Pressure Systems

Seasons are a ploy. A New season can fall instantly (in this week's case, like a grey blanket), yet it sneaks. The beginning of every season is an opportunity to toy with forever: what will life look like from now on? There's an "until," but ignore it. Three months is a lifetime. Except when you hear a date six months in the future, and realize it's almost here.

It's 60 degrees and drizzly, and I'm already calling it Winter. Fall and Spring are intermediaries; Winter and Summer allow me to cultivate delusions of time depressurized. The difference is the setting: inside with endless cups of tea, or outside under a tree. There seems to be a presence there, in the seasonal rescue from the current. Holing up or getting lost.

Hence, Christmas cookies. Making them is a tedious ritual lasting several days. The point isn't the cookies themselves, but the needless work. If I'm lucky, I can get lost in the tactile kingdom of dough. Is this more, or less difficult alone? It can be a social event, cookie-making, but company is only a means to an end. If the weather is just right, it's easier to forget in company. It can despine conciousness, which can get like a cactus, cooking alone.

Winter is supposed to be the season of gluttony, but when it's me who has to cook, it ends up being the season of neglect. Tea for breakfast, because it's as a ritual it calms rather than disorganizes. It's not that food is so distasteful in the morning, but the thought of thinking about food is too much to bear. I get desperate sometime in the evening, but if nothing is at hand, hunger transmutes into simple exhaustion, and I can go to sleep.

Also, hunger and restlessness and intimately related. Being sick of something feels like hunger. Hunger can coexist with involvement, but it's almost soothingly far off, like thunder.

So you can imagine the appeal of this to me. I don't particularly want marzipan fruit, but I imagine the required attention to detail will save me. My habit is to call this kind of focus a rest from language. But restlessness also falls away when I'm working on a piece of code, which is as symbolic an activity as I can imagine. On the other hand, writing prose is a performance, so self-consciousness cannot entirely leave the picture. The difference isn't quite the addictive properties of playing god. Restlessness might recede in the imaginitive part of writing fiction, but one doesn't come away in quite the same clockwork daze. Someone I know drifts from conversation into engineering drawings. The need to tinker persists as an insulating itch. Rather than starting far away, writing tends to overknead its relation to the world. It's much like conversation: everything that could've been put differently comes back like sports commentator video loops. (Maybe that's the redemptive dream of watching football, a sport that spends a lot of time considering very short plays: that anyalsis and second-guessing have value?) Post-programming, my head fills with everything I will do next--the red shoes of the mind.

Phenomenologically, programming is thoroughly technical. It has more in common with home improvement than prose or cookie-making. Cookies seem like they might save me from both. Where writing involves an fraught distance/intimacy with oneself, and programming liquidates experience for products, a craft takes the air out of the self and is only productive as an excuse.

But that's just how I imagine it. I'm not that patient. Every little tectonic shift in experience, like the seasons, are there to negate. A few hours meticulously painting marzipan, and I can feel like never doing it again. That's the product: being over it.

29 September 2013