Everything is Interesting

9 06 2013

There are certain lines you hear yourself repeating again and again. Sometimes it’s because you accidentally stumbled across a bit of wit and hope to stretch it out to as wide an audience as possible. In other cases, it’s just reductive – so many people asking you the same questions, and you end up with a shortcut response (“Pero Barcelona?! Por qué?” “Porque me toca la próxima aventura“). Still other instances are wishful thinking, as though speaking something aloud with enough frequency could magic it into existence. Sometimes, it can.

And then there are the lines you hear yourself say just once, but which resonate through the room with unexpected clarity. You’re suddenly an audience to your own words, as though they were lines in the greatest and most personal play you could ever ask for. They’re the soundbytes in the trailer, they’re the italicized quotes on the book jacket.

You tend not to see them coming, but they’ll hit you with their truth like a train.

Some years back I read the first section of this piece, Los Cuatro Acuerdos. It borders on New Age without actually crossing that fatal line; I’ve meant to go back and check out the other three agreements for ages. The first one, though, has managed to stick with me: Be Impeccable With Your Word.

The idea is that your word is your power to shape reality – word here being much more than merely its spoken/written form. As such, use it for good and not for evil. Speak the truth as you understand it. Say only what you absolutely mean. Don’t speak your fears and doubts into existence, especially concerning yourself. Wield your word in the name of love.

Cheeseball for sure – the pragmatic prig in me feels obligated to include the “I know I know” disclaimer. It’s a nice one, though. Your reality is in large part constructed of the ways in which you interact with the stimuli around you, so make said action impeccable.

It isn’t always possible to pronounce each syllable so conscientiously, of course, and I generally boil the gravity of the directive down to “don’t talk shit about anything or anyone, especially if you don’t want it to be true.” The corollary is that what I do end up speaking asymptotically approaches a direct representation of my reality.

I mean – I’m aware that language is necessarily a re-presentation, a construction. But those simulacra don’t have to be chimeras, breathing heavy and menacing deep in their caves. Constructs can be constructive of something beautiful and true as well, and taking note of their intricacies are what keep us moving meaningfully through the fourth dimension.

So then when I hear myself speaking the unexpectedly weighty, I keep those words, turn them over in my hands and head and heart. A proclamation might “make more sense,” or simply different sense, further down the road.

All this preamble leading up to something I recall myself saying in the first fledgling days of 2013. I was with two people I’d met (separately) off the internet and figured would get along (hoo boy, was I right). One of them was one of the very first people I ever met from OkCupid. He was here visiting his family after extended time away in Mexico completing his studies. I’d seen him quite a bit my first year in Madrid, and then once in the interim, around Christmastime 2011.

In playing the catch-up game, we each got to experience a rather unique perspective – feeling intimate and important with the other, despite the awareness that you only experience their being in selected segments. Both of us have a sharp memory for remarks, and we recalled wisps of ideas we’d had three years prior in order to observe how these had grown, shrunken, or changed form.

2012 was a hallmark year. I spilled over with stories, buses and skele-sweaters, expunging and embracing dragons, red-light weekends overseas and just across the street. Oporto and Ljubljana and rural Germany and Priano and Barbados and Bellver de Cerdanya and Oviedo. Cracking my assumptions wide open and letting in even more new than I thought was possible. Allowing myself great swaths of time to swim within the strange.

In sharing these segments, in hearing the story spun, I played at once narrator and audience, climbing into my friend’s head to see what I must look like from there. I told him the gloriously crazy moments, the nearly unbelievably lucky turns of events, the mad chances I’d taken that had and hadn’t paid off. What a hodgepodge it seemed, this collection of bizarre vignettes.

Life’s that way for everyone, of course – messy messy, loaded with loose ends and wholly extraneous information, false starts down twisted paths that lead nowhere. Both written and spoken storytelling are in part driven by the urge to weave together something comprehensive out of all this noise.

And I found myself relating even the nasty bits, the parts that hurt with confusion and lack or overabundance. However, the way in which I told these was with joy rather than sadness, and I was taken aback at my own felicity in the face of the various weights I carry.

“The thing is,” I heard myself say, “it’s all interesting. Every single part of it is interesting.”

It’s that simple truth that’s stuck, that’s what came back to me today. I’ve been calling it neophilia, but I’m not quite sure that’s correct – true neophiles seem to always be clamoring for the cutting-edge, and that’s not my case. I mean, have you seen my phone?

It came back to me when, after a night of wine-fueled indoor picnicking, manic kitchen dance steps, and too-symbolic broken glass, I decided to go for a walk in the rain. Instead of heading directly for the nearest metro – which would have made sense given the downpour, no? – I elected simply to see what it was like to walk in it, to give in freely.

That choice in itself is not particularly radical, but it set off a chain reaction of thought. If death is the cessation of the new, life and living can be maximized by exposing oneself to as much of the unknown as possible.

There have been times this year when I wondered why I stayed in Madrid for a third turn of the wheel. I see it now – I needed the time and space to settle in fully behind my own eyeballs. I’ve been headed towards this point for years now, throwing myself into situations where I must confront the weird and the wild (sawatdee kaa, Bangkok).

The difference, though – previously, I’ve felt carried away by said situations, affected upon, adrift at sea. This year, I’ve grown into my own skin, and have begun to orchestrate.

“I don’t know anything, but I do know that everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough.” – Richard Feynman

The only way to go about this is deeply, is as a whole. It is with this as my guiding principle that I move away from this city, from my Madrid. It is my fascination that pulls me forward. It is the intensity of the what-if urge. It isn’t merely the next adventure, it’s the only one, the capital-A.

Take my hand, and let’s run.

I move to Barcelona at the end of the month!


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7 responses

9 06 2013
Linda tork

This needs to be read and re-read. Makes me cry. I am so proud of you and so excited to see what you will give to Barcelona (oh, and what Barcelona will give to you).

9 06 2013
contomates

Thanks momma! Hesitated long and hard before posting this one; so glad it’s well-received. Will keep writing, writing, writing.

9 06 2013
Janet

Janel, I know you will embrace your time in Barcelona as you have with your time in Madrid. I’m eager to read about your next adventures. By the way, I really appreciate the concept that your word is your power to shape reality … I find that to be so true. Thanks for capturing it in your inimitable style!

9 06 2013
contomates

Gracias!! You know Barcelona’s only a hop, skip, and a jump away….

9 06 2013
Ryan W.

“The thing is,” I heard myself say, “it’s all interesting. Every single part of it is interesting.”

Yes. :-)

I’ve also wondered about honest self-expression from time to time, and what hinders it. One thing I’ve run into is that there are significant reasons that people don’t express themselves honestly, and partial workarounds to those reasons that end up making communication more difficult. And these difficulties do come to define us, but they’re not so easily dispelled. Censorship of various kinds distorts communication, and most social groups informally censor in one way or another. There are certain things that I can’t discuss with certain friends, for seemingly trivial and stupid reasons. And it chips away at a part of my soul. But I’ve come to accept that some self censorship is a requisite part of ‘being social.’ Sometimes people can’t say what they mean directly. I think a lot of religion and ancient philosophy boils down to this. How do you say something (whether true or false, I am not a believer in any kind of perfect revelation) when people are unwilling to consider what you’re saying and may distance you or even do violence to you for calling their beliefs into question? Philosophy, after all, is often a politically subversive thing. The trial and execution of Socrates had an impact on how his contemporary philosophers expressed their beliefs. And despite that partial chilling effect on criticism that the execution of Socrates created, it was the Greeks with their democracy who discovered mathematical proofs even though it was the Egyptians who developed mathematics (and asserted, in an authoritarian fashion appropriate to their political structure and society, that their equations worked. No need to question or verify.)

In the end, the solution to the problem seems to be a very human answer full of compromised beliefs and indirection that I would love to just sweep away in a stroke, but am often not able to do so with good effect.

Sorry if this is all a bit presumptive to launch into for us not having talked in such a long time.

khob-kun khap for listening, from a fellow world traveler.
( I was in Bangkok and Phuket quite recently as well. I’m worried it is something of a traveling last hurrah, at least for some time.)

Best regards,

Ryan W.

12 06 2013
Cassandra

You’re off to the capital B now, Janel!

As one of the few people who’s still a hanger-on from that first 2010 school year, I can identify with the “WHY WHY WHY am I still here, is this what I really want? Yes-No-Yes-no-Sorta-Yes” internal battle. Best of luck on your next endeavor, I’m looking forward to see Barcelona through your point of view!

1 10 2013
Miguel Mudarra Capdepont

Janel! miss your writing!! Miss you more actually… Hope you are, at least, as good as you were in Madrid (Por qué estoy escribiendo en Inglés?)

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