Stricken Conscious

[Interactive image: 3D printing, reimagining the Venus de Milo engaged in spinning thread, by Cosmo Wenman (with direction from Virginia Postrel). More info here.]

From whiskey river:

Perhaps the greatest faculty our minds possess is the ability to cope with pain. Classic thinking teaches us of the four doors of the mind, which everyone moves through according to their need.

First is the door of sleep. Sleep offers us a retreat from the world and all its pain. Sleep marks passing time, giving us distance from the things that have hurt us. When a person is wounded they will often fall unconscious. Similarly, someone who hears traumatic news will often swoon or faint. This is the mind’s way of protecting itself from pain by stepping through the first door.

Second is the door of forgetting. Some wounds are too deep to heal, or too deep to heal quickly. In addition, many memories are simply painful, and there is no healing to be done. The saying ‘time heals all wounds’ is false. Time heals most wounds. The rest are hidden behind this door.

Third is the door of madness. There are times when the mind is dealt such a blow it hides itself in insanity. While this may not seem beneficial, it is. There are times when reality is nothing but pain, and to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind.

Last is the door of death. The final resort. Nothing can hurt us after we are dead, or so we have been told.

(Patrick Rothfuss [source])



There is one thing certain.
Once you have stood
in the midst of that
searing flame,
been struck down
to earth
like a pilgrim
entered by light at last
and have lain there,
not quite certain—

how can you ever know again
what it is
not to be blinded by the light,
never to have gone there
to the top of the snow hung peak
and felt that nameless something
descend onto your shoulders,
your breast,
even as you bent forward
in disbelief.

(Dorothy Walters [source])

Not from whiskey river:

All of the questions that had been open when my head had hit the pillow were still pending. But in the intervening hours, my brain had been changing to fit the new shape of my world. I guess that’s why we can’t do anything else when we’re sleeping: it’s when we work hardest.

(Neal Stephenson [source])


For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

(W. S. Merwin [source])


Eltisley Maze had two separate campuses, and they were as different as a cloudless summer day and a blizzard. Eltisley Hall had grand stone buildings over six hundred years old, and nobody ever raised his or her voice there. Students at Eltisley walked single file along the gravel walkways, wearing blazers, ties, and shorts, with the school’s crest over their hearts (a bear and stag face-to-face, holding a flaming chalice between them). You addressed your teachers or upperclassmen as Sir or Miss and ate in Formal Hall in the Greater Building. The Maze, meanwhile, was a disorienting jumble of nine-faced buildings and looping walkways, where you could wear whatever you pleased. You could sleep all day, do drugs, play video games, do anything you fancied. Except that you would find yourself trapped in a room with no door (or toilet) for weeks, until you learned some crazy lesson. Or you would be tossed into a bottomless pit, or chased around for days by people with sticks. Or you would find yourself unable to stop tap-dancing. Or pieces of you might start falling off, one by one. Nobody told you anything in The Maze.

Once, Eltisley Hall and The Maze had been two separate schools, representing two styles of magic that were at odds, but now they were joined because magic had been united, at great cost.

(Charlie Jane Anders [source])


A Slow Fuse

Some seventy years later
your father, sitting at your table
over wine he savors, last rays mellow-
ing in it, recalls his favorite aunt,
“Just naming her shoots
rifles off again inside the morning
square, rifles she aimed into the air
for certain customers, the pigeons
Handsome, clever,
but with little actual schooling,
she, a Jewess, kept a shop in Moscow,
stocking horse- and battle-gear,
bustling all day long.
braided with his laboring breath,
still prickle inside his nostrils;
like the wayward flickers cast
by lazily swimming,
naked limbs,
leathers polished, buckles, gleam;
and the oats banked in their bins,
heavy August winds drowsed in them,
at one glance, a single sniffing,
the harnesses and bells,
by gaslight starred, send out appeals,
while sleighs collect for midnight
He smitten with it all,
like those officers of the Czar
who, admiring her wit, her seasoned
gaiety, forever jammed the shop.

“Even the city’s metropolitan,
young despite his full, black robes,
took to dropping in on her, his jagged,
bushy beard awag with chat.
One balmy
summer evening, I remember, the three
of us, laughter brimming like wine
(he turned his glass to the lessened
light), relaxed in her snug flat.

The next morning at breakfast,
talk going on as if we’d never stop”—
he, a startled look lit on his face,
breaking in upon himself, exclaims,
the pigeons crackling through the air—
“My God, he spent the night with her!”

He, sipping the last drop, sits
back, as much as he’s amazed amused
to see this special virtue of old age,
the oats ripening only in slow time.

(Theodore Weiss [source])

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