love. week twenty one.
city. new york city
I’ve started teaching myself how to play piano. I still can’t play for shit, but sometimes I’ll linger over individual notes, letting them hang in the air far too long, savoring the beautiful sounds that until very recently lay beyond my reach.
I’m using YouTube to learn Satie’s Gymnopedie 1 and Einaudi’s Nuvole Bianche; the two composers that, more than anyone, made me fall in love with piano. And, after being subjected to my countless renditions, they will be the two composers that make my roommate absolutely hate piano.
I’ve also begun reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and can’t get enough of it. I rush to finish work by noon, so that I can spend the rest of the day reading and practicing piano. God, I sound like such a pretentious asshole. If it helps, I also kickbox with my sisters every other day, smoke too much weed, and listen to Pop Smoke on repeat.
I came across a passage today that stopped me in my tracks:
[Vronsky] looked at [Anna] as a man might look at a faded flower he had plucked, in which it was difficult for him to trace the beauty that had made him pick and so destroy it. Yet in spite of this he felt that though at first while his love was strong he would have been able, had he earnestly desired it, to pull that love out of his heart—yet now when he imagined, as he did at that moment, that he felt no love for her, he knew that the bond between them could not be broken.
For whatever reason, I have always found that I love better from afar. As soon as the object of my love is delivered to me—“You really want it? Here it is.”—it all turns out to be far more complicated and mundane than I imagined. Is love like a flower that must be left in its place if it is to be preserved? Does satisfying my love destroy it?
Tolstoy says yes and no.
A certain kind of love slips away, but another, simpler version can take its place.
Passion transitions into devotion.
I have a well-defined sense of passion, but I somehow never make the right moves so as to be able to convert it into devotion. And so, one night stands and hot flings follow one after another, and all that comes my way eventually drifts off into my past, scarcely leaving a trace.
I’m not cold hearted. I’m actually rather warm hearted. I care a lot. If anything (and yeah it’s cliché), I care too much. I inject a degree of perfection into my relationships that they simply cannot support, eventually collapsing under the pressure.
Just go with the flow. Chill the fuck out. Stop playing by the rules. Take it as it comes.
It’s the same with this project. I have such high expectations for it, and myself, expectations that I simply cannot fulfill. But what are expectations good for?
I’m being too harsh on myself, though. I’m doing a good job. I’m trying out different routes, and seeing what sticks. Now, where was I?
Oh, yeah, the two kinds of love. Passion and devotion. Actually, I think they’re two sides of the same love. I imagine that love occurs between people, and as the people change, the love changes along with them. It is not replaced, but rather morphs, like water that is poured from a tall thin glass into a short wide one. I’ve tried finding passionate love, and I’ve tried finding devoted love. But one without the other simply dissolves (nice, more water metaphors). Lately, I’ve tried to focus on the person, rather than the love. Treat each person appropriately, and the rest will follow. (Actually, there is no ‘rest’. The ‘rest’ is just composed of words, which refer to something that doesn’t actually exist. What was it that Robert Hass wrote? “A word is elegy to what it signifies.” That’s not to say that these labels aren’t useful; it’s just that they’re figments of our imagination. But even stories have their value.)
Okay, I’m done.
The other night, I was laying in bed and thinking back to my childhood. More specifically, I was thinking back to my teenage years, when I was quite literally overwhelmed with life. Puberty, religion, friendship, school; everything seemed to hit at once, and try as I might, I didn’t properly understand the questions, let alone the answers that were being posed to me in that period of my life.
So much to discover. I had everything to discover. Everything was still to come, so many ‘firsts’ and hardly any ‘lasts’.
But I don’t think I enjoyed discovering things at that age. I think I was afraid of discovery. I think discovery felt threatening. Many times, it felt downright transgressive.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy much of it. I actually feel that I had a wonderful childhood.
But did I savor it?
And here’s the thing. I will never experience any of that ever again. Ever. Never ever. Not even if I live to be a million years old. What’s done is done. It’s in the past. It can only be experienced as a memory, and even then, how much of it do I actually remember?
What would I not give to be able to go back and relive it, only this time fully and with curiosity and appreciation.
Flash forward 15 years and I’m in my early 40s (what a terrifying thing to write). I’m married (or not), a father (or not), employed (or not), and my parents are ancient (or not). One night, I’m laying in bed and thinking back to my late 20s. Living in a cheap Manhattan apartment, spending my days reading Tolstoy and playing piano, hanging out with my healthy and young family. I had no worries. I had no responsibilities. I had no regrets.
I had so much to discover. I had everything to discover. Everything was still to come, so many ‘firsts’ and hardly any ‘lasts’.
But did I enjoy discovering things at that age? Was I afraid of discovery? Did discovery feel threatening? Did it feel downright transgressive?
Did I savor it?
And here’s the thing. I’m living in that moment right now. As I write these words. Nothing is finished yet. It’s all in the present. It can all be experienced. It is all being experienced.
And yeah, even now.
Okay fine, but how about…. Wait for it…. Now!
I guess the truth is that the present is as good as any other moment.
All that’s left is for me to live it fully, taking it all in, and letting it all out; meeting each moment with curiosity and appreciation.
(Gosh, why am I always so cheesy???)
“I feel as if I'm always on the verge of waking up."
― Fernando Pessoa