n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
There is this absolutely beautiful art project I follow, called the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. The artist creates words. Words to describe deeply intimate emotions. He gives name to torment, “and suddenly tangled emotions fall neatly into place and with that quiet word, you can breathe.”
He writes, “I think the act of naming something implies, very simply, that you’re not alone. We give names to things so we can talk about them. Once there’s a word for an experience, it feels contained somehow—and the container has a handle, which makes it much easier to pick up and pass around. Kinda comforting.”
n. the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable—their pupils glittering, bottomless and opaque—as if you were peering through a hole in the door of a house, able to tell that there’s someone standing there, but unable to tell if you’re looking in or looking out.
But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. Simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
— David Foster Wallace
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
Roy is about as loyally British as it gets, but I met him while working on his farm in the Irish countryside, where he’s lived with his wife for 15 years. We became very good friends.
“My son was my best friend. It’s been four years since he died. I was devastated. I know that’s why I got sick [heart and liver failure].
Memories are different when the person is gone. You can remember something fondly, but you can no longer dial their number and know that they will answer. When the phone rings after supper, I still think that I’m going to hear his voice on the line, telling me some dirty joke he heard that day. When they’re gone, the memory not only reminds you of the good times, it reminds you that they will never happen again. That they’re gone.”
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
There is something about this season. The air itself tastes of melancholy.
It seems like the frost that rolls in brings every longing and loneliness and emptiness into crisp relief. Things that were masked briefly by the warm haze of summer and the promise of sunshine out your window in the morning.
My heart begins its longing again. My soul begins its humble yearning. For what? Its almost as if some ancestral distant dream of migration still lingers in the cobwebbed corners of our spirits. There comes again that strange pull to follow the winged creatures in their proclivity. Or to follow the other organic impulse– to settle ourselves into a pocket of fallen leaves, to remain quiet and still through the snow and solitude of winter.
This song feels fitting.
Goldmund – Threnody
An icon known, at least by our generation, as a man of very few words. He happens to be one of the most moving orators of our time.
“You have the love of humanity in your hearts…You the people have the power, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.”