Brain Food #381

Everything was real

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

Very rarely does a novel manage to capture the simple essence of life, with authors having the same human temptations we all do; to overlook what is important and focus on a slim thread of a story, one which we nonetheless choose to gamble everything on.

I recently finished Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders, a novel about loss and finding the strength to move on, though the perspective it is told from may be surprising.

The book reads like a large movie script, with no scene changes and no directions. It features 166 characters, often resulting in a purposeful cacophony, as they all try to process their stories and get their voices heard by no one in particular. Ironically, it is an ensemble of ghosts who are afraid of death.

A lyrical spirit, that goes by the name of roger bevins iii (non-capitalised, perhaps to highlight how he has diminished into a lesser version of himself), often recounts the lives he has not lived. Yet, he summarises what he did experience, and what we all can still experience through living, in a graceful monologue:

“Though the things of the world were strong with me still.
Such as, for example: a gaggle of children trudging through a side-blown December flurry; a friendly match-share beneath some collision-titled streetlight; a frozen clock, a bird visited within its high tower; cold water from a tin jug; towering off one’s clinging shirt post-June rain.
Pearls, rags, buttons, rug-tuft, beer-froth.
Someone’s kind wishes for you; someone remembering to write; someone noticing that you are not at all at ease.
A bloody ross death-red on a platter; a headgetop under-hand as you flee late to some chalk-and-woodfire-smelling schoolhouse.
Geese above, clover below, the sound of one’s own breath when winded.
The way a moistness in the eye will blur a field of stars; the sore place on the shoulder a resting toboggan makes; writing one’s beloved’s name upon a frosted window with a gloved finger.
Tying a shoe; tying a knot on a package; a mouth on yours; a hand on yours; the ending of the day; the beginning of the day; the feeling that there will always be a day ahead. […]
Some brandy-legged dog proudly back-ploughs the grass to cover its modest shit; a cloud-mass down-valley breaks apart over the course of a brandy-deepened hour; louvered blinds yield dusty beneath your dragging finger, and it is nearly noon and you must decide; you have seen what you have seen, and it has wounded you, and it seems you have only one choice left. […]
None of it was real; nothing was real.
Everything was real; inconceivably real, infinitely dear.

These and all things started as nothing, latent within a vast energy-broth, but then we named them, and loved them, and in this way, brought them forth.

An exercise in literary mindfulness, where noticing the rhythms of life gently running in the background becomes life itself.


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