They say ignorance is bliss.

First, read this article (“We Are All Confident Idiots” by David Dunning) so you know what I’m talking about.

We’ve all seen this, haven’t we? People who are very convinced that they are right about something–even something made up. Just watch Fox News (but not for very long–at some point it stops being funny and starts being terrifying).

I used to teach university students, and (probably due to my own failure as an educator) I could see this very thing happen. Students would be convinced they understood something, and then when they didn’t score well on a test they were confused and usually made no effort to understand why they didn’t know what they thought they knew.

ignorantSuppose, though, you’ve read your Socrates and your Hume and your skeptics.

Imagine you know the things you don’t know (and it’s a lot–pretty much everything).

Imagine you don’t even fully trust your ability to make patterns because you know you seek patterns and causes even when they aren’t there.

Imagine you don’t believe you are a good, capable person, because these things mean nothing to you and are totally relative.

Imagine you think every system of rule is wrong. That every belief system is wrong. That every ideology is wrong. But that you don’t have a right one to replace them, because it would be wrong too.

Imagine you struggle to form opinions anymore because you don’t have ideologies or sacrosanct beliefs. Imagine you don’t have opinions because you can’t ground them in anything and so they’re useless to you because you want something to hold onto.

At that intersection, you have me.

And I guarantee you, it sucks.

Most of the time, I don’t even feel like a person.

It’s lonely.

Continue reading

If I Had Someone Else’s Voice

Music is an extraordinarily important part of my life. I’ve never been good at creating music myself, but I need it around me all the time and I’ve always been drawn to musical people. I have dance parties to bad ’80s songs in my kitchen. I like going on road trips by myself, because I turn them into massive sing-a-longs. I associate certain songs with certain people, and I like being able to connect to people through shared musical taste.

But it’s more than that.

I realized something recently about my relationship to music, and I wondered if it held true for other people. Then I read this quote from Frank Ocean: “When you’re happy, you enjoy the music, but when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics.”

And that’s exactly it. I usually connect most strongly to music, and particularly to lyrics, when I’m struggling.

Case in point:

Good News for People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse was released on April 6, 2004.

A Ghost is Born by Wilco was released on June 22, 2004.

I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning by Bright Eyes was released on January 24, 2005.

I feel like if you listen to these three albums, you’ll know who I am. And you’ll probably know me better than you would from years of conversation or spending any amount of time with me. I’m in “We Are Nowhere and It’s Now.” I’m in “Hummingbird.” I’m in “World at Large.”

Continue reading

A Word About Solitude

I have to say a word about solitude
For the soul it sometimes they say can be good
And I’m partial to it myself, well I must confess
Nobody knows the meaning of loneliness

~Van Morrison in “Meaning of Loneliness”

~*~*~

“It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke

~*~*~

“Only in solitude do we find ourselves; and in finding ourselves we find in ourselves all our brothers in solitude.”

~Miguel de Unamuno

~*~*~

“Language… has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”

~Paul Tillich

~*~*~

“A truly happy being is a solitary being.”

~Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Emile

Starry, Starry Night

“When it is darkest, men see the stars.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
– Oscar Wilde

orion

Orion’s Belt

I don’t think it’s coincidental that some of my favorite writers and thinkers have such poignant things to say about the stars. The thing I dislike most about living in the city is not being able to see the stars at night. They’re only a drive away, but it’s not the same as being able to turn off your porch light, step out your front door, and just fall under their spell.

Feeling insignificant is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Feeling your ego dissipate under the expanse of the universe is an irreplaceable experience. There have been times in my life where sitting under the stars was the only thing I could do to feel connected to this world at all. As unintuitive as that may seem.

It seems to me that to feel connected to others, you need to feel alone. It occurs to me sometimes that other people may find this thought to be highly pessimistic, but I don’t think the feeling of being alone is a negative or depressing at all.

In fact, I like the feeling.

It makes me appreciate the connections I am able to have with other people and their creative work.

As always, I find my sentiments have been already properly expressed by others. Another fact that makes me feel a beautiful wash of insignificance and much, much less alone.

“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.”
– Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes)