Cowardice is hard to admit. Like that question most kids ask each other, “Are you afraid of the dark?” The truth is no, I wasn’t really afraid of the dark. But when I was younger I had insomnia. I couldn’t go to sleep sometimes because of worry and fear. It wasn’t the fear of the dark. It’s more than just being afraid of the dark – because in that moment between closing your eyes and then opening back up, who knows what will happen. That was my fear. Whether it was a fire, being kidnapped, or just the fact that world around me might disappear I wasn’t worried about monsters or demons – I was worried about the cautionary news tales that seemed so very real and likely to happen. As I got older this fear gripped my social life as well. The concept of humiliation in meeting new people – or being open with emotions – and being rejected by a society that didn’t accept unique or different. I began to turtle and hide from the world, only to peer out every so often to see if it was safe to move.
Surprisingly enough, this is how I dealt with my insomnia. One evening, restless around one or two in the morning, fidgeting under a thin blanket on an uncomfortable mattress, I realized I was tired. Nights of restless sleep had already caught up and I was worrying myself in circles as I realized that the lack of sleep would eventually ruin my chances of doing well in school. In that moment all my fear became regrets: The regret of not being able to shut down my cowardice so I could sleep, so I could have struck up a conversation with my classmates and make a friend, or to have the courage to tell the scary, mean old librarian I had to use the restroom and not to have the humiliation of wetting myself (as a by-product of having to hold a full bladder for a whole lunch period as opposed to a fearful reaction). At that moment I realized I had all these regrets I felt tired. Yes, I was a coward, but it took so much energy to be anxiously agonizing in fear. I was so tired enough to finally not care about these fears that I resigned myself to fate – and have the courage to just deal with life. Because the tired you feel after that rush of adrenaline when you say hello to that beautiful stranger, give a speech in front of a huge crowd, play in a championship game, or take a plunge with your heart pumping in your chest – that’s the tired I wanted to feel.
About the picture – the horizon, city landscape, and the wall framing the shot from the top of Kalihi Valley have very strong lines. However, the setting sun and the pervasive power of its Curve seems to melt down the straight lines with its light and warmth.
My fingers were meant for pages in books. They’re not meant to smudge screens of e-readers to flip pages. The creases on these tips were made to smudge ink. I haven’t made the transition to digital books, even though the school I teach at has already seen the writing on the wall. Of course it is the English department that has struggled with the replacement of novels with digital copies. It doesn’t really feel the same. I love annotating – getting a dog-eared copy of a paperback novel dirty, scribbled notes in the margin, a creased spine when I flip over on one side and just want to hold the book with one hand – those experiences don’t translate well to an e-reader. Or even the feel of a brand new book – with crisp edges and the smell of print all over it. How I know – that on really hot days, between the sweat and condensation of drinks filled with chilled liquid, these new pages will soak up as much of my life as I will of these imaginary worlds within words.
I will probably offend other Analog purists with the fact that I have digitized other aspects of my life … I traded in my tapes for discs and now hard drives of files that I stream endlessly. I love the simplicity and versatility of cameras built into phones (although give me an older camera and I’ll still know how to pop film in and roll it back – or shake a Polaroid into being). And my fingers now feel just as comfortable resting on a keyboard as they do holding a pen (but in my defense, my handwriting style is an acquired taste). The one thing that will probably never translate well enough is the book. I cried when Borders died. I didn’t understand how this large bookstore chain that was a favorite place of mine to peruse on lazy weekends, picking up a title and flipping through its pages before deciding if spending an afternoon reading about alien vampire Grail knights would be worthwhile, could close done. The smaller, independent local book stores went as well. Even the secondhand bookstores that also peddled in comic books (the classics and the smut) were struggling. I mean how can you digitize comic books of all things. Believe me – I even tried those versions where they have the panels “come alive” on screen and it’s read aloud like an audiobook … Just didn’t do it for me. I mean comic books – it needs to be read with some loud music playing with a beverage (soda/beer) in hand. And then after breaking down the few pages that make up that month’s issue you have to set aside a discussion with your friends to pore over every panel and scrap of dialogue – like a “Talking Dead” episode. I mean digitized comics – you’ll never get the experience I had debating my brother over whether or not we should keep our comics safely sealed in archival polypropylene bags to preserve their condition. I thought they’re books – and books are meant to be read, while he valued their collectible value. Digitized comics don’t feel like books at all – and have no value. Feels like a lose-lose situation to me.
It’s summer now. My fingers are ready to leave these keys, leave behind the swiping of songs, and are ready to pick up a book. A real book – because in the summer – reading a book feels nice. The weight of a book seems substantial, the way it absorbs your heat makes the book seem alive, and of course when you’re done physical books can be great headrests or makeshift fans. And if you need to … it’s a handy thing to throw (literally not legally). Can’t say the same of a digital copy.
Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.
Photo Credit: Daryn Bartlett
Friends always say you don’t have to – but the truth is … of course you do. It’s a “responsibility,” but it never really seems that way does it. Consider the way you treat everyone else compared to your friends. Your job asks you to come over and move some furniture for work. You’re not doing anything at the moment – do you give up your free time to help out? Hmmmm … probably don’t have to think too hard, no-no-no-no like a Meghan Trainor song, but yeah maybe it could be an “opportunity” for overtime. When a friend asks though – well, even if I might be in full relaxation mode the first thing in my mind (even if I might be grumbling a little bit) is that yeah, I should get over there to help out. And truthfully, despite the work that needs to be done – with great friends – it can become something fun. I remember moving and asking one of my buddies to help out. It was a great time to catch up and an a great excuse to grab something deliciously fried together. Maybe not a sweet time – but definitely savory. The “responsibility” of spending time together with friends is something I can actually look forward to. There is nothing wrong with hanging out a little longer, meeting up a little earlier … and it always sucks when you can’t meet up when you planned. Friends are responsible for giving the honest and sometimes harsh truth, but are always there for comfort when the world seems to be the worst. Come to think about it – some might think about the way I describe a friendship like the way someone might think about a lover. But I think that it is the other way around. A lover gets this type of attention when they’re thought of as a friend. Relationships can seem confusing with categories like “friends with benefits” – but a person who is only there to satisfy physical needs is easily shown the door after everything is said and done. Think of all the the hit it and quit it, toot it and boot it, and all the other one night stand euphemisms. The quick exit is always first and foremost. But if it’s a friend – even if that type of relationship does develop – wouldn’t you still want to “chill” after the Netflix. Khalil Gibran, the writer of the quote in question, had the most intimate friend in American schoolteacher Mary Haskell. Their correspondence contains such passion that no wonder their shared friendship became so significant to his creative process. Their relationship was always “on” – there was no opportunity to do more or less, because whether it was confidante or supporter, Mary Haskell was there for Gibran … fulfilling the sweetest responsibility.