Friday, October 28, 2005

Oh crap, I'm not Jhumpa Lahiri.

Started reading Interpreter of Maladies and I am feeling somewhat depressed. Depressed that someone's mind can construct stories that are beautifully understated, then completely engrossing, and then, at the end, completely stunning--and that person isn't, may never be, me.

RJ wouldn't go to bed tonight, kept playing the cry-till-I-wheeze card on us. By the third time out of her crib we decided to forget about it and just party. It wasn't a typical party. She mostly chewed on my finger like a gremlin and headbutted us while we laughed hopelessly. One of my favorite evenings as a father. It felt like a sleepover and nobody had to go to bed...until we really had to go to bed. Well, JollyEm and RJ did. I'm obviously not in bed.

On a final note, the student housing bureacracy, in an amazing departure from character, showed up today and replaced our countertop and sink. And not just another stainless steel basin, but a brand new Kohler ceramic dreambowl! I am not lying when I say that I spent several minutes this evening just gazing at the sink. Admiring if you will. I have no business getting this happy over a sink. But I am. It's so shiny and...white....and clean. Nobody's grime but ours. The only drawback: no sprayer. They are coming to plug the sprayer-hole tomorrow because, as the plumber told us, "Sprayers and hot water spigots are the number one cause of problems with your plumbing, because they leak and you usually don't notice. Let that be a lesson to you." I'm not making this up, he actually said "Let that be a lesson to you." And it was.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

City of God

Just finished watching City of God, a Brazilian film. Every year there are a few movies that seem to rip a hole in me. This this was my second in one week, the first one being Crash with Don Cheadle. To anyone who wants to feel that inside-out feeling for a few hours, I recommend either (faults and all). Be forewarned that they won't be justifiable for some: both contain multiple naughty words (however with City of God you only have to read them, which seems less offensive, unless you speak Portugese), a few shocking scenes of violence (but not gore, my definition of gore being 'bloody to the point of grotesque parody of violence'; this is violence in the emotionally bewildering sense), and a few flashes (albeit graphic ones) of unglamorized, not-particularly-erotic sex.

City of God is a about a boy who wants to be a photographer, growing up in the slums outside of Rio. It is based on a real story, centering around youth gangs and drug dealing, but it is also about the human element in even the most despicable characters, and the real tragedy of poverty, the way it bullies people into debasing themselves. It is a picture that hurts as well as holds, and not cheaply--isn't that the point of good art?--and one that rings true. It makes me think of Honduras, and the people scratching out life on the dirty hills that ring Tegucigalpa. I know it is partly a selfish, vain impulse, but I want to live those lives, each one of them, thousands and millions of them across an earth sagging under the bittersweet chains of mortality, the broken dreams and scraps of joy.

In the end, I am left with longing. A longing to climb inside of suffering and eat it whole. A longing for God.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Doppelganger Friday

It's Friday. From the time I rise on Friday mornings my weekend brain is in complete control. One could even argue that the transfer of power starts sometime on Thursday evening. On Friday my mind wanders like a stray dog.

In between classes I googled the term 'doppelganger.' Doppelganger, German for "double walker," commonly referred to as a shadow-self. According to's paranormal pages, there is some crazy sheenus out there regarding these doubles. Shelly claims he saw himself when he was in Italy, silently pointing towards the Meditarranean Sea. He died in a sailing accident in 1822 on the Med. Maupassant, French novelist, said that one day his double came in a sat down across from him as he was writing and actually starting dictating his story to him. Now that would be cool. "Hello me. Sit down and tell me a story." What struck me as odd was that many of the stories about doppelgangers are coming from writers. Maybe it's because they tend to write things down, whereas many stories are lost. But still...weird.

My favorite story, though, is about Goethe, that crazy German. He encountered his double, riding towards him on a road to Drusenheim. The doppelganger was wearing a gray suit trimmed with gold. Eight years later Goethe found himself riding the exact same road, same direction, wearing a gray suit trimmed with gold. I like this story because it dovetails nicely with my ideas about the phenomenon of deja vu. They go something like this:

With God, we are told, time is different. It is "one eternal round." All is present with him. Whereas we are trapped in linear, chronological time, he can behold all things at once. How are the prophets given visions of the future? How did Moses behold every living soul that ever lived or would live on the whole earth? God can show them these things because he knows them. He's not making movies about what might happen. This brings up the old dilemma about destiny, which I'm not going to go into deeply here. But I will say I agree with James Talmage when he says that just because God knows the end from the beginning doesn't mean he is controlling outcomes or taking away agency. Surely his influence is felt through his work, but for us the opportunity to decide our own course is never in jeopardy. Maybe God can see down different space-time continuums, maybe there are an endless amount of outcomes. But whatever the case, there seems to be a place, another dimension maybe (for as typically sci-fi as that sounds), where time slips.

Maybe when we dream we can slip into that place where time is jumbled up. Maybe we encounter pieces of the future, or futures. Every once in awhile we find ourselves actually living one of those futures, and the experience is powerful deja vu. I know its wacky, and utterly undebatable on a scientific level. But I like to imagine that could be the case.

We've all heard about how we only use 10 percent of our brains. Hugh Nibley talks about how we mortal can really only concentrate on one thing at a time. Our minds are slow and move from one task to the next chronologically. But for God, he says, his mind is capable of multi-tasking on a supreme level, he can devote his complete attention to many people at the same time. Maybe our brains sometimes slip past their mortal bounds. Maybe the result is strange phenomenon like visions or supernatural experiences, or doppelgangers. Maybe I'm full of crap. But I like to think that we are wired for more than we can imagine, that we aren't ready for everything yet, but that are made in the image of a being who can comprehend all things...and that is our ultimate purpose.

And that's all I've got.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

This is a problem.

Newsletters to edit: 1
Papers to grade: 50
Law school admission statements to ghostwrite: 2
Boxes of submissions to reject: 3
Theses to write: 1
Doctoral programs to apply to: 6
Subject GRE tests to take: 1

Not to complain, just doing some math...

Baseball games watched: 1
Naps: 1.5
Bruce Hornsby songs cried to: 1
Guitars dug out of storage: 1
Bowls of chocolate cereal eaten: 4
Phillip Lopate essays read: 2
Hours staring at computer screen with no luck: 2

Something doesn't add up. If anyone saw Family Guy tonight, remember the part when Meg looks upwards and says "shoot me please"? You see a red dot on her forehead (from a gun's laser scope), then the "camera" follows the laser up to the clouds where God is standing with an assault rifle pointed at her. Just then the phone rings and God lowers the gun and answers, "Hello? Kaaaaaren..."

Sacrilegious? Probably...but there was something about the whole thing that seemed rather merciful, even tender, in a sick, twisted kind of way. Maybe not. Just forget it.