It’s been a long time since I wrote anything here that I liked. Frankly it’s been a while since I wrote anything anywhere that I liked.
It’s also been a long time since the last time I did any design work around here. When I started blogging, I did a redesign every year. Just to play around with colors and lines. The blue and gray in place right now is the second go-around for the blog that had felt the most like “home” to me over the years. I made it in 2006 in Graymatter, back when Graymatter was a thing. I resurrected it post-divorce in WordPress.
I don’t know why I say any of that. It’s neither here nor there.
— § —
I am typing this listening to the much-shared recording of the Aramaic Our Father sung for the Pope in Georgia. I don’t know why. I’m not Orthodox. I’m not Catholic.
When I started playing it, YouTube first ran an ad for Wix for five seconds.
It made me want to punch a hole in my screen.
— § —
Things I now wish I could be that I would have scoffed at as a younger man:
- Police Detective
- Medical Doctor
Sometimes now I sit and wonder whether there’s still a way for me to dream about being things, and to pursue those dreams as if they might someday be made to come true.
© Aron Hsiao / 2019
But life is short, time is running out, and I am getting tired.
— § —
The windows on the house are dirty, but I never clean them.
I don’t clean them because then I would be able to see out through them with fidelity. I’d see things clearly, and the glass would be transparent. I’d see the world and the trees—but nothing else.
But dirty windows do something different; something bigger than passing light through them.
They reveal truths that are otherwise ephemeral, traveling in waves light but held prisoner by some property of the universe that I only vaguely understand. The one that hides the most important truths, always.
I don’t wash them because right now, at this particular time of day, when the sun streaming in through the window is bright but not blinding due to the angle of the sunset, the trees appear on dirty windows not as trees, but as the essences of trees. Not every branch and needle; not every detail in the clinical manifestation that we’re so accustomed to in a modernity in which we’ve attributed entirely too much importance to fidelity.
No, on dirty windows when the sun is just right, you can see in them the spirits of trees, touched by something ineffable, glowing, mixed with presence, imbued with a deeper authority than fidelity can bring or will ever know.
Clean windows have panes, but dirty windows have souls. To clean them is murder.
— § —
This problem of cleaning points to a sad and intractable paradox at the center of human life: that we are both material beings in a thermodynamic universe and conceptual beings that dwell in the deep, sticky middle of a subtle phenomenological implausibility that is not any less evident.
These two things are at odds with one another.
Thermodynamics is a kind of cosmic, metaphysical theft. It is an arrow that leads only toward one thing: death and emptiness. So, we marshal energy here and there, ordering and building and cleaning everything at hand, making a little human world for ourselves where we can attempt to disown physics. Nesting.
We are compelled to do this by the problem of meaning, which demands that we have order in our souls and in our memories. But to expend this energy is to participate in and hasten the thermodynamic fate to which our material selves are condemned.
To clean is to destroy being. But also—to fail to clean is to destroy being. Being itself must be tenuously suspended in a studied balance between the two that must always be actively maintained.
© Aron Hsiao / 2003
It is this sort of thing—the fact that our very existence lies at the peculiar tension point between overwhelming and intersecting ontological regimes—and that it is so very, very delicate, a matter of balance and care and attention that hovers forever at the edge of disappearance, pregnant and taut—that continues to bring me back to theological questions these days.
— § —
I spent much time early in life expressing things, and this carried with it a kind of momentum.
Momentum is wonderful, and I need it very much. But momentum in sufficient quantities can also blur what passes beside you so that you can’t be sure what you have seen or when is the right moment to turn right or left. And it’s rather hypnotic in its way, a kind of truth of its own.
To finally lose momentum and wake up, standing in the middle of the desert, looking around yourself north, south, east, and west, with “the lone and level sands” stretching away everywhere around you… There is a kind of magnificent riddle in that.
The sphinx need not be a rock. You can hear his questions coming from the sun up above you in those moments, and from the sand under your feet as well.
— § —
I said to someone last night, “pretty much all of us are wrong about pretty much everything.”
I stand by that.