🌖 Poetry + space
Thoughts on the beautiful, profoundly inextricable circle created by the arts and sciences that make life worth living.
Though I have written and shared thoughts for some time now, I’ve always wanted to try something that went beyond simple words. That did justice to how I want to experience life in all its visual and auditory and sensory splendor. So, an experiment. To start with a thought. But to wrap it in the imagery and music and poetry that might bring the words into the world in a more artful, a more human, way.
🎧 The Soundtrack
Listen to this while reading:
✨ The Wonderings
Imagine this while reading:
Do you ever hear a song that immediately grabs you and submerges you within its melody? That makes you stop in your tracks, close your eyes and lets the notes wash over you?
The first time I heard this song, that’s how I felt. I couldn’t tell you for sure what instruments were being played - a cello? Bass? A violin? It didn’t matter because my mind shut off and I felt the notes in my heart. It made me, makes me, feel.... so much.
Loss. Joy. Hope.
It’s beautiful, to be sure.
But more, it’s the reminder I need every so often that life is more than my to do list. More than my goals and my ambitions. It lies hidden within the notes of a song just begging to be lost in.
When I find a piece like this, the first people I want to share it with are my daughters.
Yes, because they are extensions of my heart and I am compelled to share something so profound with them. But also because I need them to understand that music, that poetry, that dance, is as essential to their souls as math and science and spelling is to their minds.
Without both, life is certainly interesting, but it is so very incomplete.
So much of my life has been filled with that which can be measured. Coming from the sciences, the pursuit of knowledge, through thoughtful measurement, has been the dominant presence in my life.
But in Grade 11, I started a new school to do the IB program. Though I chose the Sciences track over the Arts, it was my science teachers who introduced me to pursuits borne of passion. I can still recall our geography teacher's lectures on moraines and cirques delivered as eloquently and as passionately as sermons. Our chemistry teacher was the school's wresting coach and never failed to explain the matters of molecules and reactions in terms of practicality and poetry.
But physics was the most memorable to me. Our physics teacher introduced us all to opera. It blew my mind. Not only that one could be so ardently committed to the opposing poles of experience - quantum physics on one end, gorgeous, soaring arias on the other. But also, that he had the expectation that 17 year olds should and could appreciate opera as vitally as energy-mass equivalence.
He took us to see Puccini’s Turandot and that's when I realized it wasn't a spectrum, science on one end and the arts on the other, as we’re all lead to believe, but a circle. There is something profoundly poignant in the theory of relativity, something that almost abuts religion. And there is science and structure behind the dance performances that move us to tears.
It's a lucky thing, to be 17 when you first learn that lesson. But like so many things learned in youth, I didn’t really understand the importance of the insight. I just marveled at the joy it brought me. I didn't know that in our society, it’s what we can see and tally that we value most and so it takes deliberation and work to right the scales by intentionally weaving in what we feel and what cannot be seen. So I went about my 20s and 30s, with each living in their silos, their compartments, each sharing space with the other only briefly and only sparsely in the words I would write.
But finally, finally, the past year has taught me the foolishness of that. There is nothing but what we choose to put deliberately into our lives. Once all the motion was cut out from my life, I was forced to examine what was left. Forced to choose and nurture what I needed to keep alive.
It's the arts I miss and mourn. The music. The dance. The art. The poetry. The things that have always fed my soul but on the side and in the dark. Hidden in my personal playlists, my evening journal, my iPad sketchpad.
I don’t want that for our girls. I don’t want them to miss the point of this whole thing. I want them to find the melodies that touch their hearts. The math equations that feel like poems in their simplicity and searing insight. The art that catches and hold their imagination. The lines of code that unlock oceans of possibilities. The dances that come from within them, borne of a place they might not understand but know lives in them.
I want them to know both poetry and space.
🔮 The Curiosities
The Peace of Wild Things
Written by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
How to Pronounce Knife
Kids of immigrants all have shades of a similar story. Cast into the wilds of a foreign land, without the typical protection of parents able to explain and soothe and anticipate the parts of the world that don’t make sense to kids. Language can be the most cruel, especially a language like English, almost like its designed to humiliate and cause a lifetime of second guessing in non-native speakers. Forever uncertain. Forever tentative. Forever self conscious. And so first generation kids become virtual dictionaries. The translators to the outside world.
Souvankham writes a whole book of short stories on the painful yet beautiful bits of immigrant life, none so cutting as the namesake - about one word that shatters a child’s illusions of a parent’s all knowing invincibility and lays bare how unforgiving the journey of learning a language like English can be.
Airpod Case by Rifle Paper
For something lighter and more material, my favorite product pick right now. Writing or deep thinking work requires me to put in my Airpods and listen to music or white noise. But though I go quite literally nowhere these days, it’s shocking how often I will lose my Airpods in one pocket or another. The white, slippery case is no help. I found this case and not only does the design bring me joy, the clip ensures it’s never far.
Did you enjoy this? I’d love if you’d share it with your dearest friend or the person you that loves asking questions and discovering new things.