Today Philip Graham, a writer and the husband of my Anthropology 414 professor came in to talk to us about his career in creative writing, creative nonfiction, and ethnography. I couldn't read both of the pieces by him that we were assigned before he spoke, because last night I was too transfixed with Zeitoun to stop reading it. The one that I did read, though, "Angel," a story from Graham's book Interior Design struck me so powerfully that I can't stop thinking about it.
It is about a boy who believes so strongly in his guardian angel that he tries to chronicle every emotion and sensation he gets throughout life for the guardian angel to understand. The excerpt was heartbreaking, and it reminded me of the obsessive tendencies I have to write down everything that I think and see in the world, and how I never can, and it frustrates me to the point that I don't know what to do.
"Dizzy and oppressed by the seemingly endless supply of the world, he doubted he could ever chronicle it all." Philip Graham
Graham passed around some of the books that he's written, and while I was reading the back of one I noticed that it was published by "McSweeney's." "McSweeney's" is Dave Eggers' (the writer of Zeitoun) publishing company. So, the writer who had written the book that kept me up last night was the publisher of the writer I was sitting in class listening to, transfixed by. The way I was feeling at the time, overwhelmed and lost, made me think it was more than a coincidence. Just when I think that the world is too much and I don't understand anything, a little sign like that happens, and then I remember that everything is more connected than I think. That maybe I was supposed to be reading Zeitoun last night, and maybe I was supposed to be in class today. Maybe there is some kind of guiding force that makes things more than just painfully random, and even if I can only experience that force in little things like a speaker in my Anthropology class, that's enough for now. It's enough to make me think that things are unfolding the way that they are supposed to and I don't have to be so anxious about everything.
I remember a professor told me that life's opportunities would present themselves to me, I just needed to calm down. That's something I've never been able to do, calm down. I can't wait for things to come to me, I'd rather go out and find them myself. If that means traveling thousands of miles away or trying to absorb everything I see and not being able to sleep that's just what it means. I don't really know what I'm looking for, and I am always overwhelmed with what I find. If you don't know what you're looking for, everything seems like it could be the answer.
Sometimes I try to cry, because I feel like these things that I think about might get washed away. Maybe my thoughts will leave with all the adrenaline. I like the feeling of sweat when I go running, because I feel like some of the restlessness might come out of me.
"He stared at the rows of bottles lined up beneath the mirror, those almost transparent bodies filled with clear or strangely colored liquids: how he envied how they could be so easily emptied." Philip Graham
I try to listen to people as closely as I can when they talk to me, and sometimes that results in eye contact that might be slightly more intense than customary. I also sometimes write down things when people are talking. I hope it doesn't come across as staring or randomly writing about other things, and that they know that I am listening to what they are saying, and that I'm typically trying to get everything I can out of it because it is showing me the world they have inside them.
"I hate when people use that word, 'myself.' Bullshit, 'myself.' When you say that, you're obscuring all the other people and impulses within you." Philip Graham