“You might be walking along quietly some day, drowning in your humdrum routines, your listless vagrancy; and then, suddenly, your life will explode.”
“You might be walking along quietly some day, drowning in your humdrum routines, your listless vagrancy; and then, suddenly, your life will explode.”
Last night, I dreamt that a huge backpack, laden and heavy, was precariously perched upon my shoulders as I struggled to heave it up a flight of stairs, bent-backed and broken. As it always happens in dreams, I made no progress, and the more I fought to climb those stairs, the blacker my mood became. At some point in that dream state I realized that my endeavor was futile, and that it was time to start a new scene, and suddenly my mind switched the picture to a countryside landscape, where I was riding in a carriage hand in hand with a mysterious stranger, my head on their shoulder.
If only it were that simple.
I deduced at once that my strange backpack-dream could only be the outcome of my being in the middle of finals. My sense of duty and responsibility to my education often sets my teeth on edge, probably more so than it should; my bag was filled with literature papers, fractal equations, Tribes-Chiefdoms- States, html and Perl codes, Mesa Verde and Pecos Pueblo and Copan, yellow journalism, Iolanthe, Shapely-Shubik and Banzhof… how did that fill my bag so fast? My bag must be pretty small. But I know subconsciously that my load is much lighter in comparison to others.
I will not pretend that I can even remotely begin to understand the loss of a child. I will not pretend that I can offer any kind of comfort that will come close to touching the despairing heart of a grieving parent. I will not pretend that I could ever possibly fathom the interminable chasm that accompanies the departing of the child that one has conceived, nourished, raised and loved from the second they came into being in the wombs of their mothers to their last breaths. I am not writing words that haven’t been written or thought of before this moment. I can’t see a purpose to this writing; I can’t see a purpose to their deaths. There is so much that I will never understand.
Life seems aimless, until it meets Death.
Writers love to write about writing. There is a widely-held stance that when another writer reads about writing, it then inspires him or her to write their own writing about writing, or even inspires a strictly-reading non-writer to start writing about reading after reading about writing, and the writers start reading writings from non-readers about reading about writing… and your head probably hurts now. Annie Dillard’s Transfiguration, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens… these are the main staples in a writer’s diet when one just wants to read about something familiar, like, well… writing.
Dillard’s essay is my unequivocal favorite; in it, she masterfully compares the writer’s passion for their craft through a portrayal of the death of a moth. And before you start wondering, no, I am not writing you a literary analysis; I already do enough of that for class. This is merely rumination on a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. So, Dillard is camping in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and writing by the light of one candle, when she watches this moth flutter down right on top of the flaming wick, attracted by the flickering light as moths always are, and it immediately and unsurprisingly bursts into flame. Throughout the next few paragraphs, you basically get the image of a moth dying slowly (about two hours worth of burning; she describes at one point how the moth’s body turns into a “second wick”) as it is burned from the inside out. I’m sure you’ve already guessed, but the metaphor lies in the burning up of everything inside oneself coinciding with that of writing, as it literally takes everything in you, mentally; writing can eat up so much of your time and life that by the end of the day, you will have sacrificed either your sanity or energy or both. Anyone who has ever written an essay of any kind before can attest to that feeling of absolute and utter relief once that long, grueling paper is finally done, and that feeling of unmitigated satisfaction when handing to the professor a piece one can truly be proud of.
But besides the moth, there is another animal portrayed in this essay… a cat. Most people grow up to be cats. Dillard happens to notice her kitty’s tail swaying just a little too close to the flame of her candle one night (she isn’t camping at this point, if you’re wondering) and the cat quickly jumps away, frightened by the pain and heat. After all, who would want to torture themselves like that? Is it worth losing a tail over? Is writing so important to you, that you would give up portions of your life to continue your diatribe? Most people will unhesitatingly say, no. Why spend your time trying to write a masterpiece when there are already so many transcendental writings in this world already? How can you hope to ever be on par with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or Twain? And when all the facts are laid out bare and naked, the hard truth lies in the fact that no one can dare hope to compare to those who will resonate throughout history. Writing is less for the masses, and more for the vanity of the writer himself. The urge to write is a little sleeping man hidden deep in your head somewhere, who knocks at your brain in the early hours of the morning, whispers in your ear as you sit in lecture, tickles your fingers until they twitch and ache, commands you to stop time and space until you pull out paper and pen and sloppily jot down a random thought flitting through the conscious. Needless to say, I believe as yet that I shall be a moth someday; how fast I may be burning out, I cannot say.
What will you be?
Last night, I came home from work around eleven, intending to wash my hair and write a short update to the blog before heading to bed. So I finish up, sit down, all ready to start typing away, and two hours later I’m nearly finished and ready to end my newest entry; what was intended to be a short anecdote relaying a bit of my interesting night, turned into a detailed account of the strange characters that find their way into the restaurant, and the fascinating subjects and ideas that permeate the conversations in the dining room some nights. As I was shifting around to get comfortable under my covers (my room gets so cold) my little finger accidentally grazed a random key, and my browser shifted a page back. And I lost everything; almost eleven hundred words (which admittedly, may have been a bit excessive for a blog post…) down the drain. I was devastated. I mean, really? Seriously? What can you do in a situation like that? Trying to recreate the entire post was absolutely out of the question; it’s impossible to write the same thing in the same way twice. All I remembered was being extremely proud of what I had just created, and then to see it disappear as quickly as it had come out of my mind, was utterly demoralizing. The internet may be written in ink, but until you click submit, it’s only invisible ink.
In the morning when my head was a bit clearer and the drowsiness of the busy work night had faded, I sat down on the couch with a cup of coffee to watch the morning news program; anyone who has half a brain and a TV knows that Hurricane Sandy and the ruin left in the wake of its destructive path has been plastered in every corner of every medium of media since last weekend. The stories are awful; catastrophic flooding in Manhattan, homes completely swept away, missing persons, lack of power and heat in the frigid weather, families with nowhere to go except to crowded hotels, lines at gas stations where desperate people wait in lines that stretch for miles… and I’m sitting here, saddened over the loss of a blog post. A blog post. There are people who lost absolutely everything just a few states north of me, who are still searching for missing neighbors and friends, who will still be rebuilding the bits and pieces of their lives years after the media has finally deemed the catastrophe old hat to the country. I don’t think there’s anything else to say about that; perspective, folks. Whenever you think you’ve got it bad, there is someone, somewhere in the world who has it much worse.
As you know, the election is only five days away now, and tensions are running high. I, however, am getting extremely excited in the nerdiest way possible. Tomorrow I get to present my research project on the Electoral College in my math class, which basically means I get to pretend I know more about our political system than anyone else in the class (which may sadly be true, considering it’s a gen-ed math class and I go to community college… but hey! Who am I to judge? They hopefully watched the debates…). Anyway, I’m ridiculously excited to present this project, which is completely abnormal for me, as I normally despise having to speak in front of groups. I think I’m really just hoping to convey some sort of notion of the importance of an election to people my age; the outcome will directly affect them whether they choose to believe it or not. Everyone’s probably heard that kind of commentary before, but I don’t think it can be stressed enough.
Tonight I went to a political fundraiser where I was asked to sing the National Anthem, and folks, I must tell you, if you ever get a chance to see your Congressmen speak, go see them! I saw Maryland’s House Rep. Andy Harris and candidate-for-Senate Dan Bongino, and it was truly an educational experience. Now I imagine some of you may be starting to tune out already, thinking, “Dear god, I do not feel like reading about someone’s political agenda.” That is not the point I’m trying to make here. All I say to you is this: listen. Listen to everyone. Because no matter how bat-shit crazy someone may sound, there will always be something to learn (even if it’s along the lines of “damn, I never want to be like that person.”) You’ve heard me talk about my Archaeology professor before, and though I’m fairly certain that we are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to topics like these (he loves to go on rants in the middle of lecture, but it never really bothers me, surprisingly; I like hearing what he has to say) we will always agree on a few key principles:
a) Everyone has an opinion, and don’t you dare deny it. Go voice it.
b) If you didn’t vote, you have absolutely no right to complain.
c) Politics will find you. You can’t hide from them.
d) For the love of God, VOTE! It’s your inalienable, undeniable right, a right that is denied to so many people who wish to have what we have all around the world! Take advantage of it!
One last point- don’t think the whole “my vote won’t matter or count for anything,” trick works, either. You’re voting for a third party? Fine, they’ll always act as spoilers. Voting as a Dem in a red state? It will still count towards the popular election. Sometimes winning is not so important as sending a message.
I have to end my diatribe with something ridiculous, so here’s a picture of Robert Downey Jr. pointing a gun at you while riding his bike with no handlebars.
Halloween! Not too long ago I was one of those kids running across neighbor’s lawns and fastidiously choosing candy from the bowls that were offered to me; now I’m the one holding the bowl while other kids pick over the morsels. This year I decided to dress up as a fortune-teller. I even borrowed a crystal ball with cool, ethereal light effects from one of my friends and spent a half hour drawing designs around my eyes with liquid eyeliner that were meant to look like tribal tattoos- needless to say, I was quite proud of myself for producing a pretty authentic costume, thanks to my mother’s wardrobe (she supplies me with the poofy shirts, flowing skirts, and super-sized costume jewelry). What I didn’t foresee (har har), was that kids would be far more interested in my candy than my cheesy fortunes (which consisted of things like “You’ll pass out from a candy coma tonight!” or “You better brush your teeth tonight, or you’ll wake up with cavities in the morning!”; you can’t blame them). Oh, I got a few compliments on the ball and my costume, but I think the best moment of the night was a three-year-old boy dressed up as a soldier from the army trick or treating with only his mother; he didn’t give two hoots about the candy at all. All he wanted to do was lightly touch the ball and watch it turn from red to green to blue. He loved it so much that, as they started to walk away, he ran back and started touching it again; and then later on, when they were passing my house to go home, he started to run back across the yard to touch it again! I told him that he was making the ball change colors, so he must be magical, and he left with the biggest smile on his face.
There was another kid who must have been about twelve who wasn’t trick or treating; all he did was walk laps around the circle by himself in literally one of the most realistic Dark Knight costumes I’ve ever seen. I mean, this wasn’t some Target-bought outfit. He either has a very skilled parent with a sewing machine, or someone spent a copious amount of money on him. Either way, here was a mini Batman walking around by himself, honestly not accomplishing anything that I could see (other than occasionally muttering something to himself), but he was really staying in character. He had the macho walk down pat, and about the sixth or seventh time he walked in front of my house, I yelled “Does the Dark Knight want any candy?” and all he did was stop, turn slowly to look at me for a good five seconds, and then resume his trek. I still have no idea what he was really doing.
My house has probably the most awkward walkway ever. Parents are always yelling at their kids to stop running, or to not walk on the grass, but not walking on the grass is almost impossible, and by the time any kid reaches my door step while walking, I’m pretty sure they’re thinking “that candy so wasn’t worth that walk”. I never know what to do, though; I know the parents are trying to teach their kids manners, but honestly, walk on the grass. I don’t care. And I absolutely love the kids that run up to me and scream “TRICK OR TREAT!” If I could get that excited about candy, I would never be unhappy!
A lot of people ask me why I don’t go out for Halloween. Most of the time I just shrug and tell them that I just don’t feel like it; but the truth is, Halloween is not my holiday anymore. It’s for the kids. I mean, since when did the coming of October 31st denote the advent of skimpy outfits accompanied by ample amounts of alcohol (which is the same as every college party ever, anyway). With that said, Halloween parties are friggin’ awesome, but when the only difference between a Halloween party and a house party is Darla walking in looking like a cross between a prostitute and a Furry, you can count me out.
One more erroneous detail to add- one year, my mom dressed me up like a horse. A. Horse.
But the year I was Arwen made up for that.
Today as I was sitting on the floor putting on my tennis shoes, about to hop onto the stationary bike, my dog walked into my room while I was singing quietly to myself (one of my absolute favorite songs, might I add- a beautiful rendition of Autumn Leaves by Eva Cassidy). She plopped belly-down, froggy-style perpendicular to me and laid her head on my knee and just stared at me, like she was listening and actually enjoying it. It doesn’t sound so strange now that I write it, but seriously, she seemed so cognizant and aware of the melody that I literally had to stop just to see what she did, in which case she removed her head from my knee and jumped onto the bed to look out the window. She has moments where she seems pretty dim (I’ve witnessed her run into many a wall and fall for the old you-think-I-threw-the-ball-but-I-really-didn’t! routine) but for the most part, she serves as a fairly adept and faithful companion. Sometimes when she’s laying facing away from me and parallel to my legs on the couch, she’ll lift her head and look at me backwards really expectantly for no apparent reason (and sorry, Shaun of the Dead was WRONG when he said that dogs can’t look up) and just the other day she was staring out the glass door and she looked just so sad that I completely stopped whatever assignment I was working on at the time and got out the leash.
Anyway, I’m not sure what the point of all that was. I just thought it was interesting. Obviously, animals don’t find music as enjoyable as humans (whenever I try to move her paws in time to the music, she just gets feisty) but the little incident today tells me it has some sort of effect on them. Maybe it’s soothing? I don’t know.