On One Hand

September 26, 2007

Libra

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 9:07 pm

I could feel the season change about two days ago. The afternoons are still hot but the nights have a clean crispness and smell that evokes the memory of every other early autumn I’ve lived. In many cultures the end of the growing season marks the end of the whole year, but to me it feels like a beginning, simultaneously academic and romantic and intellectual and musical and deeply freeing. Each moment has an added weight, of strings of histories and potentialities to let me know that wherever I am is exactly where I’m supposed to be. As I pass through, the potentialities collapse and become perfect. It feels good to be alone. It feels good to be in groups. It feels good to be in pairs.

I’ve resurrected a personality that was latent for a while; I want to smoke cigarettes under the browning leaves of an oak tree, watching the clouds of my condensed breath appear in the darkness as thick and white, then fade into their skeletons – whispier curls of gray smoke. I want to talk about politics and religion and intelligent things, and read books with yellowed pages that smell of their age. I want to light candles and hold someone’s hand. I want to race outside after midnight to catch the first flakes of the year’s first snow. I’m thinking, this is sort of how I talk when I’m falling in love. But being beyond the constructions of “in love” or not, this is better described as the way I talk when I’m very, very grateful for where I am.

Photos from this summer feel like relics of an ancient past, bitersweetly near-forgoten. People I loved, people I thought I’d be close to forever seem like friends from elementary school, for whom I might only muse about what they’re doing now. If I look outside past midnight, I can see Orion in the eastern sky for the first time in seven months. The sight of it is utterly familiar, yet the thought of Sagittarius, which was at its most visible point two months ago in July, is a faded memory.

My great aunt died this summer at one hundred years old. It’s hard to imagine living this season as many times as there are days in summer. She was already old when I was born, and in the end was so crooked and frail that her amphibian body seemed to be part of the bed she lay on. Now she may as well have been gone for as long as she lived; I don’t think the dead have the same sense of time as we do. That’s where I am now, in a timeless place.

A month ago when I fell out of love with someone, I was choking to forget and to not forget what was once as dear to me as my own body. It’s bizarre thinking how fast I got to the point where I can reflect on it with the ease and comfort of a happy past. The more that the years accellerate, the more of a sense of urgency there is to find the things I’m looking for, but right now I hardly have an awareness of time. It seems to be written in the stars and predetermined events will take place exactly when they’re supposed to, or as if all events in the past and future are taking place at once.

This time a month ago I was doubting, but I’m sure again, regardless of what happens, that age twenty-two is one of the best years of my life.

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September 19, 2007

Secrets

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:55 pm

It happened again. One of my roommates has splilled a terrible secret.

It started with a weird chatter outside the door one night. Shannon and I were sitting on the couch watching TV. Suddenly the door banged open, unleashing a cacauphony of feminine squeals. When I stood up to see who was outside, I found three nicely-dressed girls skittering away across the lawn as if they had been caught doing something wrong.

On the floor was a large construction paper cutout in the shape of a crescent. It was purple. There was writing on it that read, “Gamma Phi Beta Hearts Lauren.” It was written in Greek letters and symbols, like this: “7OB <3s Lauren.”

That’s when we knew there was something Lauren had been keeping from us. Roommate secrets are all too familiar in our house; Lauren is the girl who replaced Bryson, who is the guy who told me he was gay just after he moved in with us a year ago. When Bryson moved in, I was initially pleased to have someone who understood me – but having two gay men in one house turned out to be harder than I had imagined, when all of our potential sexual partners were guys we both knew. I would frequently pass through Bryson’s bedroom in the morning (to get to the bathroom we shared) to find that someone I had been interested in was cuddled up in Bryson’s bed. For that and other reasons, things got awkward. Bryson decided not to renew his lease after a year, and Lauren was his replacement. Her religion listed on Facebook was “tolerance” and her political views “liberal,” and she described a good taste in music, so that’s all we needed to pick her over the other applicants.

Last night Lauren launched a huge one on us as she picked up the moon-shaped letter on the floor.

“Yeah, I joined a sorority,” she said. “I mean, for now at least.”

I always knew it was possible that someone I live with could join a sorority. But as is true with so many terrible things, I never thought it would actually happen to me. I am trying to be understanding, even supportive. Lauren is a very nice girl. But how far can I condone that lifestyle? And how quickly can I process the unexpected news?

The responsibility for this lies with the rest of us; if we had been there for her before, she might not have turned to that scene. She is a transfer student new to CU, so didn’t have many friends in Boulder. She joined that community trying to make friends, because she’s the only underaged person in the house, and the rest of us, being over 21, go out to the bars on weekends, where she can’t come. “When are we going to have a house party,” Lauren would ask, and we would say, “oh, soon,” but it wouldn’t happen.

Now it’s too late. Our roommate is caught in the snares of a lifestyle the rest of us know nothing about. I wish there were support group for people like us. We are hoping it’s just a phase, but how often are things like that just a phase? I think we are in this for the long haul, and must prepare to entertain a lot of, you know, that kind of girls, right in our own home. Hopefully it will be a learning experience.

September 16, 2007

Thoughts and energy

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 2:59 pm

While the spiritualistic fads of astrology, spirit animals, and extra-sensory perception were gaining popularity in the 1960s, an American scientist decided that plants, too, have bizarre nonmaterial connections to human thought. Cleve Backster was an interrogator for the CIA, and as such he delt with polygraphs – machines that can detect subtle physical changes in people to read their thoughts and emotions. He decided to use the same machines to experiment on plants, coming up with what would later be called plant perception, primary perception, or the Backster Effect.

In his experiment, Backster hooked a polygraph machine to a potted philodendron, then imagined burning one of the plant’s leaves with a lit match. He found that the machine recorded distress from the plant as a response to his thinking, and furthermore, the plant could distinguish his actual intent from his simple pretending – hard evidence, he would insist, that living things are connected in elusive unseen ways.

The experiment was repeated with varied success by other curious, self-motivated individuals, but never with the controls a serious scientific journal or university would require to call the results valid. Any scientific institution with a reputation to protect wouldn’t touch such an experiment, no matter how curious its researchers may have been. The popular TV show MythBusters performed an experiment similar to Backster’s, to find that their equipment did indeed record unlikely reactions from a plant in response to their thoughts, but when the initial results didn’t show up on later experiments (Backster would argue it was the plant distinguishing imagination from actual intent), the show claimed to have busted the myth.

Whether or not there is really some sort of energy field that connects people to plants, or, as would harmonize with a great number of religions, at least a field connecting human beings to each other, the tests do show that the human mind is willing to perceive very subtle stimulii from its environment, and, if a person believes that the object he or she is looking at has a consciousness of its own, a person will interpret that connection in dramatic ways.

I am a plant enthusiast, and I have a certain way of inspecting plants I’m taking care of. Every week or so, I’ll spend a few minutes with each plant, and appreciate its presence. Sometimes I will lift the pot off of the windowsill to note all the new growth, I’ll gauge the plant’s general health, I’ll check for bug-infestations or wounds, and decide if the plant looks like it needs more water, fertilizer, or light. It’s a soothing thing for me to do, which is why I have so many plants in the first place. I say it’s how I show love; my former boyfriend Garrett used to tell that the way I looked at him reminded him of how I inspected my plants; if we were alone together, I’d often unconsciously start examining his skin to see if there was anything new or unusual, checking his moles or warts and lightly touching his hands or feet to get a feel for them.

Going back to my relationship with plants, I always have some specimens I spend a little more time on than the others. I’d water or fertilize any plant that wilted or yellowed, but if one of them seemed more interesting or unusual, I would linger when “inspecting” it. Without fail, the “favorite” got to be bigger than the others; I started a collection of cactus seedlings when I was 9 years old, and 13 years later, the one I looked at the most has turned out to be about 5 times taller than its nearest rival. This summer I cut a ginger root in half and planted it in 2 different pots, and the piece I gave to Garrett – a gift I invested with a lot of love and thought – sprung into a healthy, two-foot bamboo-like shoot while the other didn’t even emerge from the soil for two months until after I broke up Garrett and was no longer following the progress of the first one. I’ve always assumed the phenomenon occurs because I am more aware of what’s going on with the plant I like better, so give it more precise amounts of water and light.

A month ago I brought some semi-tropical seeds from Southern California, and planted them in little containers inside a covered tray. Their surroundings are identical, since they’re in the same tray, and all the seeds sprouted at the same time. A week after I planted the seeds they sprung to life, and there were usually about 2-3 emerging seedlings per container, so I had to thin them out. I picked out the smallest sprouts to leave room for the bigger sprouts to grow. In one instance, I uprooted the smaller seedling of a container that had two, and since about a third of the little plant’s roots were still intact, I decided to save it and pressed the seedling into the soil into an otherwise-empty container in the same tray.

A month later, that formerly small and seriously injured seedling was the biggest out of the entire collection. I have no logical explanation for its success; all the seedlings get the exact same amount of sun and light, and since they’re in a miniature covered greenhouse that recycles its water, all the seedlings get the same amount of moisture. Furthermore, since the seedling’s roots had been seriously torn when it was moved, the plant was at a huge disadvantage. The only potentially-beneficial difference between the seedling I transplanted and any of the others is that the one I transplanted got a little extra attention when I bothered to preserve its life. It had physical contact with an intelligent being that, in a loving way, took some time to give it a chance to survive. Whenever I checked on the seedlings after that, I took some extra time to consider the injured one to see how it was doing. Later it was markedly larger than it should have been, almost twice as big as the smallest seedlings in the tray and at least a third larger than its nearest rival.

Can just thinking about a plant really make it grow faster? Eccentric botanists who “talk to their plants” have been suggesting so for generations, to the frustration of trained scientists who say that the phenomenon is better explained in other ways. One possible answer is that exhaled breath has higher-than-average levels of carbon dioxide, a gas plants need in order to survive, so close proximity to humans would give any plant a boost in growth. Also, extra thought and attention probably means the caretaker would subconsciously offer extra water and fertilizer as well.

The scientific method requires “double-blind” studies in which the person making the observations is different from the person performing the experiment; basically, a person might try to “love” one plant more, but in order for the experiment to work he or she can’t be the person to water and feed the plant and can’t be the person measuring to see if the loved plant is actually bigger than the others. The person making the measurements isn’t even allowed to know which plant is receiving more attention, otherwise his or her bias would surely have an impact on the findings. Only with a double-blind process of data collection can the experiment be considered to have real scientific credibility.

A beleiver in energy fields, on the other hand, might counter that it is the act of feeding and measuring a plant that transfers the energy that makes the plant grow, so a double-blind study wouldn’t work in the first place; a true scientific test is impossible. There is a kind of intellectual satisfaction in that, since for thousands of years no experiment in science has been able to confirm or deny the things that we tend to consider as part of religion; beleivers insist that something about the supernatural’s very nature makes it elusive. Why should the case of thriving plants be any different?

Any conclusion about the realness of extra-sensory fields would be mired in doubt. But I think the most important lesson in all this doesn’t require a bizarre or supernatural force to be true. That lesson is that somehow, even when I am trying to do otherwise, my secret thoughts and emotions affect reality, because they effect my actions in subtle ways. Either some mysterious energy filled the favored plant with vitality, or my subconscious had me give it better physical care. Either way, the impact was real and measurable. It means that that when someone or something is loved, that thing is more likely to thrive, because the beings that love it will give it more of what it needs to do so. From an evolutionary perspective, that makes sense, because an individual’s feelings of love and compassion increase the chances of survivial for the community as a whole if that love can help its subjects thrive.

Realizing that makes other pieces of my life suddenly clear. When I am in a relationship, I rapidly lose weight, maybe because I am focusing all my “love” onto another person rather than on myself. I am always trying to keep my weight up, but somehow it is much easier to do when I have no responsibilities for the emotional well-being of another. When I lose that deep relationship, I lose all the love coming from another person, but have not yet re-learned to love myself. I’ll lose weight even faster at that time. As soon as I learn to care for myself again, though, my weight suddenly begins to increase, and I feel energized and healthy again. People who constantly try to lose weight find the opposite to be true; when they are in relationships, they find themselves getting heavier, especially around the time the relationship ends, and only when they are comfortable alone do they have enough self-focus to exersize and be conscious of their diet.

Obviously, this phenomenon has the potential to affect others. If you secretly favor one person over another, you will treat that person better no matter how hard you try not to; to change the situation, you have to start with your own deepest feelings of bias or favoritism. It means that your resentment of another person, if unaddressed, will manifest itself no matter how hard you try to bury it. Your own thoughts and feelings control you in stronger ways than your rational intent for consistency can conceal what’s in your heart. It also means that if you are putting more love into a person or relationship than you are getting in return, your physical health and ability to thrive will be affected.

Taken on a broader scale, this understanding has strong social implications. Our thoughts do affect things around us, and maybe society’s general thoughts and feelings affect the world even when those thoughts are largely unspoken. Minority groups could end up feeling secret racism even if no one says anything racist out loud. Our insecurities about a foreign religion will affect our views on peace and war even when we think the categories are separate. All these thoughts and feelings will impact our actions, in such decisions as our choice of friends and our voting, and have a profound impact on the world. That means we have an equally profound responsibility to root out any secret evils that hide in our own hearts and belief systems.

The ethical responsibilities involved in this are broad, but there is a brighter way to look at it. It means cynicism can be put aside, because the way we care for each other, as human beings, is not an illusion, is not self-serving and is extremely important. Whether by physical or mysterious means, to simply “appreciate the presence” of another person, plant or animal will lead to its greater liklihood to thrive. Love, caring, and affection are important, and they really do affect the physical world in concrete, measurable ways.

September 14, 2007

Leave Britney Alone, you bastards!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:33 pm

We’ve all seen TV clips of the YouTube video of the long-haired blonde androgynous person screaming, hysterically, “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!

If you haven’t seen it, check out this news article on msnbc.com. Or go straight to the YouTube page here.

The clip was on Tucker Carlson and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, and I think it was also on John Stewart. Television hosts frequently refer to the person as a woman, and the clips are followed by a parody of a 40-something man imitating President Bush, crying “leave Petraeus alone!”

Well, that blonde Britney Spears fan is a 19-year-old guy named Chris Crocker, who used to comment on this livejournal. Years ago, he and I used to chat Online and by phone, and from time to time he sent me poetry to critique. I was about 18 and he was 15.

When I was a freshman in college, I started a facebook group called “Token Fag,” making fun of the fact that so many movies have one novelty gay guy who never really gets to fall in love the way the main characters do (the group was later made obsolete by Capote and Brokeback Mountain). If you have access to Facebook, go look at the group, in the University of Colorado network. The group’s main photo is a photo of Chris, our beloved Britney Spears fan. When I started the group, I asked him for a “really gay looking” photo of himself. He sent me the one I used for the group.

I sent Chris a text message today, saying “I saw you on TV.” Under the context of the situation, and since I haven’t talked to him in about three years, that’s probably not the best way to get in touch. He didn’t respond. He may not even have the same phone, or maybe it was a land line. But I did some Google research, and I am definitely, unequivocally certain that the Chris Crocker discussed all over the blogosphere is the Chris I knew. And yes, even when we spoke, he really loved Britney Spears.

(Speaking of such, “unequivocal” was the name of his livejournal, which is now suspended.)

I’m sure South Park will be making a parody next.

Chris, if you happen to read this, fuck those assholes. I’m not a Britney Spears fan, but I do wish everyone would just shut up about it.

September 12, 2007

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September 4, 2007

Protected: walking to California

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 11:00 am

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