How many times can you listen to Kids by MGMT before your brain turns into mush?

April 9, 2009

Ugh.  Can’t sleep.

Fire inspector is coming by tomorrow, along with my landlady… and I’ve got a pile of empty cans of diet coke hiding around this place.  A few beer bottles, too.  I feel like a crazy junkman.

So I’ve got nothing to say, really.  I’m super-disgustingly busy with school and work lately.

School is going really well.  Handed in my penultimate packet.  One more and I’m done – MFA in hand… off to… death in anonymity.  Actually, that’s not really true – I’m getting better and better.  That’s not ego… anyone who knows me knows that I have no ego about what I write.  But I’m starting to realize that I’ve got at least some skill… so it’s only a matter of time before I start publishing things.  And what a fun day that will be.  Totally gonna shake my penis at traffic when I get my first acceptance letter.

So what’s new otherwise?  A bunch of stuff.  Jamie and I are long lost siblings.  I ate Vietnamese food for the first time (and it was a symphony of taste, winging itself amid the cavern of my mouth like on dulcet, gossamer filaments of gleaming glee – what the fuck am I talking about? I’m so tired).  Jamie and I made friends with a fop and a lioness, and I adore them both.  I was invited to join a baseball team called the “Dandyfops” for which I believe I am entirely qualified.  I’m still captain datatron from the planet date on the outer-spiral arm of the date galaxy.  I’m planning on reconnecting with two former-girlfriend-related friends, now that I’ve realized that my exgirlfriend’s feelings on the matter aren’t worth even a scrap of my respect.  Being lied to for months will do that to you.  What a waste of my fucking time.  Really.

Slag.

So what else?  I’ve replayed that same Kids song, again.  Stop me.  Come over here and clip off my fingers and stop me.

Oh… speaking of kids.  I’ll talk about my students.

You know what’s weird?  When you realize that there really is a line between generations… and that you’re standing on it.

Today I asked my students how many of them ever kept a journal, either currently or in the past.  None of them.  How many wrote poetry when they were sad?  None.  Made collages or drew in sketchbooks or built little shrines to their music idols?  None.

So how did you express or explore what you were feeling?

“We didn’t.”

What did you do when you were sad, then?  I asked.

“Partied.”

With each passing week, my class comes to better understand that the one constant thread throughout all of British literature (and indeed of all art, when you get right down to it) is the chronicling of the human condition.  The exploration of what it is to be a member of this confused, often lovely but ultimately fucked species.  “Everything’s about death!” one of my students said to me the other day.

“Exactly,” I said.

Is it just a product of their youth that death is such a foreign concept?  It wasn’t for me.  Of course, I had a personal experience with it when I was younger… but that hardly makes me special.  A few of them have had to have lost a grandparent… maybe a friend to alcohol poisoning or suicide… fuck, a goldfish.  I’m not saying I want them all to become morbid little dirge machines or anything… but it’s as if they ignore the concept altogether.

I don’t want to call them shallow – because that’s cruel, and I actually really adore every one of them – this is a really good class this semester.  It’s nothing personal at all.  I think it’s generational.  When I think back to high school – and not only for me, but for pretty much everyone – it was all about angst.  Nothing defines a generation quite like an album called, “Nevermind,” – a title which always bespoke a desire to be understood, strangled by the cynical belief that nobody will even bother to listen.  I spent so many years feeling tortured and alienated and alone and weird and scared… and sure, it was all absurd and totally 16 of me… but when I look back on it, I think it helped develop me into an emotionally healthy person.  Well… as emotionally healthy as I can be.

“Is there something wrong with happiness?” one of my students (who’s nowhere near as smart as she thinks she is) asked me the other day.  “What’s wrong with only being hapy?”

“Nothing at all – but there’s more to life than happiness,” I said.  “Why?”  “Because it won’t last,” I said.  “That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t cling to it when it comes – drink it up – suck the marrow out of it (I actually talk like that, I know, I’m obnoxious)… but to intentionally blind yourself to 50% of what life is (sorrow, loss, mortality, alienation, etc.) is not only to set yourself up for a fall – since happiness fades into sorrow, and sorrow lifts back to happiness and on and on… but also to deny yourself a fundamental element to what it is to be human.  As awful as sorrow is… it is distinctly human.  Why deny yourself the right to hurt?  Hurting is part of being alive – best to understand it.”  Obviously that wasn’t verbatim.

My students think I’m a big, black poison cloud of death.  My ex-gf told me once that she thought I was an unhappy person – little did she know.  A week ago my mentor asked me if I’m in some kind of emotional crisis – though in that case it was a bad sample, she’s a California granola dryad yogi who, I think, thinks everyone is a little nuts – and I’m a pushy loudmouth from New Jersey who cackles as he cries.  It’s sweet that she thought I needed help, though – even if it speaks to a complete misunderstanding of my personality.

Why is a fascination with sorrow necessarily a sign of unhappiness?  I’m much happier now that I have been for a really really long time, actually.  But because I try to show teenagers the marriage of gain and loss, of life and death, bliss and sorrow… that makes me a downer?  It’s not even like it’s me!  Bitch, that’s English literature.  Don’t hate the player.  That’s what art is (was, rather – before it became about what it is to be a gay, Dutch-African, transgendered, Green Communist, Vegan, Republican, Widow reformed-drug addict woman – ugh… I’m so tired of particulars… give me back my forms – give me back my Romantics).

It’s the excitement I show, I think.  I get really animated in class.  “Why do you like death so much?” one of my students asked.  “Because it’s the one thing we’ve all got in common,” I said.

Does finding beauty in tragedy make me an unhappy person?  I don’t think so.  Does loving minor chords over major chords mean that I’m in some kind of emotional crisis?  Hardly.  Christ… I just watched an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with Jamie tonight, after we spent hours laying around on the couch, talking about girls and boys and stuff.  That’s pretty damn chipper if you ask me.

It frightens me to talk to my students.  What kind of adults will they become if all they’re drawn to is happiness?  Of what value is it when not pressed up against sorrow for comparison?  Jewelers rest their diamonds on sheets of black velvet for a reason – the juxtaposition conjures their luster.  It makes them shine that much brighter.  Why am I the only person who understands this?

Maybe it’s cultural.  Maybe it just comes down to
the fact that I’m a contrarian, and I live in a culture where the primary goal is to feel good.  “Feel good!  Here, have a TV show about an unremarkable starlet who binges on cocaine and kamikazes!” says America.  “Eat shit and die – I’m going to feel sadness to feel good… and then watch star trek and look at pictures of puppies on the internet for three hours,” I say.

What are we doing to our kids – always pulling them out of the shade to bask endlessly in the sun?  What kind of person does that make?

A boring one.  That’s what.

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