The Passage of Time

I read this year (in which book, I do not recall) that we should compare ourselves not with who others are today, but with whom we were yesterday.

That’s good advice. The message:  what’s important is not so much where we are, but that we are improving.

But even by this measure, two dates cause me pain every year: my birthday, and New Year’s Eve.

Maybe I lack humility. But I can not look at the person who I was last year, and be satisfied with who I am today. Even though I’m in a better place, even if there’s progress – it’s never the amount of progress that I want. I am constantly dissatisfied. I always feel I could have done better.

I have no great moral lesson to draw from this. I promised myself that I would write something today, and I am keeping that promise. If you, dear reader, suffer from the same malaise, then I am sorry, but I have no solution on offer.

If it helps you, know that you are not alone.

Masks

The term in vogue today is “lifestyle design”, especially in online media.

A few years ago, it was “personal development.” Even today, books are being released under this category. Books, after all, for better or for worse (but fundamentally for better) move more slowly than the internet.

Before that, it was “self-help.” But it ceased to be, because in this brave new world, only the weak need help.

Long, long ago – in the age when animals talked, as my grandmother used to say – the term was yet another:

“Philosophy.”

The art that led man to know himself, to discover his values, which pointed him toward the path to orient himself in the world, according to said values.

The reputation of Philosophy was destroyed by school, but we could not do without her. She is too important, she is too essential, she is the only guide that we have on how to live.

That’s why we camouflage her. We dress her up in costume, we cover her face with religious, spiritual or even commercial masks (or any combination of the three) and give her other names.

And it works, it works, but something is lost in translation. Each mask comes with its baggage.

How many more sacred disciplines has school violated?

Cracks – 2 – The Inspector

Inspector Virgil was not having a pleasant evening. Having to finish dinner in a hurry to investigate a murder was not an unusual thing, but it wasn’t something that improved with familiarity, either.

And the inspector realized that this was going to be one of the worst as soon as he entered the house, because he heard one of the police officers throwing up in the bathroom.

The smell of carrion dominated this small apartment in Entrecampos. “Apartment” was a generous term; it was mostly a main suite with a bathroom in a corner and a partition separating the main room from the kitchenette. The perfect love nest for the two students who lived there, according to what he had been told on the way.

Only, right now, the police were not even sure if they had a whole student here. One of the agents had, just minutes before he arrived, found half a jaw above one of the bookshelves. They could only figure out that it was a jaw because a tongue had been hanging from the bone. Virgil had never seen anything like this – it was as if the girl had been attacked by a wild animal.

No … Wild animals did not hang… Strips of skin… From the ceiling lamp, like macabre Christmas decorations. Virgil put on his gloves and tugged lightly on one of the strips as if it were a sleeping serpent. The piece of pale skin curled into the palm of his hand, staining the white glove with scarlet ichor.

And… There were no signs of fighting, other than a broken mirror. The room was soaked with blood and filled with pieces of someone, but nothing suggested a fight, there was no sign of weapons, nothing else was broken. Neither had the neighbours reported any noise – apart from the too-loud music, which was usual. Had it not been for the blood dripping through the shabby tiled floor to the apartment below, and God knows how long it would have been until they found the grisly scene.

Virgil started toward the bathroom, after the agent occupying it had recovered. He  was almost tiptoeing forward, trying not to step on anything that seemed to have been part of a person.

The inspector let out a sigh as he entered the white-tiled cubicle. Handprints stamped in blood, here and there – this was more familiar territory. The prints led to the small window, large enough for a thin person to use to get out. Virgilio looked out into the street.

It was raining very hard, nearly hail. 

There was no fire escape, and they were on the fifth floor.

Photo Credit: Renaud Camus Flickr via Compfight cc