DO NOT LOOK AT THIS AGAIN!!!
Now that that is over with…
While it is true that my comments about Summer Reading are stuck in time, static and representative of the me in that moment, it is important to express how they impact me now. Otherwise, and this would be a correction to yesterday, the commentary becomes meaningless, the writings become meaningless if I never comment. And then I’m just one of those self-important douche-bags who start to bemoan the art (or make sound installations that make no noise…).
As such, I will reiterate – DO NOT LOOK AT THIS AGAIN, and in doing so, the words will always represent trueness and possibility.
So, the rest of the story is a dystopian mess, but Ursula K. LeGuin’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” has a point here:
Joyous! How is one to tell about joy? How describe the citizens of Omelas?
They were not simple folk, you see, though they were happy. … They were not less complex than us. The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe a happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.
There is nobility in being strong, in not falling down. However, there is nobility in peace, in quiet, in calm, in Tz’u. There is no nobility, no honour in exhaustion, martyrdom that leaves you without power or capability to continue being a good person, being a Don. There is no nobility in destruction and the dead tell no tales. The dead get one celebration; the living celebrate every day they are grateful and appreciative.
And in the “weirdest finds” category (kind of like the one workable item in an otherwise crap-tastic antique shop), we have Tracy Hickman’s Wayne of Gotham:
“Gotham balances on the edge of an abyss, and I alone feel the weight of holding it precariously there. What kind of a life is that?”
“An important life,” Alfred urged. “A necessary life. A life given so that others might live theirs.”
I’m the guardian. Who guards the guardian? (220)
Doesn’t Wayne’s life suck as a result? He is stuck being for the world, not of it, and as such, loses pieces of his care, of his potential, of his power of Tz’u. If you care about the concept of people more than people themselves, losing sight of people, then disconnection is imminent, cynicism is resolved to and a life of lovelessness is guaranteed.
While not as good as his first novel (The Imperfectionists), Tom Rachman’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers does include some truisms that we would be stupid to neglect:
According to the world, capitalism had won [the Cold War], but Humphrey called it a tie at best. He couldn’t see capitalism lasting. What was the point of any system, he asked, if it only encouraged the worst in humanity, elevating self-interest to a virtue? (61)
In the same vein as Batman, it is not a life of Tz’u, a life of love — fuck that, it is not a LIFE to neglect care and ignore Intentional Acts of Niceness in the way or system in which you live (that’s why veganism suits me fine).
Family meant nothing more than did random names in a telephone directory. The relations that counted were those of choice, which made friendship the supreme bond, one that either party could sever, and all the more valuable for its precariousness. (73)
It is not a LIFE to take the quality of bonds for granted and not be intentional or aware of that precariousness, thereby taking the people for granted.
Her only unease was a hovering sense of responsibility – that she ought to be looking after someone. But there was no one anymore, just herself, which seemed so frivolous. (371)
It is not a LIFE to live without people-purpose, to live without love.
She resolved to blunt her flintier side, not to assume that she understood people entirely, and to accept that to be surprised or disappointed or even betrayed was not a catastrophe. It could be a revelation to learn that you were wrong (372).
It is not a LIFE to lose the humanity in you, in the way you live, by trying to predict perfectly, to control wholly, to try to out-think the universe, to allow your head to dictate your nature (a la Tao of Pooh). Give the universe its due, it has been around much longer than you.
At the beginning of this literary trek, the world lost a legend, Maya Angelou. No books of her’s were read, but her words are loudest:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Intentional Acts of Niceness = focus on the people, not the act; focus on what is meaningful to them, on how it will make them feel; love people the way that you can, but as much in the way that they will receive it.
“You may not control all of the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
Gratitude and Appreciation = “what’s one good thing about your day?” — looking at the best of the world, as opposed to the worst; there will be shit thrown at you, but you can decide to cry or make mudpies – I will make mudpies!
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Writing has helped me immensely. Putting a stopper in myself, keeping it inside, also keeps the blackness in, keeps its torment and its toxicity and its absolute power over emotion. Writing this down, connecting with other writers, communicating with my wife, talking to my support system (when I could), these things released pieces of the blackness that held onto my silence. I try to ensure that my students have the same ability to share, the same ability to release pieces of their blackness with a safe space, an ever-present ear and a kind word.
“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”
It is interesting how the wisest words often are shared by the wisest ones. While different and generationally distant, Taoism, Winnie the Pooh (Benjamin Hoff) and Maya Angelou all believe in Tz’u. They all believe that care, kindness, truth, generosity, honesty and goodness, that these things all start with being courageous, with being able to manifest the first step, and then the second step, and then the third. By doing courageously – which sometimes means doing without knowing the outcome, which probably means falling down and getting back up, and which definitely means being frightened and not having that stop you – that potential for care becomes limitless, infinite.
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”