Embodiment

I recently read a short story called Object Permanence by James Yu and like most of his writing — I’m a fan — this speculative piece makes use of technology to explore themes of identity, society and culture.

In this piece, humans who are landmark caretakers also manage Twitter accounts for their respective landmarks and tweet as them.

Imagine Twitter accounts with handles like @GoldenGateBridgeUnofficial and @EiffelTowerOfficial tweeting “You can’t miss me, unlike that boring span @BayBridge” or “Elevate Elevate Elevate”. This actually happens in the story.

The protagonist of this piece, Zain, is a lighthouse caretaker, who initially starts tweeting as his lighthouse for fun.

Later, he is invited to be part of Twitter’s (fictional) green checkmark program, which he initially turns down because he was “skeptical of any software that claimed to be automatic”.

But a mysterious Twitter representative who communicates only by typing in her Notes app, instead of speaking, eventually convinces him to try it out.

The story is beautifully-written and makes commentary on the farcical nature of some parts of the tech industry, while recognising that good can come out of using tech too.

There was a part of the story that reminded me of some of the things I’ve been reading for my research — embodiment and possession (as in, demon / spirit) — which I found odd, but fascinating.

Noshings #13

Noshings is a post with five links, published every Monday. I did it for a while in 2019, then stopped after I made a switch to (more) visual posts in 2020. But here we go again:

To feed my Korean obsession, I watched this video on the history of North and South Korea. It’s slightly over an hour-long and can be played at 2x speed, which I tend to do with most videos I watch (including some TV series).

This fascination with Korea is a bit of a distraction from my research, which I find especially tough because I don’t have any background in a related field — my undergraduate degree was in Science — and I struggle to even know what concepts or theories to use for a particular scenario.

It’s even tougher when ideas like metamodernism don’t have clear definitions. Is it a movement? A period of time in which cultural artefacts exist / are created? Is it a concept? Is it a theory?

I don’t know! But when I came across the word in Tiago Forte’s Top 20 Favourite Reads of 2020, I was fascinated.

I’ve also decided to finish my 36k-word thesis by February, which means I have to write about 1000 words a day. According to The Thesis Whisperer, it’s possible if you have a plan and if the plan is to just open the doc and write as fast as you can. Leave the rewriting for later.

I’m reading Penis Envy and Other Bad Feelings by Mari Ruti, which I started for fun but am continuing to read as part of my research. There’s something about Ruti’s writing that resonates with me.

Take, for example, the phrase “…our character contains a residue of all the losses we have experienced”.

It’s both profound and comforting to me. In an interview with LARB, she talked about how writing helps her cope with “both lack and jouissance“. When I read that, I realised that writing does the same for me too.

Thesis

I started drafting my thesis in bed, on my mobile phone, typing it into my Apple Notes app with two thumbs as if I was sending a long text message or an email to someone. 

The blank page feels less intimidating on a phone screen. And 36,000 words seems easier to achieve when the first 1,000 has been written. That 1,000 in turn becomes easier when the first 100 has been put on the page. 

In Biology, we learn about positive feedback loops — when a product of a reaction leads to an increase in the reaction. I sometimes like to think about writing in these terms. 

If I write, the words written make it easier for more writing to happen. 

It’s a heartening way to think about the writing process — the more I write, the more I can write. This gives me the motivation to keep writing… something I’ll admit I neglected in 2020. 

It’s tough to write when all you want to do is curl up into a ball and watch TV to drown your feelings. 

But 2021 is another year and since it seems like things aren’t getting any better, the only thing I can do is bite the bullet and get shit done. 

Flow

I woke up before six this morning and couldn’t seem to go back to sleep. The heart pounding was back and although my eyes had difficulties opening, my brain refused to settle down. 

I got up to work. 

Sometimes when I encounter these sorts of mornings, I write. Other times, I pull up my to-do list and start banging through all my must-dos and some maybe-dos. 

Doing this puts me in a state of calm. The illusion of control slips back into place and my heart starts to beat normally again. 

Focusing on work puts my brain back on a path, where it can still wander, but in safety. 

Sometimes I get to go back to sleep. And when I wake again, it feels as if elves have done my work. 

Could I have actually written this? I think about the stories I’ve written in my half-dream state, about emails and texts I’ve sent. 

The latter can sometimes be worrying. What if I say something I didn’t mean to? But thus far, there have been no faux pas. 

And sometimes I wonder how I seem more competent, more amiable, more efficient in that half-sleep state. 

Is this what people mean when they talk about flow? 

Unconscious

I’ve been dreaming more than I usually do. Lately, the dreams have become aggressive and physical. 

Dreams of trying to catch items before they fall into a deep water-filled hole, having eggs suddenly thrown at me, being threatened by someone much larger and stronger than me. 

In my dreams I soothe arguments between other people and attempt to plead for forgiveness from someone I never even knew I wronged. I dream about post-apocalyptic cities and snakes made out of electricity. 

The last time I dreamed like this, it lasted for over a month and by the end of it, I felt like I hadn’t slept in forever. 

This time feels different. 

Back then, I felt like the dreams took me over, chewed me up and swallowed me. I spent nights wandering, crying, waking up feeling like everything was rotten and nothing made sense. 

These days, I think of it as my unconscious trying to speak. 

Instead of seeing the dream experiences as scary or traumatic, I think of it as another language — the only way my unconscious knows how to make sense. 

The temptation to silence it is palpable. The desire to shut it out is real. But these days, I’m trying to listen. And that has made all the difference.