this is too much world

If not now, when?
Here is the Phoenix airfield,
I see the cones of volcanic mountains
And I think of all I have not said,
About the words to suffer and sufferance and how one can bear a lot
By training anger until it gets tired and gives up.
Here is the island of Kauai, an emerald set among white clouds,
Warm wind in the palm leaves, and I think of snow
In my distant province where things happened
That belong to another, inconceivable life.
The bright side of the planet moves toward darkness
And the cities are falling asleep, each in its hour,
And as for me, now as then, it is too much.
There is too much world.

-Czeslaw Milosz


this is a tendency toward division

"Even after an hour of good work, the day might be lost: he would feel that a fruitful afternoon was opening up for him, and on the strength of that feeling would take a break, stretching his legs in the garden. He would look up at the sky, his attention would be caught by an unfamiliar bird, and he would take up his bird book and follow the bird over the wild acres outside his garden, plunging through the underbrush, scratching his face, and gathering burrs on his socks. Returning home, he would be too hot and tired to work, and with a sense of guilt would lie down to rest, reading something light."
-"Sketches for a Life of Wassily," Lydia Davis


I have a tendency toward division. For mental peace-keeping, I must divide the day into its polar parts: inside vs. outside, alone vs. in company, connected vs. disconnected, digital vs. analog, loafing vs. working, puttering vs. producing. The day is never about balance but rather about punctuation; time spent inside staring at a computer screen must be punctuated with walks outside, which I take regularly, when I remember to. The trouble is that I do not like walking senselessly and without direction, for it increases my sense of malaise and resignation, which is not a spirit or mindset that is conducive to creating or writing or communicating anything. Malaise and resignation make me want to nap, which I do not do on principle. A walk must have purpose, so that when I return home I feel purposeful and can continue the work I had paused with gumption and motivation. Thus I have devised a way of making every walk purposeful: if not walking with a friend, or walking to the library, then I walk to the grocery store and purchase a single item, like an onion or a stalk of broccoli. Only one item can be purchased at a time; other items are purchased on subsequent walks, or the next day. No walk is frivolous; each walk entails the retrieval of a necessary food item, which feels particularly precious and instrumental in being a solo purchase. This has been a successful solution for many reasons: I have many opportunities to take purposeful walks during the day; I feel thrifty; I get my grocery shopping done; I have become fairly adept at keeping an ongoing mental catalog of groceries; my outdoor breaks (alone, disconnected, analog, loafing, puttering) are satisfactory punctuation within stretches of indoor labor (inside, alone, connected, digital, working, producing).

One must devise small systems of order (inconsequential task lists, break options, minor chores) as reliable and comforting structures (or semblances thereof) as well as distractions from general disarray, unpredictability, and chaos.


"POSSIBILITIES" by Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer movies.

I prefer cats.

I prefer the oaks along the Warta.

I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.

I prefer myself liking people

to myself loving mankind.

I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.

I prefer the color green.

I prefer not to maintain

that reason is to blame for everything.

I prefer exceptions.

I prefer to leave early.

I prefer talking to doctors about something else.

I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.

I prefer the absurdity of writing poems

to the absurdity of not writing poems.

I prefer, where love's concerned, nonspecific anniversaries

that can be celebrated every day.

I prefer moralists

who promise me nothing.

I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.

I prefer the earth in civvies.

I prefer conquered to conquering countries.

I prefer having some reservations.

I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.

I prefer Grimms' fairy tales to the newspapers' front pages.

I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.

I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.

I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.

I prefer desk drawers.

I prefer many things that I haven't mentioned here

to many things I've also left unsaid.

I prefer zeroes on the loose

to those lined up behind a cipher.

I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.

I prefer to knock on wood.

I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility

that existence has its own reason for being.


"It was a failure of my imagination that made me keep leaving people. All I could see in the world were beginnings and endings: moments to survive, record, and once recorded, safely forget.

I knew I was getting somewhere when I began losing interest in the beginnings and the ends of things.

Short tragic love stories that had once interested me no longer did.

What interested me was the kind of love to which the person dedicates herself for so long, so no longer remembers quite how it began."

-Ongoingness, Sarah Manguso