A Strange Moral Compass

I’ve been struggling to write about the rest of my trip. Not because it was uneventful or I don’t think anyone will be interested. It’s too personal. Writing about my body and what happened while I was on the road, the emotions of seeing so many family members and close friends; that’s some of the most intense personal writing I do. Many years ago I was comfortable doing this, but it’s been a long time.

“While I can’t have you, I long for you. I am the kind of person who would miss a train or a plane to meet you for coffee. I’d take a taxi across town to see you for ten minutes. I’d wait outside all night if I thought you would open the door in the morning. If you call me and say ‘Will you…’ my answer is ‘Yes’, before your sentence is out. I spin worlds where we could be together. I dream you. For me, imagination and desire are very close.”

― Jeanette Winterson

So, I wrote a terrible series of blog posts. They were cold, overly informative. This will sound mean, but they were a less strict version of most of what my ex-husband penned while we together. They didn’t have any of the poetry of things from before we met. Once, he wrote a skit with a line of people passing a story along using only a kiss. I didn’t know him yet, but when I learned it was his, I joked I’d fallen in love before we met.  

Anyway, they were pedantic and I hated all of them. Since Winter Solstice, I’ve been pondering why. My approach was all wrong. I’ve been trying to be direct, but what I have to say is so nuanced the writing is overwhelming. So, I’m going to tell you about the book I finished while I was on the road. It was Albert Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and Generalized Theory.

For four years, I‘ve attempted to finish this book. Whenever anyone asked what I was reading, I would say nothing because I was struggling. I did read a few books in-between, but this was my pocket doozy. From the begining, I found my love of Einstein’s voice the most striking detail. He’s snarky and candid, but also has smooth examples. It threw me back to high school when we calculated the velocity of Wile E. Coyote and hot wheels in physics. I loved that class even if I got a D on every test. Reading the first section was amazing because I imagined I was watching Einstein lecture.

The number of images and ideas pulled directly from this book by other writers was impressive. I’d assumed the references were mostly indirect. I find perceptions of space time prevalent in everything. 

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski has the changing perceptions of space time still haunting corners of my brain. In parts of the book, the dimensions change with each step. 

Donnie Darko has the intention energy beam coming from the center of everyone, but Einstein wrote it as a rope. I’m torn whether this was a desire to use special effects for trippiness at a party or if the decision was to steer audiences away from disbelief. Either way, a rope-intention-energy-beam somehow matches both this trip and this reading. 

An Angry Lemon song declaring “time and space are energies bound by mathematical equations” echos for me and I am lost. Not lost as in I can’t follow, but as in I have no idea how I’ve come to this point. I’ve reached the second section of the book and everything is getting more difficult. 

If this is a map of where I traveled, I’m in Wisconsin. Terrain so familiar with military tanks speckling the side of the highway, I can’t even stay awake. One of my besties is playing only Minneapolis bands and it should be keeping me attentive, but the familiarity of what we’re doing has lulled me into a sense of safety I haven’t felt since the going away party everyone threw when I left New York City for forever. As always, I am thinking of M. Doty singing  “New York, New York, I won’t go back–indelible reminder of the steel I lack. I gave you seven years, what did you give me back? A jaw-grind, disposition to a panic attack” on Soul Coughing’s final album, El Oso. I remember seeing him on the F train in Brooklyn many years after this song. 

My brain has grown crowded with living memories in every blade of grass. I am certain I will be okay, even when I hear a lawn mower. I sense it’s in Iowa and I may be moving the wrong direction; toward danger instead of away. This compass isn’t showing me what direction I’m headed and I’m curious where my rope-intention-energy-beam will take me. So, I keep going. 

Jeanette Winterson includes most principles of relativity in Tanglewreck. As I wrote that sentence, I was completely distracted by this blog post and added a quote at the top of this entry. My favorite writers are all esoteric mystics. Queerness and love are at the center of everything I hold dear, even my Isaac Asimov list. When I think of his work, I remember third genders in The Gods Themselves. Also, the evolution of humanity in Pebble in the Sky. A future version of humanity morphs a time traveler into something other when they try to scientifically homogenize him into a contemporary version of themselves. 

I’m convinced it’s not a coincidence I remember so many books referencing Einstein and being focused on love. Every Winterson book is a treatise on love. She searches for it through her navigation of desire and how we grow fucked up at every turn; if my reading brain were a human walking forward with each letter of her books, it would be propelled by a rope with the most intricate two-and-a-half-inch knot through space time.

The map now shows I am in Iowa, where my heart was forged. I used to joke I carried her under my sleeve like a knife, but she lives in the center of me. Penpal friends remember how much I adore Tolkien and found a map to help me navigate the strange terrain where I find myself in all this old new territory. 

“We might imagine that, as regards geometry, our universe behaves analogously to a surface which is irregularly curved in its individual parts but which nowhere departs appreciably from a plane: something like the rippled surface of a lake. Such a universe might fittingly be called a quasi-Euclidean universe. As regards its space it would be infinite. But calculation shows that in a quasi-Euclidean universe the average density of matter would necessarily be nil. Thus such a universe could not be inhabited by matter everywhere; it would present to us that unsatisfactory picture…”

― Albert Einstein

The idea of arbitrary coordinates holds my gaze. In Chicago, the infection I’d been fighting moved to my eye. In St. Louis I picked up a phone-in antibiotic prescription. In Des Moines, I remembered how much stress I was putting on myself and began a day of uncontrollable vomiting. This body and I, we do not always agree. Often, we are bossing each other around and struggling with seeing ourselves as others see us. We can connect and be parts of a whole. Sometimes we remember this and we shine.

In Chicago again, I see the stars over Lake Michigan. I ask myself once more if this move is the right thing to do.

“Every point on the mollusk is treated as a space-point, and every material point which is at rest relatively to it as at rest, so long as the mollusk is considered as reference-body.”

― Albert Einstein

I have arrived in another position on the rippled surface of the lake. Wherever I go, it’s the same lake. 

Now it’s Detroit and this is the edge of my known galaxy. I have questions, but they still do not have answers as I head into Canada.

I have lost a loved one this year to cancer. She was younger than me, but she persuaded me to read The Lord of the Rings. Also, The Chronicles of Narnia. I waited until I was an adult even though she read them both as a child. We both read A Wrinkle in Time as children.  When the new Disney version was in theaters, I went to opening night. It ripped me open. In the movie, the secret to wrinkling time is love. I don’t remember it being so uncomplicated in the book, but maybe. Perhaps there’s nothing simple about it and that’s what the book says.  

I am crossing the continent, one memory at a time. Niagara Falls is where I move into the future. Under a waterfall and then behind, I’m living a dream from 2004 I could not manifest. This is a honey moon with my true love. On Winter Solstice, I will remember how whole and loved I felt in the mist. This is despite being an individual surrounded by couples. My weekly horoscope tells me my true love is waiting and it feels accurate. She is always waiting for me at my center, but I am so scared.

I spend an evening learning about the opioid epidemic in Canada from a bartender while I eat Arancini di Riso. Italian food is still my ultimate weakness and this is my honey moon. Everyone I know is connected to this epidemic and it has fucked us all up at every turn. We are trying to follow signposts to find a way out, but there is too much graffiti so sometimes we get lost. 

From here I am navigating alone to Nova Scotia. Previous posts have detailed the problems along the way. My vision is distorting from the solitude. Possibly it’s a bend in the light as I look out the train window, but I’m not measuring. I am certain I’m doing the right thing, but I cannot understand why. Is Einstein right when he says, “However far we might travel through space, we should find everywhere an attenuated swarm of fixed stars of approximately the same kind and density.”

In Tanglewreck, there is a black hole in a closet stretching everyone inside spaghetti thin. As each person moves closer to the black hole, they grow slimmer. It is always pulling everyone nearer. I am imagining it, wondering if I can hold myself together through this.  A kind, snarky hairdresser who won’t talk about who she lives with, but will talk about the friend who died that morning, is riding in a van with me. She was holding her friend’s hand when they died. This is not uncharted. We are all navigating these same stars, everywhere we go.

I meet a retired couple on the ferry back to the United States who’ve been driving an RV anywhere they desire. Each of them secretly tells me the problems of each trip and they offer the same details, but with different words. Their rope-intention-energy-beams are pulling them the same direction and more adventures are waiting for them. Somehow, they feel like a perfect ending. 

“Desire deserves respect. It is worth the chaos. But it is not love, and only love is worth everything.” 

― Jeanette Winterson

My map is not complete, but this was Einstein’s section.

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