Saturday, November 8, 2008


I remember reading this Wordsworth poem junior or senior year of high school, with Eben sitting behind me... and feeling its potency then.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

Today, this week, month, year, several years?? there are moments when I feel a bit overwhelmed. By the amount of books I want to read. By the number of movies I feel it is imperative to the continuing development of my soul that I see. By the quantity of news that I feel it is my responsibility as a privileged member of a media-laden society to process... By the phone calls I would like to make to stay in touch. By the disconnect between the number of ideas I have and the number of them I have brought to fruition. By my love for people. By my anger at people. By my compassion for people who are suffering, those I know and those I don't know. The list goes on and on.

Last night I went to a fun reunion-of-sorts party which had the unusual distinction of including speeches. Maybe because the party was celebrating my friend Sam's brief return to NYC from Obama-land... and he has been so close to such a great orator for a bit, and maybe because of how monumental this week was, and because many of us at the party went to a high school where declamation was not just revered but PRACTICED... we were all game. A college friend got us warmed up with a more conventional toast, and then Sam took the step ladder and went on for a bit. He told stories from the trail, stories we will probably learn in the coming weeks (about for example, Barack's first night in NYC as a transfer student at Columbia, when he slept under the stars in an alley on 109th Street), and he talked about how much the people that are his support team have meant to him these past two years especially. He grew up in a neighborhood in Boston called Jamaica Plain and many of his childhood friends were there to raise their glasses last night. He talked about his girlfriend Sasha and how much of a rock she has been, and how having her there to listen to him gripe, or share in his glee, or just shoot the proverbial shit with has gotten him through more than anything. I was really happy for him. I am really happy for him. He is the kind of sensitive, thoughtful, complex-minded individual you might assume would favor a career in the arts or education over politics.

And you know the most amazing thing-- instead of going to Washington, where he could surely get a cushy job in the administration-- he is choosing to keep doing what he has been doing. Finding people who have never participated in politics ever before maybe, talking to them, getting them excited, and sharing their stories... He is choosing to stay with the movement, and effect change from the outside in-- rather than play the conformity game with the bureaucrats in Washington. And the really exciting thing to me-- the macro-level reality is-- when this Obama-thing started two, or four, or arguably more, years ago-- it must have seemed like a near-impossibility. The people involved must have felt pretty overwhelmed by the amount of change him being elected President would effect. The paradigm-shifts. The mind-opening...

Ahhh... but we did it. Here we are. It wasn't easy. Change is not easy (Sam kept saying that last night, I guess it is something Barack says pretty often...). As Sam put it, "It's fucking hard. But it's worth it. It's so exciting."

What would I prefer-- to NOT be overwhelmed??

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

please vote

My good friend Sam Graham-Felsen, who has been working for Obama for 2 years, has a link to this speech on his gchat tag. I personally love Henry IV, parts I and II and Henry V-- following young Prince Hal's youthful and privileged ignorance, adventures and debauchery, and ultimate pursuit of wisdom through exploration and education. Apparently our friend Chris Roma learned this speech for declamation in 11th grade at Boston Latin (our high school) and has not forgotten it. Sam said he used to recite it in their college dorm room. I think it's a good message for today.
Oh yes- and PLEASE GO VOTE!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

sentimental sunday

Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.
Aldous Huxley

This morning over 100,000 people from all over the world woke up and set out to run/wheel 26.2 miles.
I wasn't one of them.
But I love them for their passion and perseverance and desire to push their own physical (and in some cases, mental) limits.

It is a gorgeous crisp fall day and we are SAVING daylight today-- which is fun, right?
Or, alternately, getting an extra hour of sleep.

I went to CITYterm in Dobbs Ferry, NY early yesterday morning for a meeting of a council I am on and I really love everything about that place. The train ride along the Hudson, the steep hill up to the Masters School, the humble Tudor building where the program is housed-- dorms upstairs, classrooms downstairs... I lived there for about 4 months my junior year of high school but collectively they were probably the single most formative four months of my life. It is a semester program with an emphasis on not just 'learning things' per se, but learning HOW to learn. How to be the author of your own learning, of your experiences. How to 'read' any interaction or experience as if it is a text rich with meaning and the opportunity for interpretation/analysis. I learned what it means to collaborate and how the reflection on the end product is as important as the production itself. I learned how to use the scientific-method-- and not just in the context of science. I practice what I learned at CITYterm in my daily life, in the interpersonal exchanges and in my work-- putting on a play is in fact very akin to a giant collaborative science project.

I saw a few old friends last night and other old friends earlier in the week, also some GREAT plays, Black Watch-- which was one of the best shows I have seen in my entire life, and Farragut North, written by my good friend Beau Willimon. I am so proud of Beau and excited and also even the themes of the plays have me thinking a lot about potential-- what 'potential' means-- what our individual roles on this planet, in this life, are... and how to deal with the expectations of ourselves and others for these lives we lead. A friend was describing her boyfriend's unique ability to resist specific career goals but instead opt for embracing the 'exploration.' A former math teach who is now working in finance-- I imagine the fluidity with which he appears to be accepting his path will serve him well in this economic depression... and his flexibility will most certainly make him an attractive asset to a company.

I have been pretty flexible in my life lately-- with my career, with my home locale, friendships/relationships, and I am finding it incredibly rewarding, if sometimes a bit confusing. My friend Alex asked me if I felt a bit rudderless lately-- and though I did at that moment, I don't see it that way anymore.
Just as a poem is singular in its ability to compress complex ideas & feelings into relatively sparse language thereby increasing the density of the space the words take up-- this time of so many unknowns is a time of great authorship for me, for my life, my work. I think it may serve me best to subvert my expectations for what I 'should' be doing-- and really embrace the exploring and the 'authoring' of my experience. I may not know precisely what it all means until the reflection stage-- but at least I will know I am fully engaged in the active experimentation and the concrete experience.