Mark White

A thinking man's thoughts.

They say some among us have seen many lives — the “old souls.” These have lived so many times before that wisdom comes to them effortlessly. Empathy is an instinct living in their very bones, after having lived with so many people of so many ages in the course of dying and being reborn again. Others say that if some soul has an easy life, it's because they've seen such hardships in past lives that they were destined to get a cosmic break at some point.

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Do not despair that the world is warming. Do not pine for the coral or the cold parts of the planet you'll never get to see before they die; as they were before the 20th century. Do not fear a world changing — life is only change. You can affect it, yes but only so much. Do what you can but do not despair.

#notetoself

I'm generally, subconsciously, unknowingly concerned with the dead parts of me. I idly tongue overhanging beard hairs throughout the day; pet down my beard to find the ones that don't stand in line with the rest; pick the dirt from under my dead, grown fingernails (I stopped peeling them as a kid after too many cuts turned inward towards fresh, sensitive skin underneath).

When I get home I go to the bathroom. Scissors, razors, and nailclippers all within reach. First the rebellious mustache hairs are fished out [my tongue remembers where they are], then mercilessly truncated by my scissors. And of course there are always more to be found; I trim those too.

A razor heads for the sprigs between my eyebrows threatening to form a unibrow, those tough little hairs that I might've been picking at throughout the day. A quick swoop and they're gone.

On days when I've spent too much time picking dirt from my nails or noticing how good of scratchers my fingers have become, the nailclippers come out — cutting closer to the bed every year — and take my fingers down only to their live, necessary selves. Sometimes there might be a little buildup of dead skin at the edge of my finger's pink, where that white had began, and that too gets picked, cut, and removed.

As your life progresses, you must keep track of, pick, and trim the dead from your decaying body — whether they be skin, keratin, or thoughts. Like a bush, pick and trim, so that new things can continue to grow in their place.

I spend some nights on sites like Tumblr, scrolling through pictures posted or stolen from other people, and look for tiny hints that remind me of something in my past. Maybe a shade reflected on someone's cheekbone or an arm placed in some way that I've seen before. Maybe a cabin I've never seen on a misty mountaintop I've watched a thousand times before. A collarbone. A tattered piece of paper. Some pictures I'm randomly drawn to, or suddenly feel connected to, like they were from my past instead of someone else's. Like some vision so distant in the past that I can never find proof I was actually there, except for that tiny recognition in my heart.

I get a little anxious sometimes. Usually it's some kind of general malaise; a gentle undercurrent of danger I'm subtly aware of. It's gotten worse over the past few years, and I'm not sure if it's me getting older or my current situation.

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Over the past little while I've kept an open mind to this place. I only commit to a small set of viewpoints and opinions; the ones I do commit to I hold with intense obstinance. And all for good reason.

But I've found that without a cohesive over-arching view of my current days, a certain general This is How I View the World, I amble and wander everywhere. It takes forever just to come to an opinion about everyday pedestrian events simply because I don't have a base world-stance to fall back to.

This wouldn't be a problem, not really, except for the times when I want to actually get somewhere and accomplish something. Sitting down to work on some grand thing those times usually means getting distracted, never focusing, and usually not getting a single thing done that I set out to do. In many ways, it's similar to my times in high school — finding nothing but bullshit around me, therefore nothing to get interested in and nothing worth focusing on. I played the “game”, e.g. doing just enough homework to get a C in the class (and settling with a D if it was more demanding). Later in life, this again manifested when my previously-exciting job turned completely uninteresting: show up in the morning very roughly on time, focus more on appearing like I was working, stay after hours to read shit on the internet (what a go-getter); rinse, repeat.

I'm not sure what the right answer is—if there is one at all. I have remained open-minded in my most opinionated, outspoken times (this is mostly what I don't want to lose). But I also have to interact with this world every day and encounter people I don't necessarily want to spend time around. I am constantly watching every word I say to stay in line, stay out of trouble. I've handed over much of my autonomy in the name of maintaining the status quo. Stay the course, stay calm, stay professional, stay drowned in money, stay friendly, stay boring.