Tue, 28 Sep 2004


k-ci and jo-jo "all my life"

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It is interesting how travel to a distance place defines a boundary in time. Less opaquely, my trip to NYC sort of divides things into pre-vacation and post-vacation.

I admit. I am making a mountain out of a molehill.

I feel changed, as usual, by this trip. Which is interesting since I really didn't do much that was different from what I usually do when I'm out there. Walk around what is essentially a gigantic outdoor mall called Soho. Check out Central Park, the museums. Visit friends who I haven't seen for a million years and who try to eke out a few minutes out of their busy schedules just to meet up. Take the subway everywhere.

On one hand, I left with a tinge of sadness. I suppose the end of vacation is always tinged by a little sadness. But my friends and family out there in the city—expatriate Californians, the lot of them—are dear to me, and I miss them. The Internet and cel phones with monstrous amounts of minutes make the barrier of distance more permeable, but nothing beats being face to face and hanging out and just shooting the shit with an old friend.

But, now that I am on the other side, just waiting to go back to work, I realize for truth that I would not have survived easily there.

The illusion of being able to stay in touch is easy to fall for when you're on vacation, but the sad reality is that without extraordinary effort, even if you live across the street from one another, it is hard to not feel isolated. Even here, surrounded by family, the loneliness will sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night, this hole inside me aching, and me not knowing at all how to stop it from doing so.

I am slowly growing used to the notion that, no matter what, at the end of your life, you are alone. Now, I am, statistically speaking, nowhere near the end of my life, but, the point is, I am trying to grow accustomed to the idea that loneliness is an unavoidable aspect of the human condition.

But the reason this particular song struck me as I was letting iTunes meander through my rather incoherent music library is that it makes me think of my second trip to NYC ever, back in 1997.

I was still in college, and it was a family vacation with my parents and my brother and my sister, the first stop in an East Coast cavalcade that would eventually run down to Virginia Beach. We stayed in Midtown, and did all the tourist things. The Empire State Building. The Statue of Liberty. Times Square. Watching a musical on Broadway. The World Trade Center. (Me and my brother have this now eerie picture with the WTC in the background.) Shopping on 5th Ave. St. Patrick's Cathedral.

I think back, and I still remember just who exactly it was I had a crush on at that time. It is interesting to reflect on how I actually had hope back then, however misguided.

I was struck, however, by the fact that despite being surrounded by 15 million people in an area that is probably just on the scale of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL, it is still possible to feel completely alone.

I do not understand why I have allowed the aftermath of that time in my life to continue to haunt me to this day.

It's like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, really. You can figure out the causal chain of events, but you can never really pinpoint what exactly made you become the way you are. It will forever remain a mystery, the complex way that certain events in my life have conspired to lock me in to a particular behavior.

You know you're in trouble when you start entertaining the possibility that you are still right, and all the 6 billion other people in the world are wrong.

But this is all very cryptic, and I don't expect anyone to read this and understand what the hell I'm getting at. I have a feeling that a week from now, I'll read this entry and even I won't understand what the hell I'm talking about.

I was glancing briefly at Chuck Palahniuk's non-fiction work entitled Stranger than Fiction. His prologue brought up the interesting dialectic of the human condition. When we are in a crowd, we long to be in solitude. When we are alone, we start feeling lonely, and long to be in a crowd. I think it is more complex than just the "grass is always greener" syndrome. I think that it borders on pathology, just one hair shy of dissociative disorder. We want these two things simultaneously. We want to be alone, but we want to be around other people.

Or, to personalize it a little, every time I long for a relationship, someone always manages to point out the fact that a lot of times, there is a lot of pain and suffering involved.

Honestly, at this point in my life, though, I don't know what's worse. The aching, hollowing, sinking, sharp, stabbing feeling of heartache, or this dull, drear numbness that I currently wallow in. To feel pain or not to feel at all. That is the question.

I also finished Idlewild on the plane, which is by Nick Sagan (who, incidentally, happens to be Carl Sagan's son.) One of the little tangents he touches on is the question as to whether pain will be implemented in virtual reality. And the fact of the matter is that pain is a product of evolution. Pain serves an adaptive useful function. Without pain, we'd constantly be doing things to ourselves that would be fatal. A nice little cut here, followed by an infection, followed by gangrene, then septicemia, then death. This is one of the side effects of leprosy, by the way. It eats away at your nerves, and you cease being able to feel pain in your hands and feet.

But I suppose there is a difference between physical pain, and psychic pain, the pain that arises purely from the mind, and yet eventually manages to ravage the entire body. This kind of pain is real, but it's an open question as to whether it's really useful. Especially in my life, currently.

There's got to be another alternative besides pain or numbness.

Now the question is how the hell do I figure out what that alternative is?

01:09:56 28 Sep 2004 > /playlist > permalink > 12 comments


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