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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

[insert title here]

Why?

My son is asking why all the time now. I guess this is the age when this sort of thing starts. It's pretty astounding, when you stop and think about it, how remarkably cliched much of early life is. We all go through the same stages, see the same road markers on the side of the road to adulthood. There is no one who gets to avoid crawling and then standing and then walking and talking and then asking whywhywhywhwywhwywhwywwhhwywhwywywhwywwhwywhwywhy?

Obviously this is annoying. For all the reasons you'd think: hearing anything repeated over and over again is always annoying, eventually there is no answer one can give, etc. But I think there is a more fundamental reason behind the pure, unadulterated annoyance of this question. First, you have to ask, why are all people between the age of three and four compelled to ask this question? This is not an American thing or a Mexican thing or an Indian thing. This is a people thing. So, why? Perhaps because it is the most fundamental question of our lives.

Why?

Why are we here? Why do we suffer? Why do we die? Why do I have red hair? Why am I attracted to who I'm attracted to? Why do I write? We can not escape, this question, this searching. It begins early and continues long into our old age. Even Christ on the Mount of Olives asked why do you ask this of me, Father? Why?

So, if it is so necessary that children engage with this question, and hence engage with their own mortality and longing, then why is it so goddamn annoying for someone to keep asking it repeatedly? You'd think there would have been some built in tolerance for it or something installed long ago. There isn't. Why?

I think this is because, just as we feel compelled to ask this question, we also feel compelled to answer it when it is asked of us. And we have no answer, in the end. Not really. At the end of every cycle of why's there is only a shrug, or silence. It makes you realize you are no different than anyone else. I am no better off than my three year old son. After 31 years I still don't have any more answers. I still am asking why. This is terrifying, and since it is easier to be angry or annoyed than to face one's own terror (especially at something so big and important as why) we get angry or annoyed. It is easy to do this.

I tried to answer my son tonight, and I couldn't. It took six why's before I had nothing left. Do Daddy and Collins have to stop at the red sign? Yes. Why? So cars don't get us. Why? Because that would hurt a lot. Why? Because cars are a lot bigger than people and they can squash people. Why? Because that's the way it is. Why? Because there are a lot of things that aren't fair in this world. Why?

I don't know.

I don't know.

Monday, August 20, 2012

something something

I must tell you, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

I listened to this on the radio yesterday while my son slept in the back seat and I drove around aimlessly through this schizophrenic city of mine and it nearly brought me to tears.
"And I had the meeting with — giving the food to one of the small children who was dying of hunger. He was at the last stages. Suddenly, I had this experience that is to me the founding experience of humanity, which is discovering through empathy that you really are one with the man who is suffering. You know, you identify yourself with this person, and this can be so strong. So I made at the time the promise to the small child that I will try from now on not to ever turn away my eyes from somebody who is suffering. And that was a turning point in my life."
 Incorporating the weakness, seeing that fragility is part of the system, is as necessary as the strong, rigid parts, that is as much the key to living as striving to remain strong and powerful.

School has started again and I am back in the throes of that striving, of arming myself against a brutal, unknowable future. I am studying marketing and data analysis. Sometimes I am very certain that these subjects are bullshit, that they are merely ways for humans to try to quantify and control that which is totally uncontrollable, that which is brutal and unknowable. But I study anyway and I believe too that it will make me strong.

Yet deep down I have this softness that flows under the crust, makes the crust weak, makes sinkholes.

Don't push too hard.

I wrote another short story last night all in one sitting. It's about a bunch of friends who decide to build a castle in the middle of a road because they realize that once you agree to stop seeing the road as a road it becomes just one more place on this planet, and then you can do whatever you want with it. I think it's good. I dunno where I'll send it just yet, but it'll go somewhere. Maybe I'll shoot for the moon and send it to The New Yorker. Maybe I'll print out a few copies of it and burn it in my front yard. Maybe I'll read it to my son as a bedtime story every night for the next thirteen years so that he grows to understand that just because 6 billion other people see something one way doesn't mean it's right, or true, or just. That's easily as good a message as playing nice with others. After all this world wasn't built by those who played nice, it was built by those who grabbed a shovel and stuck it in the dirt.

But then, you can't forget the suffering and sick and weary and heartbroken, either. What good is a castle if you have no one to share it with?