Reading about Chronos and Kairos: clock time and experiential, 'aware' time.
(It's only a couple of months since I first learned that Chronos is not Kronos... an error caused by the similarity of the English sounds; in Greek they are completely different, and represent different pre-Olympic deities. This leaves me a bit abashed, I thought I knew my Greek mythology... it does explain a lot of confusion though.)
Tonight there will be a gathering of old members of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus in San Francisco – I have gotten them to set up a Skype screen, organised by Jim, who was in the chorus in the early eighties, when I was there....
I want a haircut – I feel a need to look my least-scruffy for what feels like the equivalent of a high school reunion. I call Richie, at the barbershop he owns around the corner, to make sure he's available – he sounds rushed, is only staying for another half an hour (his brother will be visiting him with his wife and new baby). I throw myself together, ignoring the rest of the day's plans – it seems cold, so a flannel shirt –
Outside it is sunny, breezy, not really cold at all. Memo tagged in mind: change shirt on return to apartment, before going into town; but now the focus on the haircut. The handsome, and usually more relaxed, Richie is moving unusually quickly across the barbershop, so I follow in a similarly sharply planned way, striding across the room to sit in the chair as I put down my glasses...
Near the door, the other guy, the massive and sweetly quiet body builder, is cutting another man's hair, the sunshine reflecting across both men.
Back at my apartment, I change clothes to wear something lighter, more summery, and glance at the haircut. Messages back and forth on several apps: two surprising dreams from other people – unexpected discussions of resonant things: in both cases I can see that there's an impact, but can't entirely grasp it from outside – both dreams have symbols that are very rich for me (B. has actually dreamt of me, and in her dream I am being quizzed by Bebe Neuwirth... which sounds like a fairly dazzling guest spot), but it is clear that they mean something very different to the dreamer, and messaging about it is a slow puzzling.
At the bank near Monument: M. is not yet there, I text him and set off for the first of two large department stores, to return the teapot that is not the right color.
The saleswoman feels like talking, we discuss why the teapot isn't quite right and look at various competing models.... I say I'll be back later today if I don't see anything I like better, and she's happy with that. Cutting through the mall, I am moving with a certain planned speed: I have not moved this way very much for the past couple of years, but I seem to have rediscovered that sharp, competitive energy that comes to me at times... dodging slower-moving shoppers, loitering couples, the ones who are wondering where to go next....
A sort of temporal awareness is winding through everything today: an element of noticing degrees of consciousness and dissociation, of presence and imagination and fugue states, in everyone I see. Do they notice what they are doing, are they emotional, are they thoughtful, are they entirely elsewhere?...
The café: M. and D. are nearly done eating; I just have juice and a snack. The blonde girl at the counter is younger than usual, and new; she is focused on the next step of each process of ordering and charging. Back at the table, we talk about what everyone's done this week, and compare plans for the afternoon.
We walk up through the old market, to the Spanish place where I buy dried beans – the husband is there, he doesn't speak English but gets me to try some cheese with brandy, which is good; we speak at linguistic cross-purposes, but are friendly. He's a bit surprised I'm not buying the cheese, but I wave him off, laughing.
M. and D. split off – they each have different plans; I know it will be easier to get through things if I'm alone....
Dissociation: that's not hard to see.
But time with awareness, time with less awareness... I get it but... I suspect that any clear distinction is illusory: think more of bands of experience and temporal awareness. In which case the Matte Blanco theory of five levels is perhaps a bit manic/fussy – it reminds me of so many complex musical theories and compositional methods: hoping to pin things down absolutely, but ignoring the shifting and blurring of so many levels of psyche....
I head more determinedly for the overpriced health food store in Grainger Market, for more snack food – of course I won't buy much of it, not here, where prices seem to start at three or four pounds and climb rapidly.
But gradually a cross-stream of perception and physical sensation are changing: a wave of dizziness, I stand firmly. But I am no longer entirely in focus: I will continue through my errands, but there is a halo of dizzy hyperawareness, and a physicality suffused with a sort of tingling, full-body presence... and weakness; I am definitely weak.
This is of course familiar, over the past two years, but in the past few months it seems especially familiar: I can cross into this state of diffused sensation without making major changes in plans – at this point I simply adjust all plans and actions so that I can go home sooner...
Back to the teapots: there are two women enjoying talking to the saleswoman – they look back several times to engage with me in all this banter, but I actually have no attention to spare: I am holding myself up and finishing what needs to get done... I realise I have become more accustomed to just doing this: hold your position, pay no attention, and all these people will just have to get over it.
In the food hall, I have my list, but there are also other things I want, already listed in consciousness – and even in my altered state the list appears as a series of commands: I choose quickly, not wanting to spend much more time out in public. At this point I am mostly separating paying attention to other people from my main awareness: I will try not to be too aggressive in getting past the shopping baskets, but a brief curving of the lips is enough to quasi-greet/smile at the older woman negotiating her cart in front of me.
I have bought a bit too much, but cannot do anything as complicated as returning things to shelves or making decisions: I can only go forward, in this sharply detached mode. But I am brought up a bit short at the checkout: a pleasant young woman is detailed to pack our bags – this is new? – and I need to come up with coherent answers. This feels as though it would be pleasant surprise – if I didn't have such a reduced sense of how much energy I can spend on changing circumstances. At one point I look directly at her and say with a smile, as I do periodically these days: I'm not quite managing at the moment, sorry about that. As usual, it deflects confusion.
Sitting in the bus, I partly relax, holding the three bags on the floor: there isn't much more to do to get home, as long as I don't drop things. As I sit an elderly woman comes on in a wheelchair, pushed by a younger woman; I start to stand but they will take the space across from me – I make the usual phatic noises ('are you sure?') and they cheerfully brush them off, neither particularly engaging nor being irritated – they must get that kind of slightly-unnecessary-fussing a hundred times in a day...
Gradually I seem to be returning to more awareness of my surroundings; muscles remain in their sort of dazzled, fuzed state of weakness, but the pressure is lower, and I can observe again:
Is the old woman's accent slightly German? Why is the young man with red hair moving down the aisle entirely dressed in motorcycle leathers?... the questions fade, I am still tired.
But traffic is a bit slow, and awareness returns again, in slow waves: I listen more closely to the woman in the wheelchair – that is not a German or even Geordie accent, but only a slightly Northern version of a distinctly 'taught' British accent, phonemes as smoothly sharp as the serif curves of a well-designed font. The women – there are three, not two – are having a conversation that is both relaxed and mutually interested – a quality of real speech, real engagement, on this afternoon bus between stops.
Turning my head, the young man is looking at his phone: the black leathers, the red hair – he is skinny, with a light beard – and somehow an awareness of all that he is and all that he means rises around him like a series of multi-dimensional frames: what he intends us to see in the leathers, his sense of pride and identity, the body underneath, when he wakes and looks in the mirror, what he thinks about during the day – all the simultaneous structures that continue in relation to each other, as his ego focuses on his phone message...
I turn my head back, the vision disintegrates: it is my stop.
Walking home, through the windy summer day...
Overlapping frames of that structured drive to get home – measuring what strength there is in my hands, in my legs, holding the bags, aware of which side is heavier – the feel of summer, the evaporation of any worries about getting things done in the presence of the suffused moment: and that sense that I cannot expend any attention on anything that is a waste of time...
I can see my front door ahead: the flow of the air, the leaves in the street....