When I was a kid, my parents took us camping. At some point, they needed a break. (I think they wanted to hump in the camper.) Dad was clever. He asked who could run up a hill, fastest. Without even finishing his sentence, we were off—we never asked why.
The smart kids in The Valley have us doing the same. We chase follows, likes, and views, but fail to consider what to do upon getting them. While the value of these metrics may be questionable, achieving them is seen as a win. Few are wise enough to ask whether these numbers matter.
Having an audience can help you get paid and that’s good. Putting your focus solely on building a following is a fool’s game, though. This pursuit of recognition is boring, and a terribly crowded race.
While you have little control over others’ attention, you have full control of what you make. So, why not put your effort into building something beautiful? Doing so is infinitely more rewarding than bombarding friends with junk. The result may even be something you can promote—should you suffer the need to do so.
20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
“I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense,” C.S. Lewis wrote. “It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become habitual. Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, action after action, had H. for their object. Now their target is gone. I keep on through habit fitting an arrow to the string, then I remember and have to lay the bow down.”
We are repeatedly left, in other words, with no further focus than ourselves, a source from which self-pity naturally flows. Each time this happens (it happens still) I am struck again by the permanent impassibility of the divide.
I realize as I write this that I do not want to finish this account.
Nor did I want to finish the year.
The craziness is receding but no clarity is taking its place.
I look for resolution and find none.
I did not want to finish the year because I know that as the days pass, as January becomes February and February becomes summer, certain things will happen. My image of John… will become less immediate, less raw. It will become something that happened in another year. My sense of John himself… will become more remote, even “mudgy,” softened transmuted into whatever best serves my life without him. In fact this is already beginning to happen. I realized today for the first time that my memory of this day a year ago is a memory that does not involve John.
I was crossing Lexington Avenue when this occurred to me.
I know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead. Let them become the photograph on the table.
Knowing this does not make it any easier.
In fact the apprehension that our life together will decreasingly be the center of my every day seemed today on Lexington Avenue so distinct a betrayal that I lost all sense of oncoming traffic.
(+ + + You had to feel the swell change. You had to go with the change. He told me that. No eye is on the sparrow but he did tell me that.)
— JD, The Year of Magical Thinking
I thank the world of literature, JD, and the depth of her literary knowledge for delivering some Hard Sweet Wisdom to me right on time:
A night of memories and sighs/I consecrate to thee.
Mourning has its place but also its limits. A night of memories and sighs. One night. It might be all night but he doesn’t even say all night, he says a night, not a matter of a lifetime, a matter of some hours.
(+ + + I get it, God. You got it, dude.)
They saw three possible reasons [for fallibility in surgeons]. One was ignorance: perhaps science affords only a limited understanding of how hurricanes behave. A second reason was ineptitude: the knowledge is available, but the weather man fails to apply it correctly. Both of these are surmountable sources of error. We believe that science will overcome ignorance, and that training and technology will overcome ineptitude. The third possible cause of error was an insurmountable kind. There may be some kinds of knowledge that science and technology will never deliver. When we ask science to move beyond explaining how things (say, hurricanes) generally behave to predicting exactly how a particular thing (say, Thursday’s storm off the South Carolina coast) will behave, we may be asking it to do more than it can… To say precisely how one specific hurricane will behave would require a complete understanding of the world in all its particulars — in other words, omniscience. It’s not that it’s impossible to predict anything: plenty of things are completely predictable… Ice cubes are so simple and so alike that you can predict with complete assurance that the ice cube will melt [in fire]. From what I’ve learned looking inside people, I’ve decided human beings are somewhere between a hurricane and an ice cube: in some respects, permanently mysterious, but in others — with enough science and careful probing — entirely scrutable.
It would be foolish to think we have reaching the limits of human knowledge as it is to think we could ever know everything. There is still room to get better…
(+ + + to learn from knowing when our simple certainties are wrong.)Gawande, Complications
- Me: I find it hard to understand the procedure on a molecular level, since I have yet to take biology.
- Dr. L: So you're doing genome translation of the heart. Ask Dr. T why she first started this research. What's the significance to humankind? Why is it important to her?
- Me: But even still, I don't understand the details and all the complicated scientific terms.
- Dr. L: You don't need to. Take it one day at a time, because if you don't, trying to understand too many small things will clog your heart up. Focus on the big picture and those little particles will just pass through.
- Sometimes, metaphors are absolutely needed. It seems to be a theme lately --- day by day.