Despite Lack of Knowledge

So many of the things I have known are other things that I do not know.

For instance, the hill. It has always been the symbol of the free, of nature, of the earth. It has stood in stark contrast to the perverse civilization of Court Street. It has provided a safe haven for underage drinkers–haven because away from police, safe because it’s difficult to binge drink on a hill that you have to walk down in the dark.

And so, all this time, I have known the hill as operating outside of systems.

Today, I was sitting on the hill, enjoying one last sunset, and I noticed cigarette butts and broken glass. The hill has always been something I do not know.

But it did not change the magnificence of the sunset.

A Scene to the Girl Who Rides the Bus with Me as I’m Coming Home from Work

To the girl who rides the bus with me as I’m coming home from work:

You are very beautiful. I feel like I shouldn’t lead with that. But if I ever talked to you, that’s what I would say. It might go south because you might be a super independent woman who doesn’t need the affirmation of a man to make you feel loved and you might overcompensate by refusing compliments. It would be a risk I was willing to make.

I would tell you to smile more. Or I would try to make you smile. I want to see what you look like with joy on.

I would ask you about the books you are reading. I love books. That’s something you should know about me.

I would explain to you that this is not something I normally do. The last time I talked to a random girl whom I found attractive was never. You wouldn’t believe me. That’s cool. I would revel in the idea that you think I’m a player.

I would be a good conversationalist. The sincere kind. I would flirt, but I wouldn’t do that thing where I put you down just so you think I’m an asshole and so therefore desirable. I would ask questions. And hopefully I could coax more than one-word responses from you.

I would tell you about this movie I just watched – TiMER – in which the main conflict is that everyone has these timers that go off when you meet your “one.” I would ask you your opinion. You would tell me that the “one” is bullshit. And I would mostly agree. But then I would argue that “the one” is mostly a tautology. Successful partnerships last forever so of course those people believe in “the one.” For them, it’s effectively true. You would scoff at my theorizing. I would wrinkle my nose and ask “What?”

I would ask if you have a boyfriend. You would say yes. I would ask if you smoked pot. You would say no. I would say, “That explains it.” You would ask, “That explains what?”

I would laugh a little and then tell you my theory about how there are two types of people in the world: those who smoke pot and those who don’t. I don’t want to date those who smoke pot and the ones who don’t smoke pot don’t want to date me. You would say, “I never said I didn’t want to date you.”

I would laugh again until you figured out I had tricked you. You would smile and look away. I would be glad that you smiled.

Impressive Revelations

I used to be the kind of person who had a lot of ideas about the world. I liked to take people to book stores because I thought that if they could see how smart and original I was among all of the book titles, they would most definitely like me. When I was still in high school, this worked out alright. I thought the “discoveries” I was making about the world were truths. I thought that I was moving to some better, more noble end.

Then, I started to be wrong. It started out with small things. Like someone would ask me if judgment was spelled like judge-ment and I would say of course so. Because that just makes sense. Or someone would ask for a book recommendation, and I would give them my favorite book, and they wouldn’t like it. And all of this seemed really strange and unforeseeable.

Then I started to be wrong about bigger things. I would misjudge other people’s emotions. I found myself regularly overhauling my philosophical ideologies. If you ask some of my closest friends, my most used phrase is “I realized” or “I had the realization that.” I constantly think that I am having revelations. And maybe I am, but chances are I’m not “right” about them, if they are happening so frequently that it takes me more time to tie my shoelaces than it does to decide I’m a “new person.”

I thought that all of this was really unique to me. And then I started learning about Alfred Adler in my psychology class. Adler was really into impressionist art. He thought it told a lot about the world. In class, our professor showed us a picture of an impressionist painting, and he asked us what it would look like if we had our noses pressed up against it. All it would have been is seemingly random brushstrokes of color. And then he asked us what it looked like from where we were sitting. We told him it looked like a stream in the woods, but that’s about all we could make out. Everything else was blurred and beautiful.

"Soleil Levant" - Claude Monet

And I started thinking that God must think we are really funny. Some of us spend our whole lives with our noses stuck to His painting, sure that we know exactly what that random brushstroke means until we are bumped a little and we have to figure out a new random brushstroke. And then some of us think that we are better than those other museum patrons, thinking that we are seeing the full picture. But even those people aren’t able to say more than if the painting generally resembles a stream or mountain or pond.

I think we can see whatever we want in that painting so we should make sure it’s beautiful.

What do you see?