by Chad Foltz
It’s 6 am and after two hours of sleep and the nervousness of tomorrow being the day that my roommate and I sign the lease, I find myself still up, legs twitching. I don’t actually know if it is in fact out of nervousness or out of some mind riddling excitement, feeding my muscles with endorphins and my brain with a million passing thoughts. I don’t know if it even has anything to do with the “signing of the lease”. In fact I think it might have to do with, at the very least the mind riddling thoughts that pass through my head like people‘s faces watching on the outside of a merry go round, I see them staring at me, I look inside the machinery, the inside at the other faces, all dancing and moving fast around, and then I look out again and the million’s a faces swirl in peaches with brown, blonde or red tops, not hair, tops, cause at this point that’s all they are just tops. Blurred tops, passing by my vision and then reappearing only to return, moments later, indecipherable as to which tops belong to which blur, but I’m missing the point, I’m taking too long to get to it, you see, the point is, that in all of this mess, the world changing before my eyes two pieces of “art” have come into my life that have highlighted, with utter precision and beauty EXACTLY how I feel and the way I feel.
The first, David Eggars brilliant, insane, manic depressive, collage of a memoir, “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”, a book so filled up with simply “what is” that it reaches down into you and speaks to the broke down confused adolescent, adult, “semi-adult” in all of us. Reaching to the core of our anger, our frustration, our misunderstanding, our inability to place EXACTLY what the universe around us is, and simultaneously know it EXACTLY for what it is. A paradox so strange it’s somehow beautiful.
For those of you who don’t know who Eggars is, haven’t read McSweeney’s, a publishing house and literary journal whom Eggars serves editor to. Or if you haven’t seen the movie adaptation to Maurice Sendek’s brilliant children’s book, “Where The Wild Things Are”, the book and the Eggars written script both beautiful and tragic musings on anger and frustration. If you haven’t heard of any of those things then you’ve definitely heard of or rather seen, “Away We Go”, the John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph starring film, Sam Mendes directed film, that Eggars wrote with his wife, Vendela Vida. If you’ve heard of NONE of these things then you my friend are missing out on a lot of really good things. So, I suggest you stop reading and go search those out - no wait! Finish reading and then immediately go watch, read and otherwise. Thank me later.
In the book itself, Eggars recounts the death of his parents and the raising of his brother and the attempt at his first big endeavor, MIGHT magazine. But the story reaches beyond all of that. He reaches into the lines in between the lines and pulls out universal truths about each and every one of us, who we are, what we understand and what we wish and hope and dream for. The anger inside of our stomachs, the love inside our hearts and the thoughts inside our brains, all vying for position, all trying to make peace with each other. The book is a memoir and so much more than that. It’s a truth, solely in understanding that maybe there isn’t any set truth, only small truths, small understandings. So I guess in summary, it’s a brilliant book - go read it.
Though I probably should have stated this earlier, the second “whatever you want to call it”, piece of art is Behn Zeitlin directed film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. A “fantasy” movie about a little girl named Hushpuppy and her daddy, Wink. Both played beautifully by non-actors I might add AND filmed on a budget of just under 2 million dollars, which for a movie of this size and scope is almost mind-rattlingly amazing to me. But beyond all of the technical specs of the film there lies a story so simple and yet so complex. The story of a town uprooted, wanting to stay in the place they call home. It’s the story of a girl and her daddy and her mommy, trying desperately to keep everything together in the both literal and metaphorical storm, both from nature, or rather the nature of things. You see behind all of this there, or above, or wherever you’d like to place it, is the story of the universe. The way Hushpuppy takes animals and holds them up to her ear in the style that people hold a seashell to their ear to her the ocean, she’s trying to hear the universe moving. Growing and forming, existing around her, from every breathing living thing. She picks it up and expects to hear the sounds of the universe, the swooshing of the cosmic tides against the shores of her world. And in the end, understanding does come, but again it is an understanding in not truly understanding, in knowing that maybe we as human’s don’t TRULY have the capacity to understand the universe and the way it works. The gear too complex, the instructions in a tongue we’ve never understood or even fully understand, or ever could understand.
And so, I sit, at 6 am, now 6:49 am, kept up all night with my mind wandering the halls and corridors of my own understandings, my own realizations of the world around me. With me looking across the shores of the universe in to the black cosmic landscape ahead and wondering, with shaking legs, and racing mind, what will be in the time to come. This goes beyond the signing of a lease and towards a life that has changed drastically over the course of a few short months. For awhile I was gone, mentally, and if the editors don't post this last bit I don’t blame them. I will spare you the readers the gory details, but know that fear overtook me, and from that grew strength, understanding, knowledge. So much so that fear seems almost a dead thing in my mind, at least crippling fear. I’ve always pondered why things are the way they the inevitably are, why we are who we are, why the universe wheels steadily on, and over the course of 25 years I have found that above all else I feel 25 plus a million. Because the only true understanding of the universe is in realizing that there truly is no true understanding. To live with that, as to truly come by it, I mean to TRULY come by its understanding is a very hard and painful thing. Good morning, it’s now officially 7 am.