Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beauty is ...

"We've just found out the universe is expanding, you know.
That means the truth is getting bigger."
- Mia Adjali

I have been reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Basic premise: Can we ever really know someone?

How many times did I encounter that concept as an undergrad majoring in English lit? We have constructs of people in our minds, but do we know who they really are? Can we? It's like Cloud 9, by Caryl Churchill. We operate so much on presupposition, or our own imagination.

I hear it again on the radio this afternoon. I am driving home listening to NPR's membership drive, and they're playing a clip from This American Life about a woman who discovers that a band called Boy Hits Car has written a song about her father. She is shocked, because she sees him through a veil of teenage angst -- random rules, overly strict, high expectations, kind of a jerk. But the guys from Boy Hits Car, they've idolized the man as someone in tune with nature who disregards the constraints of the modern world. And through the show, you see a little bit from everyone's perspective and disagree with them all. The band has turned this old father into some sort of guru, an icon -- someone who only exists in their imagination. And to some extent, they're right that the man is larger than his daughter's understanding. But on the other hand, they are singing about their ideology, not about the person at all.

And I wonder about this. What is beautiful, what is iconic, that exists outside of our own minds? And if icons and concepts can't exist beyond an individual's conception, then who are other people? Is a person only the mental construct that individual has of themself? Our are we defined by our guts and biochemicals? Maybe we are the being that our friends and family believe that we are. Or are we an amalgam of all of these things? I believe in the latter -- guts, chemicals, skin, flesh, idea, relationship -- but how can we be an amalgam of things that aren't independently real?

Thinking like this makes me feel a little bit lonely, a little bit strange. All of the people I see as beautiful in the world, I am not sure really who they are. All of the truths that I believe in, they're only truths to me. And how much am I not listening, not perceiving? What am I missing in this universe? I feel like I can only grow by knowing others, but can I ever know others? Can I even know myself?

That has been my day, today. Full of wondering. To be honest, I also drafted a third party complaint, bleached my shower, replaced a loose toilet seat cover, hung a new shower curtain, put away the dishes -- these are the menial things that make up my existence, but I don't think about them much. Maybe I should focus on here-and-now more. My boyfriend is coming home tonight after a week away, and I think about him and what it means to be loved. And I walked the dogs before lunch, and I think about my tenant and her dog leaving in August, and what I will do to entertain my beagle when they're gone. These thoughts loom larger than the day's chores, but they are still submerged, a little, in that old loneliness.

I get lost in stupid thoughts, sometimes.

By the way, if any strangers are reading this, my name is Maisha. You can read about me on my profile. "Maisha" means "life" in Swahili. It's a derivative of an Arabic word for the same thing. I am 30 years old, almost 31, and I am a law student pursuing a career in public interest law -- international, immigration, or poverty law. I went to UCLA for undergrad and am attending the University of Pennsylvania for grad school. I used to dislike pizza and the color pink. I have reversed my position on both of those things. I am dating someone quite seriously for the first time in my life; he is nothing like what I expected and makes me wildly happy. I used to work in newspapers, but not as a writer. I'm not good at keeping friends, but luckily my best friends are good at keeping me. I used to be very unhappy most of the time, but I have recently learned that if I put my life on the line for ideology, I can be very, very happy. And I have done just that for the past year. That is a very small part of me. Nice to meet you. Would love it if you introduced yourself and invited friends to play this game of storytelling. Maybe by hearing your vision of life, my own version of the truth will grow larger. And if nothing else, I will imagine you beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. Maisha! What a lovely idea this blog is. Thank you for inviting me to participate. I really like what you wrote.

    Better get thinking of something useful I can contribute. ...