In flux core wire welding the machine use a spool of wire with a flux core… The wire becomes an electrode that arcs when it comes into completes a circuit with metal- mild steel… which is in contact with the ground… and the wire immediately melts- and the flux inside the wire creates a little bubble of gas to protect the molten metal from contamination. The welder continually feeds wire, which sustains the sparking, spitting, and arcing… The molten metal pools along the seam between the two bits of metal you are joining. It creates a very bright arc and very high temperatures… which mean that you must wear a welding helmet and gloves. Through the darkened glass, the pool of metal looks orange and you sort of push it along, moving the bright arc at the tip of the wire in a zig zag pattern slowly from one side of the seam to the other. And under that pool, the metal melts… the arc penetrates the metal (unless it burns entirely through, which also happens…) and two things become one.

And so I use electricity to join metal to metal. Creating with fire and light.  And there are flash burns on my arms, and slag burns here and there- but nothing too bad. And in the end there is a hand rail. (I think my friend Bobby did most of the work…)

There is something about linear logic… something algebraic about the process. Simple single or dual variable algorithms… with solutions along a line. Adjust feed rate. Adjust amperage. Adjust travel along the seam or angle or distance. Eventually it gets figured out. And when it does, the results are good. Games are logical. Life should be logical.

We value thinking outside the box… and even though we applaud genius that follows non-linear thinking… we depend on linear logic… on the most basic reasoning and reduction to simple single and dual variable algorithms. Whether it is the SAT or IQ tests those that score high, the so called “smart” people, tend to have very solid linear thinking skills.

Welding, like painting a painting… hitting a target… driving a car… learning a musical instrument… cooking Christmas dinner- it can be figured out logically using a set of guidelines or instructions or by following recipes. It can be attacked logically and simplified, subjected to reason and research. It can be googled and youtube, and somehow fathomed and reckoned, learned, rehearsed, and figured out. Even rocket science and brain surgery… given unlimited time and resources aren’t… you know… the proverbial rocket science…

And even though it seems at times that I run in strange mental circles, and play these bizarre free association games in the end, most solutions that I find, whether obvious or difficult, whether through example or failure… are linear. Most things follow an algorithm with a limited set of variables. There are constructs and recipes, instructions and guidelines and rules. Inductions and deduction devised from formulae. Thought maps that suggest a range of solutions along a line or a curve or in some general area of space…

I figured out I am good at this algebraic linear logic. Games. Strategy. Limiting things to a single line or a plane or a set of cartesian co-ordinates… reducing it to variables and isolating potential sets of reasonable solutions. I can do that.  I am usually pretty good at getting from point a to point b… at finding a solution… and figuring out where an answer is or who might have it…

But it never taught me about people. I always feel awkward, like I don’t fit in. You could plug them- social situations… into some system. You could read psychology, or sociology… or classify and stereotype… or find self help books, and the “solutions” you come up with were pretty useless. Where other people seem to come by it naturally, I always feel stupidly inept. I never know what to do with my hands or what to do when someone is crying near by… or when a hug is better than a handshake or more recently, when to just stay home. It is like that joke you don’t get. Even if they could explain it, by then it just isn’t funny.

And I can’t figure how to grieve… I can’t get my son back, and there seems to be no solution. Some part of my mind loops on it- looking for some solution. It is like trying to quantify social situations and figure out how not to feel awkward and how to get what I really want… which isn’t possible. And so I run the numbers obsessively. I repeat those same memories and go over and over again… like if I look closely enough in my mind, I will find a loophole in reality… a flaw in the code… and I could fix it. And there in the front of my brain is this part that knows that there isn’t a solution. That grief and pain are those echoes of love that reverberate off the walls of life and go on and on… and no matter how many times you run it… or what algorithms you use, or what you consider, or how you frame it linguistically to make it easier on the mind… the reality of loss continues. And I can’t “fix” that.

But I can build a railing.

Heidleman hand rail


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