Thursday, January 20, 2011

a new direction

I'm not entirely sure anyone reads this anymore, given that I did a terrible job continuing posting as I traveled around China. In my defense, Internet was very limited and somehow it just didn't seem as exciting to post months later about the funky tofu I got from that street vendor or the ancient Tibetan cowboy who tried first to grope me and then feed me yogurt....

In any case, this blog is taking yet another new direction as I finish up my master's and make the transition to a doctoral program, wherever it is that I end up. One of the things I spent a great deal thinking about in China is the concept of amor fati, which is a Nietzchen concept meaning "love of fate." The essential idea is to find the beauty and truth in everything--the good, the bad, the ugly. To find a little joy even in the mundane. I realized: I don't need to travel around the world to find something beautiful meaningful. All I need to do is open my eyes now and then and see what is around me. So often we all run around from activity to activity without pausing to appreciate the the icicles on the awnings, the steaming mug of tea, the new stash of Post-Its in the office cupboard. So from here on out, I'm going to post a little something that makes me happy, if for no other reason than to...well, make me happy. 

To begin, the poem that inspired it all:

Amor Fati

Everywhere I look I see my fate.
In the subway. In a stone.
On the curb where people wait for the bus in the rain.
In a cloud. In a glass of wine.

When I go for a walk in the park it's a sycamore leaf.
At the office, a dull pencil.
In the window of Woolworth's my fate looks back at me
through the shrewd eyes of a dusty parakeet.

Scrap of newspaper, dime in a handful of change,
down what busy street do you hurry this morning,
an overcoat among overcoats,

with a train to catch, a datebook full of appointments?
If I called you by my name would you turn around
or vanish round the corner,
leaving a faint odor of orange-flower water,
tobacco, twilight, snow? 

I love Katha Pollit: her poetry is so simple, yet elegant and poignant. I wish I could write with such clarity! I love the possibility of this poem: the idea of finding joy in the grayness of a subway stop, of the humanity of people pressed together in the cold on their morning commute, of a solitary glass of wine, of a mysterious stranger passing by.