The World is a Song

I sense the world might be more dreamlike, metaphorical, and poetic than we currently believe—but just as irrational as sympathetic magic when looked at in a typically scientific way. I wouldn’t be surprised if poetry—poetry in the broadest sense, in the sense of a world filled with metaphor, rhyme, and recurring patterns, shapes, and designs—is how the world works. The world isn’t logical, it’s a song.

– David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries. 

Doing Great Things

If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I want to remember this quote whenever I’m frustrated that I can’t save the country from itself, or the world from its history. Truly “Great People” are very rare, and I am certainly not one of them, but I am a small man who can act in a great way, and so I choose to. Hell, it’s better than being one of these big men who act so loudly in such small ways…

One of the small things I do every year is review college scholarship application essays for thedream.us. I’m reviewing some now, and I rediscovered this quote in one of the essays. There is so much suffering out there, and there are so many inspiring people fighting against it for themselves and on behalf of others. I choose to align myself with those who struggle against suffering: that’s the future I want for my country.

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.

Still I Rise: Maya Angelou

The great Maya Angelou, spinning hope and wisdom and anger and love, always a difficult balance to achieve, but damn, Dr. Angelou, you make it look so easy:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

– via Kottke.org