Sunday, August 30, 2009

A summer story


Because my last post was a little too sobering for my tastes, I'd like to take a step in a more emotional direction. A friend of mine and I have been talking a lot about manliness lately, mainly because we were roommates in college, and now, we're no longer in college and expected to have "grown up". So, whatever that means, it means. So, as I've been thinking a lot about what manliness is in everyday situations, I'm forced to search my own life and "put away childish things" in this search for existence, fulfillment, and direction in the post-college years. Anyway, after reading an article about whether manliness is becoming more emasculated, which included great (albeit slightly archaic) raw descriptions of manliness, I realized that there was a great story of manliness that I haven't really shared in a general atmosphere. So, here it is: a story of manliness.

Virginia and I have been very good friends since our senior year of high school. Upon graduation, the question that (nearly) every high school friendship comes to was brought to light: How do we spend time around one another despite the fact that we go to different colleges? The summer after high school, she came up with a great idea: concerts! We had always had very similar tastes in music and needed excuses to drive halfway across a state to hang out. So, Virginia and I began going to concerts on a regular basis. She would choose one, I would choose one. Sometimes other people would join us, but, for the most part, it was just a great time that she and I would momentarily get to see one another and talk candidly before having to have most of a state separate us once again.

First, a few general things about the concerts that we'd been to: 1) There is no concept of personal space (if the band is good or if you want to get close) 2) Never assume that any given person is not roaring drunk 3) There is always crowd surfing (if the band is good). So combining 1) and 2), I knew that if a guy recognized that Virginia was good looking, he would have no qualms about trying to rub himself all against her in a strange drunk (attempt at a) mating ritual. So, the easiest way to combat this in a crowd would be just to cock-block him literally. However, this is difficult if you have more than one girl in the group; nearly impossible if the crowd gets a little crazier than normal (crowd surfing and/or mosh pit formation).

So, early June, Virginia told me about a concert she wanted to attend. I immediately said yes, and responded with "HECK YES!" when I finally listened to some of their music on their MySpace page. A mutual friend of ours (also pretty) decided that she would come as well.

When we got there, I realized that it was going to get crazy. We arrived a little after the first set started, and I noticed two things: I've never been in a more crowded venue and the distribution of the ages was split half and half between late twenties and teenagers (not at all a peaceful mix). Anyway, we made our way onto the back of the main floor, which wasn't so bad. We had enough room to move around and talk to one another, but everyone was constantly walking around me, so I was constantly paranoid of someone taking a swipe at my wallet. So, as the night dragged on, we moved through the crowd, closer and closer to the stage. Thankfully, there had been little craziness up until that point, just a few people crowd surfing.

Once the main band got up on stage, people went ape-sh**. People were -thrown-, not surfed, around the crowd. A 10-15ft mosh pit appeared behind me whenever any song with a heavy beat began.

To combat the first, I had to catch people flying at us (the girls were beside me), pushing them either from whence they came, or towards the stage so that a person with security could escort them to a more safe location. At one point, a person literally hit us so hard that I had to bend over to avoid falling.

To combat the second, I decided to use a non-traditional technique. Usually, you just push the people in the mosh pit, which, unfortunately, only fuels their fever to mosh, and, more often than not, grows the mosh pit instead of keeping it at bay. So, I decided that I would avoid their upper bodies, and just create a barrier for their midsections. Basically, I put my butt in the mosh pit, and it worked fantastically! No one hit my head or anything, and it started to decrease the frantic nature of the pit.

Anyway, during one really good song, the mosh pit wasn't a problem, so I was able to look around at people (since I couldn't see the stage too well). I noticed that there was just one person getting crowd surfed at the moment on my left. She went up and came back down, went -farther- up, came down, and didn't come back up.

I couldn't hear anything. The floors were concrete. A small hole had appeared in the crowd. Not big enough to accommodate a mosh pit, not small enough to be nothing. I immediately tore my way through the crowd. Everybody on the edge of the circle was just looking down. I looked back momentarily and noticed that Christina, my friend who is also a volunteer medic, was right behind me. I quickly grabbed the girl and tossed her into a fireman's carry. Moving through the crowd was much easier than it would have been if I didn't have a girl on my shoulder. Most of the way to the door, security was finally there. I looked at the poor girl's forehead: a small bump. We walked her outside. My mind raced while Christina determined that she had a mild concussion, but thankfully there was no blood. I looked back at the girl's forehead; the small lump had become something that would still be around for at least a week. It made me cringe. She was hurt, but she was safe.

Once we made our way back to where we had come from, the mosh pits started up again. However, the girls beside us thought it was funny to push others around until they got themselves pushed into the pit. A quick look of desperation and an outstretched arm later, I pulled them to safety. In all, I think I had to pull girls out of the pit six or seven times.

Did I know any of these girls? None other than the ones that I effectively protected.
Did that matter? No.
Did I act without forethought? Absolutely.
Was it the manliest part of my summer? Heck yes.

I find it interesting that those girls didn't reach out to their friends or even try to pick themselves out of the mess that they had gotten into: they reached out for a person they thought could save them in their time of need, their time of desperation. They reached out for a man, and I guess they got one.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Parents say the darndest things...

Over the past few days, I got to spend a mini-vacation in another part of Virginia. Listening to people makes me sorrowful sometimes:

"You haven't done anything in that past hour that I've wanted to do, so why should I do anything that you want to do??"
-exasperated mother to her daughter

"You don't need to dye your hair again!"
"It's a way that I express myself!"
"You've expressed yourself enough."
-another exasperated mother to her daughter

"He can't even take simple instructions anymore, ugh!"
-exasperated wife to me (I don't have a wife, it was about her husband)

It'd make me much happier if I heard more moments of silence as people thought about the words that are coming out of their mouths.

(see, I told you it would be shorter)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In Search of Lost Time (part 2)

This is the 2nd book in Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I quite liked this book. The periods of complete enjoyment were longer, but the periods of boredom were about the same length of time. This is probably related to what I have experienced, rather than his precise (albeit probably fictional) recounting of his life. Anyway, onto the quotes!

Peace of mind is foreign to love, since each new fulfillment one attains is never anything but a new starting point for the desire to go beyond it. (156)

In love, happiness is an abnormal state, capable of instantly conferring on the pettiest-seeming incident, which can occur at any moment, a degree of gravity that in other circumstances it would never have. What makes one so happy is the presence of something unstable in the heart, something one contrives constantly to keep in a state of stability, and which one is hardly even aware of as long as it remains like that. In fact, though, love secretes a permanent pain, which joy neutralizes in us, makes virtual, and holds in abeyance; but at any moment, it can turn into torture, which is what would have happened long since if one had not obtained what one desired. (157)

With a woman who does not love us, as with someone who has died, the knowledge that there is nothing left to hope for does not prevent us from going on waiting. (166)

Neurotics never believe people who assure them that, if they just stay in bed, read no letters, and open no newspapers, they will gradually calm down. They foresee that such a regimen can only worsen the state of their nerves. Those in love see renunciation in the same light: they imagine it while living in its opposite; and, never having so much as begun to try it, they cannot believe in its power of healing. (185)

They time we have to spend each day is elastic: it is stretched by the passions we feel; it is shrunk by those we inspire; and all of it is filled by habit. (187)

So, with tears, courage, and consolation, I sacrificed the happiness of being with her to the possibility of one day seeming lovable in her eyes, though knowing it would be a day when the prospect of seeming lovable in her eyes would leave me cold. (190)

We may be not entirely sincere in hoping never again to see the woman we love; but the same may well be true when we sya we do hope to see her again. (196)

To be no longer in love is to know that forgetting-or even a fading memory-causes much less pain than the unhappiness of loving. (197)

...[In] love, unlike war, the more one is defeated, the more one imposes harsh conditions...[201]

...[Our] impression of the woman, living forever within us, is enhanced by the halo which our adoration constantly creates for her, and is tinged, if not by the glad promises of recurrent hope, at least by the peace of mind of lasting sadness. [203]

The image of the woman we love, though we think it has a pristine authenticity, has actually been often made and remade by us. And the memory that wounds is not contemporaneous with the restored image; it dates from a very different time; it is one of the few witnesses to a monstrous past. S8ince this past goes on existing, though not inside us, where we have seen fit to replace it with a wondrous golden age, a paradise where we are to be reunited and reconciled, such memories and such letters are often a reminder of reality; their sudden stab ought to make us realize how far we have strayed from that reality, and how foolish are the hopes with which we sustain our daily expectation. [203]

We design our life for the sake of the individual, who, by the time we are able to welcome her into it, has turned into a total stranger, and never comes to share that life with us; and so we live on, imprisoned in an arrangement made for someone else. [209]

To be with those one loves is enough: to talk with them or not to talk with them is all the same. [344]

I was at one of those times in youth when the idle heart, unoccupied by love for a particular person, lies in wait for Beauty, seeking it everywhere, as the man in love sees and desires in all things the woman he cherishes. We need only to see in passing a single real feature of a woman, a glimpse of her at a distance or from behind, which can be enough for us to project Beauty onto her, and we imagine we have found it at last: the heart beats faster, we lengthen our stride, and, on condition that she disappears, we may be left with the certainty of having set eyes upon it-it is only if we succeed in catching up to her that we discover our mistake. [369]

(This is a long one, but a great example of the monumental lengths of Proust's descriptions)
For an instant, as I passed close to the brunette with the full cheeks and the bicycle, I glimpsed her oblique, laughing glance, looking out from the inhumane world that circumscribed the life of their little tribe, an inaccessible terra incognita, obviously incapable of harboring or offering a home to any notion of who or what I was. With her toque pulled down low on her brow, entirely engrossed in what her companions were saying, did she see me at the moment when the black ray from her eyes encountered me? If so, what must I have seemed like to her? What sort of world was the one from which she was looking at me? I could not tell, any more than one can tell fro the few details that a telescope enables us to descry on a neighboring planet whether it is inhabited by human beings, whether or not they can see us, or whether their view of us has inspired any reflections in them.
If we believed that the eyes of such a girl were nothing but shiny little disks of mica, we would not be eager to enter her life and link it to our own. But we are well aware that whatever it is that shines in those reflective discs is not reducible to their material composition; that flitting about behind them are the black incognizable shadows of the ideas she forms about the people and places she knows-the paddocks at racecourses, the sandy paths along which she might have pedaled, drawing me after her, over hill and meadow, like a little Peri more seductive than the sprite from the Persian paradise-the dimness of the house into which she will disappear, her own impenetrable projects, and the designs of others upon her; and what we are most aware of is that she herself lies behind them, with her desires, her likes and dislikes, the power of inscrutable and inexhaustible will. I knew I could never possess the young cyclist, unless I could also possess what lay behind her eyes. My desire for her was desire for her whole life: a desire that was full of pain, because I sensed it was unattainable, but also full of heady excitement, because what had been my life up to that moment had suddenly ceased to be all of life, had turned into a small corner of a great space opening up for me, which I longed to explore, and which was composed of the lives led by these young girls, because what was laid out now before my eyes was that extension and potential multiplication of self that we know as happiness. (375-6)

...a pleasure divested of imagination is a pleasure reduced to itself, to nothing. [377]

Just as it is not the wish to be famous, but a habit of hard work, that may make a creative artist of us, so it is not the joy we take in the present, but sober reflection on the past, that may enable us to safeguard the future. [396]

...drunkenness brings about, for the space of a few hours, subjective idealism, pure phenomenalism; all things become mere appearances, and exist only as a function of our sublime selves. [397]

The men and youths, the old or middle-aged women, in whose company we think we take pleasure, we conceive of as shallow beings, existing on a flat and insubstantial surface, because our only awareness of them is that of unaided visual perception; but when our eye ventures in the direction of a young girl, it is as though it acts on behalf of all our other senses: they seek out her various properties, the smell of her, the feel of her, the taste of her, which they enjoy without collaboration of the hands or the lips; and because of desire's artful abilities in transposition, and its excellent spirit of synthesis, these senses can draw from the color of cheeks of breasts the sensations of touching, of savoring, of forbidden contact, and can rifle girls' sweet succulence, as they do in a rose garden when plundering the fragrances of the flowers, or in a vineyard when gloating with greedy eyes upon the grapes. [471]

Our curiosity about the woman we love, the roots of which lie far beyond our reasoning mind, reaches far beyond her character. Even if we were capable of pausing and focusing on it, we would probably not wish to. The object of our anxious investigations is her essence, not to be confused with peculiarities of character more akin to the minute diamond shapes on the surface of the skin, which in their varieties of combinations give rise to the rosy individuality of the person in the flesh. Our intuitive radiation sees through them, and the images it gives are not those of any particular face, but rather the lineaments of a skeleton, in all its dismal and dismaying universality. [473-4]

Loving sharpens discernment and our power to make distinctions. [486]

The expressions of our face are little more than expressions ingrained by habit. Nature, like the catastrophe at Pompeii or the metamorphosis of a nymph, freezes us into an accustomed cast of countenance. In the same way, the intonations of our voice express our philosophy of life, what one says to oneself at each moment about things.[487]

At the very beginning of love, as at its end, we are not exclusively attached to a singled beloved: it is the yearning to love, of which that person will be the loved outcome, and later the echo left in the memory, that wanders voluptuously in a place full of charms-sometimes deriving only from contingencies of nature, bodily pleasures, or habituation-interchangeable and interrelated enough for it to feel in harmony with any of them. [494]

The chain of past days runs through the memory, which only holds fast to the nearest end of it, and the metal of which this end is forged is often very different from the metal of the earlier links, which have already slipped away into the dark; in our journey through life, the only country the mind sees as real is the one in which we live during the present instant. [527]

Even amid the factitious enjoyments we may eventually find in our later dealings with people whom we at first found unlikable, there always remains the sour aftertaste of the failings they have contrived to conceal; whereas, in relationships such as those I had with Albertine and her friends, the genuine delight in which they have originated always leaves a trace of the fragrance that no artifice can ever give to fruit that is forced, to grapes that have never ripened in the sunshine. The supernatural creatures they had briefly been for me could still, even without my knowing it, sprinkle a spice of wonder into the tritest things I did with them-or, rather, they forever banished the trite from the vicinity of such things. [528]

I thought they after reading the first volume, but never wrote it down: the earlier you read these books, the better. At its best, it enhances how I see the world, loving it ever more fully than before. At its worst, it gives me a full look into a life that I have never wanted for myself and can now logically reason why it is not fit for me. My next post will be shorter, I swear.

(Note, this is only copied here so that I don't leave book I out of this blog. I just finished book II, which I'll post right after this)

Much like I've done with previous books, I got a little bit into Proust's "Swann's Way" which is part 1 (of 6) of "In Search of Lost Time", the longest piece of literature ever, and realized that some of these passages were beautiful, and not to somehow write them down would be a tragedy: (note, any line changes indicates a new quote)

A delicious pleasure had invaded me, isolated, me, without my having any notion as to its cause. It had immediately rendered the vicissitudes of life unimportant to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory, acting in the same way that love acts, by filling me with a precious essence: or rather this essence was not merely inside me, it was me. (45)

But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, upon the ruins of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory. (47)

"The woods are dark, the sky still blue. May the sky remain forever blue for you, my young friend; and even at the hour which is now approaching for me, when the woods are dark already, when night is falling fast, you will console yourself as I do by looking up at the sky." He took a cigarette out of his pocket, remained for a long time with his eyes on the horizon. "Good-bye, friends," he said suddenly, and left us. (123)

"And you know, my child, in life there comes a time, still quite remote for you, when our weary eyes can tolerate only one light, that which a lovely night like this prepares and distills from the darkness, when our ears cannot listen to any other music but that which is played by the moonlight on the flute of silence." (129)

...almost nothing else but sadism provides a basis in real life for the aesthetics of melodrama. (167)

At this time of life, one has already been wounded many times by love; it no longer evolves solely in accordance with its own unknown and inevitable laws, before our astonished and passive heart. We come to its aid, we distort it with memory, with suggestion. Recognizing one of its symptoms, we recall and revive the others. Since we know its song, engraved in us in its entirety, we do not need a woman to repeat the beginning of it-filled with the admiration that beauty inspires-in order to find out what comes after. And if she begins in the middle-where the two hearts come together, where it sings of living only for each other-we are accustomed enough to this music to join our partner right away in the passage where she is waiting for us. (204)

But once he was back at home he needed it, he was like a man into whose life a woman he has glimpsed for only a moment as she passed by has introduced the image of a new sort of a beauty that increases the value of his own sensibility, without his even knowing if he will ever see this woman again whom he loves already and of whom he knows nothing, not even her name. (218)

And this disease which was Swann's love had so proliferated, was so closely entangled with all his habits, with all his actions, with his thoughts, his health, his sleep, his life, even with what he wanted after his death, it was now so much a part of him, that it could not have been torn from him without destroying him almost entirely: as they say in surgery, his love was no longer operable. (320)

Knowing a thing does not always allow us to prevent it, but at least the things we know, we hold, if not in our hands, at any rate in our minds, where we can arrange them as we like, which gives us the illusion of a sort of power over them. (327)

He knew that even the memory of the piano falsified still further the perspective in which he saw the elements of the music, that the field open to the musician is not a miserable scale of seven notes, but an immeasurable keyboard still almost entirely unknown on which , here and there only, separated by shadows thick and unexplored, a few of the millions of keys of tenderness, of passion, of courage, of serenity which compose it, each as different from the others as one universe from another universe, have been found by a few great artists who do us the service, by awakening in us something corresponding to the theme they have discovered, of showing us what richness, what variety is heartening darkness of our soul which we take for emptiness and nothingness. (362)

Maybe it is the nothingness that is real and our entire dream is nonexistant, but in that case we feel that these phrases of music, and these notions that exist in relation to our dream, must also be nothing. We will perish, but we have for hostages these divine captives who will follow us and share our fate. And death in their company is less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps less probable.(363)

And besides, even from this point of view, of mere quantity, in our lives the days are not all equal. As they travel through the days, temperaments that are slightly nervous, as mine was, have available to them, like automobiles, different "speeds." There are arduous mountainous days which one spends an infinite time climbing, and downward-sloping days which one can descend at full tilt singing. (407)

The places we have known do not belong solely to the world of space in which we situate them for our greater convenience. They were only a thin slice among contiguous impressions which formed our life at that time; the memory of a certain image is but regret for a certain moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fleeting, alas, as the years. (444, final sentence)

If any of this interested you, I highly recommend grabbing Swann's Way (translated by Lydia Davis). If you get the copy from the library, please excuse the dog ears and faint pencil marks beside special passages. Otherwise, you can talk to me about it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

C'ville Tales (part 2)


I really wanted to share a story, couldn't come up with a title, so I decided to add another story so it wouldn't just be "C'ville Tale" as the title. Anyway, onto the story:

Last week I took my next leap into photography: I bought yet another camera. However, this camera is different. It's a medium format camera, which is actually quite different from most of the cameras you've ever seen. Firstly, it weighs about 8 or 9 pounds, depending on which lens I attach to it. Secondly, the size of the film is huge! It can expose 5 times the amount of film that an ordinary 35mm (and most digital SLR's) can take in a single shot. Lastly, it's a camera that you hold about the waist (for comfort's sake). Anyway, I wasn't really able to play around with it until yesterday, because I'd been cooped up in Kerchof during daylight hours. Anyway, after far too long of loading and unloading all of my camera equipment into various containers, I finally set out towards downtown to use my first roll of big film. Along the way, I started to understand some of the difficulties (image in viewfinder is the mirror opposite of the scene) and beauty of a medium format camera (it's like watching the most interesting movie just by looking down!). Anyway, when I got downtown, I realized that Fridays after Five was still going on, but that I had less than an hour of light left. When I got down to the end of the Mall, I decided I wanted to capture some of the Wall, a long chalkboard like wall that everyone is encouraged to write on. Anyway, as I'm setting up the shot, looking down into my viewfinder, and trying to coordinate moving opposite of what I see, a mother gently corrals her son behind me, saying, "Watch out, he's taking a picture."
I walked back towards the other end of the mall to see what else was catching my eye. This time of the day is quite interesting, because there is usually not a lot of direct sunlight shining directly on the mall. However, for a few minutes, direct sunlight shines directly along the south side of the mall, a last gasp before the day ends in a sunset. So, I took out my lightmeter (I got 3 with the camera!), and took a reading. As I went back to figure out how the shot should be set up, a guy passed me with his girlfriend and said, "-nice- camera".
Now you may be asking me, what's strange about stating that you're "taking a photograph" or that you have a "-nice- camera"? I can't quite describe it, but there was a certain sense of respect and quiet humility of their statements. Although Fridays after Five is quite possibly the busiest time of the week for the Downtown Mall, I was there, quietly figuring out which memories I wanted to capture with this huge monstrosity that I call a camera. And somehow, just a few people understood and made comments that made my day.

Last week at All Souls, I met a new couple. Actually, one of them wasn't new. I had seen the wife (Hope) as she was running a biathlon with one of her friends. She actually recognized me before I recognized her, because she looked so much different in church than she did when running. Anyway, I also found out in my brief talk with them that they live on my street! So, this afternoon, Jared came over, and we both got a craving for sushi. After quite a disappointing outing for Kroger sushi, we decided to try to contact other All Souls people to see if they wanted to sushi it up tonight. As we got back, I remembered that the new couple lived down the street from me, and they invited me to come over and see them! Well, I thought there wouldn't be a better reason than to invite them out to sushi, so we stopped on our way out for sushi. Never having actually seen them at their house, I went up the stairs and knocked on the door (there wasn't a doorbell). A woman came to the door who looked pretty much like the woman that I met at church. I said to her,
"Jared and I were going to go out for sushi, so I was wondering if you guys would like to tag along."
"...are you sure you have the right house?" oh crap. I check the house number, it's right.
"Yeah, I thought that Hope lived here."
"Ohh, she does! I'm her sister! They're on vacation in Chicago. I'm just staying here for a few days."
"Sorry, you guys just look so similar." Cheeks getting redder.
"Well, I'd go, but I'm already going to the fair tonight."
I was so red with embarrassment that I don't know if that was an invitation to ask again later, or what the heck was going on. I thanked her for her time and went back to the car. The sushi was pretty good, but Summerville's is better.