Tuesday, November 2, 2010

webster

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A friend of mine recently commented that I spend too much time trying to “define” the things of life, implying that I have a hard time with things that are unsettled. Admittedly, I was taken aback by his comment. The observation surprised me, especially because I feel like the entirety of my life is spent in transient experience; because what is life, if not a continuous wade through change? Nothing is defined, and I know this truth well and feel quite at peace about it – so the suggestion that I spend too much time defining things felt almost like an insult. I wanted to disagree with this person, “How dare you define me!” but found that I couldn’t. Because he was right; I cling to definition. At least, in part.

To be clear: I detest boxes, and thick lines, and rigid opinion…ironically, I especially hate these things when they are placed on me or my ideas about the world. But I think the cry in my heart to define the things around me (relationships, ideas, and experiences) could stem from the fact that everything I touch (because I am human) is malleabley untouchable; because there really is no one thing in my life that plants its feet to stay there. There are things that suggest permanency; love of family, depth of friendship; but even these things are intangible and elusive. I can’t touch the heart of life with my hands, I can only think about it, and that’s what bothers me. I want to hold something real, and because I can’t, I try instead to understand the world with words.

So maybe I am too stuck on definition.

But, truth be told, I am not very good at being good at life when there’s nothing tangible in it. In fact, I think I might fall apart at the seams without something to hold on to. I’m starting to wonder if we’re all built this way though – we all crave relationship, we all work toward different goals, we all like “stuff”, we all look for something god-shaped that we can define – in short, maybe none of us are good at being good at life without some sort of touchable somethingness in our hands. Each of the five love languages cater to some sort of physical reality, after all. To relax or decompress, we each choose a sense to please; be it touch or sight or taste or smell. We love and crave the tangible. So when life decides to lack it; when the food is flavourless and the air is gray and the curling up is done alone – it would make sense that we set off again, in search of something we can hold; something we can feel. In many cases, people look instead to things that will mask the urge for tangible things – ironically, they usually choose a vice that is tangible (said the girl with a quickly depleting container of Ben&Jerry’s in her freezer). The trouble with all of this is that none of it works as a permanent fix. Even definition – that thing I apparently loathe as equally as I crave – doesn’t last long. Definitions become outdated rather quickly, and so I am constantly self-propelled forward to find a new one.

The thing is though, that I don’t mind living life this way; contrary to the suggestion of my friend, I’m not sure it’s entirely a bad thing. In the words of Chantal Kreviazuk, I am a “fleeting, wandering transient” – I usually make up my mind at the same moment that I change it, and I am constantly chasing and then avoiding that elusive, oppressive beast known as Structure. In short, and especially to this friend, I think I am kind of a crazy person. But it’s the crazy in me that gets me from morning to night, and it’s the admission of the crazy in me that gets me from heartache to rest. I think I like all my crazy, as indefinitely definable as it is.


(if you haven't yet, press play)
Words & Music by Chantal Kreviazuk
"Souls"; Color Moving and Still

Messages from where I used to grow
Twenty thousand frames of mind
This is my soul

Relentless where I'm most alone
Twenty thousand faceless names
This is your show

And, oh, I feel
I am a wandering
A fleeting transient

Soul
All I feel is I am holding on
But only for a moment then it's gone

Covenant we will always grow
Our skin will fade transcend beyond
All we've been told

I feel I am the wandering
A fleeting transient

Soul
All I feel is I am holding on
But only for a moment then it's gone

And oh all I feel is I am holding on
But only for a moment then it's gone

Heal me
I'm healed when you see me
You see me when you feel me

Souls
All I feel is I am holding on
But only for a moment then it's gone

And oh all I feel is I am holding on
But only for a moment then it's gone

3 comments:

juliahaiste said...

I am in the same boat. My dad is constantly telling me I don't have to define everything, some things just are, so leave them alone. But why are they like that? What is it that makes something that way? It's hard for a questioning mind to stop defining things. I don't necessarily think that it's bad to define, but perhaps defining that one thing too much is?

Sharelle said...

In high school - my nickname was "Webster". For similar reasons, but mostly because I would often use big words :) I took it as a point of pride. haha.

I am very similar to you, in wanting to find definitions. I think it shows a reflective spirit in some ways - which I really value. But, of course, there is always the chance to overdo it - so we probably need that reflective spirit to realize that too.

And thats what I like most about this blog - the reflection. and you, of course.

Colleen Taylor said...

So existential. I feel a similar struggle and have been challenged on occasion: "Why can't you just live?"