I am so lucky is a thought that rings around in my head every day. I’m constantly in awe of how great the people around me are, how I’m able to do the things that I want to do, how the world seems very bright to my eyes. I know there will be times when I don’t feel exactly like that and days when I don’t think those thoughts—I’ve even had a bunch of them since I started writing this post—but now’s not one of them. I don’t write a lot of things on the internet anymore but this is something I really want to tell you: I feel very lucky!
Having an irrepressible enthusiasm for the world is both magical and scary; it’s good to feel good, but feeling good begets feeling not good. As long as emotions are real ephemeral, and time is a persistent quicksilver, you ride a cycling wave of great calm and anxiety. Sometimes you can get sucked out of a positive perspective in one second, imagine that it was all a misguided dream you were living in, only to step right back into it a moment later. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve learned how to be a little easier on myself, and the waves have gotten longer (ish). I can let thoughts go by and know that it’s okay if I’m not aware of every single thing that goes on in my mind. I realized that I can be conscious and conscientious without racing against my head. It’s been nice.
Still, it’s easy to get so scared by your feeling good that you begin to think it might be easier or safer to not feel good at all. It’s overwhelming liking a whole planet of people, places, and things—and yourself! (Especially when there’s seemingly no time to feel inspired.) Why not forego the roller coaster, temper your great love and feel a steady, duller ‘okay’? I say, and try to tell myself, “because that’s lame”. The roller coaster is fine, as long as it keeps moving. But it doesn’t really matter what I say; biology will have its way regardless of what you want to feel, and in the end, tinting your happiness is a lot more work than letting it get to you.
I recently learned about the concept of noumena in school. When my English teacher told us about Plato’s allegory of the cave and Immanuel Kant’s das ding an sich, he said, “If you were to see or touch ‘noumena’, you would be incinerated.” Hearing this was exciting, not only because it’s nice to realize that one of your thoughts was thought by another person thousands of years ago, but also because it’s a poetic, encompassing idea of what it means to feel beauty. (I also remember that my rabbi once said that “to be enthused” is to be filled with fire.) It is fire. Goodness is fire. When we’re closer to it, we feel warmth. This is love.
That’s why finding favorite people to be with, a favorite place to be, or a favorite thing to do, is important. It funnels all the joy we get from being in a big world of great stuff into one thing we can understand, like a family, a home, or a passion. It gives laser-beam focus to our love. When we get lost, like a Jane Poynter back from Biosphere 2, it’s our grounding rock.
A letter from Ansel Adams:
June 19, 1937
A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me; things that related to those who are loved and those who are real friends.
For the first time I know what love is; what friends are; and what art should be.
Love is a seeking for a way of life; the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of all spiritual and physical things. Children are not only of flesh and blood — children may be ideas, thoughts, emotions. The person of the one who is loved is a form composed of a myriad mirrors reflecting and illuminating the powers and thoughts and the emotions that are within you, and flashing another kind of light from within. No words or deeds may encompass it.
Friendship is another form of love — more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and acceptance of things like thunderclouds and grass and the clean granite of reality.
Art is both love and friendship, and understanding; the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of Things, it is more than kindness which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these.
I wish the thundercloud had moved up over Tahoe and let loose on you; I could wish you nothing finer.