More lovely comments, thank you. I have thought much about the previous post, the knitting as metaphor and while it is a very meaningful one for me, there are other metaphors too. Ones with a bit more dimensionality.
Again and again I find myself thinking in terms of machines, of giant wheels and cogs and gears and sprockets. It is telling of how my brain processes that the machine seems to be a persistent framework for understanding how things in the human world work.
While I am generally optimistic about the agency of individuals - their capacity to choose and influence their path and destiny and immediate experiences - I still perceive a much grander scale in which those exertions are tiny trifles. I mean, obviously, we all are born and die, we all travel from point b to d with a fairly limited number of detours on the way. None of us can move outside the constraints of our humanity.
But the larger movements around us are by their nature difficult to perceive and almost impossible to know with any accuracy. They tend to reveal themselves when their final purpose becomes clear, when we realise that the slow turn we thought we were on is about to deliver us, cartoon like, onto the conveyer belt headed for the chopping machine.
[Of course sometimes those machinations are good - my point here is not that our experience of the world or its mysterious workings are always so terrible - but generally we pause for thought when we seek answers, when we regret, when we feel cheated or deflated. Good fortune is often best not overworked for fear of making it disappear.]
Sometimes we manage to scramble out of the way just in time, jump tracks, change direction. If we lucky we learn from it. We leave jobs or countries or marriages, we change our eating habits or our drinking habits or the company we keep. Sometimes it isn't us but something bigger yet again which acts on our little sphere and keeps us safe.
Sometimes (not often at all it must be said) in rare breathtaking, history changing moments someone throws themselves between the gnashing teeth and brings the machine to a halt. What we all see as inevitable, invisible, just is reality to them is simply a machine that can and must be stopped. Sometimes we celebrate them - when they bring about the end of apartheid or get women the vote or declare aboriginal people citizens or depose a dictator. Sometimes we hold them up for ever after as warnings - the self immolating monk, the assassin, the leader of the genocide. I marvel at their strength.
Mostly we fall through life passing from one system to the next trying not to get squeezed too hard or taken too far from the place wish to land. I am not posting much here about the things that are going on because there are lots of good reasons sometimes not to share and not everyone feels the same way I do about getting it out there. But I think most of us can identify with the kinds of thoughts my particular situation brings.
The sense of being crushed by two opposing forces infinitely bigger and stronger than oneself.
The sense of being trapped without the requisite tools for escape or acceptance.
The sense of being infinitesimally small and insignificant in the face of the system.
The sense of deja vu when the things you thought were in the past turn out to be on a repeat loop, inescapable.
The sense of shared suffering as you realise how many others are similarly caught.
The sense of unreality when you realise those you thought were in your system turn out to be travelling on a different path altogether.
The sense of stuckness when layer upon layer of interconnections and intermeshing resist even the most minor of changes.
I am enormously lucky to live in a country and a time in history where my troubles don't generally equate to bombs falling or slavery or marital servitude or forced separation from my children. But whether you are dealing with death or job loss or the end of marriage or financial ruin or serious illness or failed paradigms or far pettier disappointments the girring of the machine can easily dominate all else. I feel the volume may be dropping slightly, though it's hard to tell for the ringing in my ears.