The Desire To See Memories In Advance

We take it for granted that life moves forward.

You build memories. You build momentum.

You move as a rower moves, facing backwards.

You can see where you’ve been, but not where you are going.

And your boat is steered by a younger version of you.

Its hard not to wonder what life would be like facing the other way.

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You’d see your memories approaching for years, and watch as they slowly become real.

You’d know which friendships will last, which days are important, and prepare for upcoming mistakes

You’d go to school and learn to forget.

One by one you’d patch things up with old friends, enjoying one last conversation before you meet and go your separate ways.

And then your life would expand into epic drama.

The colors would get sharper, the world would feel bigger.

You’d become nothing other than yourself, reveling in your own weirdness.

You’d fall out of old habits until you could picture yourself becoming almost anything.

Your family would drift slowly together, finding each other again.

You wouldn’t have to wonder how much time you have left with people, or how their lives would turn out.

You’d know from the start which week is the happiest you’ll ever be, so you could relive it again and again.

You’d remember what home feels like, and decide to move there for good.

You’d grow smaller as the years pass, as if trying to give away everything you had before leaving.

You’d try everything one last time, until it all felt new again.

And then the world would finally earn your trust, until you think nothing of jumping freely into things, into the arms of other people.

You’d start to notice that each summer feels longer than the last.

Until you reach the long coasting retirement of childhood.

You’d become generous and give everything back.

Pretty soon you’d run out of things to give, things to say, things to see, by then you will have found someone perfect.

And she will become your world.

And you will have left this world just as you found it:

Nothing left to remember, nothing left to regret.

With your whole life laid out in front of you, and your whole life left behind.

— The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

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Our Bridge To The Infinite

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The philosopher Tolstoy wrote about how in order to live, man must find a way to connect the finite to the infinite. We need to form some kind of kinship between ourselves and the unfathomable vastness of the cosmos. “We are star stuff,” said Carl Sagan. We are made of atoms literally cooked in the furnaces of dying stars, and so in many ways we are infinite. Yet as psychologist Ernest Becker wrote, “we are nevertheless housed in heart-pumping, breath-gasping, decaying bodies.” Simultaneously gods, and worms.

And so we need a bridge, a conduit to the numinous. And perhaps no greater instrument in the history of humankind than the telescope can provide this cathartic bridge as it blasts open new tunnels between the mind and the other. Ross Anderson’s dazzling essay on the James Webb Telescope reminds us that in his metaphysics, Aristotle, called seeing the noblest faculty of man. Anderson goes on to described with requisite virtuosity how the deep field images of the universe taken by the Hubble literally mainline all of space and time into the optic nerve. So that the space telescope has downloaded space and time into our eyeball. Where as once we were blind, now we could see.

He continues, “through the sheer aesthetic force of its discoveries, the Hubble has distilled the complex abstractions of astrophysics into singular expressions of color and light.” Vindicating Keats’s famous couplet, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” And thus allowing the layman to witness the scope and grandeur of the universe through an unprecedented expansion of human vision. Something the new James Webb Space Telescope will take to a whole new level. Anderson continues, “The telescope has provided nothing less than an ontological awakening, a forceful reckoning with what is, as we get to witness galaxies pinwheeling in deep time.”

Something happens to us during these moments of introspective contemplation, drunk on awe, as we literally get to contemplate space and time on a scale just shy of the infinite that enlarges the boundaries of our being. Astronauts have called this “the overview effect,” Neil deGrasse Tyson calls it the “cosmic perspective.” We get to move beyond the self towards something grander, more majestic, ineffable. And we chase these experiences ravenously. As Henry Wismayer wrote, “as spirituality wains, experience is the new faith, and we are refugees from the mundane.”

And so we shall continue, achingly to resuscitate that sense of humbling incomprehension. So that we may say, “Ah yes, I remember what I forgot.” In the words of Nisargardatta, “The other world is this world rightly seen.”

The Telescope: Our Bridge To The Infinite by Shots of Awe with Jason Silva

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A False Glimmer

Carrie,

I guess I’m done, and we never happened. I’m not one for words but they’re coming now. I don’t believe in fate or destiny or horoscopes, but I can’t say I’m surprised things turned out this way. I always felt there was something kind of pulling me back to darkness. Does that make sense?

But I wasn’t allowed a real life or a real love. That was for normal people. With you, I thought, well, maybe, just maybe. But I know now that was a false glimmer. I’m used to those. They happen all the time in the desert, but this one got to me.

And here’s the thing: This death, this end of me, is exactly what should have happened. I wanted the darkness. I fucking asked for it. It has me now.

So don’t put a star on the wall for me. Don’t say some dumb speech. Just think of me as a light on the headlands, a beacon steering you clear of the rocks.

I loved you. Yours, for always now, Quinn.

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A Moment You Experience For Its Own Sake

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The search for meaning is a search for missing treasure. You’ve never actually seen it, but you’ve heard stories since you were a kid. It might have been something you lost years ago, but ever since then you can’t help but keep your eyes open. As if the answer will soon arrive in some windfall epiphany.

That hunger stays with you as you grow up, though you’re not so sure anymore than you’re on the right track. Too many people make a mess of their own treasure maps. Scribbled over with roadblocks and detours, but they’re still asking around for a shortcut.

You start to think you can feel it getting closer, that you can read the currents of everyday life and notice something gleaming just below the surface of things. But you find the deeper you try to dive into life, the more time you spend in the shallows. You just end up back on the shore, trying to go deeper again.

The best you can hope for is to see where the road takes you. To let your mind wander and enjoy the ride. To find those moments when everything falls quiet, and the words lose their meaning, and it all mixes together. Until you can’t tell the difference between the ordinary and the epic. And you stop waiting around for some other meaning to arrive.

You notice how delicate and fleeting it all seems, everything struggling just to exist. And you too are a guest on this earth; whose life is not just a quest, or an opportunity, or a story to tell. Its also just an experience that exists for its own sake. Its ok to linger in the shallows and take it all in.

But even that won’t bring you any closer to what you’re looking for. Its easy to find but impossible to hold on to.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

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Helmet

I am not the only traveler
Who has not repaid his debt
I’ve been searching for a trail to follow again
Take me back to the night we met
.
And then I can tell myself
What the hell I’m supposed to do
And then I can tell myself
Not to ride along with you
.
I had all and then most of you
Some and now none of you
Take me back to the night we met
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do
Haunted by the ghost of you
Oh, take me back to the night we met
.
When the night was full of terrors
And your eyes were filled with tears
When you had not touched me yet
Oh, take me back to the night we met
.
I had all and then most of you
Some and now none of you
Take me back to the night we met
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do
Haunted by the ghost of you
Take me back to the night we met
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‘Post Traumatic’ EP by Mike Shinoda

Place to Start

I don’t have a leg to stand on

Spinning like a whirlwind nothing to land on

Came so far never thought it’d be done now

Stuck in a holding pattern waiting to come down

Did somebody else define me

Can I put the past behind me

Do I even have a decision

Feeling like I’m living in a story already written

Am I part of a vision / made by somebody else

Pointing fingers at villains but I’m the villain myself

Or am I out of conviction with no wind in the sail

Too focused on the end and simply ready to fail

Cause I’m tired of the fear that I can’t control this

I’m tired of feeling like every next step’s hopeless

I’m tired of being scared what I build might break apart

I don’t want to know the end, all I want is a place to start

 

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Over Again

Sometimes / sometimes you don’t say goodbye once

You say goodbye over and over and over again

Over and over and over again

Sometimes / sometimes you don’t say goodbye once

You say goodbye over and over and over again

Over and over and over again

.

It was a month since he passed / maybe less

And no one knew what to do / we were such a mess

We were texting / we were calling / we were checking in

We said we ought to play a show in honor of our friend

Well now that show’s finally here / it’s tonight

Supposed to go / to the bowl / get on stage / dim the lights

With our friends / and our family / in his name / celebrate

There’s no way that I’ll be ready to get back up on that stage

Can’t remember if I’ve cancelled any show

But I think about what I’m supposed to do and I don’t know

Cause I think about not doing it the same way as before

And it makes me wanna puke my fucking guts out on the floor

We rehearsed it for a month / I’m not worried about the set

I get tackled by the grief at times that I would least expect

I know what I should be doing when I’m singing but instead

We’ll be playing through a song and I’d remember in my head

.

Sometimes / sometimes you don’t say goodbye once

You say goodbye over and over and over again

Over and over and over again

Sometimes / sometimes you don’t say goodbye once

You say goodbye over and over and over again

Over and over and over again

.

What (are) they saying, I’m not raw?

What the fuck you take me for?

All the sudden you hear what I’ve said a hundred ways before?

I been pushed, I been trapped

Drug myself through hell and back and

Fallen flat and had the balls to start it all again from scratch

How do you feel / how you doing / how’d the show go?

Am I insane to say the truth is that I don’t know

My body aches heads spinning this is all wrong

I almost lost it in middle of a couple songs

And everybody that I talk to is like, “wow Must be really hard to figure out what to do now”

Well thank you genius / you think it’ll be a challenge

Only my life’s work hanging in the fucking balance

And all I wanted was to get a little bit of closure

And every step I took I looked and wasn’t any closer

Cause sometimes when you say goodbye yeah you say it

Over and over and over and over

 

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Watching As I Fall

Excuse me while I kiss the sky

Sing a song of sixpence / pocket full of lies

Thinking I’m OK but they’re saying otherwise

Tell me how I look but can’t look me in the eyes

Watching as I say this and then I do that

Telling them the old words but in a new rap

Then I change my mind up and make them lose track

Shit I’m inconsistent I thought you knew that

.

Maybe I should be more grateful

That I had to watch it all come undone

Holding so tight to the edge is painful

But I can’t ignore it I know

.

They’re watching as I fall / they’re staring as I go

I gave until my soul hurt / and never told them so

They’re watching as I fall / to somewhere down below

But maybe I’m just falling / to get somewhere they won’t

.

Excuse me while I sympathize

Singing with the fat lady tell me what’s the time

You know what it is not afraid to cross the line

Nothing is forever don’t be mad at the design

Ask me if I can / I say I don’t know

And honestly I buy that I can sound cold

Still upset from shit that’s 15 years old

I don’t know what it takes to make me let go

.

Maybe I should be more grateful

That I had to watch it all come undone

Holding so tight to the edge is painful

But can’t ignore it I know

.

They’re watching as I fall / they’re staring as I go

I gave until my soul hurt / and never told them so

They’re watching as I fall / to somewhere down below

But maybe I’m just falling / to get somewhere they won’t

 

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Thank You Mike.

We Love You.

Nine Life Lessons from Tim Minchin

I’m not an inspirational speaker. I’ve never lost a limb on a mountainside, metaphorically or otherwise. And I’m certainly not here to give career advice, ’cause, well, I’ve never really had what most would consider a job. However, I have had large groups of people listening to what I say for quite a few years now, and it’s given me an inflated sense of self-importance. So I will now, at the ripe old age of 37.9, bestow upon you nine life lessons.

One. You don’t have to have a dream. Americans on talent shows always talk about their dreams. Fine, if you have something you’ve always wanted to do, dreamed of like in your heart, go for it. After all, it’s something to do with your time, chasing a dream. And if it’s a big enough one, it’ll take you most of your life to achieve, so by the time you get to it and are staring into the abyss of the meaninglessness of your achievement, you’ll be almost dead so it won’t matter. I never really had one of these dreams. And so I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you. You never know where you might end up. Just be aware the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery, which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out of the corner of your eye.

Two. Don’t seek happiness. Happiness is like an orgasm. If you think about it too much, it goes away. Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy and you might find you get some as a side effect. We didn’t evolve to be constantly content. Contented homo erectus got eaten before passing on their genes.

Three. Remember, it’s all luck. You are lucky to be here. You are incalculably lucky to be born. Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures, will humble you and make you more compassionate. Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on intellectually.

Four. Exercise. I’m sorry you pasty, pale, smoking philosophy grads, arching your eyebrows into a Cartesian curve as you watch the human movement mob winding their way through the miniature traffic cones of their existence. You are wrong and they are right. Well, you’re half right. You think, therefore you are, but also you jog, therefore you sleep, therefore you’re not overwhelmed by existential angst. You can’t be Kant, and you don’t want to be. Play a sport, do yoga, pump iron, run, whatever, but take care of your body. You’re going to need it. Most of you mob are going to live to nearly 100, and even the poorest of you will achieve a level of wealth that most humans throughout history could not have dreamed of. And this long, luxurious life ahead of you is going to make you depressed.

Five. Be hard on your opinions. A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like assholes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this, but I would add that opinions differ significantly from assholes in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined. We must think critically and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the veranda and hit them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privileges. Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies and then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts.

Six. Be a teacher. Please. Please, please be a teacher. Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have to do it forever but if you are in doubt of what to do be an amazing teacher. Even if you are not a teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas; don’t take for granted your education. Rejoice in what you learn and spray it.

Seven. Define yourself by what you love. I found myself doing this thing a bit recently where if someone asks me what sort of music I like I say, “Well I don’t listen to the radio because pop song lyrics annoy me.” Or if someone asks me what food I like I say, “I think truffle oil is overused and slightly obnoxious.” And I see it all the time online, people whose idea of being part of a subculture is to hate Coldplay or football or feminists or the Liberal Party. We have a tendency to define ourselves in opposition to stuff. As a comedian I make my living out of it. But try to also express your passion for things you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank you cards and give standing ovations. Be pro-stuff, not just anti-stuff.

Eight. Respect people with less power than you. I have in the past made important decisions about people I work with, agents and producers, big decisions based largely on how they treat the wait staff in the restaurants we’re having the meeting in. I don’t care if you’re the most powerful cat in the room, I will judge you on how you treat the least powerful. So there.

Nine. Finally, Don’t rush. You don’t need to already know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Don’t panic. You will soon be dead. Life will sometimes seem long and tough, and god its tiring. And you will sometimes be happy and sometimes sad, and then you’ll be old, and then you’ll be dead. There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is fill it. Not “fillet,” fill it. Life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can. Taking pride in whatever you are doing, having compassion, sharing ideas, running, being enthusiastic, and then there’s love and travel and wine and sex and art and kids and giving and mountain climbing. But you know all of that stuff already. Its an incredibly exciting thing. This one meaningless life of yours. Good luck, and thank you for indulging me.

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Transcript made from a video by Word Porn.