008. Spaces & Times

1.

Inside this mind-blowing space-time continuum, any kind of conclusive take on reality seems somehow false/unreal. The truest thing I know to do is to pay attention to specific spaces and times–small enough to name and remember, precise enough to mark me well. I’ve learned not to attempt to stall the floodrush of time, not to attempt to own anything; but I do know how to lift my head up sometimes and say, “how beautiful.”

2.

Time: The first week of spring, 2014 (all we have left of winter are a few pungent souvenirs)Sam brought me back a pinecone from Tahoe–it’s fresh and gluey and smells like chill and open spaces. Everyone has their criteria for friendship, but in my world, bearers of pinecones are usually good ones. An interesting fact I learned yesterday is that pinecones have adapted to forest fires, such that the seeds persist even when the wood and resin have been consumed by flames. A no-less-true fact is that we’ve adapted to heartbreak such that hope persists even after we’ve been demolished by non-love. We come from and we bear the traits of this ever resilient universe.

3.

Space: BookBuyers, Castro Street, MVLast night, kneeling on the floor between two strangely-stocked shelves, we couldn’t stop being delighted by the book titles: How to Win a Nobel PrizeComing of Age in the Milky Way! One book we found was a medley of science fiction + “actual” science + astrophotography, creatively dubbed The Universe, and we carried it around the store until we left, because the chance to hold the universe in our hands was such a rarity–something to cherish while it lasted.

4.

The observable universe is approximately 46 billion light years in radius, and it’s still accelerating outwards. Less than 5 percent of the universe is composed of things we can actually name and try to understand: atoms, stars, galaxies. The rest of the universe’s makeup we’ve designated dark matter and dark energy–as everything we can’t understand seems to us dark, perilous and inscrutable. In a way, that’s what trying to learn another person is like. I think most human beings are less than 5 percent knowable, our remainders destined to remain undiscoverable dark matter, ever-broadening riddles.

But that 5 percent (the observable you) can be so beautiful.

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007. Reversals

i.

Sometimes I think that growing up, or growing wise, is actually more a process of unremembering all of the destructive directives and the coded lies we’ve been soaking up since we were kiddos—more a process of shedding axioms and “absolutes” than of accumulating them. I think that growing up maybe feels like growing small, or growing light. The wisest people I know are also the most humble and most free. My favorite grownups are usually, in their burning cores, the most childlike. Maybe growing up is just one big comprehensive shrinking—you feel smaller every day, you know less every day.

ii.

Another perfect day, they keep piling up
I got happiness that I can maintain, some beginner’s luck

These days, I’m forgetting more and forgetting faster with every passing sunrise—the good kind of forgetting. Forgetting how I’m supposed to act in relationships, forgetting the meaning of the verb “to act” entirely, forgetting what used to make me scared (I try to recall the fears but they’re so alien sometimes), forgetting shoulds and shouldn’ts and should’ves. These days, happiness is piling up like generous quiet drifts of snow. Some of my most deeply lodged lies are working themselves loose—I feel the unclenching in me, a white fist opening one slackening finger at a time, though I hardly dare to say so.

iii.

Jesus said we must become like little children to be a part of his kingdom, which once offended my sensibilities because it sort of smacked of anti-intellectualism, but now sometimes all I want are the ways-of-being that I lost between childhood and now: how natural it was to trust other people, how easy it was to delight in any created thing, how much mystery seemed latent in everything, how intuitive love was, how little I noticed myself.

iv.

One of the beautiful side effects of beautiful music is that it makes you feel incredibly small, which is a pre-condition for awe, which is one of the best things you can experience inside these human parameters. This week I’ve been listening over and over and over to War on Drugs’ album Lost in the Dream–some of the most consuming, exquisite recordings I’ve heard in years. Auditory annihilation. They feel like rolling through American wildernesses, cracked badlands of the heart and country. The album’s closer is “In Reverse,” and like all art, it’s open to interpretation, but to me it sounds like someone who has come to the very end of himself, someone who has found his own limitations to be utterly real and unavoidable, someone losing his grasp on the life he once thought he owned, someone finally getting free.

Is there room in the dark, in between the changes?
Like a light that’s drifting in reverse, I’m moving

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006. Love Stew

I believe love is like a stew, best made slowly and over low heat, ingredient by ingredient, gathering flavors so nuanced and particular they’d be impossible to recreate the next time around. Recipe-less, intuitive. Seasoned by rash unmeasured shakes of spice (sometimes too much, sometimes not enough), all the flavors eventually evening out with time. I think good love takes a long time. And yet, and yet. Last Monday night, I’m sitting in a dim English pub across from someone who has captured my attention with his most restless mind and his most true heart, and I’m saying things like “let’s go slow” and “all good things take time.” And even as those words leave my mouth, my heart is racing on ahead of me, as impulsive and un-slow as it’s ever been.

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005. Tsavo

A couple of weeks ago, my parents met me and a friend at Ocean Beach (San Francisco’s slowest borderland) and brought along our baby Great Dane, Tsavo. Tsavo is only four months old, but he’s already bigger than most of the other dogs on the beach. He’s tawny, uncoordinated, exuberant, and best of all, absolutely unprejudiced—having never been hurt or rebuffed in his life, he has no reason to expect hostility from the people and puppies he meets. He just delights and astounds me.

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If I lie on the living room floor, Tsavo comes up to me and stretches his body along the whole length of my body, wanting as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. He’s so needy that I think my heart might burst. He’s happiest when I doze off on his tummy, like he’s a breathing beanbag and we’re just two unworried loungers with synchronized sighs.

If we don’t monitor him, he sits on the sofa like a human—butt on the cushion, four feet on the ground. Or he arranges himself on guests’ laps without asking permission (he’s a little entitled). He’s strictly not allowed in the kitchen, but if we’re cooking in there, he comes right up to the edge of the tile and looks mournfully at us, woe-shot eyes trailing our every move—accusing, beseeching. A few weeks ago, I called dad and found him right in the middle of a Tsavo tussle. He sighed into the phone: “Yep, he’s a willful one. Got some Schaubroeck in him.”

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But I think I love him best on the beach, out in the open—no lines he can’t cross, no nooks he can’t stick his nose into. He’s just a little compact, burning, 60-pound bullet of life and energy, his ears turned inside-out in the wind, new discoveries to scare or electrify him every half-second: a yapping terrier, a thin wash of cold Pacific foam, an old man’s turkey sandwich dangling too close to the ground, a wayward frisbee, a skittering seagull, a sun-screened baby, a sinkhole in the sand. He’s alert to all of the clamoring details around him, his nose and ears burning with input, his little puppy-heart thrilling to creation.

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My biases in the great canine-cat divide are no secret, but I truly believe that dogs embody the best qualities of humans. If you started with an average, decent human dude and stripped away all of his ego, selfishness, pride, regret and anxieties, the leftover qualities might approximate the makeup of a dog. Dogs—if they’ve had a good puppy-hood with loving owners, and there are definitely exceptions—have a seemingly endless ability to receive love. It’s the main reason I’m so crazy about them. They are big, gaping, egoless love-holes, and somehow, my love always grows in proportion to the size of my puppy’s love vacuum.

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I think we (I’m talking humans, maybe with an emphasis on Americans) are not that adept at receiving love. American-ish self-sufficiency, a quality that at one point, many years ago, startled and repelled me, I now can’t help but consider to be (on some level) a moral imperative. We’re so slow to acknowledge these gaps in us, these recesses of need.

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Actually, there is some falseness in those lines. I’ll stop saying “we” and just say “I,” because that’s what I mean. I am not that great at receiving love. I can accept small, coded, tentative, half-hearted gestures of love—but extravagance? The big-hearted, fearless kind of love, or generosity brinking on foolishness—I can never accept that, can never believe it’s meant for me. It is not earned and it’s emphatically not deserved. If I receive it at all, it’s only as a mistake or a charity, as love meant for someone else and inappropriately descending all over me.

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Lately I’ve been feeling that maybe it’s not better to give than to receive. Under the absolute spread of God-who-is-love, maybe it’s infinitely better to give and receive, to keep all of your soul’s apertures wide open—his love barreling into you, his love flooding out. To let in all of the unfiltered beauty that’s been poured over us and around us, like Tsavo racing unleashed along the coastline with his eyes fluttering against the wind, his muscles stretching to extremity, his lungs tight with sea-air, free and filled. To become fierce imbibers, gulpers of this good life.

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God’s love all over me, God’s love all under me, more of it than I know what to do with, more of it than I know how to receive.

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