Cracking Open the Mollusk

Wow. It’s been five months since I’ve blogged. Since my birthday. Not that I haven’t written anything at all, but it’s been brief synapses of thoughts, left undone, like splinters of driftwood splayed haphazardly across index cards, floating in and around each other, tethered to nothing. To date, the highlight of my writing this year is a doggie dating profile for a poodle.

In the meanwhile, I’ve taken a couple of Section4 Sprints, the ed-tech branding house built by Prof. Scott Galloway. I am now a TA for the final session of the year. This segue from writing was an attempt to dislodge my glazed-over thoughts from their corset, like taking a screwdriver to the hardened butterscotch, chiseling it from the dashboard, after a summer of relentless sun. Painful, but necessary.

This year has sucked the oxygen straight from my gills. We’ve all experienced it differently, some a lot worse than others. I don’t have much to complain about when considering the pain I’ve seen others endure. But the year isn’t over, let alone the coronavirus. However, every time I sat at my desk, fingers poised above the keyboard, one prevailing thought popped in my head: “What makes you think you have anything useful to say?” It’s a fair question. In On Writing, Stephen King summed up this feeling best. He said, “I didn’t want to write [in a way] that would leave me feeling like either a literary gasbag or a transcendental asshole.” With that in mind, I didn’t write anything. Rather, I wore out the content on Prime Video, before plowing through free trials of HBO and Hulu, eventually settling on a subscription to Netflix. I’m currently immersed in Weeds, so a lot of catching up to do.

Swaths of others have had plenty to say in 2020. I’ve questioned many times this year what part of the human condition is it that wants so badly to be heard, that needs to be acknowledged, at any cost? The Presidential Election certainly amplified this trend, but it’s had a global mic for a while, paved smooth by the digital runway it travels. All this serrated rhetoric takes a toll smearing past our eyes. Scrolling on is as helpful as driving past the crumpled vehicle in flames on the other side of the interstate without looking. Momentary acknowledgement is all that is necessary to flicker existential dread.

I’ve been stuck between this existential dread, or becoming the transcendental asshole who writes about it. Today, on Election Day, my choice is clear. Time to wedge the knife between the seam, cracking open my salty mollusk, in search of that proverbial pearl of wisdom. Borrowing a gem from SK (again) [On Writing] he says, “Sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.” Ahh, the comfort of familiarity. One doesn’t always get to choose the metaphor that resonates close to the bone and inspires confidence. Sometimes a shit sandwich is all it takes.

I admit, I like all things Prof. Galloway. His brain is the spark plug of the circuit board, delivering the electrical juice of information, to the combustion engine of our world. He teaches Brand Strategy and Digital Marketing at the Stern School of Business at NYU, among many other enterprises. I can’t say I’ve ever been interested in either, but curiosity is kindling, so here is where I find myself. The classes are packed with bright minds, and polished CV’s, and the discussions are interesting and engaging. I’ve realised how much I’ve missed the intellectual rigor. Usually my writing helps satisfy this appetite, along with prolific reading, and attending as much theatre as my slush fund will accomodate. The mild temperatures of late have me thinking more often of Broadway. I have really missed it, and I still do.

No one really knows how today will end, despite each of our personal convictions of how we’d like it to play out. As much as I detest the fallacious logic of common platitudes, today might not be the day to venture too far out of the weeds. Some thoughts to remember throughout the day: Prof. Galloway said, “Nothing is ever as bad or as good as it seems. Market dynamics trump individual performance–your successes and failures aren’t entirely your fault” (excerpt from Algebra of Happiness, tweeted 7/6/19). I voted, so I’ve done what I can to contribute to the collective, and I will remember these words, whatever the outcome. After the dust settles, I’m going to take a page out of On Writing for my own playbook. SK said, “As a reader, I’m a lot more interested in what’s going to happen than what already did.”

The past is already written.

Each of us has the chance to write the future, even our own small part of it.

It matters.

Just like your vote.


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