David from the dentist

“Is this FOREVER?”  the kid asks, and his dad laughs.  We chuckle because we know that it’s such a kid thing to say.  It’s easy for kids to think that a present, temporary state will last forever, because they’re not as used to change as we are.  They haven’t seen the myriad ways in which what once seemed permanent begins to shift and melt away.  People around you pass away, you move, and age, and your body begins to change too without your having any say in it.

This is where I am right now.  Constantly asking “Is this going to be FOREVER?”  Am at the crux of not knowing whether I am young or old, whether I should be wholly responsible for myself, or still entwined with my family.  Law school or grad school or work or what?  There aren’t any grades or rules anymore to measure myself by.  That’s alternately, simultaneously liberating and frightening.  What now?  is the question that constantly presents itself.  What should I try next?  And how to get there?

I’m 24 years old right now.  It’s important to stop and think about that, because it’s too easy to watch the days, weeks, and months slip by without being conscious of what substantive things I’ve been able to do in that time.  I won’t wait passively for the next big thing, the next ready-made pre-fab Ikea life goal to present itself before deciding what I can be and do in the world.

There is much that is broken in this world.  Once you’ve acknowledged this as a truth for you, you have a series of choices.  Watch the problems unfold from a distance (until the tide reaches you), run for the nearest shelter and wait for the storm to pass (which it never will.  there will always be storms), do what you can to help rectify them.  I’ve always said that I don’t need to save the world, change the world.  Just make the world a little better in my own small way, every day, in a sustainable way.  It might not be enough.  It might be a futile gesture, and it will be hard.  It might be thankless in the sense of social and financial status.  But at least attempt, that’s all we can do.  You can choose for yourself what the project of your life will be, which you will never finish.  That is the truth, you endlessly optimistic Americans.  But it’s ok.  Choose what will give you meaning, or make meaning for yourself.

Salinger, Recluse

Why I believe literature will not die.  It might not live as widely in print, but the feeling of getting into someone else’s head, feeling their feelings, experiences, and desires.  That’s what good art does – allows us to feel for each other and to practice being something other than oneself.  When else can you really do such a thing?
I went to a Wesleyan alumni talk a few weeks ago where Amy Bloom said that people often mistake her for a compassionate writer when she’s actually an insatiably curious writer.  For me, curiosity is inextricable from empathy and com-passion.  Con-passion.  To suffer with, feel with.  To be interested in something or someone is to step into that subject-position and vantage point.  I feel that I can at least try to see with a thousand eyes, one at a time, to understand the world that much better.  “He can’t be himself to others, and he doesn’t really try in some ways. But you can see that he’s captivated by his own spirit.”  I love this because it is so true.  Though it has to be tempered with openness and generosity, but can’t that be manifested in more ways than can be portrayed by the media?
So many half-finished thoughts today.  I started reading Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain the other day, and have found that it doesn’t make me angry anymore.  In fact, I like it.  Go figure.

Letters of JD Salinger open to the public for the first time.

“The lust for Salinger gossip reached a fever pitch when he died in January. Successful authors, like any public figures nowadays, are expected to prostrate themselves in front of our culture and allow their lives to be picked clean. Salinger would not. …These letters confirm a few theories about Salinger, including the fact that he continued to write from his secluded home in Cornish, New Hampshire, and was quietly sitting on several unpublished novels and stories. They also tear down some damning assumptions—that Salinger was a complete misanthrope, that he hated children, and that he was incapable of caring for anybody, paralyzed by his distaste for phonies and literary leeches. In these letters, in fact, he’s a wit, a devoted father, a lonely middle-aged man and at his core, the kind of writer who just wants to write until he can’t put pen to paper anymore, because that’s the only truth he knows.  ‘Some of the letters are very dark, but they also show a kind of witty, jollier side of J.D. Salinger that I never knew existed,’ Kiely says.  ‘He knows himself really, really well. His self-knowledge is what comes through—he can’t be himself to others, and he doesn’t really try in some ways. But you can see that he’s captivated by his own spirit.‘– TONY

Keep dancing, keep running, painting, stretching, creating, till you can’t put pen to paper anymore.

Farm and tend

Cultivating goodwill, humor, love and joy is a conscious act.  Sometimes.  Sometimes it feels like the easiest thing to do, flowing out of me.  Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to do.  The dry spells are the real test.  Of course it’s easy to be the person you want to be when it’s easy.  But it’s hard to be the person you want to be when it’s just a crappy day out and you want to crawl into bed and throw covers over the world.  That’s precisely the time to push through.

Reason #2 to eat vegetarian – Monsanto is as evil as corporations can get.  No need for Star Wars – the Empire is right here, faceless and without any need for exaggeration to be truly frightening.  Food, Inc. has me sold. Every meal is a vote for or against industrialized food.  The right of every human being to know what s/he is putting into his or her own body should not even be an issue, but the FDA and USDA can’t seem to even pass legislation requiring proper labeling of genetically-modified food ingredients in the products we buy.  What the hell is going on here?  Monsanto developed Agent Orange for crying out loud before they moved on to co-opting everything Americans put in their mouths.

Beeee good

Reason #1 to eat vegetarian:

Fluffy little chicks sliding down chutes by the thousands to have their beak tips seared so they don’t peck each other to death in the confined cages they will live in for the rest of their short lives.

*Sigh.  Good bye chicken soup, fried chicken, roast chicken.  I’m on the side of the fluffy chicks.

Curiosity vs. Fear

The main tug of war of my life right now.  That and apathy vs. engagement, which is a related see-saw if you think about it.  To be engaged is to be curious, want to know more, to be hungry to know and understand why something is so, and how it might be different.

To not be afraid, not even of the mundane, which some people are so contemptuous of.  They say that in a marriage the thing that is most draining are the small exigencies, not the large crises as you would intuitively believe.  To look at the world, at people anew, and to give them a chance, instead of precluding all the possibilities of what they can be.

In a place like New York though, it’s sometimes too easy to numb your senses for the sake of self-preservation and maintain a sense of privacy, identity.  Routine does that too, I suppose.  In the subway, out the subway.  Out to lunch, back from lunch.  A beer here maybe, coffee today, grocery-shopping and laundry.  Making the calls.

My body and mind are telling me it’s time to hit the reset/refresh button somehow.  Now to figure out the how of it.

Proactive and Reactive

An article I read today about successful creative types urges would-be innovators to cut down on the number of hours and amount of energy they spend on being reactive — reacting to emails, messages, all sorts of stimuli that bombard our senses as soon as we get out of bed in the morning.

I spend so much of my time reacting to things — to the mess in the room, the morning express train that suddenly decides to turn local, replying to emails, adjusting my anxiety level to the news and number of bombs dropped on a given day, reacting reacting reacting.

I’d like to set aside time and space to create and produce, rather than just thoughtlessly jumping went told to.  Even if it’s only for a moment, to cook or write down a thought, to remember that we are actors in the world, rather than amoebas that the world acts upon.  Otherwise we begin to feel like a blobby things, without boundaries, form, identity, or conviction.  Because moving and acting with intention can feel good, and vice versa.  A teacher at Yoga to the People told us that when it feels good to move, then it looks good too.