Monday, November 29, 2010

and on the nature of daylight

I can't figure out if people actually think I'm a smart person, or if they see that I think I think I'm a smart person, or at least wish I were a smart person, and therefore they play along.

I just spent the last few minutes reading a collection dubbed "the 100 Best Last Lines from Books." I finally stopped, all I could do was shake my head. I can't stop marveling. I think it's true that the older I get the more I appreciate, however, I appreciate with too much fullness. I am almost overwhelmed by my appreciation, like a little kid who's just seen Superman for real. Sometimes it's hard for me to discuss things that I love, even, because even if I understand them well (which is only part of the time) I just can't break them down into little words, even though in many cases what I love so much is usually a series of little words. But no! I am too busy marveling!! Too busy trying to decide what great novel to read next (ALL OF THEM!) to actually begin reading a single one. Too busy thinking about what makes something beautiful that I am not trying to make anything. Still. I think my favorite last lines have to be from The Sun Also Rises, The Great Gatsby, 1984, I Capture the Castle, Tale of Two Cities (which I do not even like), and most definitely Catcher in the Rye:

"Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

Thanksgiving was last week. I can't ever remember having a really great Thanksgiving. None of my family's meals seem to have been memorable at all, I certainly can't think of any offhand. The food was always good, the Friends episodes were always good. One year I made cranberry sauce from scratch at my mother's insistence. It turned out all right. I think one year we went to the grandparents on my mother's side. I seem to remember having the traditional feast in their old, slanted, super-70's dining room with chairs that rolled.

My mother's parents were interesting people, particularly my grandfather. He had been very ill since before I was alive, so I didn't know him very well, and he was the first of my grandparents to die, so I didn't get much of a chance. But I always liked to think that he would have liked me. Grandma always favored the oldest girls in the family, and I was the runt for awhile aside from the one sacred BOY cousin of the family. After grandpa died she turned into a pretty angry woman for a few years which also happened to be my most awkward years, and she was mean to me alot of the time. Not so much in the two years before she died, but I was detached from her by then. And of course I had no connection to my father's parents. Or much of any other family in general. Thus I think I began to think of Grandpa as the one who would have loved me. Also, he was cool, he was in the air force-- the flying tigers!-- and he went to Casablanca once for some reason or other. Recently I was in conversation with my mom and I said that the drink I almost always get is a whiskey sour. She laughed and said that's what grandpa always got (if he didn't get just whiskey, haha). That made me happier than it should have. I know-- I'm doing what people do. Making a myth out of someone and forming them into who I wish they were. But of course, one never knows. I certainly don't.

Thanksgiving was spent mostly at my friend's house, talking, drinking tea, reading, and watching my friend and her sisters make use (one might even say abuse) their Ihome. There's a certain warmth in the kitchen there, and its mostly caused by all of the girls packing in, working on foodie projects or cleaning up, punctuated by dance sessions, much to the amusement and sometimes chagrin of their parents, whom they merely dance circles around (literally) until they soften by rolling their eyes. I have to say, though, that the best part of the whole day was when a Frank Sinatra song came on and the girls started to foxtrot about. Their mother looked up from the massive amounts of mashed potatoes she was making and started to bob her head, and soon she was dancing cheek to cheek with her daughter. They danced all the way through the song. That was nice, almost surreal, like something that doesn't actually happen in real life.

After all that we packed in the car to go to Malibu, where the virtual family reunion occurs, and alas we did not eat until 10. Maureen and I and her cousin sat at a series of assembled TV tray tables (..70s-looking), which added an extra element of the absurd. The turkey was all right, but the rest of the food was achingly good, damn the mashed potatoes, damn all of the mashed potatoes. The conversation was the usual-- I see this extended family about once a year and I never remember anything about anyone (and vice versa) so other than reaquaintance there's not much to talk about. Not for lack of trying. One year a communist was there and led a gigantic discussion/argument about freewill vs. predestination, but he's gone back to Europe now.

The best gift my mother may have ever given me, aside from birth, is my heating pad. In a heaterless back room that used to be a garage, in very cold temperatures, I would like tah freeze, but not so, says the heating pad. My feet are happy and thus I am warm.

I have found three new names that I like: Anderson, Jude, and Kendall. I like names that might've been last names for some reason. I had a thought yesterday that I just really needed to marry someone with the last name of Anderson because I like it so much, and then I thought, ha. What about a first name? Anderson Barnett.

I am currently listening to Sufjan Stevens' "That Was The Worst Christmas Ever." Towards the end his refrain is "silent night, nothing feels right..."

I finished East of Eden the day before Thanksgiving, and five bottles of wine on the day after. I enjoyed both, but I suppose East of Eden wins. I thought it was interesting that I should be so drawn to read that story at the moment because its overarching theme is freewill. Discouraging, how limited human beings can be, but encouraging to know that we can do all things. As they say in the book, Timshel, the Hebrew word that God used to tell Cain that he "could" or "may" find salvation if he went the right way, if he tried. God says Cain may attain what he needs. God does not say he will. It's not a promise to look out for Cain, it's God's reminder that He's around but ultimately Cain makes his own choices. He killed Abel. Tough cookies, Cain.

That's something I think of and worry about. It's glorious, and much the foundation of my faith to know that we have free will. However, it is another sublime thought, once that becomes overwhelming as I marvel at it like the last words of a Salinger or Steinbeck book. On the days when I feel like I just can't, I simply can't even think of trying to be good in ANY WAY, I wonder if that's a true estimate or if I simply don't want to at that moment. Because surely if I wanted to be good I'd work at it. No. We have to work at it even when we don't want goodness, we have to work at it all of the time for goodness to exist at all.

I'm tired. I look forward to sleep.


Laura Allyson said...

"One year a communist was there and led a gigantic discussion/argument about freewill vs. predestination, but he's gone back to Europe now."

This made me ridiculously happy for some reason. You should put this in a book... victory will be yours.

Sonja said...

I think you're a smart person. :)

Hmmm. Last lines. I haven't really considered those before.

It sounds like you had a nice Thanksgiving - I'm glad.

I drank a bottle of wine on Saturday. By myself. Let's just say I've lost my alcohol tolerance because I haven't drunk for so long.

As a Christian, I could never reconcile the idea of free will with the theory of Original Sin. As an atheist, I think good will is an idealistic concept about on par with the concept of soul mates. Which is kind of a shame, because I think it's one of the most fascinating idea that literature can explore.