Measure for Measure December 2017
“Listen, I know this cafe that I’d love to show you. We could get coffee sometime this weekend and maybe get to know each other.”
“Listen…I don’t know exactly how to say this, but this past month has made me happier than I’ve felt in a while. I know we never wanted anything serious. What if we just gave it a shot?”
“Hey listen, sorry I didn’t get back to you last night. I was busy”
“Whatever she told you is a lie! You have to know that … please calm down. Nothing even happened. Please listen…please … just listen.”
— Ryan Cohen
Drinking in the Dead
I used to think that for something to be beautiful,
it had to die.
Said it was why I left that permanent sun in California.
But the ocean rolls year-round,
and when i dip my hairy toes into that puckered blue, I’m kinda touchin all that’ve come before,
Kubla and you and Casmir,
surely that’s beautiful.
— Patrick Ronan
I have been stomped on
So many times
I have been flattened and laid out
Like a rug in your living room
But I rise
From the ashes of my submissiveness
And I swore
Not to be stepped on
— Sophie Levy
Hello to All This
All of us are talented, passionate, and exceptional. Perhaps at one point we were even in possession of a certain sureness of self, a headstrongness that culminated or was meant to culminate in the course of these four years. Or perhaps it was never there, or it is no longer there, having long since been dissolved in our peculiar cauldron of stress, competition and ambition. Nevertheless, there was for all of us something that prompted our admission, that distinguished us from the 94% that didn’t make the cut.
Anatomizing celebrity in his book The Frenzy of Renown, the cultural historian Leo Braudy suggests that “youthful success especially can mean that one becomes symbolic before one is real.” He warns against being “created by others before one can create oneself.” We all are or used to be very good at something, but are these talents innate in some way or are they coaxed out by parents, teachers and mentors, people with our best interests at heart that unwittingly end up creating the versions of ourselves that we know so well? This is not in and of itself a bad thing, but it is something that some of us should be aware of as we face the Decisions that illuminate the vague path towards Adulthood or Real Life or Success. What is the extent to which we, and our goals and aspirations, are organic and true?
Time and perception are altered here; it is a feeling that we all know and one that Joan Didion articulates with signature incision: “one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.”
Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard, concludes in his book Stumbling Upon Happiness that human beings are provably bad at predicting what makes them happy. In fact, he claims that we don’t want what will make us happy, and that what we do want often does not.
This is not the issuance of a call to arms for the dormant bohemians within us all, nor is it a diatribe against authority and social pressure. It is a call for perspective, because despite the fact that we are all so good at diagnosing myopia, maybe we have less agency than we think, and maybe our and everyone else’s decisions are painfully fallible. Everything here can often feel frenzied, chaotic and uncertain but maybe it is meant to be. Maybe we shouldn’t blame ourselves for our failures, and we shouldn’t allow ourselves total credit for our successes. Maybe it’s all right to nurture some optimism, however blind and futile may seem as we confront the Future in all its terrifying majesty. All of us are talented, passionate, and exceptional.
“Because when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble. And I suspect we are already there.”