Archive | July, 2012

The Definition of Google

25 Jul

(wanted to share this piece I wrote in ’06, two months out of college, because I think it still rings true)

A google used to mean a word of infinite possibilities. It was the childhood answer to a number contest. It was the Phantom Toolbooth’s answer to the end all be all of addition. It was the silencer with a symbol that told us we could never add to find the right answer. Now it is the name of a website, and, in my opinion, an appropriate name to this new era we are surfing into.

We can http://www.google.com a million gateways to endless amounts of any information we might need to know. Here is the site that can answer all of our questions. We can find sex, common loneliness, song lyrics, bank statements, and our college roomate’s new address. This wireless site links us to one another, or to those who have internet access. What does one do with all this information in front of them? How can we be satisfied with any answer when we know in .01 seconds we can find a dozen other answers?

This problem echoes throughout every aspect of our postmodern lives. Richard Powers, a brilliant author, stated that we as people “tend to feel more overwhelmed than unhappy.” Unhappiness can be solved because another possibility awaits us with the next click. People are now transient and forever dissatisfied. Today people switch careers almost as often as other’s change their hair color. We can easily remake ourselves but at the same time anyone can track our trail. Anyone who once owned a cell phone, used a computer, or had a bank account can never completely leave an old self, an old life behind.

We can inherit each others’ past lives and claim them as our own. Every time our boss gives us a blackberry, or each time we use another computer, we are mirroring millions of variations of the same theme that haunts us. Then a letter is changed, another chord is struck, and we feel ourselves unraveling into another story. Somehow we are continuously narrating the future, while dragging the past behind us. These two oppositions of past and future leave us in the purgatory of the present.

As I stand at the crossroads of my own life, I join the vast amounts of those who are in awe of all our options: Where should I move? What career should I pick? Who should I spend the rest of my life with? Even, “what kind of person do I want to be,” can lead to an answer that equals Google; inside each person and choice live a million unlived lives that are pure fantasy.

At one point in time, those lives might have been implied but weren’t at your fingertips, standing right in front of you (or beneath/next/across/down the street from you). Many of these unlived lives weren’t within our grasp because of uncontrollable factors that dictated choice and possibility. In the literary sense, people were working within some imposed structure. Now we are not functioning between two immobile binaries, but walking along the seam of meaningless meaning. What once seemed liberating is now a blur of overwhelming dissatisfaction. The structure has exploded, and we are left with Google.

Please Put Down Your Guns

25 Jul

I’ve been thinking a lot about Aurora, about gun violence, about, “what does it all mean? Who are ‘people’ really and why are they made that way?  And why such injustice?” not just in Aurora, but all over the world.

I don’t know.  I don’t even know if I walked into a movie theater to never walk out if I’d be happy with the way that I’ve lived, though I’m not sure if more would be enough either.

I can’t help but think these thoughts now, even if they aren’t good for anyone- including myself.

I read about Colorado, about Toronto.  I remember Columbine.   I read about the daily gun violence in Chicago, I think about Somalia; think about all the guns all over the world, and I wonder, “is this it?”

It couldn’t possibly be, and I hope it isn’t, but what are we doing, and what have I’ve done?

I’ve declared that I’m saving money to travel to another country to  help build an orphanage, I can say that “small changes are still good for the collective,” but all I know is that we’re born into what we become when we end, and I don’t know if it’s enough – though how can I define “enough” for the collective when I can’t even take it to the personal?

And why do I even feel the need to define anything: what meaning can be found in senseless, cruel violence?

It strikes my heart, and I know that I’m not alone in this; I know I’m not the only one who wonders about life when it is taken from people who decided to go see a movie, or go to the mall or even just to school.

I want answers to what cannot be answered, I want men to put down their guns and say, “if violence is a must then let it be a knife so that I can look into the face of my own destruction.”

What I’m Reading

20 Jul

While the photo isn’t great, this book deserves attention because it brings to life an 11th Century English Queen who survived two husbands, begot two future kings and maintained power in a volatile country on the brink of a major change.

Too often storytellers (whether it be film, music or books) focus their attention on familiar symbols of feminine power, whether is be Queen Elizabeth, Cleopatra or even Anne Frank, and forget to mine all the stories that haven’t yet been told.  I do realize it is difficult, especially when there is scant historical record, but that is one of the reasons I love historical-fiction; blending fact with fiction to paint lost pictures.

I highly recommend this book to all those who love epics, strong women, royal battles and intrigue.

What I Do When Things Fall Apart

18 Jul

Life can look like an unspooled thread all in knots at your feet, and your whole self becomes consumed looking at the ground.  I know this because there have been times when this has happened to me; when I’ve been stuck in my own unraveling.

After my last break-up I was stuck up in my own knots, and for the first time ever was presented with the desire to just give up and sink down into my own mess.

It wasn’t the loss of this particular boy; I had lost worst, and it wasn’t the fact that we had just moved in together, though that was inconvenient; it was that this wasn’t the first time that things had fallen apart.

They fell apart so entirely because of the apartment, and the dreamed future, but also my career was entwined with “us” too.  I was barely getting by on freelance writing and a part-time job, which was fine if we were spiltting the bills – not otherwise.

Crying in the bathroom at my part-time job I seriously doubted my ability to start all the way over again; to have to harness all that energy up within me and launch myself out into the world, “wasn’t twice enough?”

However, I didn’t have a choice, and so I found solace in what always saves me, my love of reading.

Normally I always escape into the world of fiction, or some autobiography about a person who overcame a challenge far worse than mine, for perspective, but since I had evolved into being a Yogi I turned to Pema Chodron’s ‘When Things Fall Apart.’

That book began to set me straight, and I recommend it to anyone who feels like they’re standing in their own self-created destruction, wondering why it all happened, feeling that there’s nothing left to grip onto; that to put yourself back together one more time is just too much, it’s not.

Pema writes, “I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us…It was all about letting go of everything. p.7”

I repeated that sentence to myself, and instead of cursing the situation I began to see that it occurred because it was time to break the cage that I had placed myself in; time to set off without another and discover what was there for me on my own.

After two remakings it had been healing to insulate myself in another, a person who was kind and didn’t present much of a challenge, but life held more for me, it wasn’t going to let me settle into something comfortable, and I had to reach into what could not be touched by destruction within me; that spirit, that spark we all have; the one that makes hope happen.

And so because I cannot say it better myself, I’d like to leave you with Pema’s words, “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy)”

This Is What I Come Home To

16 Jul

 

My roommate is Australian and occasionally she returns to her Mother-country; however, she never, ever brings me back the pet Koala that I so want.

She says, “little one, Koalas are mean,” but how can something so cute be mean?

“I don’t know,” I say to my boyfriend, always in response to most of his questions.  He mimics me, and yet, look at what I come home to?

De-clawed, fuzzy and waiting to be named.

Love This – 1950s Definition of Hipster

13 Jul

Our search for the rebels of the generation led us to the hipster. The hipster is an enfant terrible turned inside out. In character with his time, he is trying to get back at the conformists by lying tow … You can’t interview a hipster because his main goal is to keep out of a society which, he thinks, trying to make everyone over in its own image. He takes marijuana because it supplies him with experiences that can’t be shared with “squares.” He may affect a broad-brimmed hat or a zoot suit, but usually he prefers to skulk unmarked. The hipster may be a jazz musician; he is rarely an artist, almost never a writer. He may earn his living as a petty criminal, a hobo, a carnival roustabout or a free-lance moving man in Greenwich Village, but some hipsters have found a safe refuge in the upper income brackets as television comics or movie actors. (The late James Dean, for one, was a hipster hero.)… it is tempting to describe the hipster in psychiatric terms as infantile, but the style of his infantilism is a sign of the times, lie does not try to enforce his will on others, Napoleon-fashion, but contents himself with a magical omnipotence never disproved because never tested. … . As the only extreme nonconformist of his generation, he exercises a powerful if underground appeal for conformists, through newspaper accounts of his delinquencies, his structureless jazz, and his emotive grunt words.

Caroline Bird Harper’s Bazaar, Feb. 1957

They Say It’s Your Birthday..

9 Jul

Hello 28, I’ve been waiting for you.  Normally, I’d plan some big celebration, but I’m over all that; the fact that you’ve arrived is causing much gratitude.

Last year it was so important for me to welcome 27.  I hadn’t celebrated a birthday in four years, and I felt like it was time for my own party.

23, I threw a birthday party for myself and no one showed up; 24, I had lived in San Francisco for five days; 25, a friend got married, and 26 the same, so 27 was going to be my year.

This self-celebration went a bit too far and I ended up having to apologize to my friends for jumping into a swimming pool in my underwear and attempting to inappropriately chicken-fight.  While laughable, I felt a lot of shame about it, “that was something I should’ve done at 24,” I thought.

Now, looking back, the fact that I even thought a certain number, a certain year was going to mine seems ridiculous to me; like a narcissistic, immature fantasy of being “fabulous” with no meaning.  It seems like the sort of thing a person who swims in their underwear would say.

I don’t know what shifted over this past year, but I am sure that a lot did.  It’s hard to find the words for it; life just slowly got very quiet.

I reduced my volunteering responsibilities, worked a lot, and saw a handful of friends leave my life; their parting words weren’t kind.  I began to spend a lot of weekends at home by myself, writing, going to Yoga and cooking.

With all the reductions: the less friends, the less responsibilities, it gave me time and space to just sit with myself, and while outwardly lazy, even depressive sloth-like, I began to reflect where I was, how I was being, and if I had been being true to the values that sat inside.

Then I met a boy (or man, right? I am now 28), and we fell in love.

It surprised me.  He lived in a different country, and while I’ve proclaimed I didn’t have a vision in my mind of what I wanted, I learned that I did.  He challenged that, but more importantly, he really saw me; like in that cheesy Avatar kind of way; like where they look at each other and say, “I see you,” and for those who haven’t seen the movie I hope you get what I mean.

Between the quiet and love, I began to peel off another layer of self, scratch away at the lacquer that can pile on.

I know that I still have a journey ahead of me; I know that things might not work out with the boy, there are no guarantees, but I am certain that I am entering a new year reconnected to what I really value.

This past weekend I celebrated a friend’s marriage, cleaned my apartment, read two books, worked and wrote; I want to bring all of that into 28; a year of celebrating others, doing what I love and keeping it clean.

Then next year, I’ll be somewhere writing about how hard it is to say goodbye; how certain years are special, stand out amongst the others, and I hope that 28 will be one of them.