Sunday, September 30, 2012

house of cards


I had a bad cold this week, and despite draining my desire to stay awake past like 8 o'clock, I was on a real roll of expressing my ideas eloquently and succinctly because of a writing assignment at work and even though I feel like I could fall asleep at any moment I am compelled to keep writing and chronicling.

A lot has happened since last time I wrote to you, and I will tell you about the things that seem resonate to me now, and tell you about the rest later. There have been a few things that were interesting that happened to me in the last week, and I will give you a basic overview of what those were, but mostly just what I got from them. 

Last week I had one of my most insane days at work that I have ever had, and it started with attending an event that we had been preparing for basically since the day I started work, when a prominent activist did a speaking engagement for us and I helped with all the media shenanigans. Then we had to go to a press conference for something else we're working on at a different place in DC. AND THEN THAT SAME DAY my friend from college came to visit and we went to Oktoberfest in Dulles, which was technically German land because we were on a Naval Base. I love going to German things and celebrating my heritage. Somehow in the middle of all this debauchery and lack of sleeping I got a cold.

I have developed a compulsion to write about things at almost the same as they happen, and to take a lot of pictures of people at different times when they aren't expecting it. At the park last Sunday, a girl took a Polaroid picture of my friend Ther and I, and she said I could only have it if I scanned it and sent her a copy. She said that the picture evokes a feeling of "Who are these people and what are they doing?" She said she keeps every picture she takes and there is a wire in her room she hangs them on. I like this; I like the idea of collecting images of people like a collector. I think I collect words more than images though, and someone told me the other day that I can make words bleed. I never thought of it like that, and in addition to being a very significant compliment, I like the metaphor. I don't like when people use compliments like "She's nice"because they are banal. 

The park was beautiful on Sunday, because as you know, reader, I am very interested in lighting and the way the sky looks at different parts of the day and year, and Sunday was right near the autumnal equinox so the sun was slanted and golden and enchanting and shadows were really long.

I wonder why skeletons have come to be associated with death. Your skeleton is always there, and it is not created by death but exposed by it.

Having the cold made it harder to focus at work and I felt like I couldn't really breathe a lot of the time but since my week was insane I went to work anyway. Do you know the feeling when you're sick and congested and all food seems gross and tastes weird? I felt like that while I was grocery shopping, and ended up only getting bread, Gatorade and Cookies n Cream Oreos after I walked around the store for 45 minutes because those were the only things that seemed palatable and unoffensive at the time.

The other day my friend told me that when you are very close to someone your heartbeats can sync up with eachother. Synchronization happens like that a lot in the natural world, including fireflies which match eachother's flashes. I remember when I was a little kid I would wonder why all the lightning bugs in our yard lit up together. Sometimes when I get stressed I time my breathing with my watch ticking. I keep it on my nightstand when I sleep so I can still hear it.

Also at work I have been interested in reading a lot about the Middle East and everything going on in Syria. In my last post I wrote about religion being a societal force underlying a lot of movements in history- this paragraph was in an article in The New Yorker, and represents kind of a different viewpoint, how religion can be oversimplified as an explanation for events in history. I really liked it and I thought it said a lot of what I was trying to say much better:

"But the notion that a generalized Muslim anger about Western ideas could explain violence or politics from Indonesia to Bangladesh, from Iran to Senegal, seemed deficient. It was like arguing that authoritarian strains in Christianity could explain apartheid, Argentine juntas, and the rise of Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, the meme sold, and it still sells. Last week, Newsweeks cover splashed “Muslim Rage” in large type above a photograph of shouting men. Inside came advice on how to survive “Islamic hate.” Cable news channels—Fox and MSNBC alike—showed similar images, hour after hour. By now, many Americans must find nothing remarkable about the conflation of Muslim faith and contorted faces."

I sometimes find The New Yorker to be insufferable, but I liked that synopsis and thought it was well-said.

Also recently someone told me not to let my insecurities play an outsized role in questioning myself. That was funny because I am reading the book Aleph by Paulo Coelho (I will tell you about it when I finish) which talks about exactly that, AND the Trans-Siberian Railway (which I became obsessed with a few months ago and still want to traverse). 

Today I was talking to my roommate, who is really well-traveled and intelligent but extremely down-to-earth, and I said that it seems like when people get some experience they become overly-confident and assured of their role and importance in the world, but when people become more truly experienced they realize the world is not as comprehensible as they thought and maybe have a period of self-questioning or doubt. He said, yes, I think you're right. People who seem to accept the world without a trace of emotional upheaval probably don't really consider its upsetting idiosyncrasies. It is good to accept what you cannot change but people accept things too easily.

Reading about a person traveling the Trans-Siberian Railway in Aleph makes it seem slightly less mysterious and mythical, because it kind of reminds me of taking a bus down the coast of Vietnam, when there were cockroaches and the bus driver openly snorted cocaine when he stopped (only twice during a trip that took almost 24 hours, which was probably the point of the coke). It still was pretty cool though, and when we arrived in Saigon I felt like a real explorer. It was a strange coincidence that I ended up randomly buying Aleph last week, and the last book I read by Paulo Coelho was The Alchemist, and I actually read it while I was in Vietnam. I remember reading it and thinking that someone should have recommended it to me much sooner. Seems like a sign to me, but my flair for the cinematic also leads me to place undue significance on the connectedness of events. Now I want to travel again like I always do.

I bought a real towel today because I have used my Brazilian flag beach towel as a real towel for the past month, and it isn't actually absorbent and I think I have gotten all the use out of it that I can. I didn't want to buy real bath towels though, because something about buying a set of towels seems to imply that I will be staying in a place for a certain amount of time. I don't know why a towel set implies permanence. Also, I realized when I moved to DC that I have too many things. Reader, do you ever get overwhelmed by the accumulation of possessions you have and want to get rid of everything and start over? I feel like that sometimes, but I guess it is a fortunate problem to have. 

I have gone from feeling mixed about living in DC to really loving it. I hope whatever you're doing that you are loving it too. xx

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