Thursday, August 7, 2014

Seeking a Voice in the Dead of Night

Most of us tire of thinking and feeling. I know I do. I tire of thinking and feeling. I don’t know which is more tiring thinking or feeling. Or which is which. When is thinking thinking and when is feeling feeling? Because this duality is odd. Thinking may be a form of feeling in the same manner that feeling may be a form of thinking. It’s easy enough to separate these two activities in writing because there are no limits to anything in writing. But in actuality thinking and feeling are not two separate activities but a dynamic involving the body in its entirety, blood, bones, muscle and brain. We might think we know what a feeling is but what’s thinking? We might think we know what a feeling is but do we? I’m already tired.
Thinking is feeling and feeling is thinking. Even mathematicians operating at the most abstract level must feel a sense of exhilaration or euphoria or bewilderment and mystification, a sense of the sublime, an emotional hunger for endless combinations, an intoxicating exultation not unlike the emotions of poetry when word and image condense to form a surge of electrical power.
In poetry feeling and thinking are as synonymous as the words for luminosity, iridescence, or tincture and saturation.
It’s easy enough to feel a feeling but hard to say just what a feeling is. Is there a single feeling or a palette of feelings? Are feelings sloppy and chaotic or more like hobbies? Are they dangerous and destructive, obstacles to rational thought, as Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics maintained, or do they give meaning to existence, act as vital components to our being in the conduct of our everyday living, fueling us with desire, bonding us together with the warmth of camaraderie, empathy and compassion?
One thing is for certain: they’re tiring. That’s true. I get tired of feeling. Anxiety especially. Anxiety happens in thinking about awful events. That is to say one doesn’t think they’re going to happen and one’s  thinking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy fueled by pessimism and bile, no, there is an expectation of something awful about to occur or darkening the horizon, something possibly fated but unquestionably out of your control. It’s a sense of dread. But the dread isn’t an engine creating dread. It’s a dread born of experience, a long history of betrayal and disappointment and other disasters that have eroded one’s sense of stability and led one to expect the worse. Accidents, death, disease, treachery, deceit, totalitarian police state, imminent collision with an asteroid that’s been hurling through space for eons, sudden inexplicable arrest by thugs at the door carrying you off to prison, war, famine, insanity, gunfire, rabid dogs, howling wolves, sharks gliding under an inflatable raft. All these dreadful shadows and premonitions in clouds of bishop purple churning around and around in one pound of brain.
And then there’s Seattle gridlock. Seattle gridlock on a hot summer day is fatiguing in the extreme. Thanks to egregiously bad, dysfunctional city planning you can’t drive anywhere in Seattle during the early morning and afternoon hours. It’s bumper to shiny bumper, heads pressed against steering wheels, people cursing, construction and cranes and dust and giant trucks filled with windshield dinging dirt and gravel, leviathan SUVs drifting from one lane to another without looking and inches or less from collision and exchanging insurance numbers, people all with the same expression of slavish deadened being, isolation and frustration and cars honking and traffic lights hanging eternally red in mockery of time and movement and progress.
Yesterday it took us one hour to go 6.8 miles from Best Buy at Northgate to home. Best Buy was a huge disappointment. We thought that there would be a generous assortment of Bluetooth clock radios to choose from but there was just one model Apple’s iHome which looked nice but it’s not compatible with my equipment. It was a wasted trip. And I didn’t receive a good answer for our questions about Wi-Fi connections. We did at least get a couple of great burgers at the Northgate Red Robin.
Finding a good bedside clock radio has become a challenge. You’ve got a choice between the drugstore cheapies with poor reception or the luxury models like the Bose Wave Music System at about $500.00 or the Tivoli Music System at about $600.00. There’s no middle ground, unless you spring for a model with a docking station for a smartphone or an iPod at the very least or better yet a Bluetooth device which can access the Internet and stream Internet radio shows. That appears to be the best way to go, but the requisite smartphone or tablet to access the Bluetooth device will add another $200.00 or so to the cost. Then there’ll be an accompanying monthly subscription fee for Wi-Fi, Ethernet or an AT&T wireless data connection, which is going to run around another $100.00 dollars, depending on the amount of data you want, and whether you plan to download movies or hifalutin’ video games.
If all you want is a clock radio with great reception there are a few models on the market, such as the Sangean WR-2 tabletop radio with an external AM Antenna Terminal, easy to red LCD display, digital tuning system, bass compensation for richer bass, rotary bass and treble control, and 10 memory preset stations, 5 for FM, 5 for AM, all for a little over a $100.00. This is tempting, but in a city like Seattle, which lost its one progressive radio station, you’re stuck with one or two talk shows with a decided right-wing leaning, and the usual Classic Rock, Urban Contemporary, Adult Contemporary, Dance, Sports, Business News, Rhythmic Oldies, Golden Oldies, Oldies from the Oligocene, Top 40, Jazz, Hip Hop and the ubiquitous and consummately bland NPR. I should also mention KEXP, which is by far the most eclectic and interesting.
The kind of station I’m looking for, aside from progressive talk radio, is what the French have: discussions of science and philosophy, literature, poetry, plays, conferences, lectures, and contemporary culture.
The biggest frustration is the lack of retail stores where you can look and feel and get a taste of the product before committing to its purchase. I cannot find a store that offers Tivoli or Sangean products, or anything remotely looking like a clock radio above the cheapies offered at drugstores and big box stores. There was a Radioshack at the Northgate mall but it was the size of a storage closet and all they had on the shelf were a few boomboxes. When I asked about a Sangean radio at Best Buy they said they didn’t have it on the shelf but they could go ahead and order it. But why would I do that? I could’ve done that from home, and it defeats the whole purpose of struggling through Seattle gridlock to go to a store where I can look at the product.
Thus, I’m prepared to surrender. If you want radio along the lines of what the French have, you pretty much have to stream it from the Internet. This makes a clock radio with Bluetooth a must.
If you’re an insomniac like me, someone prone to anxiety and worry, nothing beats a good radio, particularly one that access nearly anything during the night. It takes the edge off oblivion. Just the light of those luminous LCD digits is a comfort. But the luxury of hearing someone talk about Plato or Frederic Nietzsche, or read the poetry of Paul Celan or André Breton, or hear information about Europe’s Rosetta, the first spacecraft to orbit a comet, rather than hear “Stairway to Heaven” or “Smoke on the Water” for the umpteenth time is irresistible.
Next step: buy a tablet. 


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