Of course all life is a process of breaking down…

Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work — the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside —  the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within — that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald from The Crack-Up

Wow. Amazing. I read this the other day and it was so beautiful and sad and true that it completely depressed yet enthralled me at the same time. I have to take a moment right now and be a complete great big mushy mess of a dork but can I just say…

I. Fucking. Love. Great. Writing.

Maybe that’s not so mushy (throwing an f-bomb in there certainly helps things out) but it is me overflowing with awe.

I love it when you come across a piece of writing that so perfectly and adequately portrays a piece of the world or an experience of it, an emotion or a feeling, a moment in life, that you recognize and come to understand something you never had before.

For instance…

Maybe you have begun to feel this vague unnameable pain but can’t explain where it came from or what exactly it is. Maybe it is something so small and so subtle that you barely take notice of it. Maybe it is almost nothing, maybe it is the smallest of sensations like an itch or a limb that has fallen asleep. But then, ah, but then… But then this beautiful perfect horrible little passage comes along and spells it all out for you and you realize what it is you have been feeling. Suddenly your pain is not so vague. It is specific and real, it does not have a name but it has words and an explanation. It has been made personal and universal and has connected you to this great big mass of people who have experienced the same thing. Who have read the same thing or written about the same thing, talked about it and created art about it, and really it is put so beautifully and perfectly that it’s not painful at all. It’s just real. It’s just art. It’s just life and art interacting and overlapping and, fuck ya, I love that shit!

Ha, so yes, obviously I’m being excessively poetic and dramatic tonight. Sorry about that but it’s how I feel so too bad for you.

One of my favorite lines about the desperate power of writing comes from a short story, My Hustlers by Edmund White:

My writing would turn all this evil into flowers.

Writing, a certain type of great writing, can turn something evil into flowers. Or something painful into beauty. Just by putting it into words and arranging them in the right way. It’s such a simple yet completely complicated thing. And then there are other moments, other pieces of great writing, that turn flowers into evil. Or something beautiful into pain. It’s amazing to me sometimes. A great passage in a book or a great piece of art can be completely humbling in the same way the ocean or a mountain range can. There’s a power in great things like that. I haven’t quite gotten far enough in my personal development (or whatever it is you call this growing and progressing as a human being thing) to know exactly what it is I’m trying to talk about, or what exactly that power is. Ha, but I have a vague kind of feeling.

So ya, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately. It’s been good and it makes me crazy and awake and just a little bit drunk on words and writing.

But it’s getting late and I’ve probably had too much. Ha, and said too much as well. And if I read one more chapter I just may pass out.

Hmmm… that sounds kind of nice actually. I think I’ll go do that now.


Robot Unicorns

Once, in a world not so far away, in a time not so long ago, robot unicorns were everywhere. You’d go downtown to see a movie and a robot unicorn would sell you your ticket, you’d walk to the beach and see a robot unicorn galloping on the sand with its joints and gears creaking like the doors of an old car someone left out in a field to rust, you’d stop in at your local bookstore and there was your favorite robot unicorn sitting in the cushy chair that’s always in the corner reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. (It’s a little known fact that robot unicorns love Dave Eggers.)

At this time robot unicorns were known for loving many things—Bagels and lox, sunshine of course, orange juice, abstract art, colors, WD-40, the way grass sounds when it’s windy outside and everything else is quiet, a good description of a place, algorithms (which may not sound very poetic but robot unicorns are part robot after all and their robot-parts love it when everything lines up and things finally make sense), the stories old people tell when they sit around tables and remember things, the beach, dogs, heat, rainy days that seem just a bit sad but beautiful too, embarrassing moments, the way flowers look in a vase, or the feeling of pavement as it hits their metal hoofs in a hard clop clop clop, clink, clink, clink.

Nobody knows where robot unicorns came from. They just showed up one day and they were so nice that nobody wanted to ask. Maybe people were afraid of the answer. Or maybe it didn’t matter where robot unicorns came from. But when they suddenly started leaving, people began to worry. People began to ask to the robot unicorns, “Where are you going?” But the robot unicorns did not answer. (They can’t talk. They are silent, solemn figures that are tall and noble like cowboys or knights.) And so slowly, silently, the robot unicorns began to disappear.

Until one day…

A girl, lets call her, oh, I dunno, something pretty like Weslie (it’s an odd name I know but this was an odd girl) found a robot unicorn rummaging through a dumpster at the end of a long dark alley.

“What are you looking for?” Weslie asked.

The robot unicorn did not answer. Like I said, it couldn’t talk and even if it did, it didn’t know the answer anyway. Sometimes the unicorns-parts of a robot unicorn will look for things without knowing what its looking for. This is probably how they figured out about orange juice.

“Do you need help?” the girl asked getting closer.

And still the robot unicorn did not answer. It just kept its nose in the dumpster.

“I guess that means no,” she said, and began to turn around and walk away.

But then the robot unicorn made a sound. It kind of neighed but it was a weird neigh of course, a robot neigh that sounded like a cross between the winding of a spring and the beeping noise an alarm makes when it’s time to wake up.

The girl turned around and the robot unicorn had something it its mouth. It walked up to the girl and nudged her hand with its big robot unicorn face that was surprisingly warm for metal.

In its mouth was a notebook. The girl took it. Some of the pages had writing on them and some of them did not. It was old and dirty. It smelled like rotten fish and soil. Maybe it was even a little sour. But the girl held on to it. She opened it up and read the words that were inside—something about chemicals of the brain and how they affect mood, obvious notes from a college course. But the girl didn’t know enough to figure out what was really being studied.

Weslie looked at the inside cover to see if the book had a name or an owner, but there was no name and the book did not belong to anyone. Instead, what the book had, was the word, “ALWAYS,” written in thick black writing in the bottom right corner.

There were a lot of things Weslie didn’t know–things like what she should do or say. But it’s okay not to know things. Especially when you are standing in a dark alley with a robot unicorn holding a book that says ALWAYS on the inside. It’s still annoying though, this not knowing. So the girl did what any unknowing girl would do (any unknowing girl with any kind gumption at all that is) she made something up.

Like, duh.

Weslie said goodbye to the robot unicorn. She went home and there she drew a picture of its grey robot body, rainbow hair, and turquoise eyes. She sat in her room alone and wondered at what she had done. She wrote the word always under her robot unicorn picture if fancy pink writing. She put gold around the outside.

She did not know why she wrote this. She did not know what it meant.

But we do.

Because, lucky for us, we are not unknowing. We know what Weslie does not—that even though nobody sees them anymore, robot unicorns really do exist. People may think they’ve disappeared but they haven’t gone anywhere. How do we know this? Because we saw a picture of them once and their images are in our heads now—clomping around on their big metal hoofs, prancing to the soundtrack from Dirty Dancing, writing poems about hybrid cars and donuts, eating lunch at our favorite restaurants, pooping weird robot poop that’s kind of like motor oil but thicker and smelly and kind of moldy like dirt that’s gone bad.

And guess what else? Robot unicorns will always be there. Because the picture told us so. But also, that’s just how robot unicorns are. Kind of magic and kind of machine.

It’s weird I know. And maybe you really don’t understand. Maybe you’re unknowing too and you don’t believe me at all. But whether you believe me or not, robot unicorns are real. They’re real because I want them to be and because I said so.

So there.