words written in the week of
June 25th to July 1st
in previous years.
This was 3 months, 27 days ago

I am here, this summer evening, sitting in the guest room of a dear friend's home; a friend I've known since high school. warm memories flood in. as we talk, or more precisely, as he shares, and as I appreciatively listen, it strikes me how much part of me was shaped by this friendship, how much of me was also formed, how malleable we were as human beings, and how malleable we still are. still molten lava, even if we are cooling. still being shaped into the people who we already are, who we are always becoming.

a small human, I see, volcanic rock, burning bright. when they're born they're like goo, she says, and now I imagine a blob of bright lava, already getting crisply dark and crimson at the edges. lava looks at me, and I look back; I look back, and she is bright and new and soaking in the world.


(in these Words I have committed to a kind of honesty. I dare not stop now.)


what resounds is a kind of sadness, an ache, a reverberation. will this happen to me? will I ever be here? will I have lived this life? I have lived many lives, I think. what is in store for this one? will I be a father? a spouse? a grandfather? an uncle? what lies in store for me, dear world?

do I not just surrender to the mechanisms of life? or to the magics of a life? will this not just emerge? will I not just be, as it will be? will it not just all unfold and make itself present in the ways that it might? will not striving be replaced with leaping, tension replaced with movement? am I not expanding here? am I not discovering, enjoying, becoming, showing, opening up? is this not also a way to live a life? is this not also?

as I travel west I feel a kind of yearning. what happens when my trip ends? surely, many people have asked this before me. did they all end at california? did they hurl themselves into the sea? did they watch the sun set over the water, all together, independent but companiable, a sangha of sunset-dwellers, witness the day's end? faces lit aglow together? was that what happened, together, but separate? is that how we might live our lives?

do I like to keep on asking questions for which the answer is a yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes?



slowly what is replacing me, parts of me, like a blood transfusion, or teeth growing in, or maybe just each cell regenerating itself constantly, is this other way of being. another way of living. I did not know that there were ways to live a life. or rather, I did know, but I just didn't know that they were possibilities for me, somehow, that I needed to, needed, must, an urgency of staying on a Path, not knowing that the path was the one I was already one, already unfolding. each mistake is a lesson. each encounter is a lesson. so far what I am learning is how to learn. sometimes I am disappointed. sometimes I am elated. sometimes things magically align. sometimes I am tired, and sick, and nauseous, and have to spend a day and too much money recuperating in a hotel room, six deliciously climate-controlled and impermeable walls and a bed in which I sleep, and sleep and sleep. sometimes it's possible to go too high too fast. sometimes we need to acclimate, and take it slow. sometimes it's possible to miss something you had really looked forward to attending, and if you miss it, you miss it; the train leaves. sometimes you are disappointed. and sometimes that disappointment is sure and solid and strong. sometimes that is the lesson.


what is emerging from this trip, this mega trip, is of how to meander, how to travel, how to live, how to make decisions, how to take care of my body, how to be me in a foreign world of (mostly white) humans, how to be alive in a natural world of nature. how to be alone, lonely, and in solitude, all of these distinct and different. what emerges sharply from all of this is the sense of finding (or making) the path, of the barometer that is my precious compass, that is my beautiful thin needle showing the way, that is my humming satellite, that is my delicious smiling singing harp, that says, smilingly, this way, and so I go, knowing that the path points towards me, warts and mistakes and all, everything a lesson towards becoming more me, wherever and however that leads me into, everything a beautiful lesson.

am I too young or too old for this? does it matter? I am emerging into the truth of the world, or at least, emerging into the questions that seek the truth, and I think I know what is being said, usually never directly, if at all, only hinted at. but if you know, you know. in this lies a beautiful me. and in seek of beauty and truth I go forth, my truth, the world's beauty, as wild as that might be, as wild and terrible and alive as it all might be, like the wind at the peak of a mountain, rushing towards me in screaming delight--


and one last note. what becomes distilled after the conference is that these are not truths for us to own. these have been out there, or they're already in us. I can no more sell or proclaim an access to these truths than I can sell access to the experience of picking one's own nose, a special kind of privileged experience-


in any case. hello hello hello hello hello. I am arriving. I see now, what those words mean. all of the cliches; they are there for a reason. I am arriving, I am becoming-present, I am taking form, I am existing here. I yearn, too; I yearn, and I long, and I hope, hope, hope, hope forth, also.

so much more in me, swirling around, trembling, resonating. but there are no coincidences. or rather, what will emerge will emerge. here I am, surfing on the waves of life, call it zeitgeist, a collective unconscious, or the cascading roiling waves of time, here I am, here I am, seeing what's next. excited to discover. anchored in a love for what is, and what might be (that was always)..

(future you: do you not get these words any more, or cringe a little bit? that's okay; I love you, smilingly.)


at last, I am arriving; at last!

This was 3 years, 4 months, 2 days ago

there's a lump in my throat. it's a kind of exciting lump. somehow it reminds me of large skies, of the midwest, of a future. of yearning. of joining. what could be? I want to get in a car and drive. I want to see what's out there. I want to journey forth and explore.

things could change. we could change. I could change. somehow I feel like this kind of future, a transformative future, is close. it's possible. it really requires me to radically reshape the kind of life I want to have, or rather, the kind of life I think I wanted to have. at some point I will stop and think: who am I? what do I want to do? what thrills me? what fills me with joy?

i believe in people and spaces. I want to help make wondrous spaces. but really it's all about the social, the ecology of people, the quiet emotions. I am an antenna for feelings. I feel the joy and calm and celebration and desire latent. I am fallible, I fail. I want collectivity but the 'right' kind of collectivity. is that it?

there is something to strive for. it's a making giving sharing working. what could it be? time to drive?

This was 6 years, 3 months, 27 days ago

it's a summer evening, strangely cool. palimpsestic overlays of past summer evenings, spent in another city, another town, unfamiliar neighborhoods, warm nights, walking home alone next to streetlamps and shrill horn sounds. mongolia, moscow, bangalore, ramallah, beijing, tokyo, chandigarh, mumbai, delhi, istanbul, amman, london, et cetera. (seoul? where does seoul fit into this?)

the point is to find some thread amongst all of these cities. cities, solo nights, the quiet walking home, to feel an unstabilized self, to feel the world soak in, to feel like a sponge. everything and nothing at stake. a lack of preciousness, a sense of the present. the ground beneath your feet.

somehow last summer in beijing floods in. a quiet cafe, here and there. the world churning by, in its speed and worldliness, another beautiful cafe going on. hungry excited people, moving and moving. a changing landscape. new towers, sprouting up. the future arriving, continuously, an a present at complete standstill. a cafe or garden so beautiful your heart would ache, momentarily. a group of friends, shooting the shit in interstitial spaces.


it's not so simple, any of these determinations.

for example:

to be joyful and playful for the self is often to be unstable and unpredictable for others. you do what you want, you play. yet with power, that means that you generate an atmosphere of instability, uncertainty, chaos for those who wrap their schedules around you.

conversely, to create an arena of safety and exploration for others means that you pledge to be infrastructure, to be supportive, to maintain a sense of continuity. infrastructure doesn't play around, but it lets others play around on it. to be infrastructure, you fix yourself to certain rules. social and shared improvisation happens through explicit and shared clarity, not through selfishness.

are you the one dancing, or the person who doesn't dance so that others can? are you the harried organizer that ultimately makes the experiment happen, the one who is having the least fun?

is it possible to play and also to create an environment where others can play, meaningfully? if I run a playful experimental hotel and then cancel my friends' reservations and get them to all sleep in a giant room for fun, this may sound impish to me, coercive and consentless to others.


perhaps my anger is, deep down, I believe: if I'm only having fun, if I'm purely pursuing what's interesting only, then I am not providing for others. to truly provide is to not fetishize the act of giving but to be dependable, friendly, compassionate. to be critical and concerned not for the sake of concept, but for the sake of making it work.

* * *

or: what is infrastructure? what is important? how does it clash with what is interesting? information would like to move at the speed of interestingness, flitting from new point to new point. importance; well, importance is a whole nother story.


deep down I think I have these glasses now, a prototype fashioned out of opinions and conviction, and when I put them on it's as if part of the world dips to transparency, becomes ethereal. questions becomes sharper and impossible to ignore. such as: what does this ultimately say? this fascinating news article, essay, as intricately interesting as it is: whom does it mobilize? how do we build upon it? who builds upon your work? does it just move information around? snippets of popular information anchor into my brain and then -- and then what? does it change how I live, how you live, how you eat, how we share physical bodily needs? does it get at rent, food, clothing, stability? Is it ever radical in these ways?

just information pushed around. just argument, opinion, as if they mean things. just critique, as if it's valuable. just theory, as if forms of pure thought themselves are operative, do anything what soever.

this is so seductive. at some point I mentioned this to H a year ago, and he valiantly attempted to make a distinction between good theory and bad theory, but lately I think this is not it. I think:

theories alter habits; habits are the engines of actions; actions give you new information; information becomes understood and alters theories.

without habits to alter, theories are like tomes of lonely planet travel guides stacked on your shelves, fascinating and ultimately stale without a process in mind.


that is: there's nothing wrong with theory. nothing wrong with bad or good theories. given enough time and habits and actions and information, the bad restaurant recommendations become forgotten. bad choices loop around the loop and generate bad actions, new information, changed theories, better habits, better actions.

theories are all fine and nice. left on their own, they will proliferate. without a habit to course correct, they will multiply wildly, like conspiracy theories that grow best precisely when there is little evidence or information, or your pattern recognition system of your eyes that will go wild in the dark trying to understand if that's a silhouette of a person or just a lump of sand next to this beach.

the bottlenecks are habits and actions.


again again:

If there's anything to be learned it's that the world is big --

-- but no really, seriously, it is very very big; it is more vast and more varied than you could ever imagine it to be; and you will grow to 'understand' it soon but will travel again one day and will realize, once more again, that it pushes beyond the edges of your understanding. If there's anything to be learned it's that it is easy to fall back into myopic positions of complacency, worrying, competition, self-comparison, where the real challenge is in the long run, with one's own being. That this is all but momentary, but what is as concrete as concrete can be are the small nonverbal material things: the gesture of an old woman wiping a table, a glass of tea being poured, the involuntary outward sigh after the first bite of food, the contorted wince when pain strikes a body, the elongation of time when one is sick or hurt, the slippage and transience of memory, and all the other things that find their origin in the body and grow outwards from it. And if you ever forget these things, or stop viscerally understanding that the world is big, then you need to travel (alone) again, and rediscover and remember and remember.

This was 9 years, 4 months, 6 days ago

As H. puts it; it's as if nothing I do here has any consequence, as if one were visiting somewhere else and seeing, for a moment, how different and autonomous and operative everything is. I am reminded of traveling in cities that, when you step into them, barely turn their face towards you, that are so caught up in their operation that you can take the time to stare at the profile of their face unabashedly, taking in pock-marks and scars and centuries' worth of character, built up and up. The casual sound of anonymous activity off of the street mixing up with paths of people going straight like self-directed arrows, flows without hesitation, movement vectors that come from a conviction borne from habit and ease. As a traveler you step into such a city and you wonder a little; you're the only one holding a map and standing still but you're also the only one listening at that very moment, feeling your own being ebb and flow in response to the knowledge that you are here, and not in all the other places you could have been in.

Straightforwardly put the lingering question that is applied on to everything is; why is this important? How does this matter to me? Where am I? Where could I be going? What choices constitute who I am? Casually put at a gathering of dear friends it's an existential crisis, and more easily attributed to experiencing income inequality or something, but it's more than that.

In Chandigarh, a vivid memory of that one stretch of road going to a high-end mall full of a/c and the nation's coldest beer, or so I hoped. That stretch of road, pitch-black, without any street lights, just pedestrians here and there suddenly lit by the headlights of autorickshaws passing, illumination punctuated by the tuk-tuk-tuk of two-stroke motors, and otherwise just a deep dark gradient setting on its way to night.

The mall was kind of heartbreaking, only in the congregations of families and kids running outside, near the fountain, and it tasted so much like a weekend night, of gatherings and things to do and how people spend their time anywhere doing anything, so strong and pungent and present of an activity, familial friendly unions pouring out of this place, cool summer night activities everywhere. How do you describe that? When you travel and drop the criterion of souvenirs and icons and guidebook dots and quirky destinations and pilgrimages, and instead let yourself stay still and slip into the night, like any other denizen, let yourself be overwhelmed by being there rather then moving -- then you realize those underlying textures, compositions of life, maybe more akin to what Korea was like for you more than ten years ago, sticky evenings spent lounging about with friends, time stretching long, a pace that lets things march when they do, silt passing through fingers, letting things flow. There it goes, this evening, that day, I find myself on a train, looking out the window, thinking about these things, moving my body to the rhythm of a place.

So I am back, and find myself not quite here yet, missing events and birthday parties and parties and skipping out on a panel because I am not yet quite here, I am elsewhere, thinking of somewhere else I ought to be; or maybe it is the other way around; I am here, not thinking of somewhere else I ought to be, so firmly here that I am hidden in the trees, or thinking at the bottom of the pool, or lying with my face buried in the grass, because what seems to matter to me are the foundational questions of why-do-what-you-do and understanding to a fullest extent the choices I have made to drive myself in such away.

Nothing like a trip to levitate foundations and to pause time, for a moment.

This was 12 years, 4 months, 4 days ago

franz ferdinand starts playing in this cafe (40.681998,-73.960205), and all of a sudden I am in India, walking along MG road (12.97446,77.607915), looking around, feeling lost. it is wet and it is damp. earlier in the day I had gone to Planet M, looked down at the CD of this Glasgow-based band, with a price tag starting with "Rs." somehow it seems utterly appropriate to buy the CD here; that is, not to listen to Indian music necessarily but to be true to this city here, total engagement in a city already engaged in this relentless global intertwining. The night is very dark and I know that I will go home, lie on one of the two empty beds, stare at the ceiling, have Larium-hazed dreams. whatever it is this sticky sense of disorientation from travel I miss, the isolation of having nothing but choice and choice and choice open to you. to where will you go and whom will you meet; and how will you choose to not do the millions of things that you will inevitably not doing?

having entered that country you cut yourself off, discard a thousand choices by walking this way, slough off a million other ones by stepping over here. you could have done this, or that, or seen this, or done that, but as the infinitude of an abstraction compresses down into a lived reality, your choices narrow. having carved out the little, thin tendril of what-you-did-there you reify a place, make it yours; by 'missing out' you engage in a multitude; by forgetting to do something you make it into a place you are now able to misunderstand.

This was 13 years, 4 months, 4 days ago

all I get is a whiff of darkened alleys and of headlights illuminating this street, and on a rocking ride home I am half-isolated looking out at the street wishing for a slight alterity. it's funny how much these spaces come as tangible moments, semi-metallic tastes in the back of my mouth, and -- all of a sudden -- I see and feel some sort of change in me like my heart's grown legs and taken one (or a few) steps on this set of stairs. all of a sudden, abruptly, immediately.

on the way back the cab driver starts falling asleep and I keep him awake with gentle banter, drive safe, man, drink some coffee, man, time for some gentle shut-eye, yeah. and as I'm rocking side to side in a car hurtling down dean st I think about the vectors in which I am traveling long and across, on the one hand parallel to on the other hand orthogonal to. whose vectors are these for? double disorientation making the sky so much darker, inkier.

and then another 'all of a sudden', I realize what it is is that I am apprehensive; it's the mild kind of apprehensive when drifting around with no plans in an unfamiliar country, when you're first establishing territories, first drawing your own lines of flight. apprehensive, which means excited for september, for august, for july. here we are hurtling towards something and I've got deadlines to keep and projects to fall back on and books to talk about and thinkers to argue with and people to miss, more than anything, and all I can think of is that in the moment everything works beautifully, comes together, elongates to stretch an entire frame. a stasis of present-photographed memory, maybe -- which is like nostalgia-for-the-present except I am not looking-forward-looking-back but rather simply here, looking at my hands and my feet in the now.

again again. f: 'have I worked so hard to not have changed?' here's to a loss of the ego, the transformation of my self from a recording-surface into a series of desiring-machines, a more conscious participant in the halting and stopping of flows, desires, movement, valence, vectors. d&g's 'desire' is best translated as a vector, the sharp point of an arrowhead cleaving the way for more things to come, an amplifier that opens things up. more more more?

This was 14 years, 4 months, 2 days ago

the funny thing is, I've been bubbling up with these phrases lately, but when I sit down to write, nothing comes out.


from the nytimes on an article about the acropolis museum: "As for the caryatids from the Erechtheion and the sculptural remains of the Temple of Athena Nike, including the sexy "Sandal Binder," works of textbook import, they look a bit stranded on a balcony and in a passageway because the museum, save for the Parthenon floor, doesn't have regular spaces. Free circulation puts everything on equal footing (this is the birthplace of democracy, after all), but the flip side of this layout is the failure to make priorities clear, which art museums exist to do."

tossed aside phrases meaning nothing. words like 'priorities' and 'clear' obscuring opinion under a mantle of objectivity. oh, come the fuck on. I'm always reminded how the nytimes feels so short and so lightweight.


tonight I walked back at 2am from the GSD building. pools reflecting overhead streetlamps above. when you walk here at 2am there's literally nobody in the street except a few cars passing you once every few minutes; nobody, nobody, for maybe half a mile ahead and behind you. On a thirty-minute walk I saw two people: one guy walking by in the distance, and a homeless guy slouched against the 24-hour CVS. it's sparse. there's a sparseness to this all.

In return I get: leafy trees through which sodium lamps shine, houses, quiet streets, faraway sounds of tires lifting themselves vertically off of the street making the distinctive sucking sounds of water being pulled up from asphalt. a quiet walk through which I think and think and think. listen to music. stop short. walk by banks st. where that gray cat will come and entangle herself around my legs and mewl at me when it's not raining.


it always takes me so long. what do I do? where am I going? I'd like to say something like "the truth is," dot dot dot and go on, but the truth is I don't have these truths and I am circling in mid air waiting to see what will happen. the guilt that accompanies this all is that in the midst of this holding olfa and xacto blades and sketching axonometric diagrams of movement and performing this process of abstraction (like the sense of cohesion you get when you start to think about a paper and feel the thesis coming together slowly skewering through several different themes and ideas) in the midst of this I realize that I've been feeling so vivid and fresh, like what I imagine the taste of bark on trees after a night's rain to be. and this is accompanied by a guilt. if for me there's my infinite hope in brennschluss it's here, the sort of finding of ways that appear, maybe this is the way, that sort of thing. firing forward. go, fire forwards as fast as you can. in the midst of this me and me there's you and you and you and you and I don't know a) what to choose and b) what my choices are. which way do I go? what is the right thing to do? what kind of person do I want to be?