Halfway up the path is no place to eat your sandwich. If you’re going to eat that sandwich, wait till the clearing in the trees, where you can look down on the field shaped like a wood cutter’s axe. Wait till the windblown top, where ravens will eat your crumbs. Wait till you’re back at the trailhead, if good sense tells you to turn back. Halfway is no place to eat that sandwich. You’ll just feel bloated, and anyway, the field shaped like an axe is beautiful to look at.
Halfway measures have a bad reputation, but if what you’re measuring is essentially bad news, halfway’s more than enough. Stop while you’ve only done half the harm you could, and things will be better. It’s true that you’ll miss out on the full-catastrophe thrill that so many of us are chasing after, these days. Halfway idiocy is less glamorous than the whole deal, but the cleanup afterwards is much less of a drag.
That town is halfway to Hades, exclaims someone fictional in the Southern Memories Center of my brain. Does that mean far? Does that mean actually quite close? The mid-nineties edition of the Lonely Planet China guidebook claimed that Goldmud was a local call from Hell. When I got there, it wasn’t halfway bad. More like all the way: dusty, expensive, debased, depressing. Maybe the worst bus ride of my life took off from Goldmud. Halfway up the mountain, we got a flat tire, which, looking at the state of the tires when we all got off to wait for something to happen, wasn’t halfway surprising. When whatever it was had happened, and we took off again, I’m halfway sure we left behind an old Tibetan man in a dust-colored coat. That bus took us more than halfway to Hades.
Halfway-sure is a weird state to be in. As in, I think that’s true, but I’m not positive that impression is coming from someplace trustworthy. Could be intuition. Could be fear. Could be a story from the vast swamp of TV-generated narratives. Could be I can’t be bothered, or I am too scared to turn around and check the back rows of the bus for an old man in a dust-colored coat. What if we left him halfway up the mountain? He’s actually probably better prepared to deal with that problem than most people. After all, those halfway-falling-off Tibetan nomad coats convert into sleeping bags. I’m halfway sure we left an old man in cracked classes somewhere out there, in a muddy sheep pasture halfway up a mountain.
As part of this whole collective mess that we here in the United States appear to be in, it’s probably a good thing that there are some swing-voters halfway committed to their opinions, but it’s also kind of mysterious. How can anyone be kind of iffy on whether it’s okay to commit sexual assault with impunity? If I listen, I find out. Oh, some people just make such a big deal out of everything. Can’t they just relax? I mean, come on – they won’t even show the Roadrunner cartoons on TV anymore, because they’re too violent? What is the world coming to? People hold halfway opinions because allowing pain – our own, and that of others – to touch us is (duh!) painful. Better to be distracted. Better to be angry. Better to stay halfway connected to experience and move along.
Halfway-voting is the way it works in this country, on a good day. Half of those allowed to vote, which to begin with is by no means everyone. Halfway I’m too busy. Halfway it hurts to think about it. Halfway what does it matter anyway? I halfway thought I would travel South and do voter registration work this Fall, but then I all-the-way didn’t. Life has a way of continuing to require efforts in place, even when halfway good ideas might lead us somewhere else. The wood needs stacking. The dogs can’t be walked or fed halfway, and neither can I.
Halfway is related to I have half a mind to… which really means, I am going to threaten you with [whatever], and hope very much that you back down, because going any further will require efforts of me that I do not wish to make. It’s a shitty little pattern, and it reminds me of something that happened once down South. My friend and I went for a hike into Tallulah Gorge, in the mountains of Georgia. We saw a water moccasin coiled on a stone, just right where a person might step on a snake. We kept walking, taking care not to step on snakes. The river grew as we walked, and so did the heat of the day. When we got to a wide place at the bottom of the gorge, we at first waited patiently for the church group on the opposite shore to be done with their tunafish, and scram, so we could swim. We didn’t have bathing suits, and we wanted to eat our sandwiches after we swam. But they stuck around, and stuck around some more, piously clothed and mayonnaise-glazed. Fuckers! Eventually, we just stripped and swam anyway.
Then, on the way back up, having forded river-water up to our necks and gotten our clothes wet anyway, we encountered a Ranger in full tan and olive garb. Looking really angry with us, he growled, If I’d seen what they saw, I would’ve had to arrest you. Those mayonnaise-Christians had snitched on us! My friend and I entertained ourselves the whole way back, imagining this Ranger somehow trying to wrestle two wet, naked Miss Monsters in handcuffs up the canyon. We found this hilarious. We were not even halfway scared of the Ranger, or of the church group, even though they all had half a mind to see us arrested.
Halfway to Heaven
Halfway to Eternity
Halfway to Hell
What bullshit. Who’s measuring?
I have half a mind to box their ears.
I am halfway to the end of this life. Oh, really?
I am halfway to the end of the story. How do I know?
Larissa is the one who keeps time, and she’s sitting on the floor in the corner, where I couldn’t see her phone if I tried.
Anyone halfway conscious
Anyone with halfway decent credentials
Anyone with half a heart
Anyone with half a brain
Where are all the other halves? What are they made of? Is it all dark matter? All fake news? An agglomeration of the bits that get sucked out of people, when they’re re-adjusted?
Seriously, where is all the rest of the baking, hearting, and cocking?
Could we have it back, please? There seems to be bit of a crisis going on, out here. I’m crossing out words, and that’s not really part of how all this is supposed to work. Stream-of-consciousness doesn’t mean, halfway what’s actually bubbling up, and halfway some reservations about all that. Can I eat my sandwich yet? I’m hungry, and that field shaped like an axe might be totally different now. Someone could’ve cut down the whole forest around it with an axe. The trees up on the ridge could’ve grown tall and covered up the view. I don’t halfway want my sandwich now.
I want it all the way.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.
108 Names of Now