Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lost and Found

The universe
was born from an explosion.
Everything gave light
to Nothing, making Space.
                                                          A hole made from
Nothing, from
Everything, illuminated
suddenly, unexpectedly.
No one could have known.

Space was always there,
hanging, waiting
amongst the dark,
the lack.
Some say, maybe,
it had happened before.
The light came and went
Everything had appeared,
shown itself to Nothing,
only to fall asleep among
the dark again. The light,
forgotten. A dream lost.
Again, Nothing. Except,
suspended, amongst the
lightless Nothing,
was a sense that
something had been.
No one will ever know.

A universe, born in me
expanded with light.
Everything was found
among the Nothing.
Suddenly, unexpectedly.
A hole made
where a whole had been
once before.
A hole made from Nothing,
from Everything, illuminated.
A dream, remembered.
The light, found.
Never could I have known
it was lost, suspended
amongst the dark.
Thanks to you
the light has awoken.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

all in all the clock is slow

This is my third attempt at blogging for myself. Before, I wanted to have a space to journal, to think for myself. It was never clear to me why I chose to have a personal journal on a website that was powered by Google, a force that is single handedly destroying what it means to have anything "personal." I can only assume, in retrospect, that it was some recipe of youthful naivete, self-indulgence, and unsuredness of my self, who I was. Though it is possible I may be these things still, or might always. However, I decided to revive this blog because writing, transcribing my collision with reality, is one thing I am sure of. 

It has been nearly a year and half since graduation from the small liberal arts school I called home for four years. I moved into the closest large city, Philadelphia almost immediately upon receiving the proverbial boot from education, all I had ever know up to that point. I worked for the first year in a nonprofit office that was delightfully normal in its political and social engagement, in addition to its professional standards. Most days consisted of me aimlessly venturing down the youtube/blogosphere k-hole, looking for new music and ideas to consider. On the days I had tasks to complete, they usually involved taking data from this spreadsheet, putting it on this other spreadsheet, and reorganizing it. This seems like a hyperbolic version of the soul-crushing day-to-day experience that is modern, capitalist office life. But it's not. My superiors made their living taking data from that spreadsheet and moving it to that spreadsheet. Though my position was merely a glorified internship, I had the same complaints as my fully-employed peers. I have since been working different part time jobs, attempting to make ends meet. My particular collection of jobs has involved a great deal of time spent at farmer's markets, which, of course, has kept me too close to the curious life of the modern, urban bourgeoisie for my own personal comfort. I have sought desperately for a full time, salaried position that would offer me health care, applying at time to 30 - 50 jobs a week, with a whopping 5 interviews to speak of. During this time, I was able to confront a very special form of capitalist alienation. I was dedicating my time to attempting to acquire something I didn't want in the first place. Working diligently for something I knew that I wouldn't enjoy or feel fulfilled by. If that's not some bullshit, I don't know what is. However, I was able to understand one thing during from whole process. Personally, I am not a fan of the whole negative learning perspective, the "Hey, you might not have liked it, but at least you know now that you don't!" since, I could have told you a long time ago that an office, or for that matter, most available employment, is more similar to a highly successful containment facility than it is to something that offers purpose and fulfillment. Anyway, I was able to see that I am not one for just passing time, and this is what most of the jobs I have ever had have felt like. I am better served in this world attempting to understand what it means that time passes at all, and that is where writing comes in.

I find it odd that anyone would be capable of living a life that amounts to just passing time. Maybe, work doesn't feel like that for some people. But I find that equally odd, since that is exactly what the current capitalist work schedule is build to do. Have people spend their time supporting a small corner of the system so that it never is allowed to leak or fall. Time is money, or whatever. But writing allows me to meet reality head-to-head, and then, most importantly, attempt to shape and bend the utterly meaningless chaos that is the lived experience into something that is identifiable, able to be understood. Though I might not ever be able to perfectly make sense of reality, people much more intelligent and adept at the nature of philosophical inquiry have spent their entire lives dedicated to this and come up short, it feels most productive and rewarding to dedicate time to trying this impossible task than it does to put data from that spreadsheet into this spreadsheet. 

Writing, in that it is an opportunity to make sense of and reshape reality, is no different than any other art form. Art's legacy is providing the window, the looking glass into the mind, where reality filters into the human experience. I spent a great deal of time in my life dedicated to serious, intentional political work. Activism is a truly noble, admirable cause. Anyone who can find the strength to stand up in the pile of shit that is the contemporary capitalist, racist, sexist, classist, etc, world and fight back should be commended as the defenders of justice and truth. However, even activism recently for me has been made monotonous and banal. Not in the same way as my experience with more traditional forms of work, obviously, but in a different more complicated way. The work of activism is intensely emotional. One must have great emotional space to fill in order to connect with people who need to be organized and to keep the proverbial finger pointed at the abstract constructions that make up The System. I found that my arm began to collapse under the constant pointing, and my emotional gas tank was running on empty. Those in activist circles probably know this as "burn out", an all too common phenomena for those involved in serious political projects. However, in addition to burn out, I also felt a lack of interest in asking the same questions, that inevitably had the same answers. Q: Why is there poverty in the world? A: Capitalism sucks. etc. I feel that these questions moved me to a point of consciousness that I can never, and will never, give back. Activism exposed me to the truths of modernity, the hypocrisies of the social and political landscape, and the wonders of the human condition, faith, love, and justice. But now, I wonder, what the fuck is the meaning of all of this, anyway? How do we live in this world that spends a great deal of time attempting to rip away any trace of sanity and self? Assuming, of course, that maintaining selfhood and sanity are significant. Which isn't to say that these questions are new to me, but I am in a different place in my life. I'm 22, nearly 23, on the cusp of my adult life, trying to figure out how I should spend my time, not only now, but for the future. Since the capitalist world has won the battle of youth, and everyone is forced to concede their youth in exchange for work, I must face the inevitable that I will soon conform and get a job, work for money and the like. I refuse to concede the opportunity to live a life of meaning to the world, and if activism isn't something I can dedicate my time to in the way I once did, then constructing a meaning using the tools of thought, the written word, and Art is something I will dedicate my time to. I included a David Foster Wallace quote as the subtitle of this blog. In Infinite Jest, he writes, 
“And Lo, for the Earth was empty of Form, and void. And Darkness was all over the Face of the Deep. And We said: 'Look at that fucker Dance.”" He, of course, is referring to the human need to construct meaning out of a reality that is empty of form and dark. This is why I have brought this blog back from the dead. Because I am a fucker, and I have to dance at some point, so why not now?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Traces of Intimacy

        The metaphor was almost too much to bear. I was boarding a bus to my new home, my new life. Hugging my mom and waving good-bye, I got onto the bus, one way to Philadelphia. I sat down in the only seat on the first floor of the bus where I could be alone, hoping to lose myself in the symbolism of it all, removed from the reality of a bus full of actual people. I thought of my mom and how much she loves me. I have been alive for 21 years and had made leaving home a sort of pastime of mine. For college, jobs, trips. I was always leaving, always going. But this time it was different because I was literally boarding the bus to the inevitability of adulthood, moving on with little reason to come back. My mom was crying when I left her. The depth of my mom's love for me is overwhelming, and sometimes, surprising. Tears slowly dripped from my eyes to my lap thinking about it all. The open seat next to me was a comforting bit of space. After a few minutes, I wondered why weren't moving, impatient to complete the metaphor. But then she came back. She, a tall, slender, beautiful girl of about my age, returned from the bus station with bus station snack foods cradled in her arms to reclaim her seat, the seat next to mine.
         She was dressed for comfort. She had on sweatpants and a hoody over a tank top. Even in her dressed down state, it was clear that she was beautiful. She approached me, and said "Sorry," with a genuinely apologetic smile and a slight head tilt. I stood up from the outside seat and let her pass to the window seat she relinquished to retrieve her breakfast, which consisted of a bag of Fritos, a chocolate covered, creme filled donut, and a bottle of Pepsi. Her presence next to me changed everything. I could no longer indulge my feelings or succumb to my metaphor, I was forced to wrestle with the reality of being in that place and time, next to her, on this bus, waiting to depart. She sat down and began to eat, while I reclaimed my seat and began fidgeting with my phone as an escape from the unsettling awareness of her next to me.
        As soon as the journey started, I became more comfortable with her by my side. Or rather, it felt to me, oddly, that we became more comfortable with each other and our forced closeness. Even despite this new, unspoken, trust between us, I remained facing out toward the aisle of the bus, with my body directed away from her in an attempt to distance myself from her, to regain some semblance of solitude. Eventually, it became physically uncomfortable to sit at an angle, so I turned back to sit straight, coming back to her. As I situated myself, our arms touched. I felt the warm cotton of her sleeves against my bare skin. I tensed up, and pulled my arm away from her instinctively, feeling a mix of worry and shame. She seemed much more poised about it, but she moved away just as quickly. We apologized in unison, and met eyes for the first time since leaving the bus station. I looked away quickly, as if I had seen something I was not intended to have seen. Her beauty and sincerity made me feel shameful. She, too, looked away quickly, steering her gaze out the window at the passing scene. Even though our eyes locked for that solitary moment, I realized that I didn't know exactly what she looked like. I wanted to really see her. So every now and again, I would steal a glance at her, taking in her profile as she continued to face out toward the window.
        The journey was a little more than halfway over and we still hadn't spoken once, save for the apologies. Her arm would press itself into my arm a few more times, her shoulder would nudge into mine, her leg would settle up against mine, and every time I would react with the same shame and fear as the first time we touched. I moved away, adjusted how I was sitting, in an attempt to prevent our bodies colliding again. I was fearful of disturbing her personal space. Then, she adjusted herself in her chair so she could fall asleep. In doing so, she pushed her arm and shoulder  hard into mine. This is the only time our bodies came in to contact where one of us was made to absorb the other, to welcome the other into the space of our bodies. I stood my ground, allowing her to rest her arm against mine, allowing her to touch me. She eventually fell asleep, never moving her arm from where it was, and I never moved away from her. It was in that moment, that I had a felt the way one does when exploring the body of a new lover for the first time. The feeling that I had when I was able to trace the contours of my first love. The feeling of going home with someone from a party and climbing on top of them, becoming entangled in one another until the moment comes when the sun breaks, and reality, life, steals you both away from each other. This encounter on the first floor of a Megabus en route to Philadelphia, this unspoken trust, is intimacy. This particular moment, I thought, may have been the most intimate I had ever experienced. She expressed her trust in me, allowing me to be with her, touch her. I was curious, excited, shameful, and afraid, as I was the first time I stood naked before another person, who stood before me mirroring my nudity, anticipating the eventual merger of our bodies, the pleas to come closer, the dissolution of the boundaries between us. And then, upon returning to the natural order of things, into one's own body, an overwhelming sense of relief, comfort, and security.
      I still do not know exactly what she looked like. I don't know her name, why she was traveling, or even if she shared my thoughts about our bodies and us. However, I do know that in that moment that she pushed her arm into mine we became more than strangers, we became connected in some way. Our relationship was void of speech, but not of communication, as we spoke in the most natural, deep, and connected way people know. We allowed the intuition of our bodies to dictate the conversation. Most likely, I will never see her again. But, her body will always be imprinted into mine, mine in hers, because when two people are intimate, when two becomes one, there will always be a trace of that person on your body, within your body, and you, on and within their body.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

it was then, it is now.

It was then. It was then in that sticky, red glow of the summer twilight that we would walk. It was those walks that I would look forward to everyday. We never had anything to do, except watch T.V., read, and listen to music. Almost anything we did seemed like a desperate attempt to pass time, to get through the monotony of the absolute freedom that summer brings. Everything, except those walks. We would meet in front of the door where we lived, and stroll through the fields to the garden. We followed the cement path, asking each other about our days, our lives, anything. Distracted by each other and putting too much trust into the cement we followed, we were always mislead. The path took us to this hill that was impossible to walk down. Every time, we would laugh and she would exclaim "Why do we always do this?"
We would smile at each other, trying to walk down the hill and ending up in a run that was more of a pull than anything. The hill was much stronger than we were. We would gather ourselves at the bottom, still smiling, and continue on with the walk. Walking past the baseball field, cutting through suburban backyards, and up to the garden, we let the warmth of the summer night wash over us, as we continue to talk playfully about love, family, the past, present and future.
Then we were there. We reached the garden, promisingly lush, we would admire it for a second, until we remembered the fruit was just ripe enough that impatience and gluttony were appropriate. She would see the blueberry bushes, and pick off all the ones that looked good enough to eat, occasionally tossing a few my way. Once all of the ripe berries were gone, I would lead the way to the water pump to get the hose set up. Following behind me, she would say "Wait!"
Pulling up on the old fashioned pump's handle, she would adjust it so the water pressure was a little less threatening. First with one hand, she would eventually realize that she needed two, I would smile and offer help. Looking up at me, her eyes cheerfully indignant, she would pronounce that she could get it. Leaning down, brushing her curly blonde ponytail to one side, she would drink. She would stand back up, face flushed, wipe her mouth and sigh deeply. I would realize, I too was thirsty, and I would take a drink. Then we would get the hose set up, which usually meant disconnecting the hose from the sprinkler. I would go over and take care of loosening the hose, I would struggle and fumble about, because for some reason it never occurred to either of us that having the water on would make setting the hose up far more difficult than it should have been. In an uncharacteristic fit of masculinity, I would take off my shirt and use it to undo the hose from the sprinkler. I was always hyper aware of my shirtless, wet torso with her off in the distance. She was usually waiting by the water pump for some kind of signal for her to come over, or absentmindedly sitting at a nearby picnic table.
 After putting my soaked shirt back on, I would call her over. Dragging the hose behind me, we would make our way to our little section of the garden. As maternal as is possible with plants, she would straighten the plants up, exclaiming about how proud she was of them. We even had a running joke about the plants being like our children. Kneeling down next to the plot, she would look up at me when she had put in just the right amount of care, and say "Okay, go ahead and water them." I would silently oblige, walking around and around the plot for several minutes watering the plants, never acknowledging her. Or at least, not until the end, where I would mistakenly misfire the hose, ending with her covered in water from her stomach down. She would just shout "Hey!" and turn away from me. I would stop, smiling at her sheepishly. Turning back to me, her red cheeks more pronounced even more than was usual against her pale skin, she would begrudgingly allow herself to grin. I would drop the hose, and we would set back on the path for which we came.
Just outside of the garden was a road. Like clockwork, as soon we left the garden and stepped into the road, she would say "Instead of cutting through the field, can we take the road on the way back?" I would laugh. Partly at her predictability, and partly at the innocence in the way she asked. We would follow the road back home, discussing the many possibilities of the inevitable harvest of our garden. With every suggestion, excitement would build until we were just shouting "We could grill them!", "We could make the best salad!", or "We could pickle things!" This would continue for most of the walk home. At some point before we reached our building, we would ask each other what we were doing afterwards. I was always more eager and expectant than she was about this. Then we were home. Sometimes we spent time together after the garden trip, but it was always okay if we didn't. We had taken care of our garden, and that is all I could ask for anyhow.
This happened nearly every night for 8 weeks. At the end of that time, we both had to go home and spend time with our families. We never did get to grill things, make the best salad, or pickle things. With the exception of a few cucumbers, we never even really got to harvest anything. We left our garden when it was still growing, still developing into something fruitful. I have returned to the plot of garden that I had once visited religiously in that summer. It is long since dead. Taken over by the changing of the season and the passing of time, our garden was then. It was then. Although, it is dead, the garden that brought us together in that one summer is not gone. Our garden, whether we know it or not, is still growing. We taste the fruit of our garden everyday. Our garden. It was then. It is now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

the back roads.

When I was a kid, I didn't really do much. Especially before my brother was born and it wasn't until he was much older that I would be any different. Very few kids were as low energy as I was at that age. My favorite "activities" were watching TV, specifically Nickelodeon and these two Barney VHS tapes. This one Barney VHS in particular. It was the Christmas one where Barney and an interestingly diverse group of kids that he kidnaps from a suburban neighborhood go up to the north pole to dance and sing with this sparkly snowman and meet Santa Claus at his workshop. It ends with Santa giving the kids the gifts that they always wanted and flying through the air wishing everyone a goodnight. I don't completely understand why this movie was so interesting to me. I didn't even watch it at Christmas time, so it's not like I was being festive. But I liked it, so whatever. I had those tapes until I was about 13 and watched them almost everyday until I was 10. When I wasn't poisoning my mind with obnoxious dancing purple dinosaurs, I would watch people and listen, think about what I saw or didn't see, lay about outside, pee outside (a habit that I have been unable to kick), or talk to myself. That list actually sounds like a pretty average day for me, even now. I was my favorite person to talk to for the first 10 or so years of my life just because it was easy. The only other person I would talk to without being smacked with a wave of anxiety was my mom. Most of the time though, I would be by myself and my mom would be nearby. We were together, but alone. It was perfect for me, I got the security of knowing my mom was there and the comfort of solitude. 

There was the occasional summer day, that either my mom or I would get bored of our usual quiet existence and would want to do something. Usually, my mom would come up to me as I sat doing nothing as per usual, and say "Hey, let's go for a ride." Silently, I would get up from whatever I was doing and follow her out of the house. We would get into the car, where she would turn on 93Q, "the number 1 hit music station", and something that we had listened to a thousand times would pop on. I would always hope that it was this song about jumping that I really liked. Later on I would discover that song was actually "Jumper" by Third Eye Blind, a song about suicide that is still a favorite of mine. Whatever the song was my mom and I would sing along right from the time we left our driveway to the time we pulled back in. We would always take the back roads, which made it interesting for me because I always liked to know how to get places in my head. I had already memorized the few main streets in our small town and where they lead. 

My hand out the window, I would either try and hold on to the top of the car like I had seen my dad do so many times, or I would move my hand through the air that passed by in the motion of the "worm" dance. As we passed what seemed to be an endless string of corn fields, I would realize something. For the first and usually only time for the entire ride, I would turn to my mom and say "Mom, where are we going?"

The last few times I have been home from college, I have thought about these rides. I guess there is something nostalgic about having your mom drive you everywhere. One time in particular, we were on the back roads outside of this nearby city heading toward my mom's friend's house. She was asking me about school and what I wanted to do for the upcoming summer. I told her I was going to be doing research at school. The inevitable question in these conversations for all parents, including my mom, is "So, what do you want to do? What does this mean for your career? Where are you going?" I told her that I was thinking about urban planning, because I was at the time. I would also confess that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. 

I would stare at my mom with intense wonder, waiting for the answer to where exactly we were going. Stoically, she would stare ahead out into the road. Then she would look at me and let one of her hands drop from the steering wheel and relax her body and say, "Nowhere.We are just driving. Does it matter?" I would consider this for a few minutes and eventually accept our lack of destination. Then we would return to our seemingly natural state of joint solitude. We were together, but alone. 

I can see the worry swell up in mom's eyes when I say things like I have no idea what I am going to be doing and that I want take time to find myself. All of the usual aspirations of a 20 something. But now whenever she asks, I look at her and say to myself "Nowhere. We are just driving. Does it matter?" And when I am driving the back roads on my way to an unknown destination, my mom and I will be together, but alone.