“Hateshinai toki wo koete”

“A never-ending journey continues”

Listening again to the song “This is my road” (here on YouTube, but I bought my copy) by Kanon, sung in a mix of English and Japanese with a little Latin and Greek thrown in from Christian rituals. (There is also an English-only version, but they differ a bit.) This is a truly beautiful song, and it was almost solely the inspiration for my attempts at last year’s NaNoWriMo. Eventually I failed that one, but not because of this song. The vision it raised in my mind was simply greater than I was capable of expressing.

The phrase that particularly rang out to me was “Hateshinai toki wo koete” – approximately “unlimited time is surpassed” or words to that effect. So I set out to write a story about a road that surpassed time – a road to immortality. The simple discipline of walking this road day after day would slowly transform the main character as he bit by bit, almost unnoticeably, moved from the barely ordinary into the extraordinary, and then ever deeper into it, into a world filled with miracles.

A lot of people have walked such a road, and some are even now doing so. But I speak then about a spiritual journey. I wanted to dress it in a more concrete language, to make it come alive for those who are yet unable to see that other road. But I failed, which should probably surprise no one.

Perhaps less talk, more walk would help. It has already been a year since then. I am still not one of those “where did the years go” people, for which I am thankful, but I am not sure I have changed as much this past year as I did the year before. Timelessness takes time, and I am wasting too much of mine, when I could be moving deep into a land of miracles, surpassing even the undefined expanses of time itself.

Another winter day

These are pieces of ice that have accumulated and frozen together, not churning waters. As I said yesterday, a night ago the river froze over. Barring some unexpected news, it will stay that way till spring.

I have  acquired some more respect for the elderly couple who used to live here before the house was fixed up a bit and rented out to me. It was almost certainly no better insulated then, possibly less. And frankly the electric fuses don’t allow me to heat the whole house even if I wanted to waste that much money. (At least the couple did not have to pay rent, but I am sure they had their expenses on the house as well.) So they probably had to sleep in an ice cold bedroom, and huddle in the living room for the four months of the year which real winter lasts around here.

This is how winter in Norway was until my childhood or thereabout, when people started building windtight, insulated homes. I remember my early childhood living in a house like this, but then my father had it insulated in various ways. And at least we did not get the northern wind ever, because the mountains loomed over us in that direction. Here, the valley runs north-south, so the old folks must have had this howling northern wind every winter. Evidently they still survived well into old age, though.

If I don’t reach the ripe old age of my ancestors, it will probably not be because of the house. What gets at people in this time and age is something else, namely stress.

I am rereading “Tips to Find Happiness – Creating a Harmonious Home for Your Spouse, Your Children and Yourself” by Ryuho Okawa. I feel as ambivalent about this man as ever. It is just disturbing to think that someone of his obvious intelligence and even wisdom would pretend to be God, even in a manner of speaking. Luckily this is one of the many books in which he does not bring up the matter of his divinity at all, though he does recommend reading his books and listening to his lectures to get Heavenly light in your life.  Then again, I wish I could recommend you read the Chaos Node to get Heavenly light into your life. Perhaps one day. Right now it is a bit flickering, I guess.

Anyway, the view of health and illness that he presents in this book is very similar to my own view. It takes (as befits the Buddha) a middle path: Not the chemical materialism of modern medicine, and not the “faith healing” approach of some religious movements where illness is seen as a proof of sin. Some illness cannot be avoided, says Mr Okawa, but often illness is a result of stress, and this can be greatly reduced with the right attitude.

In addition to the modern concept of stress, Mr Okawa also operates with the Mahayana Buddhist concepts of negative spiritual influences, which may come from dead people but also from the living. The mind of a human has the ability to influence other people’s bodies, but only through their own mind. If your mind glows with divine life, negative influences will not be able to attach to you, whether they come from the living or the dead.

This theory of spiritual influences may sound pretty weird to us, but it is really similar to Jung’s theory of complexes: Independent balls of thought or emotion living in the subconscious, which may be formed by our experiences with other people (living or dead) or archetypes, generic ideas of our culture or the human race. So it is not some “hocus pocus”, it is the way the human mind works. These complexes can be counterproductive, sometimes very much so, making us do things we know are bad ideas, but suddenly we do them anyway or even just realize that we have done them, like staying up half the night reading a book, or eating lots of unhealthy foods. These things don’t just happen, there are these dark dust bunnies of the soul pulling our strings.

As you may guess, I am a little out of my best shape myself. Something vaguely sinus related seems to bother my head, and my eyes and nose and throat are all sore. So is the skin on the back of my hands. I should probably do something about this dry air.  That, and shine more brightly with inner light. ^_^

NaNoWriMo win!

Not quite “in hoc signo vinces”…

…but at least a sign that I managed to write 50 000 words of more or less coherent novel text during National Novel Writing Month. So that’s a step up from last year, although I have made it twice before.

In the end, the story that grew to 50 000 words was “TSI”, my fanfic for the movie “Buddha Saitan” (The Rebirth of Buddha) based on a book by Ryuho Okawa. The connection to the movie is actually quite loose: The eponymous organisation is referenced numerous times in the movie and also in my story, but there is very little about the actual organization in the movie. We know that they have meetings in large halls where Taiyou Sorano, the Buddha Reborn, speaks in simple but deeply moving and uplifting words to the congregation, who then begin to glow with an inner light (presumably only visible to spiritual sight, as the main character of the movie has).

Unfortunately my story takes place in a nameless city in the USA, so Master Sorano only appears on a big screen. Plus, the city only has about 150 TSI members at the time of the book, so it is unlikely that any bigger events will take place unless my hero makes a trip to the nearest temple (or whatever they are called in TSI).

The story is therefore mostly slice of life, with none of the movie characters actually appearing in person. (This has the benefit that I might rewrite it into a non-fanfic if need be, but that would take most of the fun out of it for me.) The story is told in first person by a male college student, born and raised in America by Japanese parents. Things don’t go too well in college: He begins to go drinking and partying in order to have sex, which is a long time in coming (insert bitter comments about prejudices against Japanese male reproductive apparatus here) and even when it finally happens it is not all it was supposed to be. He turns to online gaming, and gets totally hooked. His grades decline further. All things collapse.  His father gets a terminal illness, his love life goes straight down the drain as his online girlfriend turns out to be a guy, and his online guild is destroyed by his careless mistake. Lonely and miserable he cries alone in the park, when a small girl comes by and gives him a book of Master Sorano’s Teachings of the Mind.

Actually, his father still dies and his love life still sucks, but now he has Buddha’s Truth and friends he can trust, so he is happy anyway. ^_^

Well, a lot of things happens. After all, if slice of life was interesting, people could just read my journal instead, right? So there are dreams and visions and girls with crushes and guardian angels and stuff, not as dramatic as the movie but more dramatic than watching other people’s kids play soccer.

I still have water in the kitchen, long my it last! The river froze over tonight. Still no snow.

Green winter days

There are only small spots of snow outside, but this morning the temperature was -9 degrees (for the 6.5 billion people who use Celsius, 16 degrees above zero for the few who use Fahrenheit.)

Unfortunately, these temperatures means that my water will freeze, given half a chance, since it runs in pipes in the ground under the house with no insulation. Experience from last winter shows that it has no effect to heat the rooms above to hotter than summer temperature. The heat does not travel down into the ground, at least not enough to make a difference. The only way to keep the pipes from freezing when it gets below -4 or so, is to keep the water dripping. Because I thought of this yesterday, I still have water in the kitchen. The bathroom has only hot water, but that’s not a big deal. The shower is frozen until the weather turns warm again, whether that is next week or next year. It does not have a drip option, just on/off, so if I had kept it running there would have been no hot water in the house. I suppose I could have gotten up every couple hours and turned it on for a little while, but I don’t think that is a viable lifestyle for the duration of the winter.

I’m renting the house, so digging up the pipes to insulate them is probably not an option either. Still, for as long as I can remember to put the faucets to dripping each night, I should be fine. I grew up before the age of showers, after all.

The wind has lessened, but walking to the shop and back is still a dangerous proposal for an old man. This winter, it seems that my heart is always lurching when I am outside in freezing cold for a few minutes. By “lurching” I mean it is like it tries to change speed but gives up immediately, or something like that. It is almost certainly harmless. Heart problems seem to be so rare in my family, if I get them it is likely to be by divine intervention. Whenever I have had doctors check my heart, they tend to wish it was their own. Still, I’m opting for bus for now.

Today I took the bus to the city again and bought plenty of cheese, and some other stuff. Two bags of groceries. It won’t last long, my appetite is gearing up for the winter too. When I am cold much of the time, I tend to compensate by burning more calories, and then I compensate for that again by eating more.

Forecasts say it will get a little less cold on Monday (but still below freezing) and at that time there will be snow and strong wind. So I guess the summer is over for this time! ^_^

Re-watching “To Heart”

Screenshot from the original “To Heart” anime. The conservatively dressed redhead is our heroine, the young man is her childhood friend, and the robot-eared girl is one of the many who like him.

This anime is from 1999, and you can see that. Technology really is progressing, styles changing subtly as well. And I think it was intentionally a little “retro” even back then.

For me, it was one of the first – if not the first – romantic anime I saw that was not meant to be hysterically funny or dramatic. Even today this is fairly rare, it seems. And the anime is also very decent (but the PC game not at all so, from what I have been told). So, it is not funny, dramatic or indecent, what is it then? It is a calm slice of life story about four friends and some of the people at their school. But most of all it is the story of a girl and the childhood friend she loves. A love that is quiet, confident and accepting. She does not get upset when she sees him with other girls, although you can see a shadow of worry in her eyes sometimes. And he makes many friends, because he is the type who does something when he sees a need, instead of waiting for others to fix it. But in the end, she is the one he can always rely on, and she on him.

I really loved this story, but I usually don’t watch movies twice unless they are of a spiritual nature. I don’t think you can quite call this one that. A big part of why I remember it so well (apart from the enjoyable calm) is the ending song, which stirs my heart still. I guess I am wired for that kind of music, but it is even better with Anime-Galaxy’s original (and rather inaccurate) translation. I know I have quoted it twice in the original Chaos Node.

The first time I quoted it, I think, was May 19, 2003. I mention the anime there, briefly, and also says that I wanted it to be the end of my novel. Did not mention which novel, but my guess would be “Lost in Magic”, the one about the boy who is accidentally summoned to a magic fantasy world and wants to save it, but there is nothing to save it from.

A few days later, I mention it again, in connection with my Dark Age of Camelot character, but both of them in context of my drifting apart from my best friends through many years, the amazing Supergirl (later Superwoman, by her own request, but the truth is that to me she was always a girl, and that was probably one of the big differences between us.) Actually, the complete calm and rare trust that I felt in that friendship reminded me a lot of this anime, or rather the anime reminded me of real life.

Then on December 20 the same year, when I made the irrevocable decision to stop visiting. I said I had reserved this song for that occasion, and that is true. It reads as if written for just such a day.

The last entry was September 1, 2006. That’s when I retired my Dark Age of Camelot account and my favorite character, Itlandsen the overly defensive paladin. Over the last couple years at least, I occasionally have glimpses of DAoC, just a fraction of a second usually, where I suddenly am in the game, at some random place (usually in Hibernia) and then the vision ends and I am back in real life. It is kind of disconcerting. But reading that entry again, I feel the sense of closure that radiates from it. I think the game still exists though. It was pretty good. Then again, I think my best friend still exists somewhere. She was pretty good too. (And I mean that in the most innocent way imaginable.)

Reality may be especially hard to face
after spending those innocent moments together.
I remember my heart was pounding
when we played carelessly,
but we can’t go back to that place now.
It may seem cruel to use the same song for memories of my best friend and a roleplaying game. But to me the world she and her family lived in was always a roleplaying game, in which I descended, temporarily becoming a normal human, to spend time with them in a shared fantasy world. It was a great and enjoyable time, pretending that their little world was real. But I live in a far greater world, which I fear is beyond their imagination. And surrounding my world are even greater worlds, in which the world where I live is like a bubble. This is the nature of the universe. It has not only quantities but also qualities, and we can hold only so much, each of us. The limit of the world is set by the limit of each mind. What you perceive to be the limit is not the limit of the universe, but of your mind. In the timeless words of Solar: “We fail to imagine and are punished with reality.” (Namely with a smaller, more meager reality that we think is it all.)

Let’s try a translation closer to the Japanese original, I think. May still be a bit off, by all means.

Having passed through innocent times,
real life has lately hurt a little bit.
For no reason there was enjoyment
and a rapidly beating heart
but there is no returning to that.
Let us start walking away,
holding on to a shining treasure,
for sure,
with the same warmth of heart
I’ll put everything away
and do my best.

You know, that sounds a bit “raw”. Even back in 2003, it did not hurt enough to make a black entry. And walking away from that place has led me to something wonderful. But I do not want to edit the past. I don’t need to make it better or worse than it was. I want to keep that same warmth in my heart, always.

Thank you.

Winter walk

It was only about one degree below freezing when I set out for the grocery shop this afternoon, a fairly reasonable temperature as I saw it. But I had not gone far before the howling wind from the north convinced me that thermometers are not telling the whole truth. Still, I felt fine, so I continued walking the half-hour road to the shop, even though there was nothing I urgently needed. I just wanted some yogurt and such, I had eaten the last of my yogurt during the weekend.

After about 20 minutes, I started to realize that I had underestimated the power of wind chill. But by then I was most of the way there, so I kept walking. By the time I arrived, I could only apologize silently for being an idiot.  I felt strangely weak, and was still cold after walking for half an hour, something that is rare. Walking briskly produces a good deal of heat.

The walk home was easier, as I had the wind at my back, but it was still chilly and I felt stiff and strangely weak, as if the northern wind somehow leeched my strength. That seems an unreasonable allegation, but a little while after I came home I sat down on the exercise bike, just sitting there for a while without pedaling, and my pulse was quite a bit higher than usual. Like 30 beats or more above normal.

When your pulse remains higher than usual for a while after training, it is because of what I call “body alchemy”, the changing of stuff into other stuff. Your muscles and liver rebuild their stock of glycogen, a molecule that very easily dissolves back into glucose. Glucose is used in the beginning of any physical activity, as it gives a quick clean energy and can even be used without extra oxygen for a little while.  When the body rebuilds this, the opposite happens:  You burn more fat while the sugar in your blood is used to build up these sugar spirals for next time. Burning fat is a much more complex task and requires plenty of oxygen, so your lungs and heart work a little more than usual.

So anyway, I have known for years that old people can get heart problems in the winter and die. That’s quite common actually. So I have a problem with the global warming journalists who count all the people who die during heat waves, but forget all the people who would have died if not for the mild winters. We are a tropical species after all.  But I used to assume these folks all died while shoveling snow. It certainly is hard work! But I wonder if even that is necessary.  My heart was definitely working harder than during a walk in summer or spring or fall.  I did not wear a pulse watch (it is out of batteries, which may well have been a good thing) but my pulse was quite high for a while. I could feel that.

So, a bit of a learning experience there. Now having eaten a pasta meal, I will definitely restore all my lost glycogen – and probably a little extra for just in case I do such a dumb thing again in the near future.  After all, doing dumb things is a habit with us humans.

Weird dreams

This morning was weird dream season again.

First, we had a young woman who could transform into a frog. This turned out to be less useful for spying than we thought, since a) frogs move pretty slowly, b) dogs among other creatures like to attack frogs, causing her to panic and turn back to human, and c) her clothes did not change with her. We decided that a porcupine would be better for the task.

Next dream, I was young and going out with a Japanese girl. On the plus side, she spoke English about as well as I do (haltingly and with some mispronunciations, but perfectly understandable). On the minus side, whenever she did something unfamiliar, I had no idea whether it was a Japanese thing or some quirk of her own. The other young people thought she was weird too.

In the next part, I had come into discussion with a transfer student about something in Bergen. (Everyone in all of these dreams were people I don’t know in real life, including quite possibly me.) At this point my Japanese girlfriend and I both had magic. Her magic was weaker but she had good control, so she made a teleportation membrane between there and Bergen. By passing through the dark blue membrane you would fade out here and fade in there. I had more raw power but not so good control, and there might be a limit to how many times I could do magic, or it might be dangerous to me, I am not sure, but she did not want me to do it. In the end I did anyway, and opened a giant portal between here and there, where the two places were basically bordering on each other so you could look into it and step from one place to another like you walk across a line on the ground. It was so big you could move a platoon through it and was surrounded by a brilliant white light. When we stepped through, we saw that someone had set fire to the grass.

At that point I woke up, probably because I had been worried about going to bed while my wood stove was still burning so hot, but since I kept falling asleep in my living room chair I did it anyway.

I don’t really see these dreams having any deep message for my life, except to be grateful that I don’t date Japanese girls or work with people who turn into frogs.

It’s been so long

I embrace space-age technology!

I had not left Holum since I came home on the last Friday in October. When I wanted more groceries (mostly yogurt and some Pepsi Raw) I walked to the shop across the bridge, some half an hour’s walk from home. Yesterday I tried to do that too, but it was below freezing and a strong wind, and after about 20 minutes my heart began to lurch so I turned around and walked home. It is not usually a big deal, but I usually sleep during the day and write in the night now (following American time while living in Norway) so I had gone a long time without sleeping. Not the best time to test my blizzard resistance, I cautiously concluded.

So today I went to Kristiansand again. That’s the city (by Norwegian standards at least) where I work. I had planned to not do that until the very end of the month. My bus card expired near the beginning of the month, so I could have saved about $200 by staying home all month. It is not like I have much to do in the city, since I can’t go to work during my vacation. Norway has enforced 5 weeks of vacation, so I have to take a month off whether I want to or not. I use that time for NaNoWriMo, since that would distract me from my work (and the other way around) anyway.

Taking the bus to the city felt pleasantly familiar. It is a great time for reading as well as checking everyone’s FaceBook.

In the city I went to the local phone shop and looked at various android phones. My HTC Hero is still working fine, except that it no longer plays the songs from my Opera Unite server in the Flash applet. I have to download them and play them in some other music player, which is inconvenient. So I asked them if the newest HTC they had could do that. (It is called HTC Desire HD and looks to be a great device, but I hate the name with a vengeance. Can you imagine Jesus or the Buddha lugging around a device named “desire”? What’s next, “HTC Rumors” or perhaps “HTC Homesickness”?) Anyway, the shop did not know and the importer did not know (we talked with them on the phone). They recommended trying a third-party Flash.

I also looked at the Galaxy Tab, a thing with a size in between a mobile phone and an iPad. It is nifty, but does not fit into a shirt pocket and probably not all jackets either. And it is badly overpriced right now. In the end, I did not buy anything, as expected.

Afterwards I went to the library. I don’t remember when I was there last time. I am quite sure I have not actually borrowed books there this century, but I do have a library card from 1993 so I did use it as late as that. Of course they don’t use that kind of cards anymore, it was not even magnetic, much less a smart card like people use today. I think I have stopped by a few times later without borrowing anything, but I am not sure how long ago even that was. Years for sure.

They sure have a lot of books. I read a little in some Norse mythology. Perhaps I am going to continue my “Shadow of Yggdrasil” novel at some point, but currently I enjoy writing my Rebirth of Buddha fanfic, with happy sect members doing happy things. Love, self-reflection, cute girls, wisdom, Buddha and eternal progress. Come the way you are and become like us!

Anyway, there sure were a lot of books, and it made me think. If the change of technology had slowed down instead of just speeding up more and more… if everyday technology today was roughly similar to 20 years ago, I would probably have spent a good deal of my free time in that library. When I was unemployed for 13 months back in the 1980es after the collapse of the yuppie boom, I spent much of the time in the library, and I believe I have benefited greatly from it. (I made my way through several of C.G. Jung’s books, including his autobiography which made an indelible mark on me, because it was frankly the first time I read about someone similar to myself, in their own words more or less.)

But of course the world did not stop or even slow down in 1990. And for the most part I embrace new technology heartily. For instance, today I embraced a new frying pan. (I eventually destroyed the old one by overheating it while playing a game. The voice in my heart alarmed me before it could actually catch fire, but the non-stick cover was ruined and it became very sticky and started burning my food.)

The new one is still space age tech, with Teflon coating. If I don’t overheat it, it may last until they invent nanotech frying pans. I am not sure what they will do that this one doesn’t, but I am fairly sure they will appear eventually.

The Xanth effect

I’m perfectly fine!

Thank you for your prayers and well-wishes! So much time has now passed since the unfortunate double meal, it really seems I will avoid my punishment this time. Of course, just waiting for the ax to fall has been a learning experience in itself.

Today I want to talk about another fascinating aspect of the human mind. I have called it the Xanth effect, after the long series of light fantasy novels by Piers Anthony. I am myself a foreigner to English, learning it as a third language. As an adult, I had my vocabulary extended, expanded and enhanced by the Xanth books like many American youngsters. However, like them I gradually found the later books less appealing than the first. This seems to be quite common. However, there is a big difference: My first Xanth books are not their first Xanth books.

The series debuted in Norway in its middle.  My first Xanth book was Heaven Cent, if I remember correctly. (Somehow I keep remembering it as “Skeleton Key” instead.) It was love at first sight. I had been writing for years, but the mix of puns, magic, drama and just random randomness was something I knew I could do better than anything I had done before. It influenced my own writing for many years. My fiction on the YouthNet BBS network was in my most heavily Piers-influenced phase.

I also loved the next books, Man from Mundania in particular but also parts of Isle of View.  I kept enjoying some of the later books, but eventually I found them lackluster. However, around this time new prints of the earlier books became available, so I bought some of them.  They were even worse.

Yes, dear reader. The quality of the Xanth books declined with the number of Xanth books I read, not with the number of Xanth books Piers Anthony wrote. The order of reading, not the order of writing, determined how good they were. In other words, it was all in my head.

The same effect, only faster, is observed with David Eddings’ epic fantasy books. Then again, they are basically the same book written over and over, if you skip the details. Of course, some people don’t skip the details.

I wonder if the same does not apply to my journal, but it is hard to be objective with oneself.  But just in case, just ask for your money back. ^_^

A mistake

Resisting the temptation to eat fat is a lot easier if you have to go through the outskirts of purgatory each time you do it.  That has been the case with me since Easter 2005. But human nature is not that easily erased…

To err is human. But this error is likely to cost me, unless there is a divine intervention or some such.

It is a fairly long time since I have had a bad attack of fat poisoning. And so, distracted by an online game, I grabbed a serving of ice cream and ate it relatively short time after I had eaten noodles.  (Both of them typical gaming food, since they require little preparation.)

Now, either of these meals alone should not contain enough fat to trigger a poisoning. Together?  As I said, without divine intervention I am going to be horrifyingly sick. I did not die in the first weeks after I got this illness and before I found out what triggered it, so I don’t expect this to kill me either. But it will most likely feel like it.

The fat poisoning is a mysterious illness. I have had the same set of symptoms occasionally through my adult life, increasing in frequency, but it only became a regular feature after the horror Easter of 2005, when some kind of virus seems to have hit my liver. The doctor thought it was a virus at least, and the involvement of the liver we deduced from the utter lack of bile for more than a week.  After this, even normal amounts of fat will trigger an attack.

The only thing I know of that can reduce the severity of the attack is heat. It seems to begin with my body temperature falling, for some unknown reason, below a point where my brain thermostat realizes that I am in trouble, and it sets off a panic sequence.  I start feeling cold as if I were out in a snowstorm, and shiver and shake violently.  My muscles are at this point already so tense that I cannot heat myself by working out, only by the uncontrolled shivering. Worse than my skeletal musculature is that my internal muscles also go into overdrive. Queasiness ensues as my stomach starts contracting. The peristaltic motion of the intestines is replaced by spasms. These may cause extremely strong bowel movements, or conversely send material from the lower intestines upward, messing up the gut flora for days to come.

The most inexplicable effects are on the brain, or mind. Panic usually ensues (although a few times I have been spared this). It is a physical fear, an automatic reaction that is hard to contain. I suppose it is not entirely irrational when you get a sudden illness, but even though I have been through it many times, I just can’t squash it, just barely contain it. Part of the problem is that my IQ seems to be about halved. I am not sure what the cause of that is, but it happens toward the end of the attack. I am unable to concentrate, if I write I cannot spell normally or write coherently for more than a few words. Basically I go from genius to mentally challenged. The final step of the attack is a sleepiness that cannot be resisted. Even if I sit in a chair, I will fall into deep dreamless sleep. So far I have woke up every time and the attack was over.  I can only hope that I will wake up this time too.

If I knew when it came, I would try to warm up and exercise before it starts, thereby raising my core temperature.  But it depends on the speed of my digestion, probably, for it can be anything from one day to a bit over two days.  I cannot exercise for 24 hours. So that escape hatch is closed. And in the winter, even supplying enough external heat to mitigate the attack will be hard.

So, divine intervention remains an option. A prayer would be nice. I can’t think of anything else that will save me from at least a taste of purgatory.