Love isn’t onion breath

Day 50: Friday

Morning, Tim!

Yesterday wasn’t my best day. Nothing dreadful happened. Much worse has happened in my life, let alone others’. But it still wasn’t good.

I spent nearly 13 hours in a windowless room. Lunch was catered in, and we worked through it. Breath after eating Middle Eastern food is potent; multiply it by 40, heat it up – not one of my top 5 favorite smells. Following work I went to school, listening to my professor lecture about investments for 2 hours without pause. Good stuff.

Upon arriving home, I nestled in, just thankful for the day to be done. I complained to my wife, who simply listened. I was grateful.

But then it got much better.

For our first anniversary (months ago, now), my wife made me a box of presents. Envelopes to open at different times given the occasion — perhaps a wonderful day, perhaps boredom. All of these envelopes had letters fitting the occasion, a way to make me smile. Many had a present accompanying. One letter was when I needed to feel handsome — a beautiful note of encouragement, a pep talk, and a mirror to show me what she sees.

I had forgotten about these, but am thankful to have stumbled upon them last night. I opened the box, rifled through it a bit, and was thoroughly blessed to find this:IMG_1074.JPG

One was for having a bad day.

In it there was yet another beautiful letter, comforting me. Not knowing one bit about my day the near year ago when it was written, it was just what I needed. It also contained this gem:

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which should make anyone smile. Especially me. Puns are the best.

You may have noticed the Gift #2 on the envelope. In case you’re curious, it was a book – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. So I read it in a silly voice, and felt much better.

It’s great to feel known, cared for, loved.

My day wasn’t so bad after all. I drifted off to sleep, cherishing as always the sound of John Cage’s 4’33’’ as my eyelids slowly came to a close.

Until Monday,

Zak

A few random thoughts…

Day 49: Thursday

Good morning Zak,

Some writers prefer keyboards with strong “key action.”  They like the computer to make loud satisfying click sounds as they write.  Author John Green says that the rhythmic thud of the spacebar contributes to his flow and drives his writing forward.  I’m writing this entry on a Mac computer, which have notoriously soft…  Wait a minute.  Shhhhh… Do you hear that?  That music?

The piece you are hearing is titled 4’ 33’’.  It was composed by John Cage in 1952.  I’m not sure what it sounds like to you, but where I am sitting, it includes the occasional opening and shutting of doors, the flow of water as a roommate uses the bagno adjacent to my room, and the depressingly quiet trickle of tiny little key clicks.

Okay, so technically these sounds aren’t really John Cage’s 4’33’’.  No one’s performing that piece here at the moment.  But in a way, 4’33’’ is a song that’s always happening: you see, Cage’s composition calls for the performer to sit at their instrument and do nothing for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.  During this period of time, just like during any other period of time, sounds will occur naturally by chance.  People will breath, cough, shift in their seats…  Someone might fart or drop something…  It might start raining outside…  Cage claims that all of those collective noises are a piece of music.

Anyway, Zak, I think your movie reference is exactly on point. The Brother’s Bloom portrays our concept of “poetic vision” quiet nicely.

“The reason I like the movie so much is because there is just that—commitment to the story: […] the perfect con, where in the end everyone gets just the thing he wants.”

There’s something very compelling about the image of a master con artist insidiously working all things together for some calculated purpose of his.  I think at some level we all would kind of like to imagine an artist like that working behind the apparent chaos of our lives.  It’s a common thing to wish for—almost cliché.  I mean, wouldn’t it be great to know that life is guided by poetic vision and not by mere chance?

“Indeed, when someone said that there was in nature, just as in animals, a mind, a cause of the good, cosmic order and of all the arrangement of things, he seemed like a sober man compared to those before him, who argued otherwise.”

-Aristotle, Metaphysics 984b

Who can say how much truth there really is in this kind of idle fantasizing.  I once tried having a conversation with the allegedly conscious “mind in nature.”  Then I stopped a moment and thought about what I was doing.  I was just a crazy man talking to trees.  I could say the trees were conscious if I’d like… if that would bring me some kind of consolation.  But what would I mean by conscious then?  I could also say that my potato salad is in love with me.

Anywho, the weird thing about John Cage’s piece is… well… John Cage.  I mean, did Cage really compose it if he doesn’t have a say in how it sounds?  Usually I think of an artist as an individual with some kind of conscious agency in their work.  A lot of people find the sounds of nature to be beautiful, but we have difficulty agreeing about whether there is a poetic vision behind them.  Poetry normally has an author.  Someone rhythmically hammering away at the cosmic space bar, driving the story forward to its end.

Until tomorrow,

Tim

Suspected bibliophile

Day 44: Thursday

Morning, Tim!

Tim, It should be obvious to long standing Thily Fin readers that you are quite the avid reader. Not only do you regularly write and cite poetry, you also go into roots and philology. Hopefully you don’t (regularly, at least) fall prey to the Etymological Fallacy

What readers may not know is that I have (outside of Thily Fin) accused Tim of liking old books (note to readers: if you did know this…well I guess I don’t want to think about that scenario). Tim has adamantly denied that he likes old books simply for the sake that they are old – it is the content that matters. In other words, he wouldn’t judge a book by its old cover…

Now Tim, I came across this article and found it particularly intriguing. You see, a man checked out some library books throughout the year, similarly perhaps to how you and our readers might use libraries. He was a bit different, though. To paint a fuller picture, he checked out over 2300 books!! That’s quite remarkable. Importantly, his motive was a bit paradoxical. Because books infrequently checked out fall prey to algorithms (blast you, technology!) which help cull dated material to create room for the new, he was checking these books out to ensure they did not leave the shelves. However, he also wanted these books to be read by future patrons – to get taken off the shelves. I’m sure the authorities pointed out this wonderful logic “WHICH IS IT?! DO YOU WANT THEM ON THE SHELVES OR NOT?! Guess he couldn’t make up his mind…

That’s a silly little spew of consciousness. The other, perhaps more interesting take on the story, is a warning. Tim, when I first saw this story, I immediately thought the culprit might by you, secretly embarrassed by the voracity with which you bring to learning. Unwilling to confess your secret, you created this story to throw everyone off the scent, only to have it backfire with repercussions. Thankfully I realized it couldn’t possibly be you — 2300 books is way too few.

Until tomorrow,

Zak

Wisdom

Day 43: Wednesday

Good morning Zak,

So you might know that in ancient Greece an idiotês was what they called a person who withdrew from society and kept private.  We might say, someone who kept their head in the sand.  In the context of Athenian democracy, this type of individual was viewed very negatively, since individuals who kept to themselves rather than engaging with society were seen as a threat to the political system—a system based on public discourse.

By the way, the word īdiotês is based on the same Greek root as the English word “idiot.”

But you’d have to be an idiot to think that knowing the Greek somehow gives you a more proper understanding of the modern English.  If you subscribe to this line of thinking then you are falling for what’s known as “the etymological fallacy.”  That’s a fancy term we non-elitists use to stigmatize certain elitist philologists—people who clam to have a superior understanding of proper uses and usages as a result of their knowledge of where words come from.

“Proper,” by the way, comes from the Latin adverb proprius, which is close in meaning to the Greek word idios.

These days, the general consensus is that language is best understood in terms of both diachronic and synchronic analysis; this means that we need to look at not only where modern words come from, but also how they relate to other words within the same modern language.  A proper idiot is clearly not the same thing as an idiotic idiot.  Right?

The one type of analysis I haven’t seen anyone yet consider is metachronic analysis.  Perhaps, an idiot is not merely distinct from an ancient idiotês nor merely from other people who exist synchronically—at the same time and in the same society.  An idiot, in the truest, fullest sense of the word, is an individual.  Someone who must be analyzed outside of time all together.

Maybe human identity isn’t only about other people who come before or at the same time or even after.  Maybe it’s also about the human as an individual.  A man who chooses to wear a yellow bow tie exists not only in relation to past and present fashion trends.  He also exists outside of time all together, in relation to all possible men with and without every possible kind of neck piece imaginable.

A good philologist is someone who also considers unusual uses and usages…

Until tomorrow,

Tim

Bow ties

Day 42: Tuesday

Morning, Tim!

I wanted to leave you a Surprising Saturday Something. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

You see, Tim, you have a thing for neck-ties, particularly bow ties. I’m sure this part is actually no surprise to you – evidence points directly towards it. Whether it be a noodle or something worn around the neck, you like them. And the evidence on this blog is really only slight compared to the evidence I’ve amassed about your true passion.

And I like bad puns and humor generally.

So how do these combine?

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This gem.

I hope to find more soon.

Until tomorrow,

Zak

every post ever

Day 31: Tuesday

Good morning Zak,

Random observation. Random observation. Random observation.

Random observation. Random observation. Link to something interesting. Random observation.

Vaguely-alluded-to politically-correct personal opinion. Eureka! Maybe this is it… the point I’ve been making all along… connecting all the random observations…

Contradiction of the opinion.

Random observation. Random observation. Pop music is formulaic.

Until tomorrow,

Tim

Decisions

Day 29: Thursday

Good morning Zak,

When I was in high school, I had a philosophy teacher who asked the class one time to close our eyes and imagine somewhere we would like to be if we could be anywhere in the world.  When we opened our eyes he asked if the place anyone had imagined was room 312 YC high school.  I was the only one who raised their hand.  Maybe I was over thinking things, but if I really wanted to be somewhere else, wouldn’t I just get up and leave?

Zak, I know Thursday is a work day for you.  Maybe this letter comes to you over your lunch break.  In fact, I’m willing to bet a strong majority of our readers join us here on Thily Fin from cramped little office spaces.  Zak, I know you love your job, but many people don’t.  My question to those who don’t like being at work is this: why don’t you just leave?

Another one of those moments when I picture my future employer coming across this blog of ours…

I enjoy going to classes at the music conservatory here in Milan Italy.  Most of my composition classes here begin with the Maestro asking me a question: hai lavorato, “have you worked?”  This is a very routine way that we begin.  I answer him with a si and then hand him whatever I’ve written that week.  But our conservatory is the kind of place where other answers would probably be equally acceptable.  I get the feeling that I could come in one day: “have you worked?” “No, I didn’t work this week.  I just sat in the park and listened to the sounds of the people walking by.”

Leaving your work would be an administrative decision that you make about the infrastructure of your life.  We don’t make those kind of decisions on a daily basis.  Most of life is about finding beauty in the mundanity of a fairly regular routine.  Of course, the option to change that routine is always available.

My Maestro tells me he once had a student who would visit other eras.  She’d come in: “have you worked?” “No, I couldn’t work this week, I was in the Middle Ages.”  The student was supposed to write three minuets, but week by week she would show up with nothing.  Finally my Maestro told her, “spend this week in the eighteenth century, and you’ll write me three perfect minuets.”  And according to the Maestro that’s exactly what happened.

Some decisions are made for us.  The other night I decided to go to a performance of the Mozart Coronation Mass at the little parish down the street.  This was another one of those times when bad music was better than good music.  I’ve never heard the Coronation Mass quite like that before, but I doubt if I’ve ever felt quite that much spirit in a room either.  Everyone was beaming afterword, including this one lady:

“do you go to our church?”

“who me?”

“do you like to sing?”

“um…”

“will you sing in our choir?”

“I…”

“you don’t have time?  Oh you must come sing with us.  Here I’ll show you where we have rehearsals.”  She brought me around the back of the Church, and told me to come there the next day at 9 in the evening.

She was just beaming.  If that old lady were a piece of music, she’d be written in F sharp major—a sharp for each ridiculous impulse that pops into her head.  “And now this is where you find out I really have a screw loose.  Every time I pass this statue of our Lord and savior I give him a nice little greeting.  ‘Good evening Lord.’” She shook hands with the statue.  “It’s just that he has his hands spread out like that, and I don’t know…

“This way you make some connections.  Life in the city is, can be very cold sometimes, and…” She looked at my jacket zipper.  “You’re freezing!  Button up.  Life in the city is very cold, all the people walk around with their noses in the air.  This way you can make some nice friends.”

Until tomorrow,

Tim