“Perhaps humankind was powerless, or nearly so, in the face of the mind’s eagerness to make everything mean, to turn the world into a personal network of symbols.”
-Alex Shakar, Luminarium
A little while ago I was happy for a few days. Whistling happy: happy like in a movie where you step up on a park bench and spin. Once I realized what I’d been feeling, I wondered, why? What trick had I learned? Was I going to sleep earlier? Or later? Maybe I was staying hydrated? Maybe I was thinking about myself, my work, or the world differently?
In Shakespeare in Love, young William spins around and spits over his shoulder before, triumphantly, he begins to write. It’s his talisman, his way of summoning genius. For years I wondered what my spin-and-spit routine would be. Whatever it was, the habit would make things easy, make everything fall into place. Spin and spit and you’re Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s in love. I don’t think that’s how it really works.
I do make patterns. I turn the world into a network of symbols that makes sense. Sometimes that’s useful—I’m not going to lean out of my car and ask the guy hanging on his horn whether he means he’s angry or if he’s just happy to be alive. I’m going to see the pattern, and guess. At the same time, I have this growing suspicion that many of the patterns I impose on what’s around me are silly. I have this suspicion my patterns leave a lot out. In my example before, I was sleeping, I was staying hydrated, I was connecting with people, but I don’t think I can arrange those elements into some blueprint that will always “work.” I’m trying to “make everything mean,” as Shakar says, to make every step the necessary result of what had come before. The world, meanwhile, is dancing: chaotic, quiet, changeable, quickening, varied, loud.