If you had to sum up my life’s work thus far, it would be something like, “he strives to have his cake and eat it too.”
once I stopped looking at my life like some narrative w/ a beginning middle and ending and started to envision my existence as not bound by some linear definition of progression I became a trillion times less stressed true story
omg just felt my chest get lighter
This is so true and has been so meaningful to me over the last year that I can’t even.
The Narcissism Engine
I think about med school interviews a lot because they’re pivotal and terrifying. Specifically, I think about how I’ll present my mixed curriculum to the interviewer; how I can definitively say what the humanities mean to me as a person, and how I believe they will make me a better doctor. Not only is the rehearsal a mode of comfort, it’s also a way of getting at a question important to my life; what does my work mean?
Most of my classical studies have related to heroes. This semester, where two of my classes will study the Aeneid and Alexander the Great’s legend, builds off a trend that arguably began freshman year, with my first Homer survey. And so today, I was thinking about how that figures into the interview.
Interviewer: Why classics?
Me: I’m interested in heroes as role models. What makes them paragons, and what are the specific exemplary qualities they have?
There was more elucidation, but that was really when the point I hope to communicate hit me. The foremost “specific exemplary quality” in my mind, throughout my life, has been arete. Excellence. Mastery of what you do. If you’re going to be a doctor, be the best doctor. Know your craft. Etc. And what I realized was that the heroes I study are the examples that push me. The examples I aspire to surpass. The ugliness there is that the driving force is not internal motivation, but external validation; to be so great that one day, people write epics about you. Studying Alexander encourages me to become the Alexander of biochemistry more than studying biochemistry does.
It’s an engine, for sure. It gets me places. But shouldn’t the quality of that engine matter?
Act 2, Scene 2
Last night and this morning were the first times that it wasn’t unbearably hot in my room. I live on the top floor of a Tufts owned house, in what is a rather nice two person apartment. In a few days, I imagine it will seem completely like home.
There’s a generation of us who seem to be just over the whole experience of college. A friend of mine with whom I spoke last night, who also spent the time from January to the end of summer doing non-student things, used similar words, and I realized that they described my feelings pretty well, and in a way I hadn’t been able to articulate.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I remarked. I think we’ll come to balance the “normality” we left behind with that otherness, and both experiences will be richer for it. But I’ve been looking around me the last few days, and what I feel verges disturbingly on vanity. Another good reason to hope for that balance!
In other news, it looks like the old Sunday adage will hold, where I can begin the day after 1 pm and still finish everything. But Sunday isn’t over yet, so I guess we’ll see.
First school day in eight months. More to say about the choice of song later!
The best of me was two weeks at the very end of the spring term of junior year, during which my US History term paper came due, I played the bulk of a very fulfilling variant of Diplomacy online with twelve friends, and my theater group teched our production of Hamlet. I averaged about four to six hours of sleep a night. I would finish classes at 6, drive a half hour to Portsmouth while scarfing down whatever dinner I could find, rehearse until midnight, and then come home to do homework, however long it took. I loved all of it.
I would like to be that person again.
On basslines and how far to go
A bassline is the subtext of a song, and I think the part that ultimately elicits the most emotion. But unconsciously. We attribute evocation more to the melody, or lyrics if the song has it, but bass vibrates the soul.
One of the main characters in my novel, Aidan, is designed around the idea that the most power lies in what’s unspoken and unseen, in subversion rather than assault. Perhaps even what’s unspeakable. It’s a curious paradox to me that I believe in this, and yet also strive to quantify everything. Thinking about this a little further after the original posting, Aidan resolves this dilemma, in a sense. In a later part of my novel, he becomes spymaster for a city-state in a post-war galaxy of fractured nations. Precisely by quantifying everything that’s unspoken and unseen in the world of secret intelligence does he manage to do his job. But that only takes care of two-thirds of the issue. What about naming the unnameable?
I don’t consider such a process reductive, unlike a lot of people close to me. For example, recently some of those people quit Facebook after Timeline was introduced because they found such a detailed system for online scrapbooking to be necessarily so. Rather than reductive, I think it’s just expanding terms, words, tangible secular human systems of control, to settle comfortably around intangibles, to chase and ride their borders of layers and implication and meaning as they expand into the deep. Behind their decision to leave Facebook was a growing concern that more and more people nowadays actually do reduce people to their online components, instead of taking it as one part of the larger person. And it’s a concern that I share. But to me, once you understand the reductive aspect and reject it, casting a net of quantity to cuddle with quality is just chasing the unknown. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
All of that said, it should bother me more that I can’t conceive of all the shades of grey within a single bassline. But it doesn’t (although it did bother me that the only thing I needed to finish this post was absolute silence.) Sometimes, I guess, until you can figure something out, you just have to stand in awe of it.
(I might come back to this later. I’ve already done so once, and I’ve actually been mulling this since last night. So we will see. :) )
A night in the park
I took a walk today. It rained for most of the day, and all of yesterday, and most of the past week, but it cleared up this evening and after an involuntary four-hour nap (my sleep schedule is still a little fucked) in the middle of the day, I was eager to get out and do something. Also, it was a good way to procrastinate my packing.
I was also really excited because it was just cold enough to make my usual summer clothing an uncomfortable choice. Coming from New England, a lot of my favorite clothing is designed for cooler temperatures. I finally got the chance to wear the blue pants I’d impulse bought in Christchurch two months ago but that it’s been too hot to wear. I also pulled on my grey jacket, incidentally also an impulse buy last October, which I hadn’t worn since Japan, in the beginning. I really like it. It’s a nice spring jacket and a good color and looks super cool. It is possibly the coolest thing I own (apart from a bow tie.) Also it has lots of pockets, and my pipe pouch fits perfectly into one of them.
I suspect that the Whiskey Cavendish I added last time is responsible for the syrupy flavor I’ve gotten twice now when I first start burning the bowl. The pouch is almost empty so I’m thinking I’ll load up with a greater ratio of that since I haven’t really had the chance to experience it yet. It didn’t burn particularly well a few months ago. I still don’t think I’m very good at actually smoking the damn thing, but it’s a practical science, and I now have good bowls more often than not.
The sunset was pretty dazzling, blinding orange right when I walked outside, and as I circled the park trying to catch different angles on it, strips of blue began to marble it. Against a midground of the Sydney skyline, it was something that I spent a good ten minutes staring at. A radio playlist (I think from December 9 of last year?) was already in progress on my iPod when I turned it on and I let it run. Something I hadn’t heard for a while, something, in fact, I hadn’t listened to in combination with a pipe, my jacket, and a cool night for months; sad Blink-182. When that ended, I switched to another radio playlist (they’ve made me really lazy about original mixes!) and kept walking. Like the previous one, it was peppered liberally with the sort of frenetic balls-to-the-wall type songs that I then realized made up an outsize portion of last summer. Why, I don’t know. But the experience of last summer was certainly all of that. Whether the miasma of that summer infliltrated the songs or vice versa or both versa, I’m not sure. I pick things apart enough that sometimes, I’m content to just let the experience lie, whole.
It made me wonder why last summer was like that, why I’ve been craving it ever since. Because it was impossibly rich, impossibly kinetic. And suddenly I felt like I’d caught the scent of some grand epiphany. Perhaps if I know the cause of my wanderlust, I can curtail it enough that I don’t feel obligated to go chasing something around the world.