Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

The problem with being 40.  §


© 1983 Bruce Nauman (art) / 2004 Aron Hsiao (photo)

Being 40 years old has this kind of terrifying truth to it.

You’ve been around long enough to know what’s real and what’s not, and to know more or less where you stand on things. That end to the superficial mysteries of life can take your breath away; it’s not so easy to live in denial any longer, and there aren’t all that many harmless mysteries left in your life to solve.

With all of the easy answers undeniably found, you’re left with the truth about yourself and others, and with the deep questions, the ones that everyone wonders about but no one is really sure they want to solve.

— § —

What sort of fool fails to pursue success to their greatest potential?

The sort of fool that is worried that success and answers to the big questions are orthogonal—that finding success is a kind of off-ramp from real life, a way of becoming comfortable enough to postpone all reckonings until one’s death bed.

The kind of fool that, in an ascetic, monastic impulse, thinks they have to discover a secret of some kind before they can allow themselves to move on, because otherwise, life and all of its joys and suffering will have been for naught, worldly success or no.

— § —

Sometimes these days I feel rather like I did twenty-five years ago.

I look around and I see people that are all exactly the same. They share the same types of things with others. They talk about the same topics. They all hold the proper opinions of the day, related to the proper issues of the day. They have the same Facebook photos: either duckface or wry smile, then “adventure photo” of some kind in a faraway place that was once exotic and difficult to reach but is now an object of easy middle-class consumption, then a smiling photo with friends, most likely at an implied party, then a photo having a drink, then a photo in swim attire that they’ve consciously selected to try to wink about the fact that they’re in swim attire and pretend that it’s “just another photo of a fun life.”

They all signal their virtues: open-minded, adventurous, outgoing, ironic, sarcastic, tolerant, worldly, making it, eco-conscious.

They are as boring as fuck. Seriously. They have nothing to say and nothing to contribute. They may as well not be there.

That’s the darker side of why some fools might not pursue success to the best of their potential. Because they understand that this is what everyone else does, and they can see the results, and they want no part of it.

— § —

I know, I know. It’s just that I want to know real people and I struggle to find any. Sure, there is a real person underneath all of that somewhere, but it is well and truly hidden away, cemented over until old age or cancer or something.

I want to know more people like José the tow driver or John the building super. Real people. Or people that I knew at the University of Chicago, every last one of them insane but wonderful. People that I can learn from.

— § —

A worthwhile person is not one that holds all the right opinions, demonstrates all the right behaviors, and encourages wayward children to recycle.

A worthwhile person makes life and reality larger, more beautiful, less reducible, and more—worthwhile.

— § —

Wristwatches. Wristwatches are still amongst the most beautiful things I can think of. Wristwatches, camera lenses with heavy, exotic glass, and stone wet by rain. These are the pure substances of the universe.

— § —

I keep thinking about the car. It is not going to go forever. Right now, we have:

  • Missing engine bay undercover
  • Vacuum hose leak leading to turbo
  • Resurgent major oil leak, likely also at turbo oil inlet
  • Aging interior showing signs of wearing out
  • Naff tranny that has always been iffy, since it was bought

Thing is, I really love the car. And so do the kids. At the same time, I keep having the thought that at some point, it will have to be replaced.

With what?

I know one thing, I’m done being sensible about this sort of thing. You spend a lot of your life and times in a car. It is the vehicle of memories, and thus, the vehicle of all of the identities that pass through it.

It’s not the sort of place where you want to compromise with something sensible, unless you want to erase yourself just a bit more than the rest of capitalism and modernity already do.

— § —

Is it unhealthy to be in love with camera lenses?

I feel as though both my Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 and my Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 call out to me in the middle of the night. They want me to come and hold them.

Is that weird?

— § —

For a long time, maybe since February, I was in dark wristwatch territory. Gray dial, black dial. Everything else looked wrong. In particular, the gunmetal Titanium Citizen with black dial and red accents seemed to be the thing.

Now I am at light colors again. White dial. Silver steel. Light. I feel as though I want to wear white shirts, too, though I’m not really sure I can pull it off any longer. Maybe in the winter.


Public domain

What is this saying about my state of mind?

— § —

I love fall. I can’t wait for fall. Tomorrow, we are going to decorate. I feel my senses coming around; I anticipate the cool air and the change in scents and light. It’s like I’ve been on the streets for 24 hours hunting and collapsing and I’m about to get well again.

— § —

Forgiveness is a dumb thing to talk about. Everyone focuses on forgiveness as though it’s a thing. It’s not. It’s an aggregate subset of the things comprising the bigger issue: benevolence.

I find myself reflecting on my ability to forgive before realizing that I’m chasing my tail.

It’s not “can you forgive” someone that matters. It’s “are you a benevolent person” or not that answers all other questions.

Nobody is entirely. But a lot of people don’t, as a consciously adopted value, even try to be.

Rén.

Wish there were better translations for the term. Wish most people understood more about translation so that intercultural gems weren’t either neutered or transformed every time they step on the boat or airplane of cross-cultural communication.

But it is what it is.

That’s the trick in life, the ultimate distillation of the way. It is what it is. And then, you smile. Because you have the choice. It is what it is, and you can either smile or you can frown.