Posts Tagged ‘Time


Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

A California flower getting an early start.

Our New Year’s celebrations have come and gone, leaving both tired nostalgia and brisk promise in their wake. I’ve never much enjoyed New Year’s Eve, always succumbing to the dangerous lure of high expectations only to be inevitably let down as soon as the clock hits 12:01 and we remember that it’s just another day. We’ve been told it’s important to get piss drunk and jump around shouting, lighting each other on fire, and trying to match the rubber smile of Ryan Seacrest as the enormous ball drops on the forgotten remnants of another year.

And after all this? The moment fizzles within seconds, our legs grow tired and our voices hoarse, and what are we left with? The crushing questions that come with any life landmark. The questions we all ask ourselves in some variety, as we settle down on the couch, the cold sidewalk curb or the foot of the cheap hotel bed, waiting glumly for the answers. As hard as we try to look 2009 in the face with determination and a newfound purpose, we all deflate a little under the pressure of New Year’s resolutions. Will I actually manage to finally pay off my debts this year? Lose weight? Take my vitamins? Stay in touch with friends and family? Participate in a healthy adult relationship? Give my time to charity? Fix up the house? Go to church? Read more? Learn another language? Find a cure for cancer?

Clean up the messes I made in 2008?

No wonder everyone takes January 1st off. It’s exhausting. And while I do hop on the self-improvement train with most others, I’m trying not to put myself under too much pressure. Perhaps I’ll take the suggestion my mom read in the paper and make a “3-month resolution,” reevaluating my progress in April. I’m being vague this year and vowing simply to take better care of myself. That includes a healthy diet, exercise, and strengthening my immune system, but it also includes babying myself when I see fit. I’ve spent 4 months taking care of other people, and it’s easy to forget yourself in a role like that.

And really, what’s so bad about an excuse to decide to better yourself or the world? Or even to think about it? There are certainly worse things than resolutions, but what I’ve realized I really love about celebrating the start to a New Year is the undeniable universality of it. Some may mark it on a different calendar day, and certainly there are varying ideas of how to celebrate, but everyone, all over the world, in every region and time zone, observes the coming of another year with significance. In spite of any painful disappointments or daunting resolutions, the one thing we can each stand up and say is “I survived.” Time has swept on with or without our consent; we may not be where we thought we’d be by this point, and we may not even be happy, but we’re alive. And we’ve been greeted by a new year.

After spending the holidays with my family in California, I returned to Amsterdam ready to take on what I’m sure will be one hell of a year for me. The first in my life that the majority of which will be spent outside California, and the US. The city here is moving on as well. Dried up, discarded Christmas trees litter the sidewalks, slumped on the ground like sleeping drunks thrown out of bars. It’s still getting colder in Holland, but the days already seem longer and brighter; and although we have a ways to go, I’m really looking forward to Spring.


D’il Mio Libro Piccolo: Tralfamadorian Novels

I finally read Slaughterhouse-Five. Anyone who has harassed me about it can now get off my back. I do see what all the fuss is about, though, and in retrospect I’m glad to have been pestered.

Billy Pilgrim learns a lot of great things from the aliens who abduct him, perhaps the greatest being the circular, seamless and holistic nature of time that we fatalistic humans will never understand (myself especially, though I wish to). This temporal reality in which they live is reflected in the many layered novels they enjoy – far more complex than our simple words-on-a-page storybooks; a Tralfamadorian novel is a thoughtful collection of messages.

There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.

I like to think of one of their novels as the collective of one person’s reading choices over a lifetime. Do we not, after all, read one book to see the marvelous moments crafted therein? An image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep? We may not be able to see all these moments at once, but instead maintain the patience and interest to see one moment at a time, one word, one page, one chapter, one book, until everything has been stored away in our mental catalog, waiting there to serve that relentless human need for meaning, purpose and connections. After a lifetime of reading, surviving and watching the world spin and tumble around us, we can look on the many marvelous moments that have become our consciousness and take a sigh of solemn gratitude because it is – it will be – beautiful and surprising and deep.

"Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!" -Henry James, The Art of Fiction
February 2019
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