9.27.2016

“I’ve spent the past week—as I’ve spent much of the past few years—wanting only for the world to go away, for all engagements to be canceled, and to have more time with my family ... “It’s almost as if the desire for community is a nostalgic one; and the reality, with time’s winged chariot hurrying near, is that one longs increasingly for simple affections, for space, and calm, and time to work. What contradictory beings humans are.”

-Claire Messud, in an email

9.26.2016

"When I was younger, I used to meet people at dog tracks and pot farms and other such places and do my best to describe them from the inside out. What we had in common was that we were all in on the same joke about the gap between stories and life, which is a name for a chaos that unfolds according to no given set of narrative conventions. To make sense of the unstable lives of these characters, I imagined them as figments of a much bigger story that could only be gestured at, a big novel whose quasi-religious valences would strike me with great force in the middle of the night as I slept in my one-room apartment in the West Village with my head right next to the oven. The fear to which my idea of some larger metanarrative applied was less about the tracklessness of existence than about what might happen to the particular space we shared, which was the imagined place where writers talked to readers. An onslaught of data-driven technologies coming out of California was replacing the imaginative work writers did with algorithmic outcomes, which would guide a reader’s choices and feelings based on the choices of large numbers of other people who had also interacted with the machines according to pathways laid down by the algorithms. As felt life was mediated and altered in this way, the vast encyclopedia of literary feelings and techniques that had once acted as a kind of thickening agent for writers and readers alike would become progressively obsolete, and reality would come to feel thinned out. Self-censorship would become the rule, even among those who retained the impulse to think and feel beneath a smothering blanket of anticipation and categorization whose only true aim was to keep any stray sunbeams of disorienting newness or weirdness from shining in through anyone’s window."
-David Samuels, "Weirdos"

8.19.2016

It feels a little strange to come back to this space after having been away from it for so long, or at least after having used it as quote-storage rather than as a place where I actually dispense my own thoughts. But in an effort to combat both a writerly and spiritual malaise that has set upon me in the past few weeks, I've begun to devise ways to get myself back into the habit of spinning a yarn of words, the discipline of articulating a thought and following that thought to its end.

Distraction is settling for fragments, clipping thoughts and actions before they've run their course. Sometimes fragments can be useful as a form; they allow you to ricochet from one idea to another, a process from which other ideas can spring up, and this is a freedom that allows the complexity of the mind to reveal itself. But at other times, not completing a thought merely reflects a lack of self-discipline. It takes patience, constancy, and a willingness to be mired in the discomfort of not knowing in order to sink into a deep meditative state.

Of course, the technology in our lives complicates our efforts to prolong a thought, to finish a task in a slow and steady way. All the pings and quips and headlines that pop up on our screens, the convenient access to tabs and hyperlinks, the endless stream of notifications — these do not make it easy to remain in one mode for very long, at least not for me, someone who is very prone to distractions. It has been a point of despair and shame that I now often find myself forgetting what I have set out to do, just 30 seconds after I set out to do it. It is all too easy to lose myself in something of little significance, something so banal and frivolous that my attraction to it is certainly a moment of weakness, a lapse in judgment. I need more structure to anchor myself to activities that matter; these structures will hopefully act as a stopgap measure against the paralysis of self-loathing, which I inevitably fall into when I let myself float among the debris of the Internet / social media / etc...

I will also use this blog again as a place to collect my own thoughts rather than as a vehicle solely for collecting the well-articulated thoughts of others (though that will surely continue). Even writing a full sentence, whether in email or in a lonely chamber like this blog, feels like a tiny feat.

8.05.2016

"A certain comfort with vulnerability might be the most prominent aspect of Hill’s personality. At lunch, he gets the hiccups. He warns me that his face sweats a lot, but that the rest of his body produces a normal amount of sweat, and he occasionally mops his forehead as politely as anyone can mop anything using a napkin that he has folded into a tidy mopping rectangle."
-What I have in common with Jonah Hill

7.12.2016

these are notes to myself

1. Everything changes. Change is not bad. Do not be afraid of change. Do not be afraid to change.

2. Never let jealousy or insecurity ruin a friendship. You will regret it.

3. Always be kinder and more generous than you think is possible. You will not regret it.

4. Remember there is a wide, wide world out there. Get outside your own world, even when it is uncomfortable.

5. Friendships will change. People will come and go. That's not always in your control.

6. But when you can, make a big effort to keep your friends. Make an effort even when it is hard. And it will be hard.

7. You have the freedom to change your attitude. You have the freedom to change your mind. You even have the freedom to change the way you act. But don't forget that freedom does not exist in isolation—whatever you choose will affect the people around you.

8. Swallow your pride and say sorry. Admit you are wrong even if you feel just a twinge of wrongness.

9. Open your ears—and your heart—when people have feedback for you, even when it is painful to hear. Especially when it is painful to hear. Do not cut your friends out when they are correcting you. Your friends—the good ones—are probably right.

10. Stay curious. About people. About the world. Keep moving down the paths you have stumbled into, and go deep, burrowing as far as you can. This is the richness of the world.

11. Stay in community, even when you want out. This will save you. Reach out for help when you need it. Reach out to just one person when you feel you have no community.

12. Don't be afraid of being uncomfortable. Notice the discomfort. Stay there.

13. Stop being afraid of losing people, of losing a place, a position, a title. You are not entitled to anything. Unto you things are given and unto you things are taken away. It may be no less painful to accept this fact, but try. Do not attempt to preempt loss. You cannot defend yourself against it. Do not live less daringly, less courageously, for the sake of safety. Do not be afraid. Fear ruins many things; fear will cause your heart to waste away.

14. Help others. Be brave. Playing it cool serves no one. Your heart grows larger when you act out of love. Not the other way around.

15. Don't waste your time convincing people that you are worth loving. You are already loved.

16.  Pray. Journal. Keep writing. Just keep on writing. Fight to keep writing. Work hard, but love people more than you love your work.