Romance, with Kurt Vonnegut and Pulp Fiction

I love Kurt Vonnegut. I just bought Breakfast of Champions today, and it’s all I can do to stop myself from diving into it right now. The most recent of his books I’ve read was Cats Cradle, which is a fantastic book I think you should all read. This will contain spoilers, minor spoilers, so if that bugs you, skip this one. Or skip down two paragraphs, when I start to get all philosophical about it.

The most interesting part of Cats Cradle for me is how people are, according to Bokonism, connected in otherworldly ways. I like the diplomat and his wife, who were a group of two and died within the same second. I love that they have that sort of love, that ties them tightly together.

I like that the main character falls in love with the young princess, after having been married a few times, and yet she dies and he’s left with no women of child-bearing age left on Earth. He can eat, and talk with his friends, and live until he dies, but he can’t have a lover. And he doesn’t feel like he misses sex at all.

Here’s where the philosophy comes in. Get ready. Buckle your seat belts.

We both portray romantic relationships as too important and not important enough in our stories.

Let me explain.

Romance is either the plot of the story, such as in romcoms, or something tacked on to make the women in the audience smile, such as in action movies. It’s rarely portrayed realistically.

Also recently I watched Pulp Fiction for the first time–if this post seems disjointed, bear with me, I’ve had a lot of thoughts running through my head–and they portray all three, overemotional, underemotional, and realistic.

The over-emotional is with Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace in the restaurant. They’re over-sexualized, speaking in riddles and winks. The under-emotional is with Mia Wallace and Marcellus Wallace. They barely speak, they’re tacked together as a plot point. The couple right on point? Pumpkin and Honeybunny.

I mean, of course the names are silly, but couples do that. I love the first scene, where you’re not sure if they’re even a couple at all. They’re bickering, then talking about various things, then kiss over the table and work as partners in a big crime. I love it. THAT’S a good couple…minus the crime. They leave hugging each other, they protect and love each other, and work together as a team.

They are like the diplomat and his wife in Cat’s Cradle, and they are what every couple should aspire to be. Not roses and dances, or sidelong glances, but a partnership. A kiss over the table before going off and being badasses together.

Please don’t rob restaurants after reading this. But please do watch Pulp Fiction and Cat’s Cradle, and pay attention in life to how love is seen. It’s interesting, inspiring, thought provoking.

So is everything, if you take long enough to think about it.

The Me-Shaped Space in the Universe

I find poetry the hardest of all types of writing, and I envy and respect poets highly. I am usually not a poet, because I find it so difficult to do, but I believe this topic is best spoken about through a poem. It was written a few weeks ago, when I was caught thinking about how matter is never created nor destroyed, it only changes form. It is one of those things, like how dinosaurs drank the same water we drink, or how the ancient Egyptian jewelry I wrote about awhile ago seems so modern, that makes me feel humble about the universe and my small space in it.

This poem is called The Me-Shaped Space in the Universe.

I fit the me-shaped space in the universe perfectly.

The rest stops at my skin and inside it is me.

I used to see me as a hole

As if I wasn’t made of organs and soul

But of not-space, and not-time,

A bubble in the universe, made of something else.

And I would see my skin as a barrier

Keeping the universe away from my emptiness

A shell to keep predators away from my oysterous interior

But I never saw myself as being a pearl.

I didn’t fill, but now I am full.

I was full before my mother grew fuller with my weight,

Before the food she ate created me

Because matter cannot be created

And I am as old as the stars.

I am not a hole of nothing, nor of something never seen,

I’m not a hole at all, it was wholly wrong to believe

That just because my skin is mine it always was my skin.

I am made of the things I consume, of the air I breathe in,

I can trace my roots like the veins in my wrists.

My atoms were made when the sun was,

There is nothing outer about outer space.

In truth I am not a hole, but a stitch.

The fabric doesn’t stop at me,

I am a small percentage of the universe.

When I die I will not be gone.

My body will become ash, or dirt, then plants

My cells and atoms will continue being.

I fit the me-shaped space in the universe perfectly.

I have stardust in my skin.

The interesting thing about this poem, on self-reflection, is how self centered it is. A common theme on this blog (I think I’ve already talked about it, if not, stay tuned for tomorrow) is/will be the question of self importance. Am I as an individual important, special, or am I nothing? Am I great or unremarkable? In this poem, I try to get across my beliefs on the matter, which are that while we are all important and valuable to ourselves and in our own lives, we are meaningless to the universe, because we are just a part of the fabric of life. Not an unimportant part, but one part of many. We are all, after all, parts of the universe. And that is both amazing and unremarkable all at once.

The Egg, by Andy Weir, and My Theories on the Mind

This is a revelation I imagine many people have had. I have it multiple times a year, and it is this: everyone has a mind.

It’s a very Matrix-y, Sci-Fi sort of thing to think about. On one hand, you could say everyone has a mind, everyone thinks, everyone talks to themselves and wonders about things. The problem is there’s no proof of that, and this is where the conspiracies come in, the ones saying the whole world is a computer program, or we’re all just brains in jars, basically every possible way of thinking that means the world is fake except for your mind.

I think that’s a very selfish way of viewing things. Why on earth would I be the chosen mind to be the real mind? And if I were making up the world I live in, wouldn’t I make it better? Eliminate the suffering? If I made up the universe and all that is in it, that must mean I’m a very cruel person.

There is a short story called The Egg by Andy Weir. It’s found free online, if you want to read it. The basic concept, spoiler alert, is that when you die you reincarnate as another person. You have done this many times, and will continue to do this until you have learned enough to become a god. You have to learn so much that you have had to reincarnate billions of times. Overall, every single person on earth, both alive today and throughout history, is a reincarnation of you.

I like this concept best, because it says a lot about nature versus nurture, the human spirit, and adaptability. It speaks of how we’re all the same deep down. I hate when people blame the badness in the world on monsters, curses, or the will of god, or search for something inhuman in our Hitlers. The scariest thing about Hitler was that he was human. We should not try to separate people like him from humanity. We have to realize they are part of us, and if we were in the same circumstances we very well may have grown up to be just like them.

So, while I like what The Egg teaches us, I don’t particularly think it’s true. I think each person has a mind and thinks complex thoughts. I think they’re all separate people, and I don’t think they’re all one reincarnated soul. But I also think if you look deeply enough you can find bits of yourself in everyone else.

Whenever I have the revelation that everyone thinks, that everyone is alive, I feel myself grow kinder, more patient, more forgiving. The fact that other people are alive is a fact we forget far too often. It’s such a simple fact, but hard to remember that others feel pain, and think, and feel, and love, just like we do.

The Egg, by Andy Weir

An Introvert in Paris

My roommate from last year went on a semester-long study abroad program in Europe. I sent her off yesterday morning and won’t see her until December. It’s a hard hit to take, but I’m happy for her.

Introverts aren’t antisocial, we are just…socially selective, for lack of a better phrase. We, or at least I, have a few very close friends, and not many others outside that circle. I love close relationships and burn out with small talk, so this situation works for me.

That said, my roommate from last year was my best friend in my college life, and now she’s gone for a whole semester. I knew that when she signed up last year, but it still isn’t any easier. She’s an introvert too, but her girlfriend is going as well as a few other friends of hers. Even still, the question remains…how do introverts make friends?

The short answer: I don’t know. Really, I don’t. I try to think back on how I got so close with my best friends from home, and with my boyfriend, and their origin stories are as foggy as trying to remember my birth. It’s as if they were there forever, and even though I can pinpoint the grade in which we became friends I can’t pinpoint the occasion.

I suppose it’s like how anyone makes friends. Talking to people…you see where the problem lies. One cannot overstep small talk, it’s the first step in being friends. You can either suck it up and do it, or be alone in your room forever–which, I know, doesn’t sound too bad, until you actually have to do that.

I wish there were a place where you could go and have deep conversations with people right off the bat, and then just start hanging out, getting ice cream, watching films. Like a dating site for introverts looking for friends. Or a coffee shop where instead of keeping to yourself you were encouraged to discuss the meaning of the art they hung up along the walls.

This post is kind of disjointed, but its disjointedness represents my feelings on the subject of how an introvert makes friends. There’s just no easy solution.

Either way, my roommate is probably just arriving, unpacking, breathing in the air and kissing her girlfriend under the Eiffel Tower. I hope she doesn’t spend too much of the semester alone in her room–although, I suppose she’s probably hoping the same thing for me.

Stormclouds over Boston

As I’m writing this, out my window stormclouds are gathering above the buildings of Boston. I’m letting the muted sunlight in through my window and thinking about the seals.

In the aquarium, by the sea, there are seals in an outside tank. You can see them without paying admittance to the aquarium. They swim lazy circuits around the tank, or hover with their noses above water. I wonder how they feel, when it rains. Does their tank start to feel like freshwater? Do they thrive for the cold droplets on their sun-baked skin? Do they think about how their water is being hit with the same rain as the ocean, and wish they could swim along the falling raindrops back out to sea?

I have conflicting views about animals, which would be impossible to get into fully now in just one post, and too heavy and political for me to deal with now, with the skies getting darker and no one around. But I think a lot about how animals feel, and not just captured animals. Wild animals. Somewhere out there, at least I hope, there is a whale that has never seen a human, or cared about what lay above the surface beyond air for its lungs. It is only bothered by whale business. Its family, food, singing, swimming. And I’m jealous.

Who am I, with my computer and limitless knowledge, my easy, fulfilling three meals a day? Who am I to be jealous of something that has to work for each meal? I may just be romanticizing. But I can’t picture anything more peaceful than being an animal.

The biggest argument against this is how dangerous animals have it. Turn your back and you’ll be eaten by a lion. Hunted by a human. You lose a meal and you lose your life. Sure, it’s dangerous. But then look at humans. Plagued by dangers we made up ourselves because we ran out of natural dangers. Our lives run by the imaginary idea of money. Separate from Earth. Without food to worry about we create other dangers. Worse dangers.

It seems it would be so peaceful to be a whale, or a snake, or a bird. At least then, life would make sense. Life would feel like being alive.

Posture, Maturity, and Wanting to be Old

The word “posture” sounds so high-class. I always imagine someone like Dame Maggie Smith slapping my slouching back with a ruler and telling me to watch my posture. It’s also a very easy word to repeat five or six times and start laughing at its loss of meaning.

I’m sure it’s good for my back to sit up straight. My back aches a lot, and better posture would probably make my back stronger, and allow for less unhappiness there. Plus, it makes you look professional and more mature.

As a person who could pass for a young teenager, it is often hard to get people to take me seriously. I’m not intimidating in the slightest, and was offered the children’s menu until I was about 16, which makes getting a job in a professional environment quite difficult to say the least.

In the spring of 2015 I got an internship that was huge for me, but before I showed up in the office I knew I had some work to do. I bought an all new wardrobe of work pants and “professional-looking” tops, wore only nice shoes, styled my hair every morning, and worked on my damn posture. Of course, I’m so introverted none of that really mattered.

I was uncomfortable in my costume and felt I seemed outrageously tall when sitting up straight. My hair was sticking up in the back for sure. I was insecure about the strangest things even beyond my appearance. I didn’t eat lunch because I was afraid someone would comment on my choice of meal. I only called clients when the air conditioner kicked in or one of my coworkers in a nearby cubicle was also on the phone because I felt my voice sounded silly. I made sure to go to the bathroom at least twice a day because more than once people commented on how little I left my cube.

It doesn’t matter how straight you sit or how nice your clothes and hair are. If you’re not confident, you’re not confident, and if you’re uncomfortable, you’re uncomfortable. For me, it all boiled down to age. I felt too young.

I realize being young is a quintessential part of being an intern. The whole point is that you’re inexperienced and not ready for a job, so you get an internship, I get it. But I felt like I completely didn’t belong due to my age, even though I was about the same age as the other interns. I knew they thought I looked young, and tried to stay out of their way, which led to me not talking, which led to my voice getting weaker, which led to a fear of eating in the office, which led to me being incredibly hungry four days a week for ten weeks.

I find nothing wrong with wanting to be older, wanting to be mature, or wanting better posture. Each of those are valid things to want. I would argue, however, that age does not define you. Buy more mature clothes, sit up straight, but finally and most importantly, act older. If I spoke clearly, they may not have treated me like I was over my head. If I felt accepted, I might have had the confidence to eat a sandwich during lunch hour. It all boils down to actions.

So, listen to Dame Maggie Smith and correct your posture. It just might help you feel older.

Scarves, Sweatshirts, and Loose-fitting Clothing

It is hot. Like, really hot. Like, “Can we please have class inside?” hot.

However, I am in the strange position of wearing scarves, sweatshirts, and loose-fitting clothing a grand majority of the time.

I recently made a post about wearing more professional clothing, which part of this follows. Tiny shorts, mini skirts, and tank tops are not even close to being professional, so the more modest clothing is okay. But, when I’m trudging to class, where some people are in pajamas and flip flops, there’s no need to dress like I’m doing something actually important.

Introverted doesn’t always mean insecure, and they may not even be related, but I am definitely both. These two things are huge driving forces to keep me tucked up in my room all the time–the exhaustion from too much social interaction, and the idea that I would be too awkward, too uncomfortable, too ugly while I’m there.

So, the clothing? With form-fitting clothes I’m always sucking in my tummy, making sure I’m not standing weird. I’d rather wear clothes that blur the outline of my body and spend my worrying energy on how my face and hair looks, or how my voice sounds.

Naturally, I’d rather not worry about anything at all, but the sad reality is that it’s hard to do that.

So I suffer in the heat to keep my head held a little higher.

My Philosophical Musings over Egyptian Jewelry

Today I went to an art museum! It was free with my college ID so I went with a couple of friends. I have only gone to a few art museums in my life, but not out of my own disinterest–rather out of others’ disinterest. I was very excited, especially because of the size of the museum we were going to.

I felt entirely humbled by the age of some of the pieces there, specifically the jewelry. I don’t know much about fashion or jewelry, but some of the pieces, specifically from the ancient Egypt section (some as old as 3000 BCE), were both stunning and ordinary at the same time. Meaning, while beautiful, they seemed just like a necklace a person of today would wear. The stones were bright colors, smoothly sanded and strung on thin string. The beads were intricately carved and the rings had designs I’ve seen at Claire’s–like a snake that wraps around the finger. The necklaces and other bits of jewelry were ancient, but seemed no different from the jewelry of today.

It made me think about how similar and yet how different humans are from one another. While we have enjoyed putting strings of pretty beads around our necks for millennia, and while similar practices have been found in most if not all cultures worldwide, if an ancient Egyptian met a person of today it would be as if they were meeting an alien.

Likewise, if we were to encounter a person from fifty years ago it would be incredibly difficult to communicate. Cultures change so quickly. I am not who I was ten years ago, and in ten years I will be different still, but I will wear necklaces. And I will still like to write, and like music. Some fundamentals won’t change. But maybe I won’t like bananas anymore, and start liking tomatoes.

I think it’s both important to find out what these core values are in ourselves. If we can figure out what about us will (likely) never change, we can get closer to who we really are, beneath all the fluff and stuff. That is, if there is something deeper beneath the fluff and stuff. That is, assuming the core doesn’t change as well.

As I was looking at the beautiful necklaces and trying to imagine how the weight would feel on my shoulders, I found I spent a lot of time wondering about the necklace’s history, specifically it’s past owners. Who were they? Were they women or men? Were they rulers or peasants? And the necklace itself, did it spend years in a box, in an attic? Did it spend some years worn lovingly every day, only to be lost between couch cushions and found years later?

The only permanent things about the necklace are also the only things we know about it: its age, its origin, and the color of its beads. I wonder if the same is true for me.

Long Distance Relationships

Ah, long distance relationships. It’s funny. My friend from Hong Kong said that many of his friends are in very successful long distance relationships and are literally across the planet from each other. So why do people freak out when their significant others go to school a few states away?

Age, maturity, fear of the unknown, and western society all play into it, as far as I can see. College kids don’t have the world-experience older people have, as much as I wish that weren’t true. Everyone is afraid of the unknown. And our society bangs into our head through television and other media that long distance doesn’t work.

We fetishize sex so much that it seems impossible two people could remain in love without it. This view is so juvenile I won’t even spend too much time on it. I’m in a long distance relationship, and I miss holding his hand more than his kisses. Physical closeness is the one big difference, but sex is only a small part of that. Cuddling, I would argue, is much more important. The little things. And it’s hard, but not impossible.

Maybe I’m just a product of my times, where it is so easy to remain in contact with people it seems dumb to assume distance means breaking up. Maybe I’m just naive. But in my opinion, if a relationship is meant to last, it will last, despite the odds and despite the distance.

So if you came here looking for advice, I’d say go for it.

Life as a Series of Wins versus Life as a Flowing River

There are two ways to look at life, I believe, and the title has given them away. The way I see it, viewing life as a Series of Wins is living day to day checking off little to-do boxes. Living life as a Flowing River means forgetting the boxes and just doing things as they come to you. The two ways align with the A and B personality types, if people still use that, and perhaps a bit with the left/right brain idea.

I’m not sure which is better, if any. Sometimes little check boxes are necessary. It helps to have things organized in a way that allows you to feel accomplished. As a kid I would sometimes put a gummy bear on the pages of my text books. After every five math problems or half a page of reading, I got a little prize. A little check in the box.

The cons of the Series of Wins is that it never ends. You are never truly done with everything, and this can lead to anxiety. Always trying to finish your list but always seeing another thing to be done. The house is never 100% cleaned, the laundry is never 100% done, the homework may be done for now but you’ll be assigned more tomorrow.

The Flowing River can be nice. Taking things as they come, doing what is necessary when it is necessary to do it. There is no endpoint, no beginning. It’s just things.

I think there can be less stress in the river, less anxiety, but also unfortunately less organization. The river may forget some obligations on the shore and never quite get them done.

Right now I’m living life as a Series of Wins and envying those floating down the river. Perhaps wins are inescapable in a society based on money. Perhaps we’d all be happier listening to Disney’s Pocahontas.