I was beginning to fall asleep just after dinner last night, but forced myself awake hoping for a good night’s sleep instead. And right before bed I checked my phone to see if any of my students had received positive Covid results. And, yes, to see how many of the Republicans in the United States would be objecting to the election results. And, yes, I wan’t alone in anticipating an actual coup attempt. Or an actual coup.

There are very few moments in my life where I felt or was aware of a kind of quantum leap in my own maturity. But I do remember when I realized I no longer romanticized drama.

Surely I am not the only person who as a kid half-wished to experience an earthquake, a plane crash, or (from my position of privilege) a riot. I remember feeling deprived for not having a Vietnam war to protest. A cause to wear – like a costume. A purpose that would brand me – years before branding was a thing. An experience that would give me and my life a kind of legitimacy.

I suppose having kids helped me understand mortality – and that imagined experience is not experience. And that, despite my fondness for stoicism and Buddhist detachment, life shouldn’t be like watching a movie. You can’t choose to leave the theater, and you can’t forfeit your responsibility.

You are in the room.

I’ve never talked to anyone about this. But I figure we all have been brought up with the same Aristotelian narratives: adversity gives our lives meaning. It makes us significant. It makes us protagonists.

We long for our lives to have an arc, don’t we? Think of every “grown-up” who ever told a young person: you have no idea what real life is. As though we require a satisfying story to justify our existence. As though our experiences aren’t real until they are set in a set narrative framework and everyone applauds. Or gasps.

I know there are people who haven’t felt this. And because of them, I’m convinced that being seen is synonymous with being loved. It’s why unloved children are attention-seeking.

I’m fully aware this isn’t an original thought. But I believe it’s in the moments when we’ve circled around by way of our own reasoning/experience to reformulate cultural cliches, aphorisms, or proverbs on our own, that we are able to see each other as fellow humans. These are the moments when knowledge might become wisdom – and when it should become clear that wisdom isn’t a matter of originality.

I see the paradox in my own thinking: defining wisdom as a matter of realizing that other people think the same way that you do is very nearly defining wisdom as a kind of total immersion into one’s own ego.

But from another perspective, it’s a genuine relinquishing of the ego: understanding that you see things the same way that others have before you. It seems to naturally lead to humility – being late to the party on this one concept probably implies you don’t actually know it all yet. And you may not have really arrived where you think you have.

Can we be loved without being significant? Maybe the greater question is can we love while still believing in the legitimacy of significance.

I went to bed a bit past midnight last night. And have to admit (or choose to admit) to ambivalence: relief and hope on the one hand, a sense of anti-climax on the other.

Trump is no tragic hero. He’s not about to have his moment of anagnorisis, gouge his own eyes out, and wander off to an abandoned Soviet golf course in Kirghistan.

Maybe we make up our stories because it makes it so much easier to love the world. I think that’s what Aristotle as trying to say in Poetics.

“No one ever said life was going to be easy,” said everyone, everywhere.

Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity.

M. Scott Peck

I have to admit to myself that very little of my life has gone according to plan. It would be comforting to claim that this has been for the best. But it has been, such that this is now.

I find myself circling back to old desires that were somehow discarded along the way – like a dream where you are traveling with a baby and then suddenly you’re not. There’s no panic, no regret, just wonder: I wonder how that slipped away so quietly.

Things never look entirely the same when one returns to a place stamped in memory. Buildings are smaller, people are less attractive – or more so. A novel we remember as almost finished is a half-page of notes.

“I want to be a fireman” is an hour’s deep impression, not a long path through childhood. I’m not expressing an original thought when I say that significance warps our perception of time.

The common advice for rekindling a sense of desire is to try to remember what you enjoyed doing when you were younger. What you were doing when time seemed to fly by. But I think the problem is that our memories are biased. We remember what is reinforced. What is stamped in our memories under personal or cultural pressure.

In the past months, I’ve been sorting through notebooks and computer files. So many times I’ve stumbled over declarations and confessions that I don’t remember writing. Poems and outlines for projects that are so like soft-boned babies that somehow slipped away in a dream. These are flashes of desire. The signposts of paths not taken.

Yet.

Where I come from, the words most highly valued are those spoken from the heart, unpremeditated and unrehearsed.
LESLIE MARMON SILKO

Maybe the greatest privilege of this time of my life is the time to circle back. There is a roundness that comes with age, a natural and new returning like a second orbit with a slightly different perspective. And a slightly different perspective can change everything.

A decade ago I left a thousand and one eggs on a blog with the same name. I’d forgotten about them. These things – now uglier and more beautiful than I’d understood. These flashes of desire that I recognize as genuine.

I have a plan to circle back.

These days I’m under far less pressure and I’m excited by
the rough roundness of eggs,
the ugliness of hatchlings –
the fearlessness of flight.