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A Slow Day in Austria

By Billy | May 17, 2011

I haven’t written in quite some time.  So, I’m just going to spend some time spouting words out.

This past week I’ve reached a point — a boiling point? a le grange point? a critical mass? a terminal velocity?  I don’t know.  It is some point where I feel quite ready to explode or change.  This point comes primarily in reference to the way I spend my time entertaining myself.  I’ve spent hours and hours reading interesting things, having good conversations, and creating things I’m proud of; it’s all felt wonderful but it’s all been online.  As I typed that, I mispelled it and wrote “on lone.”  It’s all been solo, despite the illusion the internet creates of connectivity.

Although I enjoy and feel justified in how I spend my time, I also experience a discenernable twinge of “I wish I had done other things today” when I go to bed.  I have a lot of things I wish I put my time into, but they are vague and somewhat whimsical, and they tend to flee from my mind when I’m trying to think of things to do.  Learning to make uber tasty Pad Thai seems a lot more exciting when I have to go to bed and am looking forward to the next day, than when I’m bored in the house looking at the prospect of walking to the store, struggling to find the German version of the ingredients I want, then making and cleaning a mess in the Kitchen while trying to make a dish that there’s a good chance nobody in the house but me will eat.  It’s easy to look for a TV episode to watch when that is the prospect.  It’s easier still to check the news or get into a good discussion about Hegel, Communism, and the Occidental notion of Femininity.  What do you use Facebook for?  Cuz that’s what I do on Facebook is discuss those things.

So yesterday I deleted you all from my newsfeed on Facebook.  Now when I log in, there’s no news.  If I want to know about your life, I’m going to actually have to think about you, look for you, and learn about you.  Gasp!  And if you expect me to know something about what’s going on in your life, you’re going to have to… TELL ME ABOUT IT YOURSELF.  Holy crap.  It’s crazy to think like this.

I feel good about it.  I feel like it’s something I need to do in Austria.  I feel like I need to work more on living in Austria, so that’s what I’m doing.  Yesterday I took a broken file in Alex’s factory, I grinded it into a chisel, and I took a broken hammer and made it a new handle with scrap wood and my pocket knife.  Now I have two tools that I don’t know what to do with, and I’m going to learn things to do with them.

I’m interested in learning how to make two pieces of wood stick together.  Interested means that I once had the idea that it would be cool to know how to and actually do it.  So now I’m going to.  My arbitrary goal: to make something a grown human can sit on and eat dinner on that uses no rope or glue.  That might happen some day.

So I’ve taken to writing a lot.  I have these notions that come in my mind like a fly through the window.  Sometimes they come and leave quickly, and sometimes they stick around forever and annoy the hell out of me.  I have decided to take note of all of them — writing them down on paper.  Sometimes the ones that stay in the room are useless and impossible, and some of the fleeting ones are really golden.  Writing them down helps me judge which is what sort.  The other thing that helps me is to write down some goals for tomorrow tonight.  I am much more likely to actually do something if I make it a goal, and especially if I make it a goal for tomorrow.  It makes getting out of bed easier, it makes getting my shoes on to go accomplish the thing easier, it makes everything easier.  It also helps to go to sleep when it’s down on paper; much easier to stop thinking about things when it’s saved someplace.  (Sometimes the bedside table jots are weird like: “research time travel.  If you choose to live in the reality where you did it, your future self will help you figure it out again.” and other times it’s more practical: “learn the German word for “inarticulate.”  [It’s undeutlich.  Un-meaning-ly.])


My frustration with the guitar has vanished.  Since my last post about how frustrating it has been, I have sat down and taken the babiest steps possible and stopped seeking the end of the process and found a lot more joy in it.

J.R.R. Tolkien taught me how to live life.  Since I started reading about the happenings on Middle Earth, I have learned some of the most important lessons I have needed in life.  Sorry Drogyam Trungpa, but I didn’t understand your book until I read Tolkien’s.  The Hobbit, not so much, but The freaking Lord of the Rings trilogy is so freaking long.  Not just because they have so many freaking pages, but because entire (long) chapters have nothing to do with plot development whatsoever.  If you read The Lord of the Rings with the intention to finish the book and know what happens next, you’re reading it wrong.  Plain and simple.  The point is not to find out what happens next, but to read exactly the word that you’re reading on the exact page you’re reading.  The only way I’ve found to enjoy the series is to just jump in and be there for a while.  You need to acknowledge that you can’t see the end anywhere in sight, and just experience it.  It’s going to be lonesome, ugly, frustrating, or whatever those damn hobbits are experiencing — and that’s the point.  Be frustrated, and be amazed that you’re holding old dead trees and they’re somehow stirring your soul.

How does that relate to anything in Austria other than the fact I’m reading the Silmarillion?  Because the things I’m embarking on in Austria are as tedious, if not moreso, than reading Tolkien.  I have been making prayer beads out of sticks I find on the ground — do you know how many times I’ve made the same motion of pushing my pocket knife away from me and shaving off another piece of wood?  Jesus.  It’s fun as a kid to carve a random stick on the ground with your Swiss Army Knife.  You know why?  Because you made the rules up.  Your goal was to get the most flawlessly pointy stick.  Your goal was to make the perfect no-bark branch that nobody could ever tell you put a flat blade to; it looks like a machine sanded it down to be a perfect dowel… AND it can roast 17 marshmellows at the same time without catching fire.

If Mr. Pennies, that annoying adult in your boyscout troop, suddenly thought it was a great idea to make whittling into a game that the whole troop must play before they can even light the fire, and every tip has to be impossibly pointy, and every branch has to have fewer than 0.0001 molecules per square inch of bark on it before the marshmellow bags will be opened… then we have a problem.  Now every kid is only thinking of which eye to poke this dumb adult in, using their adequately pokey stick, and only because using their Swiss Army Knife will get them a corner of their Totin’ Chip cut off.  You can’t make me do something I enjoy, or else I’m going to stop enjoying it.  Maybe even to spite you.  I have to do it because it’s just what I am doing.  The only way to enjoy something is to do it just because you get to do it.  So when I want to make a Pad Thai, or to make a chair out of wood I find on the ground, or when I learn German words, or when I strum the guitar for hours on end hoping my brain will figure something out it didn’t know the first 10 strums, I know that I need to keep on doing it with the intention of just doing it.  We need to play the guitar like we have to read Tolkien — only existing at that particular moment.

If you pick up a guitar and want to be John Mayer right away, you’re gona hate the damned thing.  If you pick up LoTR and want to magically absorb the plot without just enjoying the walk in the woods, you’re going to hate the damned author.  I have effectively started talking in a circle after having made my point.  Thus, I am going to stop, click the post button, put on some pants, and hit stuff with a hammer.  Because that’s what I want to do right now.

Did this end where I thought it was going to go? Nope.

Is that OK.

I choose yes.


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