I Have Arrived

It is a real and true fact that if you enter a party by loudly declaring, “I have arrived,” everyone will think that you’re cool. I just wanted to start things off by establishing that right at the outset because I have been that person on my share of occasions and I’m not sure that everyone understands that fact. But it’s still true.

It should be pretty clear to you, reader, that this blog is entitledĀ Journeyman and I did that for two reasons. First, it’s the step before master and I started this while getting a masters. Second, because it’s about the journey not the destination and all that hackneyed but true stuff about always growing.

Some things that a friend said to me this week really made me ponder anew that truth. Not just that there is no real arrival, life is a continuous journey whether we want it to be or not, whether we sit content with our current circumstances or not. It is impossible to sit still in life.

And if that is so, what then am I going to do with that understanding? If change really is the only constant, how am I going to respond? I think there are myriad healthy ways to live life but I also think that one key element that they share is placing a high value on striving for growth. Not in the dumb capitalist always-more-forever kind of way, but in an I’m-striving-and-that’s-what’s-important kind of way. If that makes sense?

I am not the complete package. I am not a finished product, though for that matter I am not a product at all but that’s a different conversation.

Another different conversation, but one that I am actually going to have right now: characters in books. I haven’t been reading anything spectacular lately–or even really worth writing about–but I did hear someone talking about characters and they said something interesting. Allow me to paraphrase:

I love identifying with characters in books I read, seeing similarities between their world and my world, putting myself in their shoes and whatnot. But it’s even better when I can love characters on their own terms, not need to connect them to real life, appreciating them in their own world.

I heartily agree. I don’t think I’ve ever put it so many words but that’s something that has long marked a good read for me–when it takes me so completely out of myself that characters and places become deeply real for my consciousness, for however long I might be able to hold them there.

I suppose it’s just another way of describing escapism but I also think it’s more nuanced and complicated than that. There is an empathy at play when one becomes so involved with characters that they are curious about their lives beyond the page, interested in their emotions beyond what is directly communicated through the writing.

Anyway, just a few thoughts on that because I was really struck by putting it that way–making connections to characters is great but what about when the characters are so real that you don’t even feel the need to connect them to your life. Cool.

This week’s little learning opportunity is an article fromĀ The Atlantic from several years ago. Ta-Nahesi Coates discussing history and the idea of reparations for slavery. It’s quite a read on a number of levels but I highly recommend getting through it all. There’s so much going on and this barely skims the surface. You can find it here.

For a while, I have been conceptually in favor of reparations because I think there’s a huge horrible shadow from the past that looms over this country’s present and that a constant refusal to deal with that past has meant that it has never actually gone away. However, I have been wary of actual proposals because I think the logistics of it all is absolutely too complicated to really achieve anything meaningful.

But I think that article makes a compelling argument that, whatever you feel about reparations, we need to have a national conversation about it. We should have a formal investigation into different approaches and proposals. We should badger our government into actually talking seriously about the ways it has abused its citizens very deliberately, very cruelly since the founding of this country (and before, too).

There is an extraordinary power in having that conversation. There are many reasons why the kind of transformation that it might offer is still out of our reach but can you imagine the kind of children that we could raise if their school curriculum actually taught about the history of race in this country? The complicity of governments and institutions and regular people for centuries? I’d like to imagine that people would be kinder and wiser, maybe not universally but at least there would be a little more empathy in the world. I’d hope.

But anyway. I have come to think that it’s absolutely pivotal for us to have a national reckoning with our past. Even if reparations don’t materialize at the end of that conversation (which, to be clear, would also be ongoing), or if the reparations scheme that is decided on ends up being not great, it would mark a national understanding, maybe even remorse.

I’m sure that I have no idea about good answers to the problems discussed in that article. Many very smart people have spent very many years trying to think about it and there has been no consensus. But while I am reluctant to even consider a positive use of the term, I think true patriotism–thinking about the holiday we recently celebrated–involves addressing the wounds of our fellow citizens and the ghosts of those we have enslaved, beaten, raped, and murdered.

As it has been said, when someone stabs you, simply removing the knife is not progress. To make progress, you need medical attention. You need healing.

And to conclude, a few images depicting kitty adventures because it is always the right time to depict kitty adventures. Jenni met a frog, apparently.

Unnecessaries, Treachery, and Idiocy

There was snow on the ground, several inches, when I returned to Michigan. And in the ensuing days, more snow has accumulated. Because. So temperatures are cold and snowfall is yes; it must be January.

In other news, the earth is still round and the sky is still blue.

I do not have overmuch to share this week, as happens sometimes, and I struggled to come up with anything at all worth writing about. Throughout the day today, I had an odd song stuck in my head, as I often do, and I thought I’d share it with all of you. Not sure it’s actually worth writing about but it’s happening so you know, whatever works.

It isn’t really a song, even, it’s a weird remix of a portion of a newscast that was a little bit viral while I was in Ireland. And it’s really not that funny except I just rewatched the video and I still find it unaccountably hilarious. So here, watch it.

Get ready for it, because I’m gonna bring you three takeaways from that song/broadcast and they’re going to be wildly outsized philosophical musings for something that is barely humorous to most people.

“Don’t make unnecessary journeys.”

I’m not sure how I feel, philosophically, about this line. Because when I was in Korea, I said that sometimes the most important journeys are the ones you didn’t mean to take. Letting your feet run away with you is a great way to experience new things, meet new people, and grow in ways you could not expect. Variety is the spice of life, as I’m fond of saying, and sometimes you should balance out planning and necessity with spontaneity and unnecessaries. Like chocolate. Chocolate for me is often a spontaneous, unnecessary delight.

On the pro side for this quote, though, is the idea that on other occasions, we are not equipped or prepared to make any other journey than the one that we are already on. When we’re tired and just slogging onward through the Dead Marshes, as it were. Muddling along with enough oomph for one journey and that journey alone, no side quests. Wisdom may be knowing how much oomph we do or do not have for unnecessaries.

“Don’t take risks on treacherous roads.”

I am likewise on the fence about this one. When things are looking grim, it’s often best to buckle down and just survive. Whether it’s stress or crises of a more overt sort, getting through it is sometimes the best you can manage. That’s certainly true for literal, actual treacherous roads.

But also, I feel, if you’ve been trying to solve a problem and you haven’t yet met with success, usually what’s needed is another approach. Something you haven’t done before, something that may be more or less ‘risky.’ Hard to say. Wisdom in this lens, I guess, is knowing which kind of road you’re navigating: is it treacherous, brooking no room for risk and error, or merely difficult, in which case risk may be the very thing that helps you break through.

“Their actions are idiotic.”

I don’t really have anything for this line, I just felt like I should probably mention the President’s national broadcast. Nothing to add that hasn’t been said really, just reiterating that it’s idiotic. Here, I suspect wisdom is at once simple and unachievably mysterious: don’t be an idiot.

Anyway. I’m driving to Chicago today, for a non-spontaneous but unnecessary journey that I think may brush the edges of difficult but should mostly just be enjoyable. The roads themselves, given the weather of late, may be a little more treacherous. But I scouted out a little yesterday and they seemed well-cleared already and the forecast is on my side, so I don’t anticipate any shenanigans in that department.

Here’s hoping. May we all have such balanced, three-pronged wisdom.