February 25, 2019

Atlas, carrying the world

My memory is spotty these days, but I’m pretty sure the first sculpture of Atlas I ever saw was Lee Lawrie’s bronze interpretation at the Rockefeller Center in New York. I was young, but I remember the symbolism clearly: here was a person who was carrying the world on his shoulders, and doing it without complaint.

Atlas was, of course, condemned to hold up the sky on his shoulders by Zeus after the Titanomachy. Since then, Atlas has borne the weight of the heavens, has endured the heaviness of the world without letting up, even once.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Atlas recently, and how he bears his condemnation without saying a word. I’ve been thinking about how it has felt, especially over the past two months, that I have been bearing the weight of the world on my shoulders, and that I do not have the strength of Atlas: the weight has become to heavy to hold, and I am crippling underneath it.

There was one sculpture of Atlas that I once saw, I can’t remember where, where I was able to gaze deep into his eyes. In those eyes, I saw a perseverance, a determination to carry the weight of the world; I also saw a a resignation, a realization that this is the life he now has, and if he slips even just a little, the world will come crashing down and everything will be lost.

The analogy isn’t perfect—I have not been condemned by Zeus, after all—but these days I feel like Atlas, and unlike the Titan, for me the world is getting too heavy, and I am slipping. For the next few months, I’ll be working on finding my feet, and finding my strength again. Until then, thank you all for taking the world off my shoulders, and for carrying this weight for me.

Poems of the week:

Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter
Robert Bly

It is a cold and snowy night. The main street is deserted.
The only things moving are swirls of snow.
As I lift the mailbox door, I feel its cold iron.
There is a privacy I love in this snowy night.
Driving around, I will waste more time.

Perfect Song
Heather Christle (2019)

I remember walking through the morning
after a night of heavy snow and drink
with headphones on and they played
me the most perfect song: no one
was awake and I was hungover
young as clean as a piano
I thought and at any moment
someone might fall in love with me I was
that woven into the electric
cold bright air and for weeks
after I went through the album
in search of the song but could not
find it and later much later I saw
that what I had taken to be the song
was in fact the joyous concordance of
a moment that would not come again

In case you missed it:

I turned thirty-seven years old two days ago, and so I wrote a short reflection on aging, on the quiet, and on this birthday being a marker of needing to find myself, again.

As part of my efforts to recapture some balance, I have started making a list of small solace, things that bring me respite in difficult times.

I’ve committed to reading more poetry this year, so I spent my Sunday evening writing 2,000+ words on rediscovering poetry and rediscovering myself.

I’ll probably be writing a lot more on the blog for the next little while as I practice the notion of blogging as exhale.

A few things to read and explore:

You’ve definitely already heard of Gizmodo’s Goodbye Big Five series by Kashmir Hill, but if you haven’t read it just yet, you owe it to yourself to carve out some time to read it all. It’s a sobering look at just how much influence the big tech companies have in our lives.

A steady diet of outrage dulls our ability to discern between degrees of harm or—even more worrying—dulls our ability to feel and act on actual outrage when it’s called for.”

I’m drinking water out of a Swell bottle and coffee out of a Zojirushi thermos as I type this, so perhaps I am the right person to be reading this piece on the rise of luxury water bottles.

A beautiful epistolary tribute to Miles Morales, who has changed the way so many of us see superheroes, and how so many of us see ourselves.

What happens to the public realm when everyone’s rushing to get back home? Is it so wonderful to be alone inside if there’s nowhere else to congregate?”

This website dynamically generates a photo of a person that does not exist every time you refresh the page. I’m both in awe and frightened that something like exists. (See also: ThisAirBnBDoesNotExist)

Growing up, the days that I was able to get a Limca or a ThumsUp with dinner were special days, treat days. I had no clue they were introduced to India (and subsequently, the diaspora) because Coca-Cola was pushed out of the country.

We have the capacity to build happiness into our lives with humor, concern for others, and gratitude.” Want To Be Happy? Live Like a Woman Over 50.

Pixar’s animated shorts never fail to bring delight. The new one, Purl, about a ball of yarn trying fit in at a company filled with toxic men, is no exception.

They have a tree of the year” contest in Europe and I can’t think of anything more wonderful.

What if we allowed ourselves to devote our time and attention to something just because it makes us happy? Or, better yet, because it enables us to truly recharge instead of carving our time into smaller and smaller pieces for someone else’s benefit?”

Loitering is indeed delightful, and after reading this, I’m reminded of just how important of an act it is to take one’s time, to loiter. (Thanks to Ashley for sending this one my way. It was exactly what I needed to read right now.)

Ard Gelinck photoshops celebrities posing with their younger selves and posts the results on Instagram. I’m flabbergasted by how incredibly well done these are.

Elton John Then and Now

There have been many beautiful tributes to the Opportunity Rover these last few weeks, but this one on XKCD was my favorite.

XKCD Mars Rover Comic

This is how I feel any time anyone asks me for advice these days. The imposter syndrome is very real and very palpable right now.

Reza Farazmand’s comic about advice

Treat yourselves with tenderness and kindness, my friends, and be excellent to each other. In the end, that compassion and care is all that matters.

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