Tourist Traps

These days it seems like the whole world is a highway lined with tourist traps: word got out that we’re all yokels on a long and confusing journey, ready to jump at the chance to purchase anything that reminds us why we’re so far away from home.

The Default Setting

The world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. 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. I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational. What it is, so far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish.

– David Foster Wallace, This is Water (pdf)

Just reading that you can imagine a little bit of how hard it must have been for Wallace to operate day in and day out with an awareness of the world this raw and difficult and intimate. I never met him, but miss this man sooooooo much.

The Work of Art

Check out this review of an exhibition centered around the enigmatic (and beautiful) work of secretive artist Waclaw Szpakowski, who produced these drawings in isolation through the turmoil of the first half of the twentieth century. Art, artist, history, idea, form: it’s the work of art, so this is worth a read. 

– via The Paris Review

Update

I’m not writing much these days. Or am I? It’s hard to say, because the words are everywhere: they wind up in little scribbles on receipts, in autocorrect-encrypted phrases on my phone, in no order whatsoever in one of three cool looking paper notebooks, as well as scattered among work in progress – a novella, a mutant short story, and half a dozen poems exhibiting every symptom of delusional thinking. But I guess that’s writing, right? Well then, I’ve been writing a good bit these days.

Thinkpiece

I read a ton of essays and posts after the election – do we still call them thinkpeices – “to get some perspective” “to get other people’s thoughts.” I read pundit thoughts, journalist thoughts, politician thoughts, and economist thoughts. I read foreign thoughts and domestic thoughts. I read black thoughts …

Idle Talk

Realization: I’m tired of being confined to the incredibly limited dialogue around me. All anyone talks about are events, people, politics, opinions-made-facts-made-battle-cries, and yes I know these things can often be important, but where is the talk about ideas, or, god forbid, life itself? These latter topics are what lend …