I spent the summers of 2012 and 2013 in Portugal, trying to understand what the word “saudade” means and why it is important for the Portuguese identity of today.
Saudade is a Portuguese word that attempts to represent a vast compression of nationalistic ideas and sentiments into a single expression. It is often considered to be a feeling unique to the Portuguese given its relation to their complex history. The age of discoveries and the circumnavigation of Africa, a failed constitutional monarchy followed by a failed First Republic, a fascist dictatorship that lasted 48 years, a military revolution in 1974, these are all major components of Portuguese history that affect Saudade. The word plays a major role in what is referred to as Portuguesidade or Portugueseness. Constructed into an ontological movement by Portuguese writers and poets, specifically the writer Teixeira de Pascoaes, the nationalistic themes within Saudade were used by the fascist-leaning, authoritarian regime of António de Oliveira Salazar’s “New State” (1932-1974) as a means to perpetuate public complicity. The word, with its numerous meanings and definitions, evolved through the 20th century and remains relevant for the Portuguese identity of today. This documentary explores the complexities of national identity by focusing on the evolving parallel between Saudade and Portugueseness through the 20th Century.
Written, filmed, animated, edited, and produced by Jethro Waters
Music by Jethro Waters and Luke Norton
Joel and I re-recorded this song in lullaby version for Casey’s daughter Sparrow…
Standardized tests: as accurate for testing proficiency within a discipline as Mad Libs are for predicting ocean tides. And I’m relatively good at taking standardized tests, but all that supposes is that I am good at consuming a lot of information at once and then throwing it back up on command, when it really counts. Bulimia for the brain. Those tests are a joke. A stupid trick. A hula hoop. And I have never been able to hula hoop, not even slightly. So maybe this is just some suppressed childhood envy bubbling up. All the good times I missed out on. Hip-throwing a plastic, circular, tube around my waist. There was a competition during the middle school Field Day to see who could keep it up the longest. Even at that point I was wise to the fact that I couldn’t pretend to hula hoop my way out of even the most confused, nervous-tic-motion national convention. Then the gym coach ready-set-go’d and I threw it once around my waist and it rattled on the ground like a big, empty coin. I stepped out of that bogus device and headed towards the monkey bars. And there they were, all spaced evenly across the cement basketball court, one hundred kids spring-loading each knee to knee exchange of balance as the fluorescent orange and pink and blue circles blurred in time like Saturn’s rings come flying loose around small, giggling, celestial bodies all taunting one another. There were candied tongues in different colors, red, purple and green, all sticking out at the stiff angles of concentration. From above, those hundred or so hoops spinning out of sync must have been almost nauseating to watch. And that is why a bird most assuredly shit directly onto the head of Amy Anderson, who once silently farted something awful in homeroom and then blamed it on me. 6th grade would become the worst year of my young life after that day. And she must have collaborated with Chef Boyardee to do the amount of damage she did to me, to us all. Sure, I had farted plenty of times inside and outside of class before that particular day. But it’s easy to escape the ridicule when you laugh along with everyone else because there wasn’t a smell and because it made a hilarious noise, like a balloon’s deflating flaps with a high squeak at the end. But when it is not funny, when it is something that creeps out amidst the class without warning, burning everyone’s eyes and nostrils like ammonia mustard gas and immediately your skeletal, hateful, teacher who looks like a lot of pale raisins sown together suddenly spins her eyes crazily behind her glasses and then berates you for a horror you didn’t create while at the same time hissing and spraying a cloud of air freshener into the room, there is no coming back from that. Not even a final squeak can save you at that point. You just sit in your cold desk while the chemical flower-mist descends from the green-glowing fluorescent bulb-lit sky into your hair and mixes with the air, now a hybrid stink. Something like fermenting daisies and week-old death. That’s the moment that kids find solidarity. They rise up in a tide of sneers, their bonds cemented together by processed pizza dipped in ranch dressing and years of abusing chocolate milk. In high school Amy and I had become pretty good friends. At some point, well actually it was senior year and only a month out from graduation, Amy confessed everything to me one day in statistics class. ”You remember that time in homeroom?…” she said. ”Barely,” I replied. For a long time in middle school I had wondered why she had screeched, covering her mouth and nose with one hand and vehemently pointing a finger into my face with the other. That year was doomed. And then suddenly it became one of the best stories I can remember. I have to say thank you to her for having the guts to tell me. She didn’t have to and if she hadn’t I probably would have erased that entire year of my life from memory, knowingly or not.
And anyhow, standardized tests were stupid then and they are stupid now. I was put into the Academically Gifted program when I was in 5th grade because of a standardized test. I made and painted a plaster mask of my face in that program. I did a book report on Robert Louis Stevenson. There was our teacher, Mrs. Houser, a genuine saint and bless her soul, who let Ryan play his Garth Brooks tape while we worked on projects. What the administrators in North Carolina didn’t take into account was that I had gone to private schools all but one year in Austin before moving to NC. Even the public schools in Austin were light years beyond that school. If I appeared sharper than a lot of the other students it was only because I had (my parents) and the luck to have received a far superior education up until that point. That and I had no issue with taking that sort of test. Some do. People learn in very different ways. It’s a shame that particular ways of learning are often excluded simply because they are not in line the with current, standard model. Teachers do not hold the position they are oftentimes due within our world. One moment you are hula hooping for life and eternal glory, the next your are a highly educated and underpaid state employee administering standardized tests. Or maybe you’re fabulously wealthy for something exactly as trivial as spinning a circular tube around yourself all day.
I’ve got three weeks left and then I’m officially a graduate.
I believe this: You have to construct the meaning within your life for yourself. And when that has all but become senseless, as it often does, you must reconstruct the meaning someplace else. And again. And again. You must constantly remind yourself that there are wonderful things worth living to see. You’ll miss them all if you are careless with the hours you have left. And if you haven’t experienced the truly heinous parts of this existence, get ready, it’s only a matter of time. If that isn’t today, you can be all the rage. You can be a fire spitting out the embers of luck and of kindness, sparks that fall onto your friends and make them your wicks, and like the great Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind” and “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” All the laughs and the kind words and good books and time spent thinking to yourself, tuck it all into your shirtsleeves and your pockets and everyplace that you can and fall asleep determinedly and proudly that once again you saw the day to its close. You saw some wonderful things.
Some of the people you’ll come to know complicate what you do.
Other people you’ll come to know make everything seem like magic breakfast at the window of dawn. They may also fly sometimes:
A Russian constructivist poster project for a History of Design class. How I forgot Jack London in this thing I don’t understand. And I didn’t include Tolstoy because he is Russian, I included him because he is Russian AND he sure could write…
Some recent notes:
Graduating in less that two months. Thank you to the several University of North Carolina, Asheville faculty that have meant so much to my time here.
There is a forever expanse of whitespace to the right of, and below these words. And there always will be.
This wont be as good as I’d wish. This will not be as good as he deserves. You shouldn’t think about it, just write it. I know. We have this conversation every time you are in that chair. Right here…looking at this bright, white screen. Just push down on the keys. I am…only, this time it’s different. Before there was always the black, sleeping figure curled on a bed behind me. You mean, behind you? Yes. My black anchor to this world. The dangerous looking canine who was not. Gandalf. General Grievous. Rune. He had so many names. You are speaking about the awkward, dark creature with the kindness in his eyes. Yes. Sometimes his long face would come sneakily up between my ribs and arm, his amber eyes telling me, in their way, one of two things: ”food please” or “lets go outside”. And the only time there was not kindness in his eyes, it was because a squirrel was somewhere nearby. He nearly caught up to several. There were always too many trees around. Yes, there were. He only ever got worked up over two things: fireworks and squirrels. And where is he now? He is in the earth. And you are not? No, I am not. I am here walking around and sweeping up all the memories from my mind, trying to brighten them back up, adjust the exposure and put them some place important. Some place permanent. Inevitably though, a majority of those memories will slip into the folds of tissue that hold all the other nothing. Each moment I’ve ever spent doing anything is there. Folded in on itself, specific atoms arranged so that from time to time an image, or the reverse of an image is cast in illumination. It’s a long hallway without a ceiling. It’s raining a warm rain in this hallway. It’s a shame that the only time I find the door that leads into that long hallway is while dreaming. Otherwise, I can only look through a thousand different keyholes and catch the image of one memory or another passing by. In his last hours, a rife-shot, or a firework, or a car backfiring, boomed far in the distance. True to form, Rune lept out of his slumber like he had been electrified from the great beyond, barking and growling, pacing around like he had new eyes. He looked at me as though to say, “I told those sonsofbitches…right?!” You told ‘em alright pal. Then he walked back to his bed, spun around three-four-five times and fell back asleep. The leaves talked amongst themselves.
Several hours later, around evening, Rune fell asleep for the last time. My dad and I buried him under a young, pin oak tree. Later, as the sun passed away in a brillance only known to that specific part of the world, my dad gave me his compass saying, “I bought this in 1971 right when I got out of the army. I want you to have it”. It would be very difficult to miss the symbolism. He has always been helping me find my way, and so he is still. I used to play with that compass when I was very young. And here I sit, looking at the needle pointing north, looking at myself in its small mirror.
Each time I enter my apartment I expect to see that old dog asleep on his bed, or looking at me in a warm, familiar way. And each time I forget that he is not sleeping on the other side of the door. My heart hangs heavy these last days. He was my permanent friend the entirety of my adult life. Things will never be the same.
I have written about it before, but sometimes the absolute worst choice is the only right one. And the next time you blink, a decade may have passed. There is this moment where you are standing with your friend at the ocean dreaming about all the things you’ll do. He bolts up and down the beach, scaring the lunch directly out of the hands of two, tiny Asian women. You laugh and apologize and there you sit, the two of you, watching the horizon. The next moment, you are staring up under a tree, trying to accept that you are seeing the very final moments of your friendship as they disappear. After the green and gold chandelier of leaves blinks in the wind a few more times, you’ll never know each other again. And so that’s how my final day with Rune was. We lay on his bed under a tree and watched as the wind blew our memories around. The leaves talked in whispers amongst themselves. Rune and I had silent conversations. I put my leather bracelet on his arm that I bought in Lisbon and wore until it smelled like an old towel. The “hand of protection” was pressed into it. I didn’t know what that meant at the time I purchased it, but now I do. And now it is Rune’s. In the end that is as much as I could do for my old friend. To let him know that we had been the luckiest of creatures to have found one another and shared such long years together. And then I let my friend go. And if there is anything to greet me when my final day under the leaves comes to an end, I sure hope it’s that black figure. Running towards me like some nightmarish firestorm, when at the very last moment he hits the brakes, coming to a sliding, smiling, stop. He leans against my leg. Just like always.
For the last ten years of my life. Rune.
That the magic hour should last forever. As a gold light dies against the outside of the blinds and sends fractured bars of momentariness across my black legs, I think on my friend. It has been ten years next month. And of the man that saved my life, I am certain only of this: he is a magnificent idler. Octavio Paz said it best, “Like all great idlers, he spent his life making up lists of books he’d never write; and as usual among such idlers when they are passionate and imaginative, in order to keep going and not go mad, they write something daily, almost on the sly, in the margins of their great projects, a poem, an article, a reflection. Fragmentation and tension…” I have watched this man in that fragmentation and tension, pulled taut like the strings on which he so often plays. Though they are wound and stretched to an intense tightness, it is because of that very rigidity that vibration is allowed. When striking the structure of a thing, as it moves back and forth in reaction to this it becomes semi-transparent, its exact location impossible to define. And this is how most things go; he seems to be forever striking at the structure, looking to become semi-transparent. I realize that this all sounds sublime and deeply meaningful, but often he is just staring out the window at the world. And who can tell what, if anything at all, is happening is his mind? Back to the obtuse, somewhat pretentious guitar string metaphor: I have to suppose that the meaninglessness of the sounds produced, usually in the major scales, must be calming for his mind. It doesn’t make any sense to me; I prefer the comforts of sleep. In the midst of all this idleness I have witnessed moments, a flash of a few hours and work comes pouring out unchecked. A small dam breaking around midnight. I think this must be what he lives for. That seems like a lot of trouble for the mind. I never have the burden of these types of thoughts; I don’t even know that I am dying. My legs, which at one time only struck the ground to guide the direction of my flight -as if lighting could also be concerned with grace- do not work so well anymore. There is a mutiny happening somewhere between my spine and my back legs. I hope that when I am finally done I will not be put down. What a terrible decision to place upon someone. I would only request that I pass away silently in my sleep, before I can no longer command my feet to walk.
Ten years past the running. I had some friends back then and I always wonder if they made it out. If they did, I hope they lasted a while. It has not been entirely easy since escaping that cell. My left foot was run over twice, the hematomas in my ears, skin breaking open regularly, an overzealous dog biting a hole in my neck, the endless annoyance of others who do not realize that sleeping is the only important thing, moving somewhere new every year, these have all taken their toll. There have been wonderful moments too. I have run untethered and on my own terms for years. I have seen and left the ocean. I have slept in the open air. I have mindlessly watched the trees doing the only thing they know how to do. Of all the squirrels I’ve chased, there was one I nearly caught. Though I’m not quite sure what I would have done had I caught it; probably shaken it violently in my teeth and then looked puzzled when it was dead. The one thing that complicates my mind more than anything about humans has nothing to do with war, or television, or church. Rather, why do they need to make so many hallways and staircases? What is so wrong with just one big room (with an enormous door) that is very close to the ground? And another thing – veterinarian offices always smell weird. That is why I’m so stressed. It has nothing to do with shots.
Thank you Chris, Gay, Liz, Aaron, and all the other friends and family who took to me with such kindness. My life has been long and full. And who knows, I may still have a long while yet.
Finality often seems like something tragic, something to be avoided. Though the truth of the matter is that without this finality, the immense importance held within the hour, the minute, the second would be lost. Tomorrow is just an idea, just a stall.
As a dog you wouldn’t think that my paws would allow me to type this. You’d also be concerned if I learned French. C’est la vie?
- If you rearrange the word “left” only slightly it becomes “felt” -
A man wearing a Back to the Future type vest entered the stairwell probably expecting to descend normally and head for his next class. He had just around three minutes to get there on time. We met at the doorway to the stairs, I was landing. Moments earlier, as I started climbing the stairs, I had a thought that stairs would be a lot more fun if I flat-foot jumped the last four stairs on each flight. Marty opened the door while I was flying upward and then as I landed, I froze and so did he; I was looking into his face. He stared into the empty space to the right of me, between my body and the concrete wall. This is a common maneuver used when a person desires to appear emotionless and polite after seeing something frightening, or funny. It is the same way we pretend not to have noticed when someone falls asleep on their hand, the arm gives way, and dreaming they’ve fallen out of a terrifically tall tree the person bolts upright in one, terrifying jerk. With nap time terrors you never know if that person has peed themselves a little. Pretending that no one saw it saves you both the embarrassment. I’ve seen this play out when the entire rear section of a plane pretended not to have seen a man explode into life after his head fell of off his arm and into the aisle screaming, “Hurrrmmmaaaaaaaahhh!” while kicking the seat-back in front of him. When I laugh the hardest it’s completely silent, luckily. “Excuse me” Marty said as he passed by. The only thing I could think to do was to smile warmly and reply, “yeeeppp.” I like to imagine that he went to class unable to decide if I am a person terrified of climbing those last few stairs. Then, as he sits at his desk and draws out his things for class, he goes on to imagine that I never step on the cracks in cement, or that I always incorporate a squirrel skull into homemade crafts, or that I lose my mind at an untied shoe, I pull the crust off of bread and save it, my favorite movies always involve ancient Egypt somehow, I have to walk around backwards, in a circle, eleven times before I get in bed. I never wear the color orange. Milk spoils because it is intrinsically evil. The word torniquete makes my teeth hurt. Or maybe I just like to project my thoughts on ordinary guys who like to take the stairs. Hey kid, you jump ship? What? What’s with the life preserver?
A few years ago I thought I had developed arrhythmia. I’m not sure if you can develop arrhythmia, or if it is strictly a condition you are born with. My heartbeat was almost always physically noticeable in my chest. If I were to lay down, it was even more apparent. After a few months of listening to the mechanics of this organ working away, some beats seemed to strike with much more force than others, then the tempo appeared to change at times. As you start to pay more attention to the mechanism within you whose only purpose is to fire endlessly in order to keep you alive, your dominant thought becomes that when this thing decides to stop working, you vanish. Then when your mind becomes certain that the grand engine is doing odd things, another crucial organ begins reacting to this awareness by sending stress responses throughout your body, speeding the heart up. Oh my spinning compass, my never ender, my floating brick brain. I can’t see you brain, but I can damn well hear you. Imagine your car stutters. This is especially scary as it’s -40 outside. You need the car’s heat to stay alive because you decided that northern Russia was more fun by car than by train and your reaction to the engine stuttering is to slam the accelerator to the floor. And just maybe there was a squirrel skull stuck in the exhaust and it came booming out. The stuttering stops and you keeping rolling along through the Siberian white. On the other hand, maybe the engine explodes and the heat is sucked out of the interior of that vehicle in minutes. You’re a popsicle. What I am trying to get across is that the brain, the organ that allows us reason and rationality, sometimes behaves like a tourist: clueless, easily scared and primed to react to emotion. I can remember sitting on a grey couch in a green room when my heart thudded against the inside of my chest twice; it seemed heavy and angry and off-time. I felt the instant perspiration of panic surge out of my pores. When this occurs the air instantly chills that moisture and then the body cools. I shuddered. The veins in my neck stretched tight as my heart pumped blood back to my brain, to which the brain replied to the heart, “Cortisol?! What happened?! Cortisol?! What did I do? You need Cortisol?! Ok!” Then I was sitting on my ankles, my knees and shins on the tile, hands pressed tight to my thighs, somehow thinking that this meditative position would help me in the battle between my higher organ that loud clock in my chest. Though my nerves were tiny fires and behind my eyes there went fireworks in the colors between dread and calm, I had only one thought in the only moment I’ve ever truly believed I was at the end of the line. I thought, “This is the time. Here I go.”
But it was not the time. Unless in the next life you start EXACTLY where you left off in the prior. I went to the see a doctor the next day. She placed a stethoscope on me. I breathed in and I breathed out. She took my blood pressure. Perfect. Then I removed my shirt and a nurse who looked just like Della Reese from the show Touched by an Angel (I am not joking) stuck those white circles attached to wires in specific places around my torso. The doctor came in later and said the EKG showed my heart was in perfect rhythm. We chatted about caffeine. When I left the doctor I remember telling my brain to try and limit conversation with my heart. Just tell him to keep going. And to speed up if a wild animal is near that owns teeth bigger than mine.
To my father, who taught me generosity, I owe everything.
I take very serious issue with the idea that an existence beyond this life is the realm we should most concern ourselves with. It allows for people in comfort to assume that the suffering of others is just “how the world is.” It allows for a loss of urgency and lack of action. Call it what you will, eternity, heaven, the great beyond, bliss, the world of hot towels, the universe, the other side, no insect land, nirvana, the monolith from 2001, eternal sanctuary of the smell of coffee, etc. If you become certain that you are destined for a trampoline in the sky simply because you’ve said a few words, believe a certain thing, or you get together with a few people who all share the exact same beliefs in order to reinforce a collective comfort, then when it all goes dark, what do you really expect to see? It won’t be the great, holy couch. I’ll double down and say it wont even be a gate. I’d like think that after a quick ride down that dark tunnel comes a infinite, inescapable mirror, where looking into yourself is the only option and for all time you’ll have to see yourself how you truly were, which is how you lived, stuck in a mirror, contemplating your place in a heaven full of grapes and lounge chairs. You’ll see yourself feeling entitled to all that you had, when really, all along you were just a child of circumstance. Nothing more. It is what you do with that circumstance that matters. Not the recitation of words. Not the echoing of hymnals. Not the donations, five daily prayers, or the piousness of a life after 30. I understand that the two realities are essential components in many religions. The true reality and the false reality. And I completely comprehend that this sort of view provides easy ethical rules for living; judgment based on deeds, reward, that the truth is beyond the here and now, and that truth eludes this world and that in turn is the reason there is so much evil. And so on. But casting aside our responsibilities to one another in this life because a text – something that is essentially an interpretive document taken down by one or many humans – explaining that this reality is the ultimate untruth seems to me to be the most counter intuitive way to relate to our existence. Humans, gallant though they may be at times, are still clad in error. Historians, scribes, poets, philosophers, none of these are exceptions. To have our minds forever fixed to some invisible place is to miss our possession of the finite moments that we may affect life. Our attentions need to be absolutely focused on areas like the environment, those who lack access to the tools for survival, future generations, and even just the mental well being of fellow humans; these are all vastly important issues that are the currents of our societies. They are viewable, tangible, undeniable elements that deserve our efforts if we are to continue being. Your idea of what is beyond this life does not matter to someone who is suffering. These contemplations are for those of us lucky enough to not know suffering, to be without true need, those of us who have the luxury of time. It seems to me that attributing all the wrongs in this life to one simple notion that there is another perfect world beyond this failed one, that we are all just living in a false, illusory state, is only a way of denying our accountability for what has come to be. This world will always be sadness with moments joy, but what counts is that this degree of sadness is something we have control over. We can do better. We can be accountable.
The difference between “I’m careless” and “I couldn’t care less” is monumental. Though I’m pretty sure that the former is often a product of the latter.
Having faith does not mean blind belief without contemplation, without reflection. It does not mean religious literalism. Faith, like emotion, like perspective, like an idea of any kind, is undeniably subjective. If I am relatively certain of anything, I am certain that humans are flawed in the ways in which we interact. I am also convinced that we are subject to error in most everything we do, especially while conveying ideas to one another. The recording of history is no exception. To be critical regarding the heaviest of beliefs is to do them justice.
I should never try to keep a written journal. This is the sort of thing that happens each time I attempt it:
July 9th 2012. Fountain in Graça. Lisboa
With the same unconscious precision as breathing, I steal pens. I pick one up to use, make the letters that I need, and even if it were a gift left at a gravestone, which is something you most definitely should return, my immediate reflex is to slide it into the back, right pocket of my jeans. This, in fact, is stolen ink. If there is not a pen in my back, right pocket, something is completely off.
The women are so
morous morose in this city, so much so that I just forgot how to spell momentarily. They are so -explicative- beautiful though. As soon as they recognize you as a legitimate human and not just another northern European tourist, the darkness surrounding their eyes falls away. The social sphere operates on a different axis here. There is much more summer than winter, in conversation, within the light, in the air among the people in the streets. The problem – a majority of people smoke. Do olive oil and cod fish make one immune to heart disease and cancer?
There is a dog barking – the same dog has been barking for 30 minutes. I wonder how shocked the people sharing this park/miradouro would be if I drop-kicked that dog to the earth. I sincerely hope his heart seizes from barking and he dies at his non-disciplinarian-owner’s feet, gasping and choking. Oh, sadness. Oh, marvelous quiet. Oh, a dead dog in the afternoon….just then he stopped. Now he is laying down, his chin on the stone. My pretending has worked.
July 9th 2012. Jardim de Gulbenkian. Lisboa (notice it’s the same day, just a different location and I felt the need to re-date and reaffirm the city, hmmm)
The old lady sitting to my right is singing a song – at least I think it’s a song, it could quite possibly be nonsense – and has been singing this tune for nearly 10 minutes. She is hunched and shriveled. There is a pretty female that has made eye contact with me several times. She smiles something fierce when a walking cuckoo clock strolls by and unwisely feeds the pigeons. The old lady is now doing arm exercises. Children’s voices from all around. Now there are two guys practicing parkor on the stone benches to my left. They aren’t very good, aside from the leapfrog maneuver. The old lady continues doing her arm/torso exercises in a baggy sweatsuit, I think of fleshy bagpipes. She is honking that odd tune and moving like she may come apart. The leapfrogging continues. The old bagpipe stops and surveys her surroundings, her exercises are one part Tai Chi and one part exorcism, if that’s how it’s spelled. She stares hard into the tree to her front. The tree tells her to do head exercises. She wouldn’t dare disobey and the white cloud of her head begins to rotate clockwise. Even the ducks look confused. Now complete, she packs, drinks some water, and sits down with a severe expression. I think about the giant Scotsman who has lost this antique. The heirloom instrument. They just don’t make them like they used to. The song starts again and…she is off. Gone.
July 25th. Wine Hostel. Porto (16 days later…and I just list several places I have been and new friends made)
8/31/12. Social and Political Philosophy (over a month later, I forget my notebook and start using the journal for class notes)
Collective group sovereignty – ancients. Autonomous, individual – moderns. Sandel→ communitarianism – self constructed within community, outside of the community→ false sense of self.
Phil. 11-5-12 (after a lot of notes with no dates, I start to abbreviate titles of classes)
Freedom is equal to what we choose to pay for.
11-7-12 Env. Science
Radon from U-238 decay. Prevalent in granite. Half-life 4.5 billion years.
Types of speech can actually reproduce privilege→ campaign finance laws→ “Money is speech” p. 152 “some people get more speech than others”
Cultivating Global Citizeship
“Shiny Fruit Fragrant Pig Farm” ? (the real life title of a successful organic farm in China. Imagine…)
Phil. 11-18 (I don’t have time to list the year at this point)
Issiah Berlin – his essay might be rather incoherent. Most important positive vs. negative liberty essay during cold war.
Pai Contra Mãe → angle, summary
Ag. Prod. requires → salubrious climate
That was the last thing written in that moleskin journal. There are exactly 9 pages used in total…and there is a guy, right now, trying to teach a computer keyboard a lesson in this computer lab. He is using the hunt and peck method. It looks and sounds more like an uncontrollable thrash technique.
Aside from failing miserably at the journaling, I like to take notes on my phone. Often, I wake up in the middle of the night and do this, which means I end up with a lot of code for absolutely nothing. Dream remnants I guess. Though some are quotes from what I’m reading, or something written to pass to a classmate. Along with the date, my phone tells me how many days ago the note was taken so that I can fully comprehend how recently I typed up the radiation interference between brain signals at night.
24 days ago
Baboon confidant (Wendell). good/bad events 20th century. Especially Africa, cold war partitioning.
24 days ago
Car 1 g
36 days ago
That lady drives me absolutely bonkers. She’s always in here speaking like there’s a junior beauty dog pageant right outside the door—
91 days ago
People that “control time” for others (the speed of). Possibly a spirit. Man holding a lantern?
123 days ago
Florbela Espanca – poeta
125 days ago
Spyglass for destinations…when looking through. (well, obviously)
148 days ago
Once Language has said all it hast to say and falls silent, I wonder how we will go on living. – Saramago p. 47
151 days ago
…laugh at us and our so-called good intentions. In the end we learn from experience, no sooner is January upon us than we forget half of what we promised…This is why it is questionable whether Christ departed from life with the words we find in the Holy Scriptures, those of Matthew and Mark, My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken me, or those of Luke, Father, into Thine hand I commit my spririt, or those of John, It is fulfilled. What Christ really said, word of honor, as any man on the street will tell you, was, Good-bye, world, you’re going from bad to worse. – Saramago p. 46
And so, cataloging my life in the order that events take place is just something that will never happen. And it’s probably a good thing because while I love pens, I have horrendous handwriting. To sift through decades worth of handwriting that looks as though someone was getting into a traffic accident each time they began a sentence just doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Better that I do this. Piece things together between the ghosts in my head and the notes in my phone.
Another semester comes to a close. It’s a funny way to characterize time, semesters. Two sections of a year only broken by Summer and Christmas. The rest is walking between the same buildings. But, if I lived on the moon, the day would seem much different still. So we place ourselves into seasons, or semesters, or age groups, or something inventive. Because we are purposive people and we need to understand where we are and why. There is always a destination. We build purpose and construct destinations and assume how things will be. Sometimes it works out that way. More often than not, we stumble upon a purpose in the process of constructing these destinations. Then the end point changes and the assumptions disappear. Then again, I’ve fallen up the stairs so many times it’s got to be some kind of record. So what do I know?
One morning, around 6:00 a.m. or so, I terrorized the horses across the street with an overly distorted national epic. I found myself playing the national anthem on the roof of my old house. Through a mid-sized, solid state amplifier and a borrowed, hair-metal-era guitar, I beckoned to the sun, I called out to it that it might cast down the radiation of liberty and destroy that shadowy realm of the night. It heeded this call, this modern birdsong of justice. And then I turned the world to color. None of that is true. I was just playing guitar on the roof of my house while the sun came up. I was sixteen. One of the things I did regularly during those years was to stay up all night and then watch the world through a truly warped lens the next day. If you make it past the dying hours – roughly anytime between 3:30 and 6:00 – you are usually safe to survive late into the next evening. Although you have to temper your mind to accept when normal, everyday objects begin to change shape. And as I sat there, having worked out to the best of my ability all the pull-offing and hammer-on-ing of the Hendrix version of that tune, the rooster across the street began competing with me for sonic dominance. I think George Orwell talked about this somewhere in a book. Anyhow, the Animal Farm across the street would bear witness to many strange events during my adolescence and beyond. Later, during breakfast with my mother, I was spellbound with the shapes in my cereal. She asked if I had been playing guitar. And she asked me with a distant, though slightly concerned expression that could only be compared to one person addressing another who had just shaved off their eyebrows. I think about it now and wonder what nightmarish scene played through her mind as the super loud, woodstockian, solo-americana, tunes echoed down across the yard and tore her from sleep. Although it is possible that she was just uncertain as to whether she was dreaming. I answered, “Yeah, I was playing on the roof”. I told her I was playing while watching the sun come up and I’m relatively certain I probably said something about it being “awesome”. It is incredible that regardless of the countless changes in direction, the idling, all the incoherent ideas of who I was and who I intended to be and my general state of absentmindedness, my mother just played it cool. She would smile, and not a patronizing smile as if she could see right through me, but a smile that reassured me that it was alright to be a little nuts. I believe she has always been relatively aware of the fact that I’m significantly fractured between a tendency to be completely absurd and a genuine desire to believe in something.
Lately I’ve been discussing and sometimes battling out political and theological ideologies with friends, classmates, and professors. It makes sense, well the political battles at least, it’s that time of year. And luckily, one of my closest friends for the better part of two decades is on the complete polar opposite ends of political and theological thought as I am. Though at times it may only reinforce what you believe, really trying to understand the opposition is important. When you get too cemented in believing you are the most correct, you lose your sense of fallibility. And if the only thing I ever impress upon anyone in this life is that all experience is subjective, I feel that I will have done something worthwhile. In my eyes, the most backwards stance is to be completely sure. At one point in time, we were so sure that the earth was the center of the universe that we’d put people to death who disagreed. At another point in time we were absolutely sure that plagues were metaphysically inspired…you know, before germs existed. There was no doubt, at one point, that Pharaohs were divine. I’ve been dead certain about love, several times…and then the phone always rings and I either hear laughter and someone screaming run! or a vase falls off the mantle and smashes me over the head. In my completely subjective mind, the idea that there is one individual within the universe who you were meant to love for all time is nonsense. So is the idea of an inherent purpose in life. I believe a person may manifest a purpose in life given their experiences and what they have available at a given time, but I wholly disagree with the idea of intrinsic purpose. I also believe you may, if you choose, adapt to a person who you bond with better than the rest and maybe it lasts forever. But I don’t know very many people that fall into that category. My hat is off to those that make it work. We interpret everything we experience in a different manner than the next person. We may have consensus about certain things and act on them accordingly, but what we find true is completely within. That is why empathy is so important. Every person who ever read a text of any kind interpreted it into their understanding of things. That’s how it works. My whole point is this: having convictions is one thing. Being absolutely sure is entirely different.
Lets soak in this hot tub for just a second: If you were born in modern India, you’d probably be Hindu and participate in a democracy. If you were born in Scandinavia in 1066 chances are you may have been a Viking, praised Odin, and your politics, well that would have all rest on the toughest person in your group. If you were born in Italy between 1900-1910….you get the idea.
What did the Buddhist say to the hotdog vendor? Make me one with everything…
(thanks for that one Kelly)
Judith and I had left our usual group at around 7:00 a.m. one morning in Lisbon and decided, as you do, to go exploring the streets. With both beer and coffee fueling our steps we ended up walking along the Rio Tejo. The sun was coming up and I have no words to truly illustrate that sight. Just imagine something that makes your blood stop for a moment. We began to talk about what we were seeing and Judith said something, in her very French accent, that I will always remember. She said, “We are going to die. Not right now, but we will. I don’t want to die. But isn’t this beautiful right now?”
Yeah Judith, it is beautiful right now.