The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

February 25, 2012

Why I can't sleep

I begin by thinking about my being a very old man; I continue by thinking
each day might be the day where a lump or pain becomes something else,
where the body turns its course against me, and that day will be a day of
division. Or perhaps there will be a night from which there is no
awakening, and this remains deeply unimaginable. I continue by thinking
about my family relationships, how I have to permanently sever ties with
people who were dear to me, simply in order to psychically survive. This
leads to a recent article on post-traumatic stress syndrome, the obdurate
circulation of memories which become a permanent part of the psychic
landscape: something to trip over. After death they're meaningless, just
as memories are only stories that fade. I worry deeper into the body,
wondering about arthritis and stroke, when I'll no longer be able to play
music live, to cohere with the muscle memory that governs me, renders me
ecstatic at times - when I'll only be able to listen, when my fingers and
hands won't do my bidding. This leads to thoughts of speed, always working
to create something new, to continue probing, until probing is no longer
possible; at least I won't have wasted any time. This leads darker and
further into thinking about my cross-posting, my incessant production, so
that there's no breathing-room, and this then couples with what I see as
my lack of success, always on the verge of 'making it,' always on the
verge of collapse, and how unfair that is to my partner Azure, what she
has to put up with on a daily basis. I then wish I could burn that part of
my mind out, I think of the Higgs boson and the nonsense over neutrinos
and whether I'll live long enough to even have an inkling of some
unimaginable truth. I then think of one of the books that discussed my
work, and my appearing a nuisance on various email lists and other places
of encounter, and further my letters begging for work, which I no longer
send out since, at my age, I'm already excluded from the possibility of
hire. I think of my diminution, the extraction of two teeth, the original
lenses from my eyes due to cataract, and when and where this will end or
prove fatal or result in a loss of mind. This last is of most concern, and
every bit of forgetting is seen as a sign of dementia on my part, as if
I'm waiting for proof of closing down. I worry about getting addicted to
too many sleeping pills or pain pills or stress pills or depression pills
and keep jumbling them up or refusing to take them, hoping that original
mind will manifest itself. I curse god and gods because I can't believe
and the result is sinking into absolute annihilation. I worry about the
short dreams I have rummaging around childhood or sexuality or unknown
seas, and I hate waking from them, which happens almost immediately,
throwing me back into the matrix of these thoughts, this almost
catastrophic thinking, which dominates me, while I listen to the cat and
Azure sleeping and worry about them, their health, the stress I must put
them through. I wonder whether my friends who were over the other night
would want some guitar or other instrument cases, or laptop cases or even
laptops, and whether I should trade the hasapi and guzheng instruments in
for something smaller, since our place is crowded. I keep hoping I'll live
long enough to move to a less-polluted part of the city, and worry about
the appointment I have tomorrow morning with the pulmonologist to get the
result of the chest x-ray, and whether I should start trading in, or
selling, larger quantities of books, since I may not have that much time
left to read. I worry that my reading The Diary of a Late Physician from
1832 might be affecting me negatively, and I wonder how my friends deal
with their own at times extremely depressive reading. I keep thinking I
should awake quietly, leave the bed, turn the computer on, and start
typing this out. I worry about making too many typing errors, and whether
this too is a sign of dementia. I try to decide whether lazily to leave
the errors in, or correct all of them, and still haven't reached a
conclusion. I worry that my tinnitus might finally get completely out of
control, since the other day it took a turn for the worse and is now
really quite loud with changing, not steady, pitch. I worry whether the
minor infections and fevers I seem to have mean anything, or whether
they're a sign of psychosomatic problems related to the usual traumas. I
begin to fear what will happen next week when my Eyebeam residency
formally comes to an end, whether I'd still be able to do anything as an
'alumnus' or some such, or whether they'd be glad to get rid of a nuisance
with his despairing and disparate work. I worry that somewhere along the
line on Facebook I was called a 'troubled man,' and I wonder whether I'm a
man at all in fact, and whether my neurotic behavior is so severe that I
won't be taken seriously as a 'thinker,' or 'musician,' or any one of a
hundred identities I aspire to. I worry that people find me a dilettante,
and that even my oud playing is so grotesque that I'm humored at best for
my clumsy attempts at playing. I fear that my few friends will become
fewer still and will leave me, or that we will settle in another city
where I'm seen as a freak or monster, and I wonder whether other people
lead lives of continuous regret, or how other people justify the horrors
they, too, must inflict on the world. I worry about the end of megafauna
and the inhumanity of our species, its deep commitment to slaughter and
torture, and those images of battered and wounded animals gracing PETA and
National Geographic publications, and I don't understand why we don't all
rise up in fury at the injustice of it all. I'm scared I'm technologically
falling behind, that my graphics or still too sexual or too crude, that
people would despise me if they looked closely at my work. I worry I'm too
arrogant or appear too arrogant, too selfish, too self-absorbed, and I
wonder if my father was right in what he said about my relationship with
my daughter and for that matter the rest of the family, and what made him
so psychologically violent against me. I wonder if thinking that way is
nothing more than an excuse. I continue to think perhaps I should take yet
another pill to try and fall back asleep, keep the gremlins away, and I
worry that all the early happiness I had writing into my characters has
disappeared - where are Nikuko, Jennifer, Honey, Travis, Clara, Alan, and
Julu, when I need them and their brightness just to think through the day?
I wonder when the construction noises are going to begin again and I'm
embarrassed and saddened we never were able to stop the pollution of the
arena going up across the street. I think it's probably time to leave the
computer which is now carrying a complete and true account of my thinking
for the evening on a typical night, hoping that a philosophical remnant
might remain here, wanting to just email this, cross-posting to everyone's
misery and horror, before the dawn comes and I have to awaken, if I fall
asleep, filled with the chills that usually accompany me in the early
morning, as if I had a severe flu, and so forth. And I worry that this
'and so forth' carries nothing with it but self-pity, that it's another
example of 'the troubled man' and his 'neurosis,' going nowhere, saying
nothing, an exercise in futility and the imaginary of illness, philosophy,
and the dead.

Darkness, Wandering

solo on Maurice Shehata oud, using risha and fingers
leaning the envelope of each note, each position, on the oud
i change landscapes but they are dark and wandering,
forests and trees and forest lakes and oases

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