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Burn Unit
Clockwatcher
Level 6: 1668 points
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Last Logged In: June 9th, 2016
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250 + 139 points

The Odyssey by Burn Unit

February 18th, 2011 4:17 PM / Location: 45.012328,-93.30911

INSTRUCTIONS: Embark on an odyssey. It should be no shorter than one month. You must encounter (metaphorically) the following obstacles:

1. The Lotus-Eaters
2. The Cyclops
3. Aeolus
4. The Laestrygonians
5. Circe
6. The Sirens
7. Scylla and Charybdis
9. Calypso
10. Telemachus, Your Son
11. Penelope, Your Wife
12. Laertes, Your Father
13. The Citizens of Ithaca

Tell us of these things,
beginning where you will, Goddess, Daughter of Zeus.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

On March 23, 2008 I promised I was "beginning my Odyssey...now" (noted in comments here). And I had begun. There was a framing device I'd decided on at that time of "getting my life together." I would intentionally put the various scattered elements of my life into perspective and figure some shit out. So it was a journey of self-renewal. Odysseus took decades, so I figured I'd have no problem taking the month required by the task. Well, it's gone on almost three years so far, and I'm still on some kind of wild journey.

My Slowed Mind roused: awaking the Lotus-Eater
In 2008 I was struggling. Struggling to decide what to do with school, struggling with weight, with money, with my job, just my life in general. I had finally settled on finishing school. I had taken two runs at a masters program at Luther Seminary and washed out the first time, and was on the verge of quitting again. Some people finish their masters degrees in two years. The MDiv (a degree for people doing ordained ministry) takes about four years. I'd tried the M.A. in 1996, tried the MDiv for a little while, and then took a leave of absence in 1999. I didn't return until 2005, when I decided I was interested in a cross cultural degree, my MA. I cast about for a couple years doing cross cultural ed things until I found out there wasn't really very much support for the degree I'd become interested in during my second try. On top of that my old habits of half-assery and jacknapery had resurfaced. I had more than enough credits for a degree (way more) but hadn't crystallized anything. So 2008 rolled around and I was like...12 years into a process that takes 2-4 for most. In the winter I threw myself at the feet of the Dean of Students and asked for help. She took me under her advice, and got me talking with a couple of other professors. With their help, finally I figured out what I'd wanted to say that would demonstrate my "mastery of the art of theology." I put together a thesis titled The Role of Media Effects in Popular Eschatology: Case Studies in 20th Century Mass Theology and Questions for 21st Century Theologies of Missions (which you can read if you're inclined). It wrapped up a number of themes I'd been pursuing for years, and I'm very proud of it. (I even got it accepted for presentation at the Media Ecology Conference in San Jose that year)
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video
What did it take? Facing my lotus eating heart, and staring that motherfucker down. Grinding it out, and actually writing something that cohered and could be understood. But something else happened: I was suffering. For years I'd been a snorer, a troubled sleeper whose presence was enjoyed by no one.

I had sleep apnea. I was drowsy all the time. I fell asleep while reading to my kids, while sitting at my desk, in the middle of sentences, while driving. I worked on my thesis through a haze of drowsiness, sometimes falling asleep in the library, typing page after page of the letter 'e' (a quick command-z undid all that, but it was a little terrifying). I awoke in the morning with splitting headaches. I would fall asleep in my chair and become incensed when my wife would try to wake me up to come to bed. She lay awake beside me at night, worried I had stopped breathing.

One reason for this is genetic—my mother probably has something like sleep apnea—but even so, it was magnified by my morbid obesity, which was at its pinnacle in 2008. Finally, in the spring of that year, as I fought through the fog to finish the thesis, and mindful of my commitment to an "odyssey of change," I went to the respiratory doctor and signed up for a sleep study. I walked up to the clinic one fine spring evening (huffing and puffing), and subjected myself to their electrodes and testing. After two hours under the watchful eyes of their telemetry, they woke me up and said "okay we're going to put a mask on you now."

I was told that a severe case of sleep apnea, one qualifying for special medical equipment, was the diagnosis when a person experienced 16 apneas or "arousals" per hour in the study.

"How did I do?" I asked.

"You had about 57."

"So about 28—"

"Per hour. Fifty seven per hour."

"Oh my."

With the conclusion of my sleep study, I was prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine and mask, to put on my face when I sleep. It "splints" the airway open at night, allowing air to flow, snoring to cease, and real REM sleep to return to my life. It was a trial at first, having that thing on my face. It was set at titrated pressure of 9.0 cmH20 to start. Frankly, I felt like I was drowning—even though I was being supplied with more oxygen than I'd been getting at night for years. I was terrified I wouldn't be able to adjust to the bizarre thing blowing in my nose all night and that I'd go mad, never being healed of my increasingly deadly condition.

But I managed to get through. Oh how I slept. My dreams returned, and my wife was able to sleep peacefully again. I was no longer in the strange, dreamless underworld-like state of the Lotos Eaters. My mind began clearing significantly. I graduated wide awake.

But that was only the earliest days.

The Cyclops in my mind
When I entered my sleep study, for the first time in years I stepped on a scale able to accurately measure my weight. In April of 2008 I weighed in at Four Hundred Seven (407) Pounds (184 kg or 29 stone). This terrified me, and made me more acutely aware than ever of the dangers I faced. But before the lifechanging confrontation with that great brute terror, I became reacquainted with another monster. A mindless towering force, one eyed and vicious: depression.
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

my calypsothe sweet kiss turned sour
CALYPSO! O sweet nymph! How many times you kissed me. And sang to me.
Until you turned sour and our lusting faded.

Recovery:
A significant portion of my odyssey centers around joining a 12 step program. One of the foundational traditions of these programs is anonymity at the level of press, radio, and other means of communication. In order to respect that tradition, I am not putting the links to the unlisted YouTube videos directly into this proof. Friends and family are allowed to know about my experiences. If you want to hear those portions of the proof where I encounter my versions of The Laestrygonians, Calypso, Aeolus, Telemachus, Scylla and Charybdis I ask that you private message me here. Since only people with accounts can send private messages, it is one measure I have for keeping alive the anonymous tradition I have come to value. I will send you the links without hesitation.

The Sirens my tasking hands tied, my media obsessions
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Laertes, Your Father

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another Mountain Goats Performance

Circe
My men become swine
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The citizens of Ithaca.
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Penelope, Your Wife
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+ larger

t-minus 10 days
calypso
Walking to the clinic for my sleep study.
IMG_4333.JPG
The Laestrygonian in the Mirror
Taken March 23, 2008
during the fight with cyclops
a photo from some rare tasking...also ...look at that face
fighting the sirens
Fighting off the sirens
more stoppers for my ears..
just a funny picture.
mother's family
Anticlea
Laertes
Jan 2010
Grandma Amy at 100
my niece's baby
the groves of my youth
ready for anything
young telemachus
eww
Thesis - First Draft
where have I seen that before
Penelope

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9 comment(s)

(no subject)
posted by saille is planting praxis on February 19th, 2011 11:29 AM

I want to read that thesis. You had me at eschatology, but modern eschatologies, from a meandering Div degree? Yes, please.

(no subject)
posted by Burn Unit on February 19th, 2011 12:42 PM

The PDF is right up there ^^^

(no subject)
posted by saille is planting praxis on February 20th, 2011 6:12 PM

Aha! Found it. Sorry I had a fit of stupid and somehow missed it the first time.

Wow.
posted by Loki on February 20th, 2011 6:38 PM

I hate the The Odyssey task. Hate it.

But, how could I possibly fail to vote for this? I'm astonished, and touched that you've shared this with us.

I'm still not entirely sure if it's tasking. But, it's sure as hell moving, and human, and genuine, and has all sorts of other outstanding properties, and I'm fortunate to have seen it.


P.S. If you haven't seen them already, I recommend that other readers ask for access to the private episodes.

(no subject) +1
posted by teucer on February 22nd, 2011 10:46 PM

Congratulations.

...that seems like the only thing I can say to this. I'm not entirely sure it's the right word, but it will do.

man what
posted by Burn Unit on February 23rd, 2011 9:20 PM

scienceguru? how is this even possible? that's not to say I mind the vote, in fact I'm flattered. I just...that's a name I haven't seen in years. years.

wat??

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on February 23rd, 2011 9:32 PM

Well, it's not the REAL scienceguru that we all knew and loved.

drag
posted by Burn Unit on February 23rd, 2011 9:38 PM

damn my inattentive eyes.

(no subject)
posted by rongo rongo on March 13th, 2011 6:19 PM

You've gone far and deep - glad to see you make it home, even though that isn't the end of the journey.