Sometimes searching for an answer is all you have to stop, in order to find one. Sometimes letting go is the only way to have what you really want. Sometimes cliches are true, sometimes they’re cheesy, often they’re both. But words aren’t nearly as powerful as the moments that breed them. The silence between breaths that catches the glint off a soda can on the side of the highway. The light that multiplies as the world sets behind a water glass. I’m not sure if anything really ever changes, but I’m sure nothing ever stays the same. I often find myself comparing the present to the past, or rather an idea in my head I call the past, a fabrication of my current state in colors and shapes. My future self shakes her head, fighting for predictability, crying for vulnerability. Symbiotically, there’s solace in the word, comfort in being heard, freedom in every step toward a brighter unknown.
Today I flew home from being home. I know, it’s confusing sometimes. Home is where the heart is. Make yourself at home. Home, Sweet, Home. Home is whenever I’m with you. Such a simple, benign, yet loaded word. When I was young, it was common sense that home was the house where I lived—it was the place where my mom tucked me in at night, where I spent sick days watching tv on the couch, where my friends would come over to play, and where there was an infinite supply of toilet paper and Alpha-Bits cereal. Now, it’s not so simple. On nights when I explain where I’m going after a movie, it may mean the place I sleep and keep my stuff, but when I’m asked if I’m going home for Christmas, or “Where’s home?” it’s not so black or white. Today I walked through the Chicago airport, my flight delayed and running on empty, and felt this strange feeling, the kind that occurs when you mix black and white together, turning it into an unidentifiable shade of grey. I felt sad to be leaving home, but at the same time excited to be going home. My awareness sparked another color to enter the mix, a bright and joyful color. I realized that whether I’m in one city or another, one house or another, with family or not, the only consistent thing is me. If it’s familiarity that matters, then certainly the Chicago airport should feel more like home than some of the places I’ve lived, but I really don’t think “home” is a place in the traditional sense. It’s a state of being. It’s a feeling of comfort, of presence, and a complete acceptance of where you are in that moment in time—literally and figuratively.
In the end, it’s much less work to focus on building your internal home than trying to control everything outside, travel long distances, or buy lots of material things, just to get that feeling. Certainly places can inspire nostalgia or make living more comfortable, but if we practice being present and excited about where we are, then why can’t the whole world feel like home? Instead of setting a resolution that’s based on getting a result this year, I’m going to start building the biggest home in the world—so big it encompasses the entire planet (and maybe beyond!), yet is entirely invisible. A home where every person on Earth is welcome, and no room is off limits. A home where the only keys I need are an open mind and an open heart, and an open-door policy for new experiences. That way I’ll never have to worry about whether I’m leaving home or coming home, but simply being.
I was really nervous to go see her in the hospital. Even though we’d shared so much, spent whole summers at each others' houses, riding our low-rider bikes around town, co-ordinating our outfits, and playing Super Mario Bros on bean bag chairs that spilled their styrofoam guts everywhere. We had gradually grown apart in high school. I resented her unsubtle attempts at fitting in with the “popular” girls. I wasn’t willing to be, what I perceived as, humiliated the way she was. Even if I did want them to like me, I would never have admitted it. She changed the way she dressed, started listening to different music, drinking a lot, and even obeyed their juvenile orders when they said she had to walk 10 feet behind them. I wasn’t sure who I hated more: them for doing it, or her for letting them. Either way, even though she started to hang around with them more and abandoned her social status as a “skater” (a label I’m still not sure I’ve outgrown), I maintained the feeling that she was my friend more than anyone else’s. Maybe because she was my friend first, or maybe because I felt like they didn’t understand her the way I did, or maybe because I just wanted it to be that way. Yet when I visited her in the hospital, I felt like I was visiting a stranger. Words abandoned the part of me that speaks them.
She sat propped up in her bed. A television mumbled from high up in a corner. I remember it being bright, she could see out into the world, but not truly be in it. I can only assume she spent months in that bed, as that’s how long she was gone from school, nearly a year. I remember the fact that her toilet had a bucket in it to catch whatever went in it because she wasn’t trusted to use it responsibly. They measured and regulated everything that went inside and everything that went out. I never asked her what that was like. I never asked her why she did it, or what she was afraid of. I probably just talked about things that were going on at school and asked her about the other girls on her floor. Talking about other people is always easier than talking about oneself, especially when the truth is uncomfortable. But the thing I regret the most is not telling her how much I missed her.
I began to miss her even before went into the hospital. I missed her when she started acting differently, losing weight and dramatically giving away all her food at school. She wasn’t the girl who had tried to drink milk through her eyeball or left fart bombs on my pillow. She wasn’t the friend who would skateboard with me for hours before going inside to eat white bread cucumber sandwiches. She wasn’t the person who did a wicked imitation of her Scottish dad: “Go shite up a trrree ya wee harry!” She was different. She wasn’t just losing weight, she was losing herself, and I was losing a friend.
I didn’t know it then, but I wasn’t a very good friend to her. I didn’t tell her how I felt, I just pretended I didn’t care. Pretending not to care is so much easier than feeling the pain, the loss, the heartbreak, but it limits your ability to love. Thinking back, I realize it was my own petty fears that got in the way of being there for her. For the same reason she stopped eating, I stopped expressing how I felt. What would people think? Will I be rejected? Will they think I’m weird? Get mad? That age comes with a bag of insecurities, and I let mine weigh me down.
It’s incredible to think about how much time we spend creating fears about these things, rather than sharing ourselves with the people we care about most. Or most importantly, just experiencing ourselves, in all our beautiful quirks and imperfections. I may never know what that year was like for my fifteen-year-old friend in the hospital, nor the years that followed when she went to new school and started a whole new life for herself, but I do know that I want to be the type of person who thinks about it. And cares.
Hearing the news of Adam Yauch’s death hit me in an unexpected way today. Seeing a facebook post that read “RIP MCA” led me to investigate and sure enough the twitter and tumblr-sphere were alive with RIP’s and condolences. I would say my fan cred lies in that grey area between die-hard and clueless, probably just like most people within my age demographic. I know all their hits and most serve as anthems for one life phase or other. The Beasties were a staple of suburban teenage-dom and discovering them was a rite of passage for any white kid trying to make amends with their rebellious streak. I remember thinking the music video for “Sabotage” was brilliant because it was a music video but it also pretended to look like a movie (how clever!), and it was campy, self-aware and bad-ass. I think that was the first video my friends and I recreated once we got our grubby little hands on a video camera, donning hipster moustaches before they were a thing. Anyway, having one of your adolescent idols pass away is inevitable and not all that uncommon. I remember the day Kurt Cobain died. I cried, and for months was scribbling “K.C.R.I.P.” on all my notebooks. The sadness and disillusionment with life came with the teenaged territory and we wallowed in our esteemed rockstars’ woes. Meanwhile we saved our lunch money for concert tickets and used our creative energy to make fashion statements out of safety pins and try not to care too much when our purple hair dye washed out and made it look grey.
So what does this have to do with the Beastie Boys and Adam Yauch’s death? The Beasties were different. They were positive and empowered. They were smart and worldly. Admittedly they had their misguided attempts in the world of role-model-dom, but they weren’t famous for their struggles. They were famous for being fucking rad, knowing how to party and having sick rhymes. And just like they didn’t live for their struggles, Adam didn’t die by his. He died from something that can happen to any of us. He died from something that happens to distant relatives and friends from high school’s parents. Or our heroes.
Obviously I’m not the same age as Adam, but sometimes sharing an imagined identity forms a much stronger connection than how long you’ve been alive. I can relate way more with the Beasties and their frame of mind than I can with a lot of people who share my graduation date or who watched the same after-school specials. I feel deeply saddened by his death. I feel humbled by the reality that no amount of external anything - fame, fortune, friendship or fly beats - can keep us from the inevitable. Adam’s death is a reminder of that; that thing we all know, but conveniently avoid as we put things off or fail to tell our fellow humans we love them. I hope he was able to be with the people he loved during his final days, and reflected on his life believing he’d done alright. I truly believe we all do our best, but allowing ourselves to embrace that truth can be the hardest of all. In the end, we all just gotta fight… for our right… well, you know. Peace and love in the next world Adam.
Most of the time nostalgia waltzes in of its own accord, like a sizzling waft of the neighbor’s barbecue, but sometimes I get this curious itch to seek out a particular time from my past. I’m not sure “time” is the right word. It’s usually an object, a song, a place or a person, but it brings me back to a particular time and, more importantly, a particular feeling. By no means am I one to dwell in the past, but I think revisiting these feelings is important. It’s easy to surround ourselves with certain situations and get lost in familiar patterns, sometimes losing sight of what got us there along the way. The memories might be painful, joyous, sad or exciting, but they are part of us nonetheless. Accessing those experiences is, I believe, a way to keep ourselves connected to all the different facets of ourselves and deepen our wisdom. This morning I saw a link on twitter to a celebrity’s favorite old building in Hollywood. Immediately I got a little excited hoping it was the same as my favorite building, the one I resided in for the better half of 2006: the Villa Carlotta. Alas, Moby’s favorite building is the 7th Day Adventist Church, but at this point my synapses had started firing and they weren’t about to stop. A flood of memories came rushing into my brain. The incredibly serendipitous way I got the apartment in the first place (people have been on the waiting list for years to get a spot) and the fact that I leased it from one of the celebrity carpenters on Trading Spaces, so it had all the latest appliances and was pretty nicely furnished. I began to wonder if there are still tiny bb pellets in the cracks of the aging floorboards. I had a birthday party where I was generously gifted my very own bb machine gun. The night started off innocently enough, with tentative and willing victims standing far from their shooter, and getting carefully pelted with equal parts pain and excitement. As the night wore on, however, let’s just say “don’t try this at home kids!”
When I moved in, the previous tenant (a cool young German writer who I became friends with and was working for Michael Bay, I wonder what he’s up to…) warned me about the neighbor below being a grumpy old curmudgeon who complained about stomping and too much noise. So before I had aforementioned birthday party, I slid a little card under his door warning him of the event and letting him know to call me if anything bothered him; basically an advanced apology. Even before the night came, he wrote me a note thanking me for my gesture and encouraging me to enjoy my party. From that experience, I learned that most of the time, grumpy old curmudgeons just want to feel considered and treated like human beings; and for the most part, there’s no such thing as grumpy old curmudgeons, just lonely people who want to feel cared for and considered.
I had heard rumours about the building being haunted, and certainly if there ever was a setting for a classic ghost story flick, this was the perfect place. There were odd noises, flickering lights and the decor likely hasn’t changed since it was built; added to maybe, but never redone. I’ve always felt a little nervous in new places I’ve lived for the first couple nights. I think there’s a natural reaction to unfamiliarity that breeds thoughts like, someone's breaking in my door!?! You need to acclimatize your brain to the noises and ambience so it doesn't trigger your fight or flight. Having said that, during my first few nights at the Villa Carlotta I had some pretty, I don’t know what to call them, “spiritual” experiences? I don’t know if I believe in ghosts or simply the power of the human brain to generate whole body sensory experiences, but I woke up (or at least entered that weird in between waking and sleep state) completely paralyzed. I couldn’t move. I felt petrified, and I became aware of another presence in the room, or what my mind perceived as such. The thoughts I had were in the vein of, “I need to show them I’m not afraid. I need to face this on my own. I need to make peace and they’ll leave me alone.” I immediately vowed not to have any overnight visitors (that lasted a little while) and face these demons on my own. Whether they were my own demons or those haunting the Villa Carlotta, I’ll never know, but it was a really intense experience, and made me ever the more fond of the place.
Another thing that made the building unique was the manager, Tom. He was incredibly friendly, jovial, mostly drunk, and would stop at nothing to give you a hard time (all in the name of humor, of course). I bond well with characters like this, so we hit it off immediately. I also paid my rent on time, so we were in good shape. I had numerous interactions with him during my stay there, but my favorite one was when he called me out of the blue months after I’d moved back to Vancouver. When I saw his number come up, I couldn’t even guess what he’d wanted. For some reason I decided not to pick up, but later I got this rambling message about how I hadn’t paid my rent on time and that he was upset with me and he wasn’t sure what to do, etc. I immediately called the guy I had leased it from, fearing that somehow they didn’t know I moved out and that some big misunderstanding had taken place, but he immediately burst into laughter and said, “He’s just drunk and fucking with you.” I was totally shocked. Not that it’s not completely in line with my sense of humor, but it was so random and out of the blue. I loved Tom a little more after that.
Living at the Villa Carlotta also amounted to many nights spent eating pasta and talking about poetry at La Poubelle, drinking coffee and "working” on my laptop at the Bourgeois Pig, spending whatever savings I didn’t have on used books from Counterpoint, waking up at 7 a.m. to move my car on street cleaning days (or getting tickets, I alternated), getting a constant view of the bustling and mysterious Scientology Celebrity Center, and being part of a small and eclectic scene of young actors, artists, musicians and writers. I used to be at parties with Katy Perry, who was working hard on some demo, I heard she had a good voice. Same goes for others, both previously unknown, still unknown, once known or flat-out famous. It didn’t really matter though, we were all just trying to make sense of our lives. Find meaning in books about philosophy, art and history and try to find a sense of place in a city that seemed to feed off superficiality and satiation. As you can tell, my nostalgia for the time is rich with fond and happy memories and laced with some of my richest moments of existential angst. I treasure all of them, and find it pretty frickin’ cool that I got to be part of a history that lives on not only in my mind, but in all the people and stories that weaved themselves in and out of that building.
I just re-read the very first interview I did ever. I’m collecting press for my visa application and it’s proved a special kind of challenge—reading about yourself and the things you’ve written. A pressure mounts gradually, fuelled by petty fears and insecurities. A type of pressure typically only relieved by hearty belly laughs between friends, or a cathartic cry over the helpless nature of it all. In this case, I did both. And then I read the interview. Whatever judgments lingered were quickly dissolved when I read the part where I said my age: 21. That’s seven years ago. A quarter of my life ago. I was a baby. My words were laced with innocence and I read on with the curiosity of a mother reading her child’s poetry. No need for perfection, only subtle cues indicating where I was at, how I was feeling and what makes me me. It ended up being a really cool experience. I felt like I could accept a part of myself I’ve always avoided looking at. The innocent part. The part that really wants to do well, sound smart, have people like me, whatever. But that’s not who I am. Who I am is in my decision to even share myself in that way, my desire to make meaningful connections and continue questioning what I’m doing and why. I thought it was a sweet interview in the end. And it inspired me to think about why it takes seven years to be able to feel compassion for my journey, to not need to meet some ridiculous standard. Why not look at what I did a year ago, a month ago, a minute ago, with the same acceptance and understanding? It’s said that time helps put things in perspective, but how much time? By the time we even become aware of our experience, it’s already in the past, so we always have a choice of how you want to feel about it—with light-hearted curiosity or the fear-driven control of an over-protective mother. Whether it’s an important presentation or a macaroni necklace, we’re all doing our best to find ourselves and create meaningful expressions. So be nice. I’m certainly going to try.
If you’re curious, you can read my interview here.
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." - Antoine Saint-Exupery
Since my last post, I’ve had some time to think, reflect and gather more data about what went down Wednesday evening. Obviously my knowledge is still extremely limited, as is the nature of communication and media, but some new insight (from thoughtful friends and various blogs and publications) have helped me build a fuller picture of the situation. Unfortunately, it’s only added fuel to my fire (if you’ll pardon the metaphor), sparking further questions into the nature of humanity and how it is we can ever live in a civilized world. Apparently the atrocities were not the sole effect of too much alcohol, testosterone and broken dreams. People, some might say “anarchists” (though premeditated violence and looting doesn’t quite match my understanding of anarchism) had designs on the city before the game had even begun. Some of the rioters were known to have wreaked havoc during other events, like the Olympics and the G-20 Summit in Toronto. However, in this scenario, the authorities had no warning, no apparent reason to hire extra security and protection. In hindsight, perhaps a little naive, but I think it’s safe to say the whole city was a little high off the possibility of the Stanley Cup win and the pre-fab community that emerged as a result. That fact that “professional rioters,” if you will, instigated the violence is understandably easier to swallow than thinking Vancouver hockey fans are just incredibly poor losers. However, it is a slippery slope to point the finger at a small group and blame the rest on “mob mentality.” As most people would agree, there are such humans who live to destroy. For whatever reason, their psychodynamic has led them to derive pleasure out of performing destructive acts and they proactively seek out such experiences. These are the people we see in horror movies, behind bars, or read about in psychology textbooks. These people are a threat to society and the safety of other individuals, there is no doubt about that. However, we also have this other contingent: people who are, by most accounts, well-meaning, law-abiding, good-natured citizens. These people don’t stand out as being violent or aggressive, perhaps even less so than someone who expresses their anger openly. But under certain circumstances, these people are willing to completely defy all their usual rules and give total control over to their emotions. I’m sure I’m going to get shit for this, but I believe these people are more dangerous than the so-called anarchists. I say this because they are invisible. They are not stating any adverse principles or ideals, they are not rejecting the status quo, they are accepting it, playing along, until someone gives them permission, and then they’re completely unpredictable.
I think it’s good for all of us to consider our boundaries, our ethics, and what we think is right. There is so much we do without even thinking, just because our parents said, or society says, or because it’s always been that way. But when those structures aren’t there, it’s easy to get disoriented; unfamiliar territory and intense emotional charge can create a lot of distress. I tend to think events like this are the result of a culturally accepted lack of thinking, lack of evaluation, lack of ethics and, again, lack of love. Not to get all hippie dippie, but if you think about a time you felt intense love, maybe with a loved one or after a beautiful film, do you think you could then go out and throw a newspaper dispenser through a store window? I couldn’t. Only with feelings of intense despair, fear and desperation could I imagine doing such an act. It’s like they say about pit bulls, they’re not inherently mean dogs, but their owners train them to be vicious. Well we need to train ourselves to not be vicious, we need to train ourselves to love. We need to embrace our fears; not run away from our negative emotions, but rather understand them. Otherwise we’ll end up with a society plagued with of well-meaning, but under the right circumstances willing to destroy everything they’ve built, individuals. It sort of reminds me of a child who destroys his own lego castle because he doesn’t get his way. Perhaps that’s the most apropos metaphor of all because at the end of the day, I think we all have a lot of growing up to do.
On a separate note, if you can identify anyone in this video, please let me know.
I just got off the phone with a friend of mine in Vancouver. No, that’s a lie. After I hung up the phone, before I sat down at my computer, I wept. The events that took place after last night’s hockey game have left many in shock and despair, myself included. I feel shaken and disturbed by the gravity of the violence, but most of all, I feel humbled. We like to consider ourselves civilized. We walk around and talk as if we’ve evolved past our most primitive instincts, and yet it is clear we have not. You can put shoes and lipstick on a lion, but it does not make her any less vicious. It is in a lion’s nature to be violent and fight for survival. Humans also have the capacity to be violent and at some point it did help us survive as a species. However, we have also developed this incredible gift called intellect. This gift allows us to save food for the winter, to work together and share resources and, arguably, it allows us to love. We have this incredible ability to project into another person’s experience, to imagine their struggle as our own, to empathize and want to help them—these are uniquely human qualities. In my opinion, they are what make us human. When we suppress this nature, when we indulge in fear and anger, I'm not sure I know what we are. We certainly aren’t embracing our humanity, but I'm not sure I'd say we’re animals either. An animals’ intent is pure, they are simply doing what they need to do to survive. We, on the other hand, have the luxury of living with the fruits of intellect: technology, science and entertainment. We no longer need to live in fear of being eaten by a lion in the middle of the night. We no longer need to kill a boar with our bare hands. In fact, most modern citizens couldn't bring themselves to do such an act. So if we have this beautiful capacity for compassion, what does it mean when we don’t use it? Or beyond that, when we destroy it? It would be arrogant for me to blame the rioters. I can’t say I don’t feel angry, but mostly I feel a deep sadness. To imagine seeing the world in my own image and wanting to destroy it so desperately and passionately must be a painful existence. To live a life with that much repressed anger and aggression is almost beyond my comprehension, but still I try to understand. It’s not a simple problem; certainly not one with any easy solutions. But in order to understand it, we must not isolate the so-called perpetrators. There are the people enacting the violence outwardly and then there is a society that supports repression and socially acceptable violence. Our media is infested with violence, and I don’t mean reports on murders. I mean gossip, dishonorable discourse and objectification. On some level, I am embarrassed at how shocked I am. Why should I be? The signs of our deluded sense of civilization are everywhere. We are constantly being told we’re not good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough, rich enough, whatever enough—we are essentially fed fear. Then we are taught to be tough, to control our emotions, to be polite, follow the rules, but at what cost? Sure, we have a false sense of predictability, but as we now see that only holds so much weight. If we’re taught never to question and understand ourselves, how can we know what to do when we feel deep feelings of loss, isolation and despair? It may seem trivial (and on some level it is) to get worked up over a hockey game, but to many it’s so much more than that—it’s a sense of community, of belonging, identity and power. When you mix the fear of losing those things with effects of alcohol, you get a recipe for primitive angst. Not to mention, a sprinkle of unexpressed and misunderstood male hormones.
I have stopped weeping now. The act of writing has helped to some extent, though the more I contemplate it, the more I realize how complex an issue it really is. It is easy to find reasons or explanations and it feels good to believe it could be that simple, but it’s not. To truly understand why violence and destruction exists, we need to close our textbooks, abandon our theories, and look inside. It exists in all of us, in different ways, in different forms, and to deny it is to stifle our only chance at evolving through it. Judging those with less emotional maturity, less emotional resources, and less intellectual vision is not the answer. Uncovering those parts of ourselves and learning to love is.
As for my friend in Vancouver, her car got trashed and torched. Her computer, wallet and the clothes inside were burned to a crisp. She and others have been collecting photos of the culprits doing the act, including one of a girl flashing the peace sign in front of the burning vehicle. I feel sad for my friend and her loss, but I know she’ll be okay. I know she will learn from it and work to build her emotional fortitude because of it. I’m not so sure what will happen to the people in the photos though. I can only hope they will also learn from this experience, that the weight of their acts will awaken their conscience. I also hope the weight of these acts will awaken consciousness in all of us. We are not as civilized as we think, and we need to grow up, otherwise we’ll end up destroying ourselves.
Word of advice: decide within your family (ahead of time) what constitutes "bad news." My mom called me today while I was working at a friend's house. I answered the second time. It's unusual for her to call during the day since she's a teacher and typically gives me shit for making her look bad when her phone rings in class. I asked if it was lunch time and she sort of mumbled. There was something a bit off in her tone - either she was waiting to tell me something I didn't want to hear or she was having a momentary lapse in sanity and thought I was five years old again. I asked if everything was okay and she said no.
I don't remember if it was her who suggested it or me, but I said I'd call her when I got home; I only had a few things to finish up and didn't live too far. I told myself I was fine. And I was, except for the feelings that rose like smoke signal from my gut. I couldn't help it. I imagined what I was going to do when she told me something had happened to my dad. Who would I call? Where would I go? Would I get on a plane? Could I finish my work? I imagined how hard I would cry and my vision immediately blurred. But wait, they don't even speak, how would she know if something happened to him? The last time he was in the hospital, they called me directly. So was it my brother? He recently dislocated his shoulder, maybe he'd injured himself again. Oh god. I think of all the tough things I can handle in life, something happening to my brother just isn't among them. So my fears got the best of my brain and stopped those synapses in their tracks. Maybe it was my cousin. But why wouldn't she just tell me? I tried to snap out of it. I told myself to enjoy these last few moments of ignorance. The sky was beautiful, the trees were reflecting light off their melting branches. But just as soon as I would take a deep breath, another smoke signal would set off and collect like a fog in my mind. I tried to find a cheery song on the radio. It only made me want to push John Mayer down some stairs.
I started dialing before I even got up my steps, timing it so I had just enough time to open the door and take off my boots before I'd hear the news... It was Leeloo, my cat. I started to laugh and cry at the same time. I couldn't tell if I was actually feeling anything for poor Leeloo because I was so relieved I wouldn't be attending any funerals in the near future. Leeloo has pretty much been my mom's cat for the last seven years, so it's no surprise she'd project great upset at her loss. The darn thing barely said hello to me when I'd visit, yet she slept on my mom's head every night. I'll miss her though, most especially next time I go home to visit and won't see her hopping sideways down the stairs to greet me.
Still, as I mourn the loss of my little friend, and feel for my mom as she adapts to a quieter household, I learned something very valuable today: We are f-ing crazy, and it's always better to know the truth than to entertain our fear-fueled fantasies. To be honest, I remember thinking of it as a small challenge when she said she had bad news. I pretty much always want to know things right away - I want to open presents before Christmas, I want to know what people are saying when they're whispering, I just like to know. So I thought I was doing the responsible thing. And maybe I was. It's just so fascinating how our fears can so quickly take over when we think something's wrong. How from one moment to the next, the slightest hint of vulnerability can turn the world into a scary place. I don't know, maybe I'm too dramatic, maybe it's an actor thing, or maybe I'm actually really lucky to have had the opportunity to feel those things without them happening in real life. Maybe if we used our minds to build compassion that way, it wouldn't be so scary when it actually happened. Maybe, just maybe, we'd even make better decisions in the present.
I don't know, it's just a thought, but I think I'll go call my dad and my brother now.
Speaking of productivity and tackling those projects that turn from light bulbs to dark clouds over your head over time, I'm reminded of an amazing book I read a couple years ago. In fact, I'm going to take it off my bookshelf and re-read it 'cause it's just that good. A friend recommended it to me and then actually bought it for me when he was visiting NYC. He's a screenwriter and he swears it changed his life. When I lived in LA, I used to have lunch or coffee with him and was always impressed when he said he had to go "work." I was like, what work? To him, this meant spending hours on end in a coffee shop on Beverly and typing away on his laptop. This was, of course, long before he was nominated for several Emmys and a Golden Globe, when he was merely a bit-part actor struggling to get by. It just goes to show how persistence and hard work can go a long way. I'm telling you, this book well help light that fire under your bottom and blow any excuse you come up with to stop out of the water. As if that's not testimony enough, it's divided into short, digestable chapters that are entertaining and highly relatable. Okay, I'm going to stop writing and pick up the book now.
i only picked up this book from the library yesterday (getting books you've put on hold and forgotten about is like christmas!), so i'm not too deep into yet.. still, i can't get this sentiment out of my head. so simple, honest, revealing and true.
“If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it. I know that sounds a little pious.”
– David Foster Wallace
I wrote this in the summertime and for some reason never shared it. But I’d like to share it now: i arrived at my car today to find two little pink flowers pressed delicately into my driver’s side window. with surprise and curiosity i instinctively searched the empty parking lot for a giggling onlooker. there was none. as i casually placed the flowers on my dashboard, i made an index in my head of all the possible culprits, filtering for the most likely... and the most desirable. as i scanned my brain for potential perpetrators, i realized i may be missing the point: someone in my life thought enough about me in a single moment to pick a flower and place it in my sight, for me to smile and reflect upon. presumably, he or she imagined what i would experience upon such an encounter and was generous enough to want create that experience for me. i was uniquely moved by this anonymous act of caring; as well i enjoyed my own projection of being the one to carry out such a covert operation. whether the person did it impulsively, strategically or by accident (my care is pretty generic), i am grateful for the thoughts and feelings it inspired. i began to reflect on what it means to ben in someone’s life, in his or her experience of existence. it is quite an honor and should be treasured as such. we are momentously more potent than we believe or could even begin to understand; and in those moments of awe and connection, we have an opportunity to create a better world. i suppose i wanted to share to emphasize the importance of every choice we make, anonymous or otherwise, and how awareness can be infectious if we only took the time. after all, how we treat others is the way we treat ourselves and since ultimately we’re all we have, why not be nice?
My friend told me a story recently of how Hemingway’s wife, on her way to visit him in Switzerland, packed all of his precious manuscripts into a suitcase, only to have them stolen at the train station in Paris. Of course, my friend’s rendition was much more extensive and evocative, but what intrigued me was this notion of well-intentioned acts having catastrophic, or even just not so good, effects. I’m still not sure which side of the debacle I’d rather be on; both feel equally devastating, stirring feelings of guilt, disappointment, and loss. Hemingway and his wife, being subject to elements beyond their control, shared in the responsibility leading to the unfortunate events. But beyond the intellectual breakdown of causes and effects, I think what’s most interesting is how we react when faced with reality’s shocking answers to our “altruistic” acts. It forces us to examine our attachments – in the meaning of the projected outcome as well as the actual one - and recognize the limits of our control. Also, seeing how the original intention is not changed by its effect, exposes the ineffectiveness of judging acts by their results rather than causal nature.
Coincidentally, I read an article on CNN where a women, well-intentioned, generously bought her elderly mother a new mattress to replace her ratty old one. The information she was missing was that her mother had stashed her life savings, nearly $1 million dollars, inside that mattress. I believe the most accurate terminology these days would be: fail! Read the article though, I found her mother’s reaction to be most inspiring.
ps. backed up your hard drive lately? just sayin’.
i'm not sure if anyone can relate to this, but sometimes i feel like getting up in the morning is like confronting mount everest - i used to compare this feeling to being covered by the x-ray blanket at the dentist; or sometimes i simply question my direction and the choices i've made in my life so far. you with me? and while i think introspection is important and imperative to the evolution of humanity, I think it's a fine line between mindful contemplation and living in the past... but then i'll have an experience that changes my perception of everything. if i subscribed to astrological beliefs, i would say the stars are aligned in these moments. such experiences come in all forms - having a chance encounter with an old friend; reading a book that feels as if it were written to me, for me and only me; absorbing an awe inspiring view of the ocean; having an accident that provokes an evaluation of priorities; watching a film that challenges my beliefs about the world; witnessing the struggle of another and the will exerted in pushing through adversity... these are but a few examples of things that inspire me. as often as i can, i seek to see and understand the essence of everything that exists in my world. i think part of understanding ourselves is considering our environment and how we relate to every little detail. i also believe it is possible to find beauty and magnificence in even the most seemingly benign image, object or act. and then there are times when i am completely caught off guard by what moves me. it could the innocence i see in a small boy walking self-consciously, hands shoved in pockets, imitating an oblivious father. it could be the generosity of a stranger offering their spot in the grocery line, or the humility i feel when i stub my own toe. it is my impression that it is these simple things that we often overlook that can give us the most insight into what it means to be human. one such experience occurred recently as i was reading through my fan mail. [on a side note i would like to apologize to those whose mail i have not yet responded to, i know there are many - i have been occupied with myriad travels and work commitments, but i assure you that your letters are read and greatly appreciated.] i'm not sure whether it was the accumulation of the correspondence or something about the particular letter i was reading, but i felt a shock of recognition of how we participate in each other's lives to such an explicit degree, and often without any awareness of it. it's incredible to me that i can do what i love to do and have an impact that reaches across countries, cultures and social demographics. it's something i've been thinking about a lot lately and part of the reason why it's important to me to express the intricacy of my values and not just those you see on tv.
"A wider of more altruistic attitude is very relevant in today's world. If we look at the situation from various angles, such as the complexity and inter-connectedness of the nature of modern existence, then we will gradually notice a change in our outlook, so that when we say 'others' and when we think of others, we will no longer dismiss them as something that is irrelevant to us. We will no longer feel indifferent."— from The Dalai Lama's Book of Wisdom