when i was a youngster, so many moons ago, i would wake up in the morning, walk my brother to the bus stop with my mom, and then go home and watch a show on PBS called arthur. it was my favorite show and is definitively the show of my childhood. arthur is the longest running children’s television show, and since it deals with important real world situations that children face (like dyslexia and autism spectrum disorder) in ways that doesn't talk down to the viewer, arthur is a show that has really touched people’s lives.
i think we all remember a little while ago when the rug was pulled out from under us regarding bert and ernie. a writer for sesame street, mark saltzman, said in an interview that bert and ernie’s relationship was inspired in part by a relationship he had with a man, and then sesame street responded with a press release that said that since bert and ernie were puppets, they didn’t have a sexual orientation. and so we were all like, sure, but what about kermit and miss piggy? and sesame street was like…ya’ll hear sumn?
while i do think that bert and ernie are a sweet depiction of a desexualized gay relationship, that’s kind of besides the point. like bert and ernie, mr. ratburn’s sexuality has been a topic of discussion on the arthur side of the internet (which evidently does exist). there was, from what i could tell, a pretty big consensus that mr. ratburn was gay. this kind of speculation about a character can lead to three possible outcomes: arthur/PBS execs ignore speculation and never confirm nor deny whether mr. ratburn is gay; arthur/PBS execs state unambiguously that mr. ratburn is not gay and possibly give him a gf in the show; and arthur depicts mr. ratburn as gay on the show. as someone with a lot of television watching experience, i assumed #1 or #2 (most likely #1, given PBS’s reputation, which wouldn’t have been the end of the world).
of course, if you’re on the internet like i am, you’d find that my assumptions were wrong. we got #3. on arthur s22 ep01, mr. ratburn gets married. to a man! to a chocolatier! how sweet (no pun intended)! when i heard this, i was a little worried that it would be done in a way that makes it seem like the show was patting itself on the back. oh look at us! we included a LGBT character! kind of like marvel did in end game with that gay mets fan (full disclosure: i didn’t see it and i dont care). but no! it was so casual, and so, as much as i usually hate using this word, wholesome. the reveal that he’s marrying a man doesn’t even come about until the very end of that portion of the episode, when mr. ratburn walks down the aisle with patrick.
LGBT characters in media are often treated unfairly. in some cases, they are coded and written as LGBT (sometimes stereotypically, which is cringe) and never confirmed. sometimes they are explicitly stated as being LGBT, and their storyline is one of tragedy and they don’t get a happy ending. sometimes, they live for years with their life partner only for some straight executive to decide that they are actually just best friends. we rarely see these characters not have to face some kind of discrimination; even in worlds that are thoroughly fictional, writer’s personal prejudices against these kinds of characters or their tendencies to reach for overdone and outdated tropes bleeds through. but in arthur, a show that does not often shy away from depicting real world situations, we are given a story where a gay rat gets a very happy ending, and i think that that is what he deserves, and what we deserve.
(all images via PBSkids.org)
it's not even mid may, and it's cold today. i haven't touched sunlight in a couple days. i'm wearing a thermal and another layer of long sleeves, a flannel. some days, i need to wear soft things, because my skin just generally hurts.
i don't fully understand the connection between feelings and our physical bodies- and neither do scientists... they're just figuring it out too- but whether it's because i haven't had natural vitamin d in days or because i'm kinda generally Sad, i feel tender, but not in a sweet way. tender like i could be broken open at any moment.
is this at all surprising tho? i feel myself splitting between utter devastation and apathy. non-American friends text me with exclamation points when there is another shooting and, seriously, sometimes i'm like "ye what about it." i cringe to say it. but it's true. because otherwise i'm going to shrivel into my sheets and never get out of bed.
what's the middle ground between the way my body tenses every time someone enters the movie theater i'm sitting in, or the way my toes curl when an unfamiliar car door slams outside, and shrugging about another school shooting? i feel like i'm either tearing up and trying to keep breathing, swearing incessantly in my head and fantasizing violence, or ignoring it all. or i'm caught between worry about sounding like an asshole to educate my coworkers, or silently hoarding compostable materials in my locker because it doesn't matter if something is biodegradable if you throw it in a landfill- nothing composts in a landfill.
what’s the difference between devastation and ignorance? it’s like either i’m going to be broken hearted, always, or blissfully unaware, which sounds outright irresponsible, at this point.
i've said it before, and i'll say it again: i hate who Some people make me into. i hate who the president forces me to be. i hate who politics is making me become, etc etc. i could go on and on. i'm sitting here in the colorful children's section of my library, and felt vegetables stick to the deep green wall, and emily and i laid down blank newsprint on the table for kids to color on. within minutes it is covered in bright blue clouds drawn by five year olds. yet i still feel this deep, sinking feeling in my chest, because of who i don't see here, and whom i will never see. because who knows how long this will last?
yeah yeah yeah. i know. "it's a process." that's what everyone tells me every time i start voicing my spirals.
i think it's more like balance.
maybe it’s gratitude. driven gratitude.
being so in love with what we have that we can't help but push it outwards.
or just recognition. namaste: the light/divine/human in me recognizes and honors the light/divine/human in you. a mix of love and respect and mama bear anger.
a demand to both take up space and be so gentle in how we tread.
i'd like to be deliberate and afraid of nothing, as audre lorde said, but part of the reason i feel driven about things is out of fear. jus gotta decide what to be afraid of, i guess.
a friend sent me this thread, and i think it's worth reading.
there are some things essential for us to notice, and yes, the first of these is that harm is escalating.
but then, we have some things to acknowledge, to inspire and push us, and i think this is key to not.... losing my damn mind and heart. and such things include:
this isn't a call to contentedness with the way things are. it's a reminder that no matter what/who we are fighting for, we are not alone. and that are so many facets to big problems. that's why they're so big. but also that we might focus on only some facets. there are many of us, and that's the beauty of it:
and yeah. we'll get angry. but anger is dangerous... as long as we are hopeful, we become unstoppable. and more connected.
i work in a "neutral spaces" job, a public library. this means, we are to remain neutral. one of my biggest learning curves is to learn that this does not equate to living as a silent welcome mat... how to remain neutral, but to stand up for people and earth. this neutrality issue is a much bigger concept which i spend too much time reading and writing and venting about, and i can only touch it here. but really. neutrality doesn't exist, and i'm not sure it needs to. i think, really, we just need to remember that there are many ways to be angry, and some of them are so so soft and tender and welcoming and artistic and kind.
so, daily, i return to the sticker on the front of my work notebook. i keep it here, with me. it's that balm i need. perhaps you do too.
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief.
ps, if you need a pick me up, may i present to you: heaven.
happy new moon, lovelies!
i love new moon. and i love the taurus sign (hello, sun sign.)
the new moon gives a feeling of emptying. turning in ward. beginning again.
the moon has given as much as possible away, and now it's time to rebuild.
this is a perfect time to set goals, to begin building yourself and your work back up.
taurus season is upon us so here we go... a solid, stable foundation to work on. a perfect place to invest in yourself and what makes the world matter to you.
the thing is, remembering to enjoy life shouldn't be expensive. mostly, it's leaving my brain a bit to stay where i am. to taste coffee. to listen to the song. to watch the tree and the veins shivering in the leaves, leaves i haven't seen on trees in months.
balance between self indulgent and grinding.... noticing the ruts in which we freeze with indecision. explore. take your loves seriously, but your self less so. try something new. go there. breathe. go.
go in peace,
ps. i have illustrations. shout out to the website for not pulling thru. oh well. everyone deserves a new moon chill out.
hello growing things,
we've been reading your submissions, and let me tell you... i'm smitten. thank you for you and your words. i'm your fan. issue one will be shaping up beautifully... if you want to get in on it, please head over to the submit page! we would love to have you.
in the mean time, i'd love to have more mini one off issues laden with a theme... will you join us?
submit to mini issue one: safest brave spaces
show us where you feel most yourself. where you feel pushed to become. where you feel cozy in the cocoon.
take a photo of your bed, with or without your body. maybe your body is your safe place. maybe it's the field behind the line of trees. maybe it's a hug with your pup or human loved ones. maybe it's a book. a song. perhaps it's as simple as your favorite tea and a notebook.
take a photo. write a list. curate a playlist. write a poem. give us your recipe.
what makes your perfect safe place?
we will be accepting through july 1st. submit anything, no limit, to email@example.com, with SAFE in the subject line.
we're getting both cozy and brave... join us?
That feeling during the fourth movement of a symphony where the whole orchestra plays, and the sound swells and flows and finally, finally, something out there sounds exactly like how you feel inside, and everything is culminating, and you know, you just know you’re one with the Universe. That feeling. That’s why I love classical music.
How it goes through your chest and fills up your lungs and shines out of you like sunbeams.
And so much more.
I’ll address a few criticisms on classical music and why I think it’s an element of interest anyway.
First: Classical music is the kingdom of cis white men.
That’s true. I cannot argue that classical music isn’t extremely white-washed, as are pretty much all primarily Western things from that time. Although there is some debate around Beethoven’s ethnicity, the fact remains that, in most people’s minds, he lives on as a white man. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was, however, without a doubt, biracial.
That being said, I do encourage you to smash the gender binary and never assume that anyone is anything. That’s a discussion for another day, though.
When I stream classical music, I make an effort to stream from a variety of contemporary musicians. I encourage you do the same.
But yes. Absolutely. Classical music comes with a history of oppression. So do medicine, literature and sports. I think this history is important to acknowledge and change. Let’s do it together.
Second: Classical music is elitist.
I’m so sorry that you were confronted with people who made you think you were too uneducated to enjoy classical music. I’m sorry you were shushed when you clapped after the first movement of the symphony. I’m sorry your music teacher made you feel bad about yourself. Those things genuinely make me sad because you deserved better than that. No one deserves to be shushed for clapping once the orchestra stops playing. No kid deserves to feel bad at school.
As I’ve just written, classical music comes with a history of oppression. We don’t need to keep that going. We have the power to change that. I’ll try my best.
Third: Classical music is stuffy.
Not to pull a Sebastian-from-La-La-Land, but classical music has caused riots. That’s hardcore. Have you seen Amadeus (1984)? That’s hardcore. Chopin had an affair with an author who went by George Sand. That’s hardcore (though George Sand herself was so much more hardcore than Chopin). Tchaikovsky dealt with widespread and internalized homophobia for decades. That’s hardcore. Have you heard Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and imagined it being played in 1808? That’s hardcore. Vivaldi died in poverty in 1741 and “[m]any of his compositions were written for the all-female music ensemble of […] a home for abandoned children.” (Wikipedia) That’s hardcore.
Classical music is so hardcore!
Fourth: Classical music is too old to still be relevant.
Amazing new songs are being written every day. Yes. I agree. It’s important to support artists who are alive. Yes. I agree. I definitely agree.
Aside from the many, many classical musicians still alive today, I think classical music as an art form is still relevant as a creator of discussion. It’s a reason to think more, talk more, listen more, share more. It’s a reason to ask one another questions. Did you like this? Why or why not? What were you thinking about while you were listening? What did this remind you of? What do you think this piece meant when it premiered, hundreds of years ago? Do you think people hummed the main theme in the streets? Do you think strangers stopped them and said: “Oh, you heard the latest Beethoven too! Wasn’t it amazing?”
Kids learning to play classical? That’s even more important, I think. Playing music in ensembles taught me to listen. It taught me to wait. It taught me the value of hard work. It taught me tolerance. It taught me solidarity. It taught me trust. It taught me the extraordinary hugeness of what we can do when we work together. How are kids supposed to learn those lessons from playing music together when adults don’t value the type of music they play?
Finally, please forgive the hyperbolic comparison, but are mountains too old to still be relevant? Stonehenge, the Moai on Easter Island, the Sphinx of Giza – are they too old to still be relevant? Those monuments of nature and humanity are still relevant because they’re beautiful. Because they’re puzzling. Because we look at them and we’re breathless with the immensity of what we humans can achieve when we put our minds to it as a group. When someone has a wild idea and we listen instead of fearing and chastising.
I want to be one who listens.
(…) Here it is:
some days are difficult for me to live through… not necessarily because they are hard, but sometimes things are so good i don’t know how to hold it. i’ve been reading about overcoming imposter syndrome, and one night i understood some things about my view of myself:
i tend to define myself by what i do, and not who i am. when what i do changes, even only slightly, my sense of self is disturbed.
i also divide myself into selves based on context, though not in that good girl/bad girl way that people think teenagers do… mostly my access to words and self changes based on context. when these selves cross paths, i feel shame, fearing i am less authentic. funny, because the merging of my selves makes me more myself than ever. so i need to remember this: i can be both-and, and all. multi-faceted. deeper.
some days, i simply do not recognize my self.
and on these days, i need to settle into my body, into my self. to question what matters. what is beauty, in my eyes. what makes me feel. what i want to do. my intention in every situation.
sometimes this simply means i put clove and tangerine oils in my diffuser. maybe i eat outside and steep in sunlight. maybe i do a little yoga. do my skincare slowly. and sometimes it means i read nonfiction, or fiction, or poetry.
poetry always does that thing to me, whether i write it or read it. it asks me to see and feel the world, without remaining an apathetic observer. to appreciate something, even if it’s the wording of something hard to swallow.
it’s national poetry month, so i’ve added some poems that i think are worth reading or listening to. i hope you find something that brings the color back to your world, and helps you feel a little more like yourself. let us know if there’s anything we should try. we love to hear from you.
namaste, the light in my recognizes and honors the light in you,
→ still i rise, by maya angelou, performed on so you think you can dance, for survival
→ laugh with god, by madi mae parker, for becoming
→ for the dogs tho barked at me on the sidewalks in connecticut by hanif abdurraqib, for meeting yourself
→ angel of the get through, by andrea gibson, for your best friends
→ the future, by neil hilborn, for your hardest days
→ things that could happen to a girl wearing jeans, by rhiannon mcgavin, when politics gets too much
→ how to be a poet under the new regime by roberto montes, on being
→ self portrait with no flag by safia elhillo, for pledging allegiance
→ joy seekers, by levi the poet, for easter
→ Elgar’s Nimrod (Variation IX) from Enigma Variations. listen when in pain, for the reminder than in every hurt there is longing, and in every longing there is hope.
nadine: this month’s classical love is a staple. apparently, according to the song’s wikipedia, it’s played pretty much all the time (i’m exaggerating, but only a little). this enigma variation was dedicated to Elgar’s closest friend, August Jaeger; it’s the story of how Jaeger encouraged him to push through pain and keep making music. in a letter to Jaeger, Elgar wrote that each variation had been written borrowing the voice of a friend, “if they were asses enough to compose.” to me, the Nimrod variation is a reminder of what a powerful balm sincere encouragements can be. i hope it catches you at the right time.
→ Happy by Julia Michaels (released in Inner Monologue Part 1, jan. 24, 2019). listen if you feel like dancing and feeling sorry for yourself at the same time.
nadine: mmm who doesn’t like a good sad pop anthem?? this one’s been stuck in my head all month. (also worth noting that i think this song needs to be taken with a certain measure of self-deprecating humour; it’s absolutely not necessary or even useful to “kill relationships for art.”)
→ Night Falls over Kortedala by Jens Lekman
gray: a long time favorite album of mine, and my favorite Jens Lekman album. every year, for me, this album seems to usher in the beginning of spring. the dancey instrumentals and silly, lovelorn lyrics will never cease to feel brand new to me, even on the thousandth listen.
→ Mississippi by Kevin Abstract
m: the outro to the brand new ep ghettobaby, this song had me both tearing up and dancing at my desk. it’s homey and homesick at the same time.
→ Guava Island
m: i’m of the opinion that Donald Glover can do no wrong, and i am right again. this time, glover is flanked by Rhianna and Lititia Wright *heart eyes*
→ The Future is Feminist edited by Jessica Valenti
m: a brilliant intro to feminism, spanning much time and differing schools of thought. each essay is different both in subject and mood (yes, some will make you smile.) despite the hot pink and orange text (I couldn’t read the quotes in orange), i love it. i want it. this is intersectional, empowering, accepting feminism, and i feel empowered creatively and mentally.
→ “Why Do I Always Have a Crush on Someone?” by Heather Havrilesky
“The trick is not to stop wanting. The trick is to stop abandoning yourself and your life every time you want something. The trick is not to stop eating. The trick is to stop blaming yourself for your hunger.”
as a chronic crusher, this piece makes me feel validated and made me think a lot about how i exist in relation to and treat my romantic/etc desire.
→ With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
m: Acevedo’s first book, The Poet X, was incredible, and so many thought so. Her second book releases May 15, and let me tell you… it is spicy and sweet and warm and bright. Emoni is a single mama, a girl who adores cooking, and a high school senior. this life is so much pressure, but so full of love. highly recommend, not just for the story, but also for the beautiful writing.
→ Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon
m: i feel like this book is a guide to life. all you need to know right now is that it’s austin kleon’s new book. perhaps i’ll give it its own blog post.
sipping + eating
→ thai coffee, strong and sweet and spicy. good for chatty dinners over stir fry noodles or productive afternoons.
→ lemonade. it’s already hitting temps of 80F here, so i might as well lean into the summer weather with a classic drink that happens to be a favorite of mine.
→ ginger matcha ice cream with dark chocolate chips. healthy for your heart.
→ nadine: how are the hindering things i do benefitting my fake self? what can i do to stop the negative cycle where my self-sabotage fuels my negative self-beliefs? procrastination, i’m looking straight at you. i will not let you make me angry.
→ nadine: i want peace of mind, but i am constantly looking for ways to make my life more intense, dramatic, exciting. in my journal, i have written: “why am i not that person now? thick fabrics, plants, light. a big garden. who is this person & what has changed within him/her to bring him/her to let go of that need for drama & intensity? why is he/she content with that life? what life is that?”
→ m: what do i feel like i’m not allowed to do, and why? what blocks are in place before my creativity, and what have i forgotten to love as the years pass by? how can i dismantle shame
→ m: do i have a routine? what is my dream routine, and how can i slowly work it into my mornings, days, and nights?
→ m: how can i create space for other people? who have i not forgiven?
→ gray: time is passing whether or not i want it to. i have spent the last several months oblivious to this, stuck in a pattern of being stuck. now it’s april and i find myself trying to figure out what i’ve even been doing. a short break post-grad turned into a time where i have been questioning all my decisions and skills that i believed i had. how do i move forward with my life now that every turn is filled to the brim with uncertainty? and who am i to complain? how do i stop focusing on the path not taken?
what about you? what’s been making you think, lately, “i’m glad i stuck around long enough to discover this?” let us know!
you're a genius all the time
by Jack Kerouac
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
"to expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness."
allow me to set the scene: the year is 2013, i am a mousy, bookish sixteen-going-on-seventeen year old, and i have just started my senior year of high school, which would be my last year of catholic education (i had attended catholic schools all my life). i walk into my sixth period class, which, i believe, was called “christian existence” (preceded by morality in 11th grade, church history in 10th, and scripture in 9th), and quickly take my seat in the front row. i laze through the class prayer and christian music video that my teacher liked to start class with (she always turned the lights off, and it was always so hot in that classroom) and take my books out. in class we were reading the book letters to a young catholic (which, for the record, i don’t necessarily recommend. just want to be as accurate as i can!), and i flip the book open to the page number written on the board to find out that today, we are reading about another mousy, bookish young person. her name was flannery o’connor.
the portion of ltayc dedicated to o’connor discussed her work as a great catholic apologist, which put her in ranks with the apostle paul and st. augustine of hippo. the book included a snippet from her posthumous collection of letters called the habit of being where o’connor recounts a discussion about the eucharist with novelist mary mccarthy at a dinner party. this occurred when flannery was still a young novelist at the beginning of her career, and mccarthy (who was more than ten years older than o’connor) had already released the company she keeps (a succès de scandale, but a succès nevertheless), was awarded a guggenheim fellowship, and had a career as a critic). i would try to give you the gist of the exchange, but no one says it better than flannery herself:
Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. [Mary McCarthy] said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the 'most portable' person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, 'Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.’
my fascination with o’connor started in that class, with that quote. o’connor had been quiet all dinner, conscious of the reputation she had to keep and i’m sure she wanted to impress mccarthy. but when the subject of something she was passionate about came up, nothing could stop her sharp tongue. i long for a passion like that in my life.
soon after this afternoon in christian existence, i read my first flannery o’connor short story, “a good man is hard to find,” the essential o’connor. there’s even a sufjan stevens song based on it. i was shocked, and the fascination increased exponentially. have you read it? it’s merciless. she does not hold back. i almost couldn’t believe it was written by the same woman who had spoken up only to defend the eucharist. to borrow from whitman: she is large, she contains multitudes.
if you’re unfamiliar with o’connor’s work, allow me to write quick summaries of a few stories: entire family murdered by a band of thieves (“a good man is hard to find”); a child witnesses a baptism in a river and thinks it looks like fun, drowns (“the river”); a man spends a bus ride thinking of ways to mess with his racist mom, only for her to die the minute they get off the bus (“everything that rises must converge”); a polish refugee turned southern farm hand is run over by a tractor driven by a man who’s wife just died of a stroke (“the displaced person”); a civil war veteran dies on stage at his granddaughter’s college graduation (“a late encounter with the enemy”). do you see the pattern here? (these descriptions barely give the stories justice, please read her words.)
a little while ago i was reading patricia lockwood’s memoir priestdaddy, and in it i read an incredible quote about o’connor that i had not thought of. lockwood wrote,
All the while I walked more than ever. I walked past Flannery O’Connor’s house and I thought about her grotesques and her misfortunates, and I wondered, as I always did, where the mercy was located in her stories. They seemed so pitiless, as pitiless as reality, but somehow the mercy was there. Suddenly I thought, “It is located in us, it is external, she shows us the sores of the world and we are filled with a great raw feeling for them.”
i was struck by the truthfulness of this. o’connor was a catholic, and chose to write about the tragedies of life as an exercise in empathy. maybe to make the reader say, this is bad, my life is not this bad, i should be kinder, etcetera. say what you want about the catholic church, but it was built on teachings of service to others, and to an extent, empathy is necessary for good service. we read about these trials and maybe, we go through our lives viewing the world as an unforgiving place, and we help each other through it. however, the mercilessness and the grotesqueries are still there.
i hope i stretched well because i am now going to reach really, really far. have you read the book a little life? if you have, good, you’ll be in the loop. if you haven’t…whatever you do, don’t read the wikipedia plot summary, please. i’m being so serious. maybe read the book, maybe don’t; i’ll try to give a spoilerless recount. anyway, there is a lot of mercilessness in a little life. the main character, jude st. francis, faces trial after tribulation until the book ends exactly the way you think it’s going to. but i want to focus on one specific piece of mercilessness that may get overlooked in discussions surrounding all. about 100 pages from the end of the book, something significant happens, and jude is sent into the final despair of the novel. downward spiral doesn’t really describe it, because it wasn’t really a spiral. (sorry the writing here is so clunky but i am trying hard to not spoil anything because this isn’t even a piece about a little life.) but part of this fall included a little lawsuit. i say little because it’s barely mentioned, but if you had been on the other end of this lawsuit, it would really be anything but little. Jude decides to sue everyone even slightly related to the…er…incident. it is explicitly stated that he wants the lawsuit to ruin the people involved. he doesn’t care at all that the truck driver has a sick kid at home. it’s a very take them for all they’ve got scenario. this is not really a unique reaction for jude that only happens because he is angry and upset, another detail that gets overlooked is jude’s job as a litigator for a law firm that represents basically the devils incarnates (iirc, they rep. big pharma, banks, stuff like that).
i think that jude was a character who was used to having his power stripped away from him. there were what i could only describe as atrocities commited against him. i think, that however disagreeable, being ruthless within his profession was an attempt to be in control of someone else’s life. and now time for me to make my point. flannery o’connor was diagonsed with lupus by the time she was twenty seven, in 1952. around this time, she published her fist novel, wise blood. over the following years, she made over sixty appearances to lecture and read her works, as well as published a good man is hard to find and the violent bear it away. aside from occasionally lecturing, her daily life was harshly impacted by the lupus. i once read that her days consisted of attending mass, writing, and then reading and recuperating from both her illness and the steroids used to treat lupus. i wonder (and hope since i just wrote all of this and am saying it…) if a comparison can be made between the terror written into o’connor’s stories and the ruthlessness jude has in his professional life. when you are feeling hopeless, do you not look for some kind of control anywhere you can get it? is it cruel for me to suggest that after losing power over her own life and body, flannery o’connor sought some solace in writing mystical grotesqueries? this is bad, my life is not this bad.
on the very last page of a little life, harold (jude’s adopted father) states, “and so i try to be kind to everything i see, and in everything i see, i see him.” i think this is how we should walk away from flannery o’connor’s words. she wants us to understand that in so many ways, the world is not our place, it was not made for us, and no matter how hard we try, sometimes it can only end badly. things that seem good can fool us, and things are good are always fleeting, and everyone is always a few steps behind. read her words and do not be afraid to enter the hostile world we have come to call home. treat people as well as you can and despite the risks, help those in need and always be kind. good men (“man” in the sense of all people) are hard to find, but they are out there and maybe humankind is worth it. if i may offer one firm piece of advice it would be to always check baskets for smuggled cats, and don’t turn down that dirt road, because your mother was thinking of tennessee, not georgia.
I've been writing this post for a week, trying to express what I think Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky is about. How it fits into our life.
And then the news notification start rolling down my screen.
On the 15th of March, 2019, a man entered two New Zealand mosques and killed fifty people. Immediately, and weeks later, New Zealand women who are not muslim donned head scarves in solidarity, from the Prime Minister to reporters reporting on more recent harassments targeting women in headscarves. One such reporter, Samantha Hayes said, ““I’m wearing a headscarf today for her, and for the families and friends of those killed in Christchurch a week ago” (x).
We remember Joe Biden isn't just a pure man nursing a bromance with Obama.
People stuffed on concrete beneath an overpass, held in by barbed wire, like feedlot cattle, because of their pursuit of the American dream.
And so on.
I want to give you an eloquent, deep essay connecting today to Deaf Republic.
But at this point, I think it'd do Kaminsky, and you, a disservice.
So read something.
Try Deaf Republic, an epic poem. Good for both fiction and poetry readers.
You won't regret it, but you'll feel it.
Deaf Republic does that thing.
You know, that ~thing~ New Yorker and Buzzfeed writers keep trying to say when they talk about poetry making a "resurgence in uncertain times."
That thing that leaves you with more questions and images and feelings about the world than when you came to it, slowing cracking the spine.
Power to you. Read something this month. It's national poetry month. Start here.
“You will find me, God / like a dumb pigeon’s beak, I am / pecking / every which way at astonishment”
“silence moves us to speak…
Bless each thing on earth until it sickens,
“Body, they blame you for all the things and they
seek in the body what does not live in the body”
About a month ago, I reached a point where I thought my present circumstances were unbearable, and the only way I found to convince myself to push forward was to daydream about the summer. My ideal summer day went something like this: Wake up at dawn. Make coffee. Have coffee on my balcony with my laptop, write for a few hours, have breakfast too. I’d write for this blog, work on my fiction, write the screenplay for that musical I dream of putting up. Then, once the sun would be too hot, I’d pack lunch and bike downtown, to the library. I’d rent all kinds of books. Philosophy. Physics. Psychology. Once I’d be done, I’d bike to a park, where I’d read and have a picnic. As I’d bike back home at the end of the afternoon, I’d stop at the market to get fresh vegetables. Make something I’ve never had before for dinner. Listen to music. Journal a bit. Go to bed early.
I told my friend about my plans. She looked at me thoughtfully and asked: “Why aren’t you living that life now?”
I had reasons. I’m so busy. My balcony’s buried in snow. The sun rises after 7. Fresh vegetables are rare and expensive at this time of the year. I opened my mouth to voice them. Something stopped me. This quote, that I haven’t been able to find attribution for, popped in my mind: “There's no such thing as being too busy. If you really want something, you'll make time for it.” I could react defensively and list my reasons and play the victim. Or I could open my heart and think.
My friend continued, her voice careful: “Sometimes I think we live like we forget we’re going to die.”
Cue an Existential Crisis, complete with questioning all my life choices, booking appointments with my guidance counsellor and my psychologist, and holding back sobs as I tell my mother on a video call: “What is the rest of my life? 60 years? 50? 5? I don’t know!”
I spoke to some other friends about it. If you’re dealing with stuff, tell your friends about it! Every time I give someone a peek of what’s inside my heart and they don’t go running the other way, I feel a little less lonely. To one of my friends, I wrote:
I don’t want to kill the hunger within me, and idk, I know this all sounds melodramatically existential… I don’t want to live on autopilot. I think living intentionally, mindfully and purposefully all go hand in hand. And the joy that comes from enjoying the small things comes from the same place that the pain of existential questioning comes from: an understanding that life is beautiful, fragile and so so precious.
I’m happy. I derive inordinate amounts of joy from the smallest things. A chord. A patch of blue sky. How broken ice looks. How Freddie Mercury is scatting in Under Pressure and it works. My mother’s gif game. A discussion with a friend. My high-waisted paisley palazzos. Cooking my oats in vanilla oat milk and stirring in almond butter, frozen berries and sunflower and pumpkin seeds (the luxury!!!). The way Julie Andrews sings “when you wake up, wake up!” with all the might in the world. My sister’s reaction when I told her what I said at the student assembly. The house brand ancient grains bread. So many things bring me so much joy, and when I realize that for several years I was seeing life as biding my time, as eating pistachios (you break your teeth trying to open them and they don’t even taste that good), I think I must be the luckiest person alive.
But I can be happy with the small scale and unhappy with the big scale. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, like I told my friend, I think they come from the same place. I’m deeply unhappy about the suffering in the world. I’m deeply unhappy about the state of our planet. I’m deeply unhappy about violence and oppression.
I’m also not sure that my life isn’t heading towards a devastating midlife crisis in 15 years.
In one of my university classes, several years ago, we were learning about midlife crises and one of the students – an older one – asked the lecturer: “Is it possible to avoid having a midlife crisis by being reflective and introspective throughout your life?”
I think the idea is interesting. However, I’m sure that whatever I do, I’ll have a midlife crisis. I mean, look at me. I’m a walking-talking existential crisis. I just don’t want my midlife crisis to destroy my life. My quarter-life crisis destroyed my life. Once is enough. Our time here is finite (that we know of for sure). I don’t know how much I have left and I want to make the most of it.
Change is coming.
When is it not?
Next time, I’ll write about classical music, just like I promised in the collective march love list.
Until then, I hope you get the time to ask yourself questions. About anything.