and after something else, something else…

This post is dedicated to Victoria who reminded me of one of my favorite ideas that will never amount to much, if anything… Litwiki.

(By the way, I don’t know if you guys are seeing a trend yet but I’m really good at ideas and not so good at seeing things through. I like to call it dreaming but I’m sure laziness, insecurities, and lack of conviction has something to do with it as well.)

But hey, if anything, this grand idea of mine will at least amount to this post so, you know, that’s something. Okay, wow. I just realized this blog really is where good ideas go to die. Go read the last paragraph of my first post if you’d like to see a good example of self-fullfilling prophesy.

But more on literary 20-something purgatory later… For now, I’m focusing on Litwiki.

Ah yes, Litwiki. A beautiful idea that, like a lot of beautiful ideas, seems like it came out of nowhere when really, if you take the time to look, you’ll see that there’s always a story hiding somewhere closeby. My story, quite naturally and rightly so, was hiding in a book…

One day, I was reading Everything is Illuminated by Johnathan Safron Foer when I came across this passage:

The Koker had made a mess of the kitchen. Spices were scattered on the floor. Bent silverware on scratched countertops. Unhinged cabinets, dirt, and broken glass. There were so many things to attend to—so much gathering and throwing away; and after gathering and throwing away, saving what was salvageable; and after saving what was salvageable, cleaning; and after cleaning, washing down with soapy water; and after washing down with soapy water, dusting; and after dusting, something else; and after something else, something else. So many little things to do. Hundreds of millions of them. Everything in the universe felt like something to do. She cleared a spot on the floor, laid herself down, and tried to make a mental list.

I must say, I love this passage. I don’t know, I think everyone can probably relate to that feeling of overwhelming obstacles—How sometimes it feels like you have so much to do and so much ground to cover before you can get to the point where things are okay again that it’s almost too much. Almost. Because I love how the woman (I forget her name now) shows such strength by simply sitting down, clearing a spot, and figuring out what she needs to do to make things right again. She just sort of goes on. And there’s something really sad and beautiful in that to me.

And yes… though such sadness can be sweet at times, it’s also colossally depressing.

So I got to thinking some more that day (I do this thinking thing sometimes) and I remembered a part from another book I had recently finished—The Waves, by Virginia Woolf. And any of you that know me well, must know that this is my favorite book and that some of the passages are simply in me now, so it’s not at all weird that I remember them. (Don’t worry I’m not one of those sick people who can quote Woolf at the drop of the hat but I do remember parts and phrases and feelings—it’s a vague kind of remembrance though and it  tends to gets mixed up at times.)

But here’s the passage:

Nevertheless, life is pleasant, life is tolerable. Tuesday follows Monday; then comes Wednesday. The mind grows rings; the identity becomes robust; pain is absorbed in growth. Opening and shutting shutting and opening , with an increasing hum and sturdiness, the haste and fever of youth are drawn into service like the mainspring of a clock. How fast the stream flows from January to December! We are swept on by the torrent of things grown so familiar that they cast no shadow. We float, we float…

And even though, at a first read it may seem like this passage has little, if any, connection to the one above, if you take the time to look, you’ll see that there’s always a connection hiding somewhere.

Ha, so in my case I simply latched on the, “Tuesday follows Monday, then comes Wednesday” bit.

“And after something else, something else…”

And though this something else didn’t seem quite so colossally depressing as the first something else (after all, if you read on you’ll find that “pain is absorbed in growth”)  it still struck the same chord for some reason. That idea of things building up–tasks, days, rings on a tree and on our identities.

But then my mind jumped to the ending of the passage, “We float, we float..”

Not only because it’s an awesome part but also because, and get this…

EARLIER THAT VERY SAME DAY…

I ran across yet another something else. I was at work doing some photo research at Reuter’s photo site when I stumbled across a picture of some Japanese children dressed up in elaborate costume and in the caption it said they were performing a Ukiyo play.

“What’s Ukiyo?” I thought to myself.

So I looked it up and here’s the entry in Wikipedia:

Ukiyo (Japanese: 浮世 “Floating World”) described the urban life style, especially the pleasure-seeking aspects, of Edo Period Japan (16001867).

This view of the Floating World is centered on Yoshiwara, the licensed red-light district of Edo (modern Tokyo). The area’s brothels, teahouses and kabuki theaters were frequented by Japan’s growing middle class. This particular Floating World culture also arose in other cities such as Osaka and Kyoto.

It is also an ironic allusion to the homophone “Sorrowful World” (憂き世), the earthly plane of death and rebirth from which Buddhists sought release.

The famous Japanese woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the Floating World”, depict scenes of the Floating World: geisha, kabuki actors, sumowrestlers, samuraichōnin and prostitutes.

So if you did your own digging (like I did that day) you’d find out a lot more and you’d read about the movement and the people and how they used to do things like put on plays in the middle of this dried out river, evade the police, bring together the upper- and lower-classes in one crazy party atmosphere (think Studio 51), and how it was basically this art movement but also a sort of sexual revolution (ha, because that’s another thing that’s always hiding close by) and you’d probably stumble upon more phrases like these:

  • the fleeting world
  • a place of human passions
  • the world of suffering
  • sorrow becomes flowing

Crazy stuff right? Because, “we float and float.”  This too is a torrent of things…but a different kind of torrent perhaps? Not everyday life but instead this different otherworldly life? The “floating” life? the “fleeting” life which is supposed to be representative of all life since it’s temporary our time here on earth. So in a way we’re all floating.

But in a way it’s all still building up as well—after all waves rise before they fall. And currents are caused by one wave following another.

And after something else, something else…

But I didn’t wonder about this for long because my mind was off and running/jumping/tumbling/stumbling drunken through the wildness again and this time it led me to my own writing. (Oh no, here it comes…)

Because I remembered SOMETHING ELSE… this failed beginning to an English paper on (coincidence coming…) Mrs. Dalloway I had written December 3, 2004. I only remember the date because it’s the same date on the actual paper I had to turn in. But this failed beginning was a introduction I wrote early in the morning in a complete “my brain is fried from reading and writing about literature and I’m freaking out because I have to finish this paper tonight” stupor. I thought it was funny so I held on to it

And here it is:

Sometimes it seems we can do nothing but fail and fail. Be it a cake, a novel, a party, a simple walk in the park, or yes, even an essay on failure itself, things often don’t turn out how they’re envisioned. In all likelihood by the end of this next sentence this paper will have turned into a heaping pile of shit. I will have said nothing intelligent and look, it is almost 1:00am and I don’t even have a thesis yet. But fuck, does everything always have to have a point? Does it really need to be so defined? Unfortunately, yes. And this is the problem with the world. Well, the academic world at least. It has to have a point. There are days when I’d much rather leave things to themselves. “There is that time of life that’s not quite day and not quite night. Some call it dusk and others just let it be.” Can’t I just let it be? Can’t I just read it and let it sit there—stew in my head and walk around for a bit? Why am I constantly forced to make sense of words, of language, to look for understanding? Sure there is a silent, odd kind of beauty in trying to get to the bottom of things, in digging, in diving, in swimming itself, and most of the time I even enjoy it. But not today, not tonight. Tonight I want to just let things be. I would much rather stay submerged on the surface of things. To lay on my back and skim along the top. To keep my head above water. To float and float and float…

And isn’t that just weird? That yes, there is the weirdo floating and water/swimming/finding an escape or oblivion imagery but that, in my stupid college student way, I was really whining over the fact that I had to sit down, clear a spot, and begin to make a list—or in this case, write a good paper about failure.

And there are so many things I’m not even mentioning here…

Like how in Everything Is Illuminated there is this river named the Brod (or some such thing) that actually means river which, and I am so dumb for not remembering this earlier, is also the woman’s name. The woman was named after a river! The woman’s name is river! I mean, come on! It’s just too perfect.

So ya… I had all these um, rememberings, one right after the other, and they got my head to running around in circles and I wished I had some way to make sense of it all. I wanted to tell someone about it. Because I was sure, absolutely sure, there were other quotes out there, other books and passages, other pieces of art and literature and life, that also connected to these pieces I had found. But I just couldn’t remember them, or I didn’t even know them because I’d never read or heard of them before.

So then I realized that I needed a wiki.

Litwiki = Literature wiki

A collaborative environment where people can create entries not for a specific text (though that could be one way of tagging and searching for things) but for specific themes or “connections.” The above passages might all be found on a page/entry for floating for example. Or, even better, for the idea of something else after something else.

And maybe an entry would start out as something a little bit crazy like this blog, but people would add to it and edit and it would grow—the connections of course, but not just the connections. The interpretations and conclusions would grow as well—the understandings that people came to. Because maybe we’d (and by we, I mean all of us, together) even find those oh-so-allusive meanings behind all the connections. We’d make them ourselves.

We would construct meanings!

Our minds would grown rings! And thus our identities would be come robust. And thus our pain would be absorbed in growth.

Um… ya, totally awesome.

But wait, there’s more….

Maybe people could see how things like The Waves and Ukiyo and some dumb girl’s failed essay on failure, are completely different, and are working on completely different levels, while all speaking to the same thing—whatever “thing” or “entry” that may be. Maybe people would have a good representation of how a lot of the art we take in starts in the same place—with someone looking at the world and seeing something worth thinking and communicating about.

It’s interesting to see what inspires the human mind to create something.

But really, the wiki would be much more practical than my sporadic mind makes it out to be. It would be a place to discuss and write about literature and other art forms and what they collectively say about our world.

This idea, I know, is not entirely original. Check out Lawrence Weschler’s Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences. It does a much better job of explaining how these odd similarities we notice between things (in his case photography) can be used to interpret the world around us—or maybe just look at it in a new way.  And his interpretations are pretty damn cool.

I only remember this short excerpt I’ve always enjoyed, though I’m never quite sure if the meaning I’ve constructed from it is the one Weschler intended. (I have to admit, a lot of his meanings go over my head.)

All that is, wonders — and just goes on marveling.

And so it is with me I guess.

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2 thoughts on “and after something else, something else…

  1. I’m just going to throw this out there. I know you might not want to hear it, but since I’m in the throes of it and your thoughts have resonance, thought I’d let you know that YOU SHOULD APPLY TO GRAD SCHOOL.

    :)

  2. And reading this post also made me think of this book I read in some Asian lit class I took a while ago. It’s called Six Records of a Floating Life. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember it being a look into the life of this Chinese man, and his relationship with his life, and there being some unifying image of him tending a garden or something.

    Anyway, thought you should check it out.

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