learning to read and write
What is clear to me after 2 weeks of rather hectic work is that this is not how to live our short lives. The paycheck doesn't justify it. The interactions with more "(wannebe) upstairs" types certainly don't (oh, the minefields!). The work-writing threatens to destroy whatever non-work-writing I can do. But whatever protestant work ethic and misplaced sense of responsibility I have say to soldier on - for now; count it a blessing that my colleagues are at least unchanged in their generosity, yes, accept all situations as an opportunity to learn (the practical, the useless, the dark, the frustrating, the inspiring)...
But to protect the time with friends - and books.
J has been faring far better than me in this respect, having finished this book in a few days and labouring through designer Bruce Mau's Massive Change. Of the latter, he took this lesson, and I from him:
Been reading this book called Massive Change. Part of the book is about how changes in transportation and urban planning have led to advancements/downfalls in human development. To some extent, it is only when we know, hear, feel, realised and see something, only when something is visible to our senses. Only then, we will and can do something about it.Having less patience for designspeak, I had picked up American essayist Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking instead (paradoxically, because of the design of the book cover).
If life, we are told again and again that humankind has this natural tendency to take things for granted. But when we slow down and peer closer, then we realised that there are so much potential and possibilities, no matter how minute it is, lying around us.
After the death of both her husband John Dunne (her daughter died 18 months later after a series of illnesses) Joan Didion writes her grief and loss; and her readings. In Didion's record, sometimes brutally clinical and sometimes unabashedly emotional, we read of her readings during this period - the books about grief (psychology books, CS Lewis' A Grief Observed etc), books about medicine, books about the body, books about hospital and surgical practices. We read, too, her vignettes of the past, associations, the workings of a mind struggling to reconcile gaps and voids with whatever knowledge books afford, whatever understanding words can construct.
Perhaps when such a mind is recorded by such a studied and skillful hand, the reader feels overwhelmed by how the personal can become so monumental - as if Didion's grief was a mourning for the last 40 years of history. Does this scale not feel a little embarrassing? overly-dramatised? or refreshingly honest?
I can't quite decide. Thankfully, there is no real need to.
Friends and books - they are great because the challenges they issue are (almost) always lovingly offered. Tolerant of ambiguity. With them, there is no need to count the cost or weigh the gain.