In the beginning, when I was a novice in love, my neighbor could not sleep at night from my whimpers. But now that my pain has increased, my whimpering has decreased. When fire takes over something completely, smoke dwindles--Ahmad Ghazzali d.1126
In 2007, I received my BA from Sarah Lawrence College. I felt entitled to a notion of dignified work that set free what I felt blazing inside of me, overlooking the dignity of being able to work at all. I felt entitled to status, a kind resonant with the practiced elegance of those I attended school with. I was a high-school drop-out. I had walked through the valley of death and had pulled myself up by my bootstraps. I had stood on the mountain top. I had earned my golden ticket.
But there's no such thing as a golden ticket or a status or a station that is not, on some level, a mask. I'm entitled to nothing. Only gratitude for the trajectory of a flawed, sometimes unbearably beautiful, ordinary life. Something lovely happens when everything shatters: You can feel God on your skin. And then it doesn't matter what happens, only that feeling. A shard of God's breath.
Essayist Annie Dillard writes that a day spent indoors reading a book may seem like the waste of a day, but a lifetime of days spent with books is what shapes a scholar. This website is a little window into nine years of wasted days and tiny incisions. In paper as well as well as in my pride. Every cut lets in the light a little more so that what is most intricate, isn't much more than a husk.
In an interview on his success after his family was granted asylum, poet Ilya Kaminsky said that it was passed the point. Obvious, maybe, after all he and his family had been through. But maybe Kaminsky also felt God on his skin. How else could he hear Musica Humana so deeply that he wrote:
Once or twice in his life, a man
is peeled like apples. What’s left is a voice
that splits his being
down to the center.
Jack Kerouak writes that some humans blaze like shooting-stars. They fall and the world has to flinch from their brilliance. Most of us are pressure cooked. Light gets in one slow ray at a time. Incision by incision. But radiance always has her way with us. She peels us like a lover, like an apple split at its center. She swallows us whole until there is neither smoke nor shadow.