I want to say the first time I listened to Elliott Smith changed me, turned me into a different person, but that comes later. The first time I listened to him, I didn’t even realize it, and it was but background noise. Part of Good Will Hunting, a movie I was too young to understand at the time.
This week, Alvin (@chipmnk) riffs off a cerebral essay by Zadie Smith in a way that is brave and honest and makes me cry.
This is a daily* practice exercise based in memory, reaction, and creative expression. It is also an attempt to become a better person. It is a form of taking control, of manifesting worth, meaning, and purpose through engagement.
There are no hard-and-fast rules: we picked a list, we read the article, and we react. I will try to do this in ways that are artful, enriching, and interesting. Some days this will go better than others.
* within three days, because I also believe in self-compassion.
I welcome all thoughts, reactions, and constructive criticisms (but be kind, please).
Can I ask how Blue changed your life, if you don't mind talking about it? Because I sort of feel like it changed mine too, but I've never been able to put it into words that don't sound ridiculous to me.
Well, I’d love to, but honestly, the level it still reaches me at, after years — years! — of knowing every note of it, of no longer living the sort of life about which Blue speaks, of not being the kind of seeker by and for whom Blue was made but the grown person who that seeker becomes, its consequent, its Hejira or Night Ride Home; after years of being a person for whom you’d think Blue would be a memory, however fond, instead of a living text, ever-fresh, vivid as it was the night I bought the tape (“The Nice Price”) someplace and brought it home to my tiny studio apartment in Norwalk; after all these years, still the only way I really know how to talk about Blue is to sort of just get out a notebook and start writing
I am on a lonely road and I am traveling traveling traveling
in huge letters, or
Just before our love got lost, yousaid
hard enough to scratch through the page, or
Child with a child pretending,
weary of lies you are sending home:
so you sign all the papers in the family name
you’re sad, and you’re sorry, but you’re notashamed
and then just sit there completely wrecked, singing “you’re sad, and you’re sorry, but you’re not ashamed” and thinking let me write a line like that before I die, let me keep that shining beacon in sightwhile remembering that when she’s writing Blue she’s basically nailing two or three lines like that per song
Probably the best album of the 70s according to me; the only one of the major 60s Acts Everybody’s Dad Thinks Are Great who made a record I put on its level is Pink Floyd (Piper At the Gates of Dawn).
“If someone were to die at the age of 63 after a lifelong battle with MS or Sickle Cell, we’d all say they were a “fighter” or an “inspiration.” But when someone dies after a lifelong battle with severe mental illness and drug addiction, we say it was a tragedy and tell everyone “don’t be like him, please seek help.” That’s bullshit. Robin Williams sought help his entire life. He saw a psychiatrist. He quit drinking. He went to rehab. He did this for decades. That’s HOW he made it to 63. For some people, 63 is a fucking miracle. I know several people who didn’t make it past 23 and I’d do anything to have 40 more years with them.”—
“When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. “This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar” she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. ‘My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’ It was a moment that changed my life. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I had been taught about the past. How often had I overlooked women’s contributions?”—Sandi Toksvig
“Perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”—Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable
“When Kanye was very young, I began teaching him to love himself. It’s something I felt I must consciously do. The low self-esteem he was bound to take on if he looked to the media for validation would only serve to cripple him and make him question himself into oblivion. As a black man and as a man period, he would need to be strong. This would not happen if he learned to hate rather than love himself. And in a society where our legacy is surely the love of our forefathers but also the hate of slave masters, it is imperative that parents consciously teach the love of self, the courage of Malcolm, the wisdom of Martin, the tenacity of Marcus.”—
(In a society where strong women are “pushy” and strong black men are “self-obsessed,” “assholes,” ETC.)
sitting in a coffeeshop listening to the oversharing old man next to me (writer, from new york, wants to “go with [his] best self”) chat with two super lesbians (shaved head, gauged ears, bourbon-bottle jaws) sharing his table, deciding to go to russian house. how is your day?
“My friend Adam Serwer once made the astute observation that most white people “can only relate to racial discrimination in the abstract. What white people can relate to is the fear of being unjustly accused of racism.” The lesson translates to cases of sexual assault and harassment. Those of us who have been forced to personally cope with powerful men behaving badly are certain that the accusers in these situations are worth listening to. “These are not stories we tell for fun, attention or revenge,” tweeted Lena Dunham. There are many women like us working in media, but we’re outnumbered — or definitely outranked — by men who are inclined to relate to the experience of being accused.”—I Believe Dylan Farrow: But Whom You Believe Depends on Which Story You Recognize - NYmag.com (via annfriedman)