I’ve logged more experience than most with simplicity and the complexity you discover inside simplicity, minimalism and asocial behavior, endurance and landscape.
Here is the truth: I think some deep wisdom inside me (a) sensed the stress, (b) was terrified for me, and (c) gave me something new and hard to focus on in order to prevent me from lapsing into a despair coma — and also to keep me from having a jelly jar of wine in my hand.
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Some treat shiva purely as a party. Some have a mournful air. Some look deeply into your eyes, and you can see that they have suffered, too. This is the higher purpose of suffering: to inspire deep-eyed compassion. It’s one of those truisms that is actually true.
In a clearing in the woods alongside a country lane outside the town of Tutwiler in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, stands Sonny Boy Williamson’s granite grave marker. As we approach, we notice more of the glints beneath us, and notice the same silver glints piled atop the old monument.
Even though we all breathed the smoke from the destruction of the town of Paradise in 2018 — breathed in their burning cars, homes, animals, and bodies — it was still happening “over there” to “other people.”
I first met Nico at a gathering of country-club types. We two misfits clearly didn’t belong at such a party, where the other guests had doused themselves in so much cologne that we were forced to escape our host’s home to catch our breath on the freshly cut grass.
The deckhand helps where he can. He flips a few lobsters right side up. He tucks a stray antenna away from the pinch of the crate’s hinges. The lobsters, when he holds them, emit a faint buzzing noise — sort of like a scream, if you think about it, and the deckhand does.
I imagine my own daughter in Danny’s situation. She is a toddler, so I would be allowed to stay with her if she got COVID. But if she were older, what would I do? What rules would I break to sit beside her?
When both of us were fourteen days clear of getting over COVID, I left our New York apartment for the first time in a long while and quickly became alarmed. No one was on the street. This was in April, when tourists normally descend on Manhattan in flocks, even in our off-avenue neighborhood. But this year a tumbleweed would not have been out of place.
Earlier that same afternoon All-Star slugger Dave “The Cobra” Parker had revealed to me the secret of hitting: “Hit the fucker hard, and hope it goes far.” I keep this revelation enshrined in the same chamber of my heart where my rabbinical ancestors kept their favorite Scriptures.