Nothing is so commonplace as the wish to be remarkable
And so it began. He played “Begin the Beguine” against Tessie’s collarbone. He played “Moonface” against her smooth cheeks. Pressing the clarinet right up against the red toenails that had so dazzled him, he played “It Goes to Your Feet.” With a secrecy they didn’t acknowledge, Milton and Tessie drifted off to quiet parts of the house, and there, lifting her skirt a little, or removing a sock, or once, when nobody was home, pulling up her blouse to expose her lower back, Tessie allowed Milton to press his clarinet to her skin and fill her body with music. At first it only tickled her. But after a while the notes spread deeper into her body. She felt the vibrations penetrate her muscles, pulsing in waves, until they rattled her bones and made her inner organs hum.
It would be my duty to study that I might help him. There would be nothing trivial about our lives. Everyday-things with us would mean the greatest things.
I confess that neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics of various states, possessed attractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.
I always feel as if I’m struggling to become someone else. As if i’m trying to find a new place, grab hold of a new life, a new personality. I suppose it’s part of growing up, yet it’s also an attempt to re-invent myself. By becoming a different me, I could free myself of everything…
But I always hit a dead end. No matter where I go, I still end up me. What’s missing never changes. The scenery may change, but I’m still the same old incomplete person. The same missing elements torture me with a hunger that I can never satisfy. I think that lack itself is as close as I’ll come to defining myself.
Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed…And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.
I just want to announce that I know the first paragraph of three fictions by heart: Lolita, The Call Of Cthulhu, and Harry Potter. It’s strange that this feels like an accomplishment even though it wasn’t done consciously.
I’ve been thinking about how much time I waste not really thinking during the day while doing arbitrary tasks and how there should be a text subscription service that sends you a question every day to ponder in your idle minutes. There are so many things that I just don’t have a clear opinion of because I don’t spend enough time thinking about them.
“What would you change if you were Prime Minister?” “What do you think about humans living in space after we exhaust Earth’s resources?” “How is History relevent to you in the present?” “Do you want to learn about things you’ll never be able to do?” “Where do you want to live in old age?” “Did Voldemort have an arguable stance on social constructs?” You know, the important questions.