Great Things Have Happened
We were talking about the great things
that have happened in our lifetimes;
and I said, “Oh, I suppose the moon landing
was the greatest thing that has happened
in my time.” But, of course, we were all lying.
The truth is the moon landing didn’t mean
one-tenth as much to me as one night in 1963
when we lived in a three-room flat in what once had been
the mansion of some Victorian merchant prince
(our kitchen had been a clothes closet, I’m sure),
on a street where by now nobody lived
who could afford to live anywhere else.
That night, the three of us, Claudine, Johnnie and me,
woke up at half-past four in the morning
and ate cinnamon toast together.
“Is that all?” I hear somebody ask.
Oh, but we were silly with sleepiness
and, under our windows, the street-cleaners
were working their machines and conversing in Italian, and
everything was strange without being threatening,
even the tea-kettle whistled differently
than in the daytime: it was like the feeling
you get sometimes in a country you’ve never visited
before, when the bread doesn’t taste quite the same,
the butter is a small adventure, and they put
paprika on the table instead of pepper,
except that there was nobody in this country
except the three of us, half-tipsy with the wonder
of being alive, and wholly enveloped in love.
A lot of drama has transpired tonight, and for a well-deserved individual. Steve Jobs’s death feels to many like the loss of a family member or a good friend, because, for better or for worse, his creations have in truth become our own very best and intimate friends. Our laptops house all our secrets, our iPhones are always there to entertain us when our surroundings prove un-engaging and we gush at iTunes’s sensitive and innate ability to predict our tastes in music. It’s like it’s actually listening to us while the rest of our worlds seem to hide an iconic white headphone in one ear while we try to explain to them our latest heartache or headache. iTunes understands us and how a person who has the occasional need for angry white rap music on a Tuesday morning might also have a thing for Enya. Steve understood us. And he knew the one thing that would actually bring us together.
This evening I was warming up at spinning class after work, unaware of the events that had transpired 20 minutes earlier, when the token latecomer bursts through the door exclaiming the news about Job’s death. Fifteen people -men and women, young and old – simultaneously superman dove from their bikes to the security and warm embrace of their iPhones to learn about the death of their best friend. I couldn’t help but notice the irony of watching 15 people learn about the death of Steve Jobs solely through the device he created.
I tend to listen to Alanis Morissette’s song, “Hand in my Pocket” when I feel as though I’m losing my balance in life. That song has such a nonchalant yet elegant way of telling humanity to get over their egos and move on with their lives.
My girl Alanis tells us, “what it all comes down to is that everything is going to be quite alright, ’cause I have one hand in my pocket and the other one is flicking a cigarette.”
As I looked around at the room clutched to their iPhones, I couldn’t help but realize that iPhones are in so many ways the modern day cigarette. We are addicted to the comfort and familiarity of our own cyber universes in an increasingly unstable, hypersensitive and hyperactive world. In that room were 15 people from various demographics are all biking together – in unison – while simultaneously disconnected from one another – as each person, one hand on the handle bar and one hand on the iPhone, plugged into their safety zone in order to maintain a grip on life and come to terms with the one they lost.
“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club.”
I recently ran into an old acquaintance from high school who I haven’t seen in five years and the first question he asked me, after first telling me which top ten grad school he was attending, was “so do you think you’ve grown?” (sympathetic nod of the head included). I was totally taken off guard (and well naturally a little – okay a lot – offended) but his question got me thinking about the way people everywhere react to the concept of change. The uncertainty and the unknown hang like formless shadows in our waking existences, constantly serving as a reminder of how our choices create consequences, yet never allowing us the liberty to see how these shadows take form until a new shadow has taken its place.
So to all those who fear change, first look at your own body. We, ourselves, our physical bodies on the most basic and elemental level are ALWAYS changing as our cells are constantly dying and regenerating. Literally every second is another opportunity and another chance to create a better you. So if you had a bad day (because they happen) think about all the second chances you are creating for yourself by simply existing and imagine the control you can exert over your cellular anatomy via naps, yoga, dark chocolate, who you choose to spend your time with, what you choose to read and listen to and how you CHOOSE to recognize your own indestructibility.
I think this poster from GOOD might explain it a little better . . .
“To be a real traveler, you must be willing to give yourself over to the moment and take yourself out of the center of the universe. You must believe totally in the lives of the people and places where you find yourself. Become part of the fabric of their everyday lives. Embrace them rather than judge them, and you find that the beauty in their lives and their world will become part of yours. When you move on, you will have grown. You will realize that the possibilities in this world are endless and that beneath our differences of language and culture we all share the same dream of loving and being loved, of having a life with more joy than sorrow” – Kent Nerburn
One of my all time favorite quotes, an ideal to live for whether you’re traveling around the world or around your block.
In college I was a sociology major and a psychology minor. In a nutshell I am completely fascinated by the absurdity of the human race. Sometimes this innocent curiosity leads me to engage in questionable habits that some may describe as sketchy, creepy, weird and stalker-esque. I disagree.
I sometimes engage in activities like following the most interesting characters into their subway cars, specifically placing myself next to the “eccentrics” at cafes, or standing next to someone with my headphones on . . . and music turned off. All for the purpose of glorifying every individual’s quirks and abberations. I simply believe these tendencies to be a healthy exploration of my curiosity.
Since I’ve returned home from Vietnam, I’ve come to realize that there are many things that I have taken for granted during my life in America. The obvious ones would include the lack of daily exhaust and cigarette fumes, recognition of the concept “personal space”, and the noticeable absence of rabbit-sized rats and rat-sized cockroaches. However, I forgot how much I enjoy dropping in on someone else’s world and witnessing their current drama, gossip, love interest or job complaint. Thus has begun my new obsession with eavesdropping on my fellow Chicagoans – maybe some slight harmless judgments are passed along the way - All in good fun of course.
In the spirit of celebrating the ability to eavesdrop again, I have been making a running list on my iPhone of all the fabulous conversations I’ve witnessed this summer. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. I have included slight descriptions of the people and places these conversations were overheard because I think it only adds to the character of the comment.
Location: Washington Park in Chicago’s frou frou Gold Coast neighborhood.
Who: bouncy/perky brunette on her cell phone wearing short skirt with sneakers and socks (no comment).
“Hi! How are you?! So I’m planning this ‘Drinks with Shrinks’ happy hour for Thursday and I was checking on your status to see if you can make it?”
My self-esteem skyrocketed after this one.
Location: Downtown Chicago park bench.
Who: Homeless man talking with his buddies.
“You know man, you just have to take it one day at a time because you never know what tomorrow’s gonna bring.”
Location: Bank in Chicago’s fancy shopping district; Oak Street.
Who: Ninety-year-old woman in a wheelchair decked from head to foot in big gold jewelry and diamonds.
Reporting to the blank faced bank teller, “My husband stole my wedding ring and gave it to his second wife. Chuckle chuckle.”
Pain camouflaged by jewelry. Thirty years and counting.
Location: Gold Coast Starbucks, Sunday Morning (the day of peace ahem ahem).
Who: Man in his late 30’s having several break-up phone conversations with his girlfriend on his cell phone (very loudly I might add). Oh, and he was also wearing a Batman baseball hat. Please.
“I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m done.” (This exact conversation happened three times).
This situation reminded me of when I was on a sparsely populated beach in Thailand and a lone man in a black speedo was reading a book titled “How to be in a Grown Up Relationship.” It also reminds me of Dick Cheney. (See Maureen Dowd – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/opinion/sunday/dowd-darth-vader-vents.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=opinion)
Location: Wednesday night at a Bucktown/hipster bar.
Who: A hipster couple clearly on a first date.
The Girl: “ I had a pretty good highschool experience, a pretty good college experience, and a pretty good post-collegiate experience. Really I don’t think I have any complaints. Well except that I did way too much ecstasy” (This was followed by a lengthy description of the horrors that accompany coming off an E trip).
Maybe not such a good first date after all.
In every aspect of his life, Steve Jobs proved that thoughts can hold power over illness and that imagination transforms fairy tales into realities. Here’s to his Apple legacy.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see everything differently.
They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Think different – Apple Advert. 1997
The temperature is starting to drop, soon the leaves will follow and we will be ushered into the best season of the year. That’s right – it’s leather boots and tea season served with an apple crisp on the side.
And for women, Harvard Business Review has given us another reason to indulge in the wonderful world of tea on blustery afternoons. Lindsay St. Claire posits that when women drink caffeine they become not only more productive, but also more collaborative.
“When it comes to collaborating on stressful tasks, caffeine impairs men’s performance but boosts women’s, according to a study led by Lindsay St. Claire, of the University of Bristol. The researchers call for further investigation of men’s inclinations to “fight or flee” under stress while women “tend and befriend,” and of whether caffeine somehow intensifies those behaviors. And they posit that serving caffeinated drinks at business meetings might “unintentionally sabotage” the collaboration needed to resolve the issues on the agenda, especially in male-dominated environments.” (June, HBR).
So cheers ladies – to afternoon tea and leather boots!