January 02, 2019

Reclaiming My Sense of Wonder

I offer my very best wishes for the New Year to all of you who read this. I hope you had a joyous holiday season. My holidays were utterly dreadful. I had one major health crisis, and several minor health crises. I'm stable now, and sort of okay. Kind of. Most of December was spent in bed, often sleeping 14 to 16 hours a day. It wasn't exactly a restful, refreshing sleep, but more on the order of: Can I manage to survive another day? That sense of imminent, deadly peril is gone for the moment, thank God. Now I only have to deal with overwhelming anxiety, when I contemplate everything that must be done so that I can move to a new home by the beginning of June.

My holidays were additionally awful because of the piercing loneliness that has suffused my life since Sasha died, as I described in my last post. I'm slowly learning how to work through (or around) that, but the tremendous sense of loss continues to overcome me at unpredictable times. I still think I see Sasha out of the corner of my eye now and then.

Life without cats is not my idea of life at all. But I can survive it. I suppose that was the theme of the holidays for me: Can I survive this? I did. Now I merely need to find a new place to live, clean up this apartment and pack up my belongings (I'll be getting rid of lots of stuff, including many books, CDs and DVDs), and then engineer the actual move. All of which seems close to impossible given my very bad health. Well, I have five months to get it done. I can get it done in very small increments, which is the only way I can get it done.

Speaking of moving: if anyone who sees this knows of apartments in the Los Angeles area (including the vast suburbs) that are cheap but livable, please do let me know (or if you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who might know). I've been in this apartment for 21 years. During that period, and in the last decade in particular, our corporatist fucking overlords (sorry, that "fucking" slipped out, but I mean it: fuck those corporatist fucking overlords) have priced apartments in Los Angeles proper into the realm of the ridiculous. Apartments that once rented for $600 or $700 a month now go for $2,000 and more. You're no doubt aware of the "housing crisis" afflicting many of our larger cities, a "crisis" by means of which the ruling class systematically destroys all those who do not belong to its anointed, blessed rank. If I were younger and healthier, it would be bad enough; in my current circumstances, it verges on fatally alarming.

But I am determined to survive this, too. I am not yet done here. Besides not being ready to die, I still feel the need to write more. I wasn't able to do the writing I had planned in December because of the intervening health crises. But I've started pulling together some new posts. I hope to complete a few of them soon. And my goal remains to resume writing and posting regularly. A few readers have told me that they intend to continue supporting me to the extent they can regardless of whether I ever write another word. I cannot tell you how profoundly moved I am by such a gesture, to say nothing of how deeply grateful I am for the help on a practical level.

But I realize that most readers prefer to support a writer who actually, you know, writes. And I myself would be ecstatic to be that writer again and, you know, actually write. Regularly. This entry will now go in a direction I had not anticipated when I began it. My reference to ecstasy caused me to look once more at an essay of mine that is among my own handful of favorites: "Cultivate Your Sense of Wonder, and Live Ecstatically." Here are a few brief excerpts:
If I had to select just a single word to express my deepest feeling about the world, and about humankind, it would be that one: wonder. I consider it a measure of how unevolved we are that so many people appear to be capable of that feeling only when they contemplate an imaginary, supernatural plane. It is hardly surprising that our world holds so much unnecessary suffering, when so many people are willing and eager to condemn it to second-rate status in favor of one they've made up out of whole cloth. ...

Extraordinary events have transpired in history before, and they might again. We need a miracle, but not one delivered to us from a supernatural realm: we require a miracle that we create.

It can happen. Hold on to your sense of wonder; if you do not have a sufficiently strong one, then develop it. For me, it is the most precious resource in the world.

Live in the sense of wonder, and in the world of joy. Take it, feel it and pass it on.

That's sometimes all you can do -- for someone, somewhere, one day. It's everything. ...

I now add that, when you engage in this process, you yourself live ecstatically -- today.

And that is everything.
In the last few years, and especially in the last several months, I've forgotten my own advice. I've been dangerously out of touch with my own sense of wonder. It's not difficult to understand why it happened, given the dreadful events in my life in recent times. Still, I consider it a grievous error. Fortunately, it's an error I can now correct. I hereby reclaim my sense of wonder and my dedication to living ecstatically. I reclaim them to the depths of my soul.

If that strikes you as hokey and sentimental, I urge you to reconsider the matter. Cynicism and bleak despair hardly exhaust the range of "adult" emotional responses. In today's world, cynicism and bleak despair are easy. Wonder and ecstasy require courage and strength. Wonder and ecstasy are brave.

You may consider that to be boastful and self-congratulatory. You bet your sweet, wondrous ass.

Related: Practical Matters