Friday, March 30, 2012

Blip Journal, the progress of a NYC writer. March 30, 2012

Odilia Rivera-Santos

I am in a coffee shop, listening to music I'd only play if I were the DJ in hell. Writing to music has always been one of my favorite things, so I don't easily disengage from sound, which makes writing to this particular soundtrack a challenge. We could argue no one's art should be burned, but this music could be slipped down a volcano somewhere to bubble and sizzle out into oblivion.
I am in New York City, which is always a solace. It is a vibrant place where you can choose what kind of schedule to follow, what streets to avoid, what commuting times to ignore. People often ask me if I'm from a small town, and it isn't because I seem naïve, but because I'm not encased in steel. I see what is going on perfectly: the grifters, the wanna-be grifters, the compulsive liars, and addicts who polish their exteriors as their insides rot. I grew up reading Dostoevsky -- something that trained me to follow the trajectory of a complicated story whilst keeping characters' names, dates and details in neatly organized compartments. And studying literature and creative writing was all about connecting thousands of details.
I listened to a friend tell a story recently, which he had told me three times and I smiled as the ending of the story changed for the third time.

Wasting time is a waste of time 

Life is always a process of balancing the exterior and interior, our interactions with others and how much time we spend alone. Self-awareness is complicated and multilayered.
Self-awareness can't come from an outside source. We learn in life through the repercussions of our actions. At some point, we reconsider how to behave in the world if we find ourselves not getting what we want or getting what we want only to feel empty or losing something of value. I was thinking about how, oftentimes, people purchase clothes, shoes and furnishings because they are profoundly unsatisfied with who they are as human beings or feel they've not accomplished what they hoped. This habit has to do with too little introspection and having no spiritual practice. Sitting in church is not a spiritual practice; there are many people who sit in church as if they were in a movie theater: passive and waiting for the good part. If you leave church and lie, steal, disrespect people, then, church was like a movie you can't remember five minutes after seeing it.

Acting in the world is spiritual practice.
None of us are perfect; we all have bad habits and need to work on ourselves, which is interesting to me. I have struggled with feeling compassion for certain segments of the population, but I continue to deepen my understanding to leave any remnants of apathy behind.
Many times, we are repelled by others' actions because we recognize ourselves in those we dislike. Perhaps, the mind craves some kind of hierarchical structures to organize information or keep us safe. We can separate ourselves from those we deem dangerous, etc.
Wealthy people make derisive remarks about kids in the ghetto buying expensive sneakers instead of focusing on getting an education and getting out of the ghetto, but the practice of using material possessions and instant gratification to assuage a hurt or fill a lack is something wealthy educated people do as well.
For some people, a 'ghetto' is a rich community full of people with little economic resources and a place that feels like home.
An intellectual education and an intellectual understanding of the world cannot supplant spiritual practices that make us connect with our version of God and our own goodness and humanity.

The good life is not about accumulation.
The purchase of a pair of new Nike sneakers or another piece of furniture with a complicated provenance to speak about with friends as you sip wine of a rare vintage -- another object with a story will never cure what truly ails you.

The real question is . . . what is the root of that feeling of emptiness?

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