where would you find "kindness"? All you have to go on is induction, a fallible, falsifiable conclusion based on the sum of his actions. You might very well be mistaken. You might be deceived. You may be deluded.

Avoid generalizations, avoid abstractions. Thought is an abstraction, as is emotion. A story isn't something you think, or something you feel, but rather something that occurs. Say, "She was happy," and the words are vacuous. They're a Rorschach test. Every reader will imagine something different, and most of them have poor imaginations - why else would they be reading you to begin with? What do you have to offer them? Might as well splinter your pen and blot ink across the pages.

Common advice to writers is to work in concrete details, as if the world is only comprehensible through gross materialism. Don't say, "He's kind." Don't say, "She's happy." Instead, take your judgments and reproduce them anatomically, atomically. Document every twitch, every idle gesture, where their eye falls, what their hand gropes for, the subtle alterations in their posture. Document their hairstyles, their clothes, their brands, their possessions, the businesses they patronize, the status symbols that mark their place in society. Study the world with the detached eye of an anthropologist. Build a city, brick by brick - taste, touch, sight, sound, smell. Take an abstraction like 'kindness' and make it real, and concrete, and familiar, and strange, and so unnatural that your readers are seeing themselves from the inside-out.

Write such that your writing is non-reducible to a simpler state. Take an Aesop's fable, a genre of story so straightforward that the moral comes attached at the end. WORK TODAY AND REAP THE BENEFITS TOMORROW. And yet, the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper is incomplete without the image of the once-joyous Grasshopper slowly starving to death. Take the themes of your story and then distort them through a character's voice, obscure them in metaphor, until they're buried within the scenario you've created and you realize that the message you started out with has in some fundamental way been proven untrue. If writing were as simple as communicating an idea, we could skip the stories entirely.

Communication - evoking that spark of recognition and empathy from another human soul - is trivial. Just write: "They were in pain," and already you'll have achieved some relatability.  Words are abstractions. Rorschach blots. They're our only way of understanding the world. People don't analyze their lives with writerly precision, storing lists of sensory details, every twitch and gesture. If we perceived the world like that, writers would be redundant. People think in adverbs, abstractions: He smiled kindly. She was happy. They were in pain. Everyone knows what these words mean. Everyone's experienced life, everyone understands it for themselves. If they didn't, living would be impossible. It doesn't take a writer to see the world for what it is, or to make it comprehensible.
I cannot perceive the world in concrete details. I wouldn't be able to tell you my characters' eye color, or race, or height or weight or form. I could not tell you what they were doing with their lives in the split-second before the story began. I can't tell you what I'm doing with mine now. I could not describe happiness to you, or its signs, in any degree of detail. I'm not sure I've ever seen it. I'm not sure it exists. The most I could do is gesticulate around its absence. I could not describe to you the world at all. I've only ever inhabited a tiny portion of it at a time.

All I can do is tell you a story.

I'm looking down at the backs of my hands as I type this. They're mottled pink and brown and yellow and green at the veins, slightly translucent at the tips. The skin bulges out and bags at the joints, is raised on the knuckles in a crudely quilted triangular stitch. This is an absurd, meaningless description of my hands. You'd think I'd never seen them before in my life.
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Here's the truth: I find you fascinating. That's a sick confession now, a display of prurient interest. It's like the worst thing in the world right now is to be boring. It's fine to be cruel or sadistic, to take pleasure in one another's misery; it's fine to be belligerent or selfish or predatory, to command a gibbering squad of harassers, to claw and tear each other down. The real crime is to not be worthy of the attention we've been given.

There's another idiot on Twitter shrieking about the end of the world - the end of their world - and a couple of thousand idiots all clamoring behind them. There's another white male savior. There's another public intellectual rephrasing common knowledge, stumping for the status quo. There's another armchair revolutionary. Pick who to follow, who to subscribe to, hold your mouth open for all the little trickles and daubs of opinion. This is what the world is now, this is what it means to be aware. All we are is enablers for the worst of us.

We can outsource our morality now, our aesthetics, our ideology. We're cyborgs, and the internet's all an extended repository, all the information and emotion in the world ready to be called up at a command. Reblog something, and it's someone else's best impulses, most artful phrasing, co-opted as our own. Or, conversely, we have our supporters hanging off us like prostheses. It's the loudest of us that thrive in this world, the most shameless, the most reducible into soundbites and snark. A stray neuron sparks in the brain and the body lurches, mindlessly, destructively, tearing apart lives at a whim.

Spin the wheel and take your pick. Are any of them worth listening to? Are any of them worth killing? If any of them were evil - if they were some urgent and existential threat - we'd be compelled to kill them or die trying. If they were evil they'd at least be interesting. But no, they're only people, in all the dull banality of the word. If it wasn't them, it'd be another figurehead babbling roughly equivalent words in their place. A person doesn't mean anything anymore. At most we're an echo, an appendage, swarming and replaceable. An individual is just a weak link, after all - a flaw, a vector for attack. It's the ideas that matter, the vast and monstrous ideologies that crush us by the thousands. Kill your idols. Aim your sights higher.

Take the worst person in the world and isolate them, and they're so fallible, so pathetic, so full of chaff. Without their followers they'd be useless. The worst thing that can be said about them is that so many gave them the time of day.

So who am I to say you're the one worth the attention? Are you so much smarter, kinder, gentler, braver, nobler, more insightful than your fellow man? But I can't help it, I find you fascinating. I could watch you for hours, over months, over years. I could watch the walls, watch matter transition between states, harden over and crack, lose its viscosity. I could watch the shadows of leaves on grass moving almost imperceptibly into night from behind the glass. There's a hundred landscapes in there, as if you could connect them all side-by-side and have a panoramic view of the world from your backyard. I could listen to you talk for hours about your petty thoughts and complaints, about the fleeting thoughts across the internet that you happen to reblog, I could listen to you talk about nothing at all.

Listen: art's greatest failure is in its purpose. In theme and theory, in climax and conclusion. It's over, yes, and satisfying, self-contained, but it's over. It's already receding backwards into memory, partially eclipsed by the next new thing, the logical progression. I can't read the same book twice because by then I've already consumed the story. It's in me, digesting, moving via peristaltic motion ever closer to being shat back out. You'd think if a work of art was so great I could keep coming back to it forever, that it wouldn't go inert with time and familiarity. That I wouldn't turn to it one day and find nothing left that I needed.

Life grinds that illusion to dust. We tell ourselves we are righteous, we conscript history to our side and convince ourselves our enemies will peter out and die. When all history is, is the the slowly-eroding surface of the world, the bodies fertilizing fields, nations boiling over and collapsing. We've subsumed ourselves in story, and even though it's not over yet, we've still projected an ending forwards, rehearsing our lines, worrying away at them like gravel between our teeth. We turn to history to vindicate us and see only the slow mindless convulsions of it, the lack of direction or conclusion.

We tell ourselves we're part of something bigger, and it grows and grows and grows. Until it is bigger, until it's something vast and amorphous, until it's something so big that it encompasses the whole blindly-whirling world.

You're a nothing compared to that. So many puffs of air. So many breaths, so many heartbeats, so many days, so many nights. So many pores gaping open on your skin, so many farts, so much dead skin. So many fuck-ups, so many fleeting passions, so many false starts and failures. So many fragments, so many half-formed thoughts, so many vitriolic opinions. So many insecurities, so many trivial needs and desires going unfulfilled. So many anxieties, so many conflicting hopes, goals, that you latch on to and nurture. So many little acts of kindness. You could go on forever without completion or purpose in sight.

I could watch the grass grow. I could watch the paint dry. I could watch the world keep turning. I could watch you forever.


Jul. 4th, 2017 07:09 pm
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The dogs are dead. I don't want to see what's inside of them. That's the cruelty of a dog, or a cat, or a rat, or a weasel, or anything furred and open-mouthed, anything that licks its young, anything that pants or snorts or purrs or growls or wafts moist breath against your hand, anything warm-blooded, that you can put your palm against its torso and feel its heart beat.

(Have you held a shrew? it feels like they're dying. It feels like an insect beating its wings against the inside of your hand, battering itself to death.) 

The cool intelligence of a reptile, or an insect, or a fish, is mostly all projection. There is fear there, sure, but indistinguishable from the mindless thrashing instinct not to die. Like a magnetic shaving being repelled from its polar opposite, like scraps of paper picking up the updraft from flames and flying away to safety. They don't make faces. They don't show terror. You don't hear them screaming.

When they crawl or swim or glide across your skin, there's no intimacy that lets you make-believe they love you.

That's the cruelty of being mammalian in a world ruled by hairless apes. There's all the capacity for emotion there, expression, joy and sadness and fear and loss and deviousness and greed and smug self-satisfaction, and no capacity to live privately. They're naked, every fucking emotion jolting down their nerves and involuntarily wagging their tails, standing their fur up on end, gleaming in their eyes and mouth and tongue. That dumb animal awareness exposed to the world with no option to tamp it down and put on a neutral face and go about your day without every eye on you.

No animal is born for scrutiny. We're social animals, not societal ones. We only really see each other through a web of necessary relationships. Parents, children, rivals, subordinates, superiors, lovers, mates, siblings, caretakers, predators, prey, symbiotic relationships. I know you because I need you, because I depend on you in one of a hundred different ways, and that necessity is what endears you to me. We're hideous alone, patchwork products of evolution, simple-minded, feeding our own biases, focused on building scaffolding to support our own self-interest and well being. Who could love you, objectively? Who could tally up your pros and cons and conclude that another person should depend upon you for their continued happiness? We invented a God to tell us that we were loved, and concluded that we absolutely weren't worthy of it. That's grace, isn't it? The conclusion that we otherwise shouldn't be allowed to exist.

Go into a shelter and argue for a dog's right to exist. To eat, to breed, to piss and shit as it will, to wander the streets and bark and scream at every stranger, to mark off its own territory, to defend its life with claw and fang. Argue that a cat should be allowed to predate, to fend off all perceived threats to its safety. Go ahead, argue for a rat's right to be happy.

A human can at least dissemble. A human can withhold. A human can put on a public face and offer that up to the world. If we're excoriated, revealed to be two-faced and hypocritical, all our flaws on display to the world - at least there's always the option to say: that's not the real me. That's not my entirety. You don't know me like my friends know me, like my family knows me. I'm here, underneath all of it. I'm just slightly displaced, always one step away, just beyond your judgement. I'm here.

Or worse, imagine being abruptly thrust into a celebrity you were totally unprepared for, imagine that fannish idolatry, that validation from strangers, and having it come and go, ebb and flow with the attention span of the crowds. Imagine living like that, imagine being responsible for a thousand strangers' happiness. But even then there's always the small consolation of restraint, of fading gracefully, of the intellectual understanding that all those people never saw the real you at all. They were looking in a mirror, validating their own biases, picking out the bits of you that they liked. They were following a trend, seeing the possibility of their own acceptance, their own success, a place for them in the herd. All they were seeing was a person to teach them how to be, a position they could occupy in your wake.

A dog doesn't have that luxury of knowledge. A cat doesn't. A rat, a hamster, a weasel. Anything furred. Anything bright-eyed and screaming. There's nothing to an animal but boisterous fulfillment, nothing but bare affection. Feel them licking at your fingers, watch them dancing at your feet, understanding nothing but kindness and cruelty, food and hunger, affection and neglect. A dog can't understand why it's loved, it can only pant and wag its tail and prick up its ears and prance. A dog can't understand why it's being yelled at. A dog can't understand why it's needed. A dog can't understand why it's being killed, or being left to die.

We see a dog and think, if only we could be so happy. A dog only understands loyalty, you know? The words, 'can I pet them,' a stranger's hand running through its fur, cooing baby talk in a stranger's voice. A dog only understands itself and the other. A dog can only understand that it must have somehow been their fault.

The dogs are dead. There's something I could have been, probably. There's a thing absent of affection. There's a thing that used to be. There's a thing that screamed.
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No. 8.
One Lady and one Gentleman. 
The gentleman must stand on a chair in the centre of the room, while the lady-auctioneer, pointing to him, says, "Adonis for sale!"  She must then enumerate all his charms, qualities, and attractions.  The company then bid anything they please for him—such as a red-herring, a tea-kettle, a curb-bridle, a magic-lantern, the old grey goose, a lump of sugar, &c.  The bidding is to go on till the Lord of Misrule bids a pound of soft-soap, when the lot is taken to him by the auctioneer. 

No. 15.
One Gentleman and six Ladies. 
The gentleman sitting in the middle of the room must be complimented and paid attention by each lady in turn.  Without rising, he is to respond by every species of grateful manner; first murmuring, in a whisper, "I'm too happy,"—increasing in the tone of his voice each time, till reaching the highest note, he rushes out of the room. 

No. 17.
Eight Ladies and eight Gentlemen. 
The ladies each successively go and fetch a gentleman and place him for a quadrille, according to the value of their respective numbers. 
This is my chicken for roasting. 
This is my calf's heart for mince-meat. 
This is my wild duck to make game of. 
This is my lamb's pluck for putting in a stew. 
This is my green goose for stuffing. 
This is my calf's head for my brain sauce. 
This is my flat fish for a vol au vent
This is my pigeon for cutting up with brain sauce. 

No. 27. 
Two Gentlemen and all the Ladies. 
The ladies all remain in their places, and two gentlemen in shawls and bonnets or caps go round, one with a saucer of milk, the other with a teaspoon, with which she gives a sip of milk to each, saying, "Take that, my pretty puss!" to which, after taking it, "puss" must gravely answer, "Mew." 
No. 30. 
One Gentleman. 
He must go round and pay a bad compliment to every lady in the room, who is to answer, "You horrid man!" 
No. 47.
One Gentleman--one Lady; seated in front of each other. 
   Are you Adonis?
   No, Miss. 
   Are you Juno? 
   Oh no! 
   Are you Cupid? 
   No, stupid. 


Jun. 21st, 2017 12:59 pm
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
Lightning strikes.
Lightning spikes.
Lightning spills and stains the sky.
Lightning crackles.
Lightning shivers.
Lightning spasms, shrieks, and dies.

Lightning sings. 
Lightning stings. 
Lightning cleaves the world asunder.
Lightning threads through gale and thunder.
Lightning strips the leaves from trees - thin bare branches, stark and grasping
at the wind in helpless tremors.
Lightning sets down roots and sighs. 
Storm is coming. 
Lightning sends the people running, lights the raindrops,
draws a jagged line between us
and the darkness. Lightning flickers,
shows the world in all its glory
right before the gloom moves in and
lightning cracks the vault of clouds, makes the rain come tumbling down.
Lightning, fine-veined, many-fingered, writhes and reaches for the ground.
Lightning hangs untouched, inverted, looming rocks far overhead.
It could kill us.
Just a word, and lightning plummets
from the heavens,
torches burning for the dead.

Lightning shatters.
Lightning scatters.
Lightning bathes the world in fire.
Lightning flashes.
Lightning lashes
out obliquely, groping, seeking,
churning air into a frenzy. Lightning quickens.
Lightning rages in the distance.
(please don't see us)
Lightning punctuates a chorus,
echoes through the world unhindered
in the great and lowly places.
Lightning stoops to kindle fire. 
Lightning leaps atop a spire, splits the crown 
of tree and tower, tears stone down,
anoints the sacred site with ash. 
Lightning lingers
for a moment,
imprints itself in afterimage,
as we huddle, glancing skyward, 
for the storm to pass. 


Jun. 17th, 2017 04:39 pm
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
He sneezed six times in quick succession
Like waves breaking upon the shore
Each time the buildup, then the crest
Then spray and salt and nothing more

He drank two glasses of water with dinner
Like pouring it all down the drain
The glass sat empty in his hand
Ready to be washed again

He set his shoulders and clenched his stomach
Trying to will himself to piss
A dribble came, and then a spurt
All water was reduced to this


Jun. 14th, 2017 05:27 pm
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
Write out your grievances on a piece of paper. Fold it in half, and then in half again, and then again and again until the paper starts to resist you, pushing back against your fingernails. Put it between your lips, under your tongue. Let it settle.

When you're ready, reach to your lips as if you're performing a magic trick. Unfold it like a flower blooming, like a scarf from a sleeve, like a map being spread out against a table. Flourish it, show them the ink that's been set, that's smeared and dried and smeared again, undeniable.

The secret to the trick - the trick to the secret - is the kernel of truth, the grounding in the familiar, the space beneath your tongue and down your throat and up your sinuses. Everyone will be astonished that it was in you all along.

Walk around stuffed with grievances, one for every occasion, ready to perform the trick on command. Write them down as they occur to you, fill pages with them, tamp them down between your lips and gums in a paper mache sneer. Use your teeth as mnemonics. Run your tongue across your gums, so many benign lumps on the inside of your mouth. Each one ready - at a moment's notice! - to emerge from their cocoon.

Your mouth will taste like paper, sure, but that's a benefit. They''ll leach up your spit, leave your mouth dry, tasting the hollow of air. Never forget you're lacking something. Never forget how badly you want to want to spit.

Paper's non-toxic. There's no danger in this. If the opportunity never emerges, no harm done. The little wads will wear against each other, dissolving into pulp. You'll carry them with you until your mouth slackens, until a moment of forgetting, and you'll absently brush the leavings off your lips, or you'll swallow them. As easy and as painless and shedding skin.

And if you find your chance and reach for your lips and unfold a paper rich with spit, only to see that you've revealed the wrong one - who cares? They're all the same, aren't they? All wadded together and indistinct and indivisible. The magic's in the reveal of it, not in the information. The magic trick is that you were unhappy all along.

Keep your grievances close to your lips, as little acts of wonder. Plant them, and let them decompose and die, and give them the chance to bloom.
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
Give them something to eat, and they'll bite at your hand
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
You've seen this play out, why don't you understand

You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
Show them the horizon, and they'll want to fly free
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
Sure as the shore's worn away by the sea

You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
And there are only so many more miles to claim
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
Pace out your borders, let them to do the same

You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
You'll measure in inches the progress you'll make
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
The least you can give, the most they can take

You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
And be not one inch closer than you were before
You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
Still a mile between you, a mile and more

You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile
And you'll be left wondering at how far you've gone
In the space of that inch, they imagined a mile
You gave them an inch, and the lines were redrawn


May. 21st, 2017 06:47 pm
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
Hold this, she said, and I gathered up
a fist of her hair, undoing her frame from behind,
unbuttoning the knobs of her spine,
unlacing the tendons in her neck and shoulders
to the musical twang of her ribs popping free

Her lungs escaped her like a sob,
unfolding, spilling out like a rumpled dress
that I arranged atop the tiles,
one hand smoothing out the wrinkles,
gliding across her skin until she sighed,
exposing her pale back to me in its entirety

It's amazing how much there is to a woman:
silk and bone and a thousand scribbled notes inked onto her innards,
unwritten love letters, angry scrawls,
knots of twine and rawhide that I fished out
and laid delicately against the tiles like a diagram,
careful to memorize their places

Her heart, sluggish and warm and tough as leather,
and indistinguishable from
all her other organs,
years of padding and upholstery unseamed until
the bathroom floor resembled a butcher's palette,
and she hung loose and slumping, dozing gently,
with so much of her to still unpack

There's room for happiness in there, I think,
there's so much else in her

There's room for everything I lack
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
My parents did not raise healthy children.
There's nothing to be done about it, I suppose,
just a quirk of genetics.
A new malady would periodically surface, each
removed from the last, as if
it was simply in our nature to be sick, absent
any particularities: 
violent allergic reactions that burst out
in hives across our groin and thighs and
the backs of our hands,
dry eyes,
asthma of the skin,
sensitive teeth,
sudden pains in our knees
that kept us from the gym
for months on end,
tendons tightening in our necks,
inexplicable bald spots,
open sores that we scratched into our skin.

And each time, our parents would schedule a doctor's appointment
after it became clear
our condition wouldn't go away on its own.
We'd sit silently in the waiting room,
waiting to give non-committal answers: 
"No, I don't know what caused it"
"No, I don't remember that far back"
"It kind of hurts"
"Sort of"
"Not really"
"I didn't eat anything unusual"
"No, here's been no change in my schedule"
"No, no undue stress"
"No, this is - you must understand -
"There has been no change in our lives since before this started" 
"This is how we live"
"This is how we have always been living"

And the doctors, faintly puzzled,
would scribble down their prescriptions anyway and
treat the symptoms.
Our parents paid the consultation fees, paid for
the MRIs and the urine tests,
the blood tests that revealed no proximate cause,
paid for the physical therapists and
the sedatives and cortisone creams,
as we hovered around
all the while unable to shake
the conviction that we were wasting
time, bleeding away money,
that this was all bearable, somehow, or had progressed
to the state that it was bearable
by the time our parents had brought us here. That we were
too far removed now from sickness, from dysfunction,
that we would heal on our own,
or grow used to it,
or progress to the point that our suffering
was unmistakable;
that despite our parents' urging -
"Be specific. Tell the doctor
what he needs to know. You can't get better if
you don't pay attention
to what's going on with your body."
the cause of sickness was so inherent
so as to be invisible, that we might wake up the next morning
having forgotten how to sleep, how to eat,
how to look at things without crying,
how to breathe unencumbered, how to walk, how to
not tear apart our own skin.

We'd take home our tubes of creams and our
artificial tears and neat rows of pills and
we'd smooth this patch over.
We'd wait to get better.
We'd wait
until everything
was normal
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
Ah, excuse me. But if you're not busy, could you hold this, please? Thank you. Ugh, it's skittering around in there. You can see it, can't you? Wedging itself into all the little nooks and quarries.

Pass me the hook thing, would you? Yes, that one. Thank you. Just got to ... just got to claw it out and ....

Ugh. Damn. I'm sorry. I'm imposing on you. You don't want to see this. You don't want to have to stand around looking over my shoulder while I try to fish this thing out.

Oh. Well. I hate to impose, but that's very kind. I - no, no, it's nothing. Thank you for your help.

I just can't sleep sometimes, you know? With it crawling and skittering around in there, keeping me awake. At night, my god, the sound is magnified. I'll be dozing off to sleep, and there it is, resurfacing. It's more frustrating than anything, you know? To be coming so close to sleep, and to have it snatched away from me ....

Even in the daytime it's not that great, you know? You'd think - I mean, it seems like it would be interesting, wouldn't it? Like having a pet. A tarantula safe in its cage, or a - something you can feed, you know? You can put a dead rat in there and watch it eat.

But even in the daytime, it's ... it's like reality TV. I can feel the ruts it's wearing inside my skull. Why am I doing this? Why am I still watching this? Why aren't I doing something more productive with my time?

Eh. You don't have to stay, really. It's not your problem.

All right. This is - I appreciate it, I really do. It's too easy to fuck this up going it alone. Stab your own fingers by mistake. Reach down the wrong crevasse and be feeling down there for hours. And a person here, it -

I get so alone sometimes.

Sorry. Could you just grip the sides of it, please. Yes, just like that. Thank you. Thank you. Just keep a hold of it, and -

There it is there it is there it is c'mon c'mon c'mon I've almost got you you little bastard -

Ah, fuck. Well, it's bleeding, at least. I think maybe if I stab it enough - Haha. Can you do that, do you think? Bleed out from a sore on the inside of your mouth? Just keep worrying it and worrying it and stabbing at it and jabbing at it and keeping it open all the time until you eventually bleed to death? 

Well, regardless. Couldn't do it. I'm done. I'll try again tomorrow, or ... It's not that big of a deal, it's really not. I'm used to it by now. And it's entertaining enough, in the daytime, in a decrepit sort of way. And even the nights ...

So I don't sleep. Eh. Who sleeps anymore? What's the point of it? To wake up again and ...? 

If I'm awake sixteen hours a day, or twenty hours a day, does it really make a difference? To be awake, and it's so unbearable that ... ? 

No, no, it's perfectly acceptable. As if the matter of hours matter. Thank you for your time. Honestly. I'll be ...

No, no, I don't want you to feel obliged to me or anything, thanks to the stupid human impulse towards compassion. Imagine, a stranger approaches you in the street, asking for help as if you owe them something! Haha! It's idiotic, isn't it! We've got to train ourselves not to respond!

So please, know that you were no help at all! Haha! We didn't come any closer to getting this damn thing out!

So thank you for your time, but really, it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. There's nothing to be done about it. You should go back on your way and forget about me.

Oh, i could get it out if I really wanted to, you know. Flush the whole thing. Smash the sides of the container. Do something irrevocable. Just take up a hammer and WHAM! Smash the thing to pieces! Send it scurrying out in the open air where it dies!

But I don't do that, you see, so I suppose I don't really want to be rid of it. I just want to ... probe in there, and jab at it, and make it bleed, and ...

Ah, but I'm sorry. I've exploited your kindness far too much. No, no, this must be it. Go on your way! Goodbye! Goodbye!

I'll be perfectly fine, I assure you. I own a hammer, eh? What more could a person need? 

The Truth

May. 2nd, 2017 08:06 pm
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
The truth, to get to the heart of the matter, is boring. Saying what I think and feel is the dullest thing in the world, it's a reiteration of my own circumstances, as if I'm in my head staring out of my eyeballs and dutifully taking note of what is going on around me. In order to communicate - in order to produce anything, even marginalia that goes unseen by anyone - I need a hook. I need the structure of artifice.

For example: I dreamed about Mischa again last night. Her mouth on my mouth, the curve of it sympathetic, the cushioned contact between our bodies. But what would be the point of returning to it, of describing it to anyone, even if just to myself? I could lay out events in sequence, I could chronologue our history. I could give that all-important context. But there's no context to be had. I reread some of my old diary entries again the other day, and the self that wrote those entries is a foreign entity, another person, who couldn't have predicted that years and years from then they'd wake up, dreaming. I hadn't thought of her in years, honestly. I just dreamt about her again last night, that's all.

Even back then there was the distinction between what I did when I was with her, and what I wanted to do, the distinction between reality and fantasy. What we did was utterly mundane, the sort of stuff you've surely experienced yourself and promptly forgotten about, because your brain needed the room to store more important memories. "I met her at the mall." How fascinating. I could dig up old chat logs and shudder at the inanity.

Meanwhile, there was the impulse I could extrapolate outwards, the recurring themes I'd retread and wear thin. The push and pull of the tides, their regularity and inevitability. That clockwork structure of desire that was made to seem like it was counting down to something but would just go 'round and 'round forever. The distinction between everything that was going on inside my head, and everything we did together. You appreciate the difference, right? The fantasy was fine, albeit repetitive. The reality was the dullest thing on earth.

Even now, to speak of her in dreams, I could psychoanalyze, I could slot her into an archetype. I could say, I dreamed of happiness, or, I dreamed of comfort, or, I dreamed of being loved, as if that's all she was and that's all she represented. As if I was happy, or comforted, or loved back then, and this is all a throwback to a world that once existed. I could say I'm miserable, or frustrated, or alone, as if there's a solid justification for my dreams and desires, as if she's part of my story, genuinely, and this all comes together by the end.

That's the artifice in it, you know? She was a real person, but you wouldn't know it by me talking about her.

I could say I fantasized about killing her. That's not true, I never did, but wouldn't that be interesting? Wouldn't that be the big reveal that finally sheds light on the whole situation? Just a single lie, and suddenly we're hinting at meaning, as if everything that happened last night and all those years ago somehow makes sense.

I dreamt about Mischa again last night, and I woke up and didn't feel anything. That's the gist of the story. That's the truth of it.


Apr. 13th, 2017 03:43 pm
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
There's a horror living in your head. It's yours, entirely. It doesn't map to anyone else's. Doesn't that make you feel special? You've got something that's exclusively your own. 

I've got my own horror, and so does everyone else, presumably. We can only talk about it in vague terms, and it only occasionally solidifies into an incomprehensible metaphor. Mine is shards of glass staring up like dead eyes from the ash and sand. Even that's too specific. It's other things too. It depends on the time of day and the weather. 

Our ineloquence makes us believe that the horror is amorphous, ever-shifting. We find like-minded people and we hammer out a jargon for it, big, expansive terms with no set definition, words capable of containing the world. Only a philosopher could properly understand them, but even an idiot can shriek out the words and feel a chill. It's coming, it's coming, it's here, it's coming; we say the words and it's surrounding us; we say the words and we're grasping at the edges of a vast and protoplasmic thing.

It's a mass delusion, though. Your horror is not mine, no matter how much we may agree it is. You can see it now in your head, can't you? How to describe it? Its borders are perfectly defined and intricate, tendrils crawling around the edges, reaching into the crevasses in your brain. Whose face does it have? Say the name. It wouldn't mean anything to anyone outside a small group of people, just a random name in the phone book, so you don't say that, right? You grasp for a word that someone else might be able to understand. You could map it out, probably, if you were so inclined, but it would take a lifetime. You'd have a spiderweb of string and pushpins, old photos, newspaper cutouts, words scrawled on scraps of paper. It would stretch across the walls of your house. You'd look like a lunatic. And you're not. You know you're not. Other people have talked about it too, a thing like this, though not entirely. All the distinct little differences in experience. But it's close enough, right? Close enough to a reality. Close enough to cling to.

So you take your horror and you file the edges off. You generalize. You find that something close enough in the outside world and you adopt the vocabulary as your own, just grateful for the ability to finally speak. You take your horror and you make it universal.

There's a horror in my head, and it's not yours, not at all. That's the only thing for sure we have in common. Mine is a pyramid of human skin, sagging and weighty like a dumpling, its surface prickled with gooseflesh. It's clammy. Ugh! I can feel it sweating from here. It's not your horror, is it? No, no, not at all. Tell me all about yours. Be specific. Be a lunatic. It's good to talk. It's good to let it all out. It's good to speak the truth.

Because what we do, in our mass delusion, is we let all our horrors blur together. We ink out intricate, personal maps and then we pile them on top of each other and let the ink bleed through. Until it's huge and blotted black and faceless, until it's ready to swallow us whole. Kundera talked about totalitarian kitsch, a smiling bland face that swallows us whole with happiness and the sentiment of the universal brotherhood of man. This is a kind of kitsch too, isn't it, this is anti-kitsch, this is apocalyptic kitsch. This is an aesthetic we can project into the void and hear the voices screaming back, until it seems like the whole world is screaming in horror with us. This is the stark perfect picture of our despair. This is the growing black tide that we're all going to have to beat back together, or we're all going to suffocate and drown.

But it doesn't happen, and instead we all drown separately, in disparate groups, except for those of us who don't drown at all. And we stare out in shock because that makes the horror worse. How are they not dying? How can they not see? How could you abandon me at this, my hour of need? I'm drowning! I'm drowning! Can't you see that? Can't you feel the suction of the tide? 

Listen: there is a horror in your head, and it's not mine, and it's not anybody else's. There are points of overlap, sure. There are good and useful group projects. And then you will wander down the tributaries of your horror, you will feel its tendrils grasping, and you will look around and you will find your friends and compatriots have abandoned you. No. They were never there to begin with. There are people being dragged down in the privacy of their overgrown lawns, the roots creeping up from the grass, far from your sight. There are people privately quietly suffering with all their variegated horrors creeping up to play. And it's not your horror, and it doesn't fit into your map, but it's there, and that's all you need to understand.

There's a horror in your head, and it's as real as mine, it's as real as anyone else's. I won't understand it completely, and maybe no one ever will. That doesn't take anything away from it. We like to think we'd all shriek in unison, but our voices rise and fall away one by one. The closest we can come to compassion is to understand that we intersect in convenience, and that we are not abandoned when we diverge. We are all in this together. We are all very much alone.

I have to go. I have my own problems to deal with. Take care of yourself, especially when no one else will. Navigate the edges of your horror. Tend to it. It is as unique and intricate and as beautiful as you are.

Walk your lonely paths, and pull it out by the roots.
sadoeuphemist: (Default)
Please read the following text and then answer the questions below:
I'm pretty sure writing is impossible.
I'm pretty sure writing and being read is impossible. 
Writing involves the formation of a "self" that I'm not ready to share with anyone; that's how much I fear intimacy.
The horrifying thing about writing is that no one ever understands what you're saying. 
They only ever understand how they feel about what you wrote.

QUESTIONS: (Please pick the best answer) 

1) What does the writer mean when they say "writing and being read is impossible"?
A) The writer has psychological / emotional problems that make it difficult for them to share their thoughts and feelings with others. 
B) The writer is frustrated at their inadequacy at writing, and cannot find the words to adequately express their thoughts and feelings.
C) Any written text is separate from the author and can only be understood as the reader interprets it, making true communication impossible. 
D) Writing and being read is impossible.
E) None of the above (Please fill in your own answer here)_______________________________________________________

2) Why does the writer put the word "self" in quotation marks?
A) The writer is talking about a fictional persona adopted for the purposes of writing.  
B) The writer believes in an innermost self that is separate from the "self" presented to others.
C) The writer's existence is irrelevant; they might as well not exist outside of the text.
D) The writer is insecure, and finds it unnatural to express themselves through writing. 
E) None of the above (Please fill in your own answer here)_______________________________________________________
3) The writer says they are "not ready to share with anyone". What literary device is employed by you reading these words regardless? 
A) Paradox.
B) Irony.
C) Satire. 
D) Tragedy. 
E) None of the above (Please fill in your own answer here)_______________________________________________________

4) What does the writer mean when they say that they "fear intimacy"?
A) The writer writes about intensely personal things that they are hesitant to share with an audience. 
B) The writer is afraid of having their ideas closely scrutinized for fear they are insufficient.
C) The writer fears being eradicated from the text and overwritten by someone else's interpretation. 
D) The writer has genuine psychological / emotional problems with interacting with other people. 
E) None of the above (Please fill in your own answer here)_______________________________________________________

5) Do you understand what the writer is saying? 
A) No, the actual meaning is only available inside of the writer's head.
B) Yes, our understanding of something is dependent on objective reality, not someone else's opinions. Since the text is grammatically coherent and communicates intelligible ideas, we can understand it.
C) Yes, although how well we understand it depends on how closely our interpretations sync up with the writer's.
D) No, we only ever understand how we feel about what they wrote. 
E) None of the above (Please fill in your own answer here)_______________________________________________________
6) Is the writer genuinely attempting to be understood?
A) No, they consider genuine understanding to be impossible. 
B) Yes, they are in pursuit of a seemingly futile goal. 
C) No, they are being deliberately vague to conceal a lack of insight. 
D) Yes, and the words chosen express exactly what they were trying to say. 
E) None of the above (Please fill in your own answer here)_______________________________________________________

7) According to the writer, is writing possible? 
A) I'm pretty sure writing is impossible.
B) I'm pretty sure writing and being read is impossible. 
C) Writing involves the formation of a "self" that I'm not ready to share with anyone; that's how much I fear intimacy.
D) The horrifying thing about writing is that no one ever understands what you're saying. 
E) None of the above (Please fill in your own answer here)_______________________________________________________

Wouldn't the "best answer" always be some variation of E, as it's always possible to clarify and expand upon one of the other four answers? 
A) Yes, any statement can always be clarified and improved upon. 
B) Maybe, it depends whether we are capable of improving on the other answers or not. 
C) No, because by that logic any answer in E could then be subsequently improved upon, ensuring that it will never be the best possible answer. 
D) There are no best answers. 
E) None of the above (Please fill in your own answer here)_______________________________________________________

9) What, exactly, is "the horrifying thing about writing"? 
A) The realization that no one will ever fully understand you, and that you will never fully understand anyone else, because we all irreparably view things through our own sets of filters. 
B) The realization that you will never be able to precisely express what you mean, not even to yourself.
C) Being exposed. Being seen. Being judged.
D) The realization that you have nothing meaningful to say, and that the only value your words have are in the insights of people who read their own ideas into them.
E) None of the above (Please fill in your own answer here)_______________________________________________________

 How would the writer most likely feel about you trying to interpret what this piece means? 
A) They would be relieved that someone was trying to understand them. 
B) They would be horrified that they were being subject to someone else's interpretation. 
C) They would be resigned to the inadequacy of writing as an expression of meaning. 
D) It doesn't matter at all how they feel. 
E) None of the above (Please fill in your own answer here)_______________________________________________________

Thus ends the test. Thank you for your time. You will not be graded.


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