“The simplest questions are the most profound. Where were you born? Where is your home? Where are you going? What are you doing? Think about these once in a while, and watch your answers change….”
A couple days ago, I was digging through some old boxes when I came across my middle school burn book. Awkward.
Most of the pages are covered in magazine pictures, surrounded by comments written in bright markers. While at first glance the overfilled composition notebook resembles a “burn book” a la Mean Girls, that’s not actually what it is. The notebook is a friendship journal. Back in 2007, two of my 7th grade friends and I shared a journal. Each day someone different would take it home and write an entry. The entries were typically pictures, quizzes, and stories we cut out from magazines. We used code names (which were pointless because at the end we put pictures of ourselves and labeled who was who) and wrote small comments about our lives. It’s a fine cultural artifact, really. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day the journal ends up in a museum or special collections library, where you will need to use gloves to flip through the pages.
“Is it possible, finally, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another? We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close are we able to come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?”
—Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
I’m currently trudging through Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It’s one of those books high school English teachers love to assign, and high school students love to use as a nice door stop or eye pillow (It’s 607 pages long in like 10pt font with line spacing approximating 0). The book doesn’t have a nice snappy, linear plot. Instead, it follows Toru Okada, just a normal guy without a job, and the many people he meets as he tries to find his cat. While it’s taking me forever to finish, I find the book thought provoking and beautifully written (hence all the block quotes). Mostly, it’s really made me think about the difficulties of knowing others and even knowing ourselves.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race…
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
—Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go