The future stands still, dear Mr. Kappus, but we move in infinite space. - Ranier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Letter 6

Dear Josephine,

I have to admit - I've been pretty exhausted lately. Black half moons have appeared under my eyes and have taken permanent residence. To combat this unwelcome stay I decided to revolutionize my diet. I've already been getting the now-required 10 hours of sleep per evening, so when I took a "health assessment" quiz I wasn't shocked to read the findings:

a. daily intake of fruit - poor
b. daily intake of veggies - poor
c. alcohol intake - moderate

(everything else, dear Josephine, was fine)

I've already given up c. I realized I was drinking to excess every time beer/liquor/wine touched my lips and my young body does not need that kind of battering. I'm giving up alcohol until I can re-realize my limits, understand my body, feel rejuvenated, and not drink to get trashed.

In response to a and b, this morning I went grocery shopping and bought loads of fruit, veggies, nuts, hummus, and yogurt. I'm going home this evening and throwing out all foods with loads of transfat. I'm actually eating breakfast. I'm taking iron supplements. I know it sounds cheesy to say, but I think change is a brewin'.

Which leads me to topic two. I think it's really a slap-in-the-face when corporate America forces their youngest employees to pay for their groceries by using their credit cards. I mean, don't get me wrong - I have a good job with a decent starting pay, but it's not enough to sustain my standard of living (which I tell you, is not high). Frankly, I wanted to cry today at Trader Joes (which has good cheap produce) when I had to pull out my credit card in order to nourish my body. Yes, I am being dramatic.

I just don't understand how strips of crane paper and cloth can cause so many restless nights. It's caused me to realize that these non-profit jobs my friends tend to gravitate towards that offer mid-twenty salaries are not feasible options (especially when one is living in the city). I think there needs to be a shift in salaries so that starting pay for corporate/non-profit jobs accurately reflect 1.5 times the standard of living as stipulated by the surrounding location. At least 1.5 as let's face it - at least half of all Americans are in some sort-of debt.

To conclude: it does not surprise me that 45% of all American currency produced is the one-dollar bill, nor that it is the most popular "rag" used. Should I be content to know that we haven't started making 50 cent bills?

In response to your question, no I hadn't considered that stance. Let me reflect on it a while longer; I will respond shortly.

Finally, I know there has been literature published on the direct correlation of salary and nutrition, and salary and standard of living (take Nickel and Dimed for example), I just wonder when more people are going to take note.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Letter 5

Dear Josephine,

Whose to say the Sphinx got it wrong? Well, according to a NYTimes article published back in October, she did. Today there are six stages of life: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement and old age. To cater to this, we must ask Oedipus: how does (wo)man find this journey? Do not, we whisper, tell me about your marriage bed and lapse about the time between the loss and reclaiming of Penelope.

Let's focus (how aptly!) on the stage known as the Odyssey. This stage takes place during one's twenties, where "finding oneself" becomes a pattern of jobs, relationships, and periods of self-doubt. States the NYTimes:

"Through their work, you can see the spirit of fluidity that now characterizes this stage. Young people grow up in tightly structured childhoods, Wuthnow observes, but then graduate into a world characterized by uncertainty, diversity, searching and tinkering. Old success recipes don’t apply, new norms have not been established and everything seems to give way to a less permanent version of itself.

Dating gives way to Facebook and hooking up. Marriage gives way to cohabitation. Church attendance gives way to spiritual longing. Newspaper reading gives way to blogging. (In 1970, 49 percent of adults in their 20s read a daily paper; now it’s at 21 percent.)"

Apparently in this stage, twenty-somethings lead "improvisational lives." I'm telling you, Josephine, scripts would be handy. Take the definition of "improvise":

transitive verb
1 : to compose, recite, play, or sing extemporaneously
2 : to make, invent, or arrange offhand
3 : to make or fabricate out of what is conveniently on hand
intransitive verb
: to improvise something

What is being fabricated? Am I leading my life as though it's a play? I find my actions merit more serious worth.

Anyway, doesn't this all leads back to the motto "life is a journey" (which both fascinates me and triggers my gag reflex)? There has to be a better way to describe this life were living than merely through a series of quantitative terms. Why must everything be mapped out to be understood? Have we all become folders within a larger filing cabinet?

Forgive me, I am in a terrible mood. Anyway, since I'm just beginning these Odyssey years (I'm marking the beginning as graduation from College), I have to admit the NYTimes is on to something. In the short span since graduation, I have become more comfortable and uncomfortable and comfortable again with my "self." Perhaps though, through all of it, I have come closer to understanding what it is I really want. Because I think we all understand ourselves at some level, and the phrase "understanding who we are" always seems to become synonymous or even overshadow the real question - what we want. Isn't that always the hardest question to answer? There are always other factors to consider.

In short, I think the Odyssey years mark the time when there are the least amount of factors that need to be considered when decision-making, so there's more of a drive to understand what one wants. That, in itself, is an exhausting, and contemplative, journey.

sending you love,


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Letter 4

Dear Josephine,

If there was one book that I believe everyone should read, it would be "The History of Sexuality" (vol. 1) by Michel Foucault. However, you should know that I have not read "Invisible Man" by Ellison yet, and that might trump the former publication. I will give you my prognosis upon completion of Ellison's novel. But, unfortunately, this imposed education (which of course, I state with all intended pretentiousness) will never be inflicted - nor really, should it as what one reads is a personal as with whom one chooses to have sex (if one equates "intimacy/personal" with "sex").

Instead, I encourage you to read both novels and tell me your opinion. For now, appease your scholarly curiosity with the poem below. It was the epigraph to my thesis, and I think it accurately summarizes "socialization" and the concept of "identity" (in similar ways to Foucault and Ellison's theses):

Prospero, you are the master of illusion.
Lying is your trademark.
And you have lied so much to me
(lied about the world, lied about me)
that you have ended by imposing on me
an image of myself.
underdeveloped, you brand me, inferior,
That’s the way you have forced me to see myself
I detest that image! What's more, it's a lie!
But now I know you, you old cancer,
and I know myself as well.

– A Translation of the Final Scene in Une Tempete (A Tempest) a play by Aimé Césaire.

Anyway, the narrative that is my life is constantly being re-assessed. I wonder sometimes if everyone would benefit from some sort-of script; then, of course, there would be minimal creativity in personal expression.

In this letter these words create a pattern: personal, identity, socialization, and sex. My conscious most be affected by those corporate valentine's day commercials and victoria secret campaign ads. Yes, I do blame thoughts on cultural/media influences. Why has showing one's "love" for another been equated with the giving of trinkets and things? But more importantly, why is it necessary to show one's love through these means? Why are we always trying to prove things?

I don't have anything else to write this evening. I have spent a day wishing I had not spent others they way I did - but everyone has moments of introspection.

In conclusion, of course I am being foolish. Would you expect anything different?

So much love--


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Letter 3

Dear Josephine,

Yes, I am alive. I am glad you mentioned your understanding of my busy schedule, although of course you're right - I shouldn't neglect you. Please do not fret about a dwindling correspondence, I find little time to write to you as I'm spending my twenty-two year-old days & nights writing flowery poetry and eating chocolate frosting from a plastic container (actually I'm pounding my liver and have begun to frequent: restaurants that specialize in brunch, free! museums).

Yes, I realize it is now 2008; I am not without a daily (technological) calendar and have been forced to sign checks that detail all the months I've paid rent. I have made resolutions, although they are more for my personal growth and not worth sharing. Instead, I have made a list of things I would like to accomplish in 2008. Here:

a. Begin to write poetry again. Try writing form poetry, as it is challenging. Do not write about the familiar.
b. Hone baking skills by making an impressive coconut cream cake and master the art of cupcakes.
c. Make concrete future plans and act on them.
d. Document life through photographs.
e. Take a pottery class.
f. Start tutoring again.
g. Continue art project by adding pages to memory book.
h. Go skydiving.
i. Take a road trip to Mexico.
j. Read at least one book a month.

In regards to j., I have made a detailed list of books I want to read/have been planning on reading for a long time. Currently, George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 (or shall I say, Winston Smith) is teaching me the values of democracy.

I leave you with a quote I find astounding and it happens to be my gmail "signature": "The question is not what you look at, but what you see," -HDT.

Can't life be summed up entirely in the spaces between those words? Here, meaning is created.