On the Seemingly Vain Things We Do: In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise

To reach the highest point of something is to expose oneself to the atrocities of what exists on the other side. That, too, is often self-possessing and leaves a person insecure to the dreariness of living. Does this struggle make us desolate and alone, or will we die knowing we thoroughly testified against the trial that ran its course throughout our lifetime?

The truth about our ego is to look at the world within the limits of our own perspective of it. This, as much distinct and unnerving, is an invitation to what we’d like to become. And not our matter of being.

Just like in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise — the chapter Snapshots of the Young Egotist, Fitzgerald writes:

“It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the becoming. This, too, was quite characteristic of Amory.”

He also wrote a striking reflection of the character which we see much of everywhere in the light of betrayal and domination:

“Amory kept his temper with difficulty. He became aware that he had not an ounce of real affection for Isabelle, but her coldness piqued him. He wanted to kiss her, kiss her a lot, because then he knew he could leave in the morning and not care. On the contrary, if he didn’t kiss her, it would worry him… It would interfere vaguely with his idea of himself as a conqueror. It wasn’t dignified to come off second best, pleading, with a doughty warrior like Isabelle.”

This passage examines a person mastering something that feels chaotic and passive, but in fact, is opposed to such remarks. Given our tiring limits of existence, can we unravel the drudgery of our actions? Such magnetism toward one’s own cause and consequence is sure to keep one awake at night. And this is greater than fear… which is greater than my humility. But what I feel and how I feel exists as only mirrors to what others have made me out to be. So, if I were to tear the unsanctified pages of my relationship with what’s between me and others, as a means to an end — what would I be? An egotist, reasonable of doubt, and a captive to my own feelings and emotions.

So, would there be a difference between my character and Amory’s? In the understanding of this thought, I felt as if my surety in my own self was finally defeated. That I’m as capable of translating judgment and conceit in my thoughts as in my actions toward others. We all are. And that gives us leverage; a peek into myriad characters we resonate with in books, movies, and music. And will continue to do so. At last, when I return to my lonely bed at night, there’s no dishonour in dismissing what I am — for what I want to become tomorrow is the only self-serving advantage I am granted.

On Finding Strength in Simplicity and Simplicity in Strength: In Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood

The only way to love is to give to a kind of lif that brings bliss, melancholy, and a longing for the light at the end of a tunnel.

We’re happier set free than we are caged. Figurative, of course, is the enclosure of our feelings and experiences that we become so intimate with. And in considering why that is, I’ve observed, the present starts to look much more forgiving and profound than when observed by looking back at our memories. Reading Murakami’s Norwegian Wood for the second time put me in a haze so vivid and satisfying that I never wanted to put the book down.

A verse from the book:

“I didn’t have much to say to anybody but kept to myself and my books. With my eyes closed, I would touch a familiar book and draw its fragrance deep inside me. This was enough to make me happy.”

After all, the simplest things in life are enough to keep us happy. As Murakami writes, “We all just keep doing the same things.” Some may not perceive it this way, but passages like these are so imaginative and profound that they draw a parallel. A parallel into the pursuit of another life in which we’re seen mirroring the same inwardness and openness to our existence. Only here, in this world, we’re creatures devoid of possibilities and coincidences.

I want to believe that there are no coincidences in life. That the beauty in existing is in appreciating our own reflections in everything around us. In accepting life the way it serves the bitter or sweet or tasteless flavors. And that saying everything we do has meaning is a less painful way of believing that we care too deeply.

“We all just keep doing the same things.”

Maybe that’s the only way one musters strength in life and death. Reliving any moment in words is revivifying but reliving them still brings with it a kind of soreness in the want to feeling something. Simple verses, like the ones you read in Norwegian Wood, are unexampled pillars by which the pains of others are understood. And in doing so, I am healed of the piercing twinge in my soul.

I imagine a meadow at the cusp of bearing sunshine and warmth. With a kind of simple strangeness that envelopes an open field. As I take a closer look, life begins its journey feeling a little simpler and much less convoluted.

Maybe that’s all Norwegian Wood does. The book wants us to unravel in the celebration of simplicity within simplicity. Of loving and being without conditions and of letting go of the hurtful aspects of life only to embrace it on a more fundamental level. The book wants us to live. Each day, getting closer to the open field, and slightly transformed into a meadow with an essence of its own.

There is longing, delicate and infinite in each word, sentence, and chapter. With a hint of acceptance, innocence, and compassion. So, what happens and when it happens are only the natural courses of life. It is our natural course. And embracing the extraordinary workings of the world around us makes our own lives so strange and beautiful.

So, in entertaining such a thought, the boundaries of the meadow expand and answer to our most mechanical question: What is life? The answer is a speck of dust on a clean, spotless surface. And this governs the law of our place in the world.