The Opposite of Boredom

A few noteworthy things of late.

I’m completely lost in Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer. I began reading it Sunday and now I find myself attempting to read only small bits at a time because I’m already dreading it being over. It’s such a good read. The protagonist Jack really resonates with me but also Percy is such a creative and dead-on writer of things large and small. I admit reading his words make me feel like I could never write anything of worth if I tried for it my entire life. But on other pages his complex ideas play out so simply, his writing so accessible that it gives the assuring impression that anyone could do it. The story takes place in New Orleans mostly, among other Louisiana Parishes and the Mississippi coast. I love stories set here, not for reasons of pride but for how perfectly the landscape plays into the story, picking up where plot leaves off. Something huge would inevitably be lost were it to be told from Ohio…or Michigan. All parts of it from the dress, to the houses, to the unnerving racial tension are all intrinsically Southern, and you find yourself loving it whether you hate it or not. Also of note, Percy lived in Covington. He used to drive the bridge to New Orleans. I guess it’s encouraging to know something so inspiring came out of this little town that for so long I hated. Speaking of the bridge..

I had another moment of coherence. This time around mile marker 11. Monty and I were driving home once again, New Orleans to the Northshore, last Monday evening. It was a pretty nondescript Monday, cloudless with little traffic. But my thoughts were floating through me with the rhythm of the bumps per usual. Then I did this thing which I do a lot. A small amount of congested traffic formed from some kind of road repair, and as I slowed my car to a near-halt, I felt myself bracing for impact. Not from me but from a car behind. (No car in particular, I do this no matter who’s behind me) Then I imagined the loud crashing sound it would make and my airbags inflating. Then the last part which is usually the most unnerving for me, I saw my car crashing through the concrete barrier to my right,  and my feeble Toyota corolla with Monty and me inside it, falling slow motion into the water. Down, down we’d go.

like this. but less black and whiteness.
Like this. But less black and whiteness.

And usually the thought doesn’t end with a rescue. Usually it ends with me shuttering at the idea of the lights going out on my life so fast, and then me being jerked back to reality, convincing myself someway that death is nothing to think about. As though I’ll never die! But last Monday was different. I had the thought, I braced for impact, I saw the vision of my falling car. And then out of nowhere…tranquility. My mind felt placid. I may have even smiled. I thought how weightless that moment must be when you finally let go. The grand transition. Finally releasing something you’ve held so tightly onto, whether it was good to you or not. The surrender. The relief! It finally occurred to me that only being lost so deeply in the world garners that sort of fear about death. If we could interview those who have “passed on” (as I hear older religious folk say) I think they’d say it wasn’t that scary. Nothing compared to the rest of their life on earth scared to death imagining it! I’d love to get just one interview. It’s like I know all these dead people and none of them will give me the dirt.

Anyway, I can’t explain how reassuring that moment was on the bridge. I remember in California over a year ago, I was sicker than I’d ever been to the point I actually thought I might be dying. And I hated the idea. I was so overwhelmed by that possibility that often it brought me to tears and I’d have to excuse myself and physically catch my breath. In theory it should have been almost a relief to think about–an end to suffering. But I didn’t want to die. And I certainly didn’t want my last days on earth to be like the ones I was having there. Closed up indoors, lifeless, feeling very alone. It’s just interesting to me that now that I’ve really been living these last few months, and dare I say it, even–happy–my fear of death has lessened. I’ve enjoyed the park and the pool with Monty in the sun. I’ve gone to dinner parties. I’ve said yes to things that in my sick past were a big fat no. I’ve spent quality time with people I love, not doing a whole lot of anything at all but talking about life and people and laughing really, really hard. And there on the bridge, for maybe no more than a second, I didn’t fear death. I felt curious and interested. But I wasn’t tense bracing for impact. I was smiling at how much fun I’ve been having and how at ease with life I feel. You’d think that would make the idea of death more unnerving than ever, because it means an end to happy times. But the opposite occurred. From my perspective over the water, death was just another thing that happens. Maybe after all, it’s not that big a deal? Hah. That moment was the first I’ve had that it didn’t feel like this overwhelming weight baring that comes with the knowledge that one day we’re all going to die. And even though my normal angst about it has at least half returned, that moment has really stuck and it feels readily accessible still. There was something very casual about it, which made me trust it even more. Sometimes I find myself looking for grand answers, spectacles, formal explanations of life and existence..and this was not really that. It was a simple and tranquil instant of acceptance, and those are the moments that persist. I pet Monty’s velvet ears, turned up the music and into the distance we drove. That indistinct Monday turned out to be quite the evening as it were.

Besides my newfound excitement for death! (jk)… the Day Lily’s are back in bloom. I looked at all the colors sprouting up yesterday, noting that by nature’s calendar I’ve officially been in this house for one year. I remember writing about these flowers last year, excited for how life in the pool house might unfold. Funny I hardly remember what’s happened in the time since then. In some way the fact that nothing terrible stands out makes it safe to say it’s been a pretty decent year. I only know that being given the gift of “relative health” the last few months has truly been remarkable for me. I’ve been enjoying the hell out of so many moments– of friends and boys and late nights immensely–and I feel gratefulness overflowing in me. I don’t remember the last time I was bored. I’ve read and written and played Taylor Swift on my guitar ridiculously loud. When I’m sick I rest. When I have energy I go. But most notably is this gratitude and the awareness of this gratitude. It occurred to me recently that this is the opposite of boredom. When I feel gratitude I feel like I’m living with my eyes open. I’m often noticing things that were already there that I’d simply skipped over before. I like this feeling of being in touch with my aliveness, seeing the realm of possibility beyond personal limits, recognizing the awe-inspiring nature of everything alive. Maybe it’s why I love saving the frogs from the pool, or why I don’t get rid of the spider living in the corner of my bathroom. I don’t think you can be in tune to these truths and be also bored. Boredom uses a narrow vision, it sees life as something to happen for us and not from us. Even yesterday, which turned out to be a crash day spent in bed, I lost myself in the enjoyment of a book, completely grateful for the existence of novels and good authors. Then completely grateful for a nice house to read them in. I never got out of my pajamas or brushed my teeth. I didn’t exactly contribute to the world. And all the same, it was really a wonderful day. I know there was a recent time in my life when I wouldn’t have thought that to be so.

Health, Happiness, Opposites.

 

 

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Time and Space Jam.

Look at me, up at 6 am again. I’ll stop pointing this out soon as I realize this is how most of the world does it and it’s not a very special anecdote. It’s just that after two years of intense night life where my room light is on and the world is dark, I’m only used to seeing sunsets at the tail end of a bender, not at the beginning of a day. Truly I like them both, but there’s something a little less lonely about being awake during the day time, fitting into the pulse of conventional circadian rhythms. I’m awake because my burning legs woke me up. When my eyes opened there remained the haze of a dream where I understood time not linearly but in every direction; not just forward and backward but up and down, and naturally my brain almost exploded. As I looked through my junk drawer of pills, I tried to recall it perfectly, which of course I could not do. I could only remember it in some internal way, not with my mind but with something else. Some other part of our bodies that makes sense out of things. Of course trying to remember a dream where time isn’t linear in a cosmos where time is understood linearly is a contradiction. I can only vaguely remember that I glimpsed its possibility. But there’s something comforting about even the memory, because if it was possible in a dream, how could it not be possible? All of time is conceptual, so I’m feeling assured by the unfamiliar but certain memory of it. It reminded me of something I read in Tolle’s The Power of Now: “The inner equivalent of time is presence, awareness of the eternal Now.” That phrase The eternal now is exactly how I perceived time in the dream. It makes sense that the eternal now would flow in every direction.

I know that as the day proceeds, my mom will be right and the dream will fade like cotton candy. But in my room where it’s still dark from early morning, I feel it, and something about it makes me glimpse more possibility. I wish I could revisit it. As if it were an actual place I toured. But Inception is just a movie and Leonardo DiCaprio is just a man. What? Anyway before the crumbling of conventional time dream, I was watching otters swim in a very wide, muddy river. And we all know what THAT means. I’ll have to have a dream sesh with my mom later. Totes.

Beyond time/space dreams, I’ve been listening to a lot of Lorde lately. Like a lot. Like all Lorde all the time. I shared my obsession with the Pure Heroine album with a friend and now he binge listens to a lot of Lorde too. And sometimes we call each other and try to have some normal conversation like we haven’t been listening to Lorde for hours and watching videos of her and reading about her on Wikipedia. “Hey what’s up?” “Nothing whats up?” “Nothing.” “You’re listening to Lorde again aren’t you?” “Only for the last 6 hours, you?” Only all night last night, but anyway.” It’s addicting. It’s really hard to believe she’s seventeen and that when she produced this album she had just only turned 16. My friend says he feels pervy sometimes because she’s so young. But her voice sounds so incredibly loaded with experience; like she’s been through some shit that extends far beyond high school. Maybe this is what sets apart true artists, or what we call prodigies. They’ve got this ability to tap into time and experience in a different way. They can access the past, the vastness, the depth of all our existence. It seems to have little to do with time or age. Maybe they’re mining into that slow breathing, collective consciousness underneath all humanity. I imagine it’s how Mozart was composing sophisticated music by age 5 and Beethoven was orchestrating his most famous work after he went deaf. They were tapping into something deep and alive that isn’t usually accessible by most. Maybe it’s not so much that they were proactively seeking this “dimension” or energy, but rather that they were allowing it to move through them. Anyone who’s found themselves practicing their passion in a pure form can attest to feeling a powerful energy moving through and guiding their hand. Maybe that’s what Flannery O’Connor meant when she said “I write to discover what I know.” The best part of it all is that their finished products give the rest of us vision into that intangible force, which is maybe the best part, the real appeal of art in the first place. It’s a connection among separateness.

It bothers me that I do this, but I’ll probably continue to listen to this album until the sound of it makes me sick, because that’s what I do. Listen over and over and over until I can hardly stomach it. Because that’s my approach to finding music I like and it’s stupid but I don’t feel I can help it. Go me. Anyway since I’ve broached time and space and all that, I’ll share a passage from The Power of Now that I have underlined and that gives me some peace when I read it. It reminds me of the dream among other things, and mostly I just like it a lot. Here goes.

Go out on a clear night and look up at the sky. The thousands of stars you can see with the naked eye are no more than an infini-tesimal fraction of what is there. Over 100 billion galaxies can already be detected with the most powerful telescopes, each galaxy an “island universe” with billions of stars. Yet what is even more awe-inspiring is the infinity of space itself, the depth and stillness that allows all of that magnificence to be. ..What appears to us as space in our universe perceived through the mind and the senses is the Unmanifested itself, externalized. ..The greatest miracle is this: that stillness and vastness that enables the universe to be, is not just out there in space–it is also within you. When you are utterly and totally present, you encounter it as the still inner space of no-mind. Within you, it is vast in-depth, not in extension. Spacial extension is ultimately a misperception of infinite depth–an attribute of the one transcendental reality.

What you perceive externally as space and time are ultimately illusory, but they contain a core of truth. There are the two essential attribute of God, infinity and eternity, perceived as if they had an external existence outside you. ..You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are.

Letting that one marinate.

Health, Happiness, Space.

 

...
The “M5” Globular Star Cluster of 100,00 stars, about 25,000 light years away

 

 

Jumping Off.

I’m never up at this hour. But at roughly 6:40 am as I drove across Lake Ponchartrain, one of only a few lonely cars on the 24 mile bridge, it struck me just how sacred the early mornings are. Of course over water, there are no distinct markers of distance traveled besides mile markers on land, but somehow over uninterrupted waves there were these distinct and momentary glimpses into the context of my life where all the working pieces fit together. The sense, however fleeting, had me second guessing my entire history as a bona-fide night person. Maybe there’s something to these early morning hours where people are drifting into the routine of their day or into the hangover of their night, and in the middle is me, not exactly doing either, but finding my place still–stumbling on a whole in lieu of constant and incompatible parts.

Yesterday I attended JazzFest and I remember walking around in no known direction, attempting to find a group of my friends, which is almost a miracle if achieved in such a clusterfuck of a public arena, and this thought kept trying to get a hold of me. “What am I doing? I have no business being here.” Over and over that thought, with every wrong turn and mistaken identity. What a sad thought! I couldn’t pinpoint the origin of it, but it probably had roots in my mostly confined and solitary past over a few years. And now sticking my head out, landing clumsily in the middle of the public world that not only didn’t stop while I was “out sick”, it also didn’t slow down at all either. And that continued, irreverent, incessant flow of time in one direction only all of the sudden felt very real and a little unnerving too. But I walked on. It’d be a lie to say I felt any confidence at all then, taking in every type of person of every age and origin.And even though none of them looked truly happy to me, none of them had a life that I felt cheated by not having, I was still odd man out.  I started to wonder if I had real friends at all that I’d find. Maybe I had imagined them up in a fantasy of my mind, and I’d walk tirelessly never bumping into them because there was no them to bump into. But I walked on. I pretended some of those thoughts didn’t exist. Maybe more, I just didn’t take them very seriously. I’d feel the sun burning my shoulders and I’d affirm that more likely than not I’d find my friends, I’d engage in young adult behavior, and feel a little better about my place in reality.

After 45 minutes of circles and flags and strangers, I watched a really drunk boy hoisted up by his friends, being dragged with his lifeless converse trailing under him leaving shallow lines in the dirt, the unfamiliar sights were piling up, and even I started to feel like a stranger there. But then– something familiar. Emily’s ponytail. Someone. People. Friends. They existed, and I was not yet proven insane. In that moment those thoughts I had didn’t carry any weight at all. Whether I found my friends or not had nothing to do with belonging in all honesty. Separateness is just a construct of ego and I know that, but it can stab you anyway. I knew that afternoon I could’ve really used some friends. And there they were and there I was. I belonged. I knew those thoughts were shit. Time to keep on living. Time to have fun now. Time to participate in the onward direction of time, and  attach to some other thought that experience will most likely prove wrong.

Maybe I should’ve mentioned it earlier, but I’ve never really been a live music person. Which makes me feel incredibly lame mostly. Just like I’m also not really into The Lord of the Rings. True “outsider” feelings emerge in me when this is brought up in public, and I feel like there’s some joke I’m just not getting. What is there to say about it? To each his own. Anyway, at every live music event I’ve attended, I find myself gazing off lost in observational mode of the people enjoying the music, instead of intrinsically enjoying the music myself. I can’t help it. There’s always some woman on the borderline of being “too old to be there” on some drug that’s a little too young for her to be doing, and I can’t help but watch her, dance carelessly, body parts hanging out, not giving a shit about what etiquette she’s breaking. Then I at once sympathize for her but also want to be her, because she is losing herself in something enjoyable, and she’s alone, and I’m the creeper at the concert not dancing but staring wide-eyed and blinking very slowly. I dated one of those music junkie type of guys for two years. He had an impressive collection of bands that you never heard of on his ipod and was always discovering music years before it became popular. (I on the other hand got my music from Apple Product commercials) He flew all over the country to catch his favorite bands at different venues. Sometimes with friends and sometimes alone and it was this small gap between us because this passion he fell off his seat for was somewhere that I just didn’t fit. And this schism in us always interested me, because at concerts we’d share a joint and then even more I’d separate from the setting and lose myself in the detach-and-detect humanity mode. He was good about keeping me down to earth and assuring me that dancing like an idiot was fine and encouraged, and that no, that guy next to me was not about to die from sensory overload regardless of what his face and body movements suggested. But there was always some wall with me at those shindigs. I could never really figure it out. Ultimately the relationship ended, and I wondered how much, if any, this disconnect had to do with it. Maybe nothing at all. Maybe a whole lot.

It’s funny how discovering clarity leaves with you so much to know still. My goal this year has been to find clarity of any kind, certainty of any measure. Because both of these things lack hugely in my personal life and it wares on me daily. It’d be nice to make a decision and know it to be right, or know anything at all for that matter and trust it to be true. But even with this goal in the forefront of my consciousness, it has still been incredibly hard, and so far, I’m yet to find either. I’m guessing the more things I pursue where the end is uncertain and there are no guarantees will help me to eventually get there, or in the general ball park. On the bridge this morning, the unceasing rhythm of a road bump every 1.5 seconds, I glimpsed certainty. I glimpsed knowing something at all, and it felt very good. But I don’t know if it’s possible to exist in this dimension full-time. At least half of life seems to rely on not knowing but jumping off anyway. Maybe love, happiness, success, peace..are all the outcomes of great risk and great faith. All anyone can do is make their best bet and go for it. Maybe once we let go of knowing anything for sure, the way I walked in endless circles yesterday, the way those waves went in no direction this morning, is how we find the happy end, whether we knew we would or could or not.

Health, Happiness, Walking On, Jumping Off.

Colby's Apartment
Colby’s Apartment