Sweet Dreams Inviolate

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I had sweet dreams last night. Two of them. Happy dreams, that moved at an easy pace and traded in real possibility.

I can’t remember the last time that happened. Definitely that easy pace isn’t something I experience very often — whether asleep or waking. Even past “good dreams” — they often flash by, even in memory.

It felt good, having a couple dreams where I experienced real clarity, in a way I could appreciate. There was no rush — just that clarity. What I saw and felt, I understood.

I’m going to give this feeling one more moment — because why not.

It felt good.

Good can be enough, sometimes, without have to analyze anything, without having to break it down. So, let’s live by example, today, perhaps.

Have a good day.


profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker 
of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

Legitimately Va-goo

the-beginning-of-knowledge-is-the-discovery-of-something-we-do-not-understand

 

Sometimes, to find what we didn’t know we were looking for, we need to stop searching.

Discovery can be tricky like that. We search and we search, we flail and thrash, or perhaps we give up and lament. And, in my experience, that last part is often when something clicks, or reveals itself.

More accurately, perhaps, it’s when we realize one of two things — 1) That the answer has been staring us in the face all along, and is different than what we ever might have imagined, or 2) The complete opposite occurs, and we’re left instead with new, more accurate question — that any given search can truly move forward.

If that sounds a bit vague, all I can say is that I’m feeling a bit vague. Legitimately VA-goo.

This is all right. It has to be all right. If I were to fight it the vagueness, I’d be acting against my better instincts. A more appropriate reaction would be to let go and listen, I think. 

I’m not sure what today will bring.

I don’t have anything particularly special planned. I don’t have any expectations, other than that certain daily routines are likely to become a part of this otherwise average weekday.

The sunrise this morning was beautiful. That’s not a va-goo observation. That’s specific, identifiable, ready to be absorbed and appreciated and held onto.

It’s been a great help these past weeks, waking up with the rising sun. Stopping by here, for a check-in. It feels right.

Speaking of discovery, last night I dreamed of finding a new door in my apartment, that I had never seen before. I opened it, without hesitation, and saw that it led to extra living space that I was excited to find.

The space was dusty, and in need of some repair. I stepped into it to explore, and soon the dream shifted, and I was in a new, transformed, spacious, open — but oddly modular — new version of my apartment.

The place felt familiar but different. There weren’t any enclosing walls, as far as I could tell. This made me uneasy but at the same time it felt right.

So I kept exploring.

This is part fourteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

This is part eight of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Big yellow thing in sky wake up Michael from dream.
Big yellow thing in sky wake up Michael from dream.

I slept soundly. I dreamed, but memories of those dreams elude me.

I can feel them still, the dreams, lingering in the fog of the morning. They recede, though.

It always saddens me, to lose a dream, or to be in the process of losing one. It doesn’t often happen, does it, the way it does with other memories — we can often ultimately find our way back to an unremembered fact, or name, or other such thing.

It’s rarer to snatch a dream from the depths of forgetfulness.

They’re too ethereal, aren’t they? But still we reach for them. I do at least. I want to remember my dream.

The process, if not the result, feels important. Dreams always feel just a bit more important, somehow, than mere facts.

The memory of the dream, that it had been there, disappears rapidly now. I’ve been up for several minutes. The sun has burned from red to orange. I’ve been sipping tea.

The day begins, and the dreaming ends — at least, the real pure stuff — until tonight.

But we can dream awake, can’t we? We can relax back, and breathe, and wander through our mind, and grasp after strands of what comes more readily to us in sleep.

This helps, I think. Pursuing dreams awake.

And I don’t mean striving after goals, necessarily. I’m talking about keeping up with that pursuit, that chasing after what lit up our minds and souls while all else was quiet —  however fruitless such efforts might prove.

There’s something about dreams — even, I think, those dripping with the stuff of fear — that soothe us.

Their poetry simplifies, clarifies, by mixing the usual and the understood with the distinctly familiar but unknowable. In this way, despite their frequent opacity, despite our inability to break them down into the rational, the actionable — dreams ground us. Don’t they?

I think they do, if we let them. If we continue the chase, continuing trying to hold on, at the same time that we acknowledge that dreams are temporary, fleeting, insubstantial.

No wonder we grasp after them, in the waking world. And yet it seems fitting that the grasping should go on, rather than the dream. Perhaps the dreaming itself is more the point, and the pursuit, of the most-personal of stories, than the content.

Day 1: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 2: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 3: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 4: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 5: On The Future of Labor

Day 6: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 7: The Word for World is Earth

Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over A Far-off City (Day 3 of 30)

This is part three of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged.

sunset
Not purple but you get it.

I dreamed of a brilliant purple sky, full of towering clouds that surrounded a far-off city.

There was a magnificent gap in the clouds, a sort of amphitheater of thick, stubborn, brilliant white, buttressing the center of the city against overrun-by-purple.

Fireworks erupted, orange-white and everywhere at once, below the clouds but above the city, just as the sun sank with that impossible quickness lent to time by dream. I felt joy. Warmth.

All went dark.

Just before this brilliant display, I had been attempting to photograph the purple sky only, had been lamenting a glitch with my camera that had left so many shots of the sight un-captured. But at the urging of my wife beside me in my dream, I adjusted the camera and tried again.

And that’s when the real display of beauty, natural and manmade, shone through the world. After I thought I had missed it, but before I had given up.

When The Panic Goes

Me, in The Shadow World.
Me, in The Shadow World. Waving “Hello”.

I’ve been reflecting a bit, lately, on where I’ve ended up — in my life and creative career. In many ways, things feel good. The Videoblogs is in post. I’m still proud of Multiverse. I have a new script in the works that I’m very happy with even if I’m also, as usual, terrified of finishing it.

Dreams are beginning to materialize into goals. This is good, because goals can be whittled down, aimed and launched.

Multiverse has launched and landed. The Videoblogs is in the air, even if its riding a slowed-down trajectory warped by limits of time, budget, scope, intention. This new project feels especially sharp in certain terms, but it’s shaped differently than anything I’ve ever done before and I don’t honestly know how or if it’s going to fly. Beyond that, it’s been a fun project to develop.

But, sometimes, I still struggle. Freeze up. I lose faith, or clarity, and I’m left feeling like nothing is going to work out. I feel stuck. I get depressed.

I know that this is normal, by now, when you’re pursuing a path through the arts, and so I don’t (usually) obsess over things at such times. Yet these reflections, I think, have also revealed something new, recently, that I hadn’t noticed before.

Even when things get tough, now — I don’t stop working.

In fact, I’ve arguably felt more dedicated, more focused. I feel a presence within myself that is both new and old, gently pushing me to at least get a little done each day. The old part of me approaches the task with innocence, reminds me that creativity feels good. The new part reinforces the idea that any progress is good progress, and kindly reminds me to appreciate my own work.

One recent night, this combined presence made me stop on the way home from work and put an hour in on revisions of the aforementioned new script.

That hour calmed my shit. And I moved the script forward.

It used to go differently. Historically, I would have tortured myself with excuses, and/or imagined difficulties. I would have lasso’d or found my way into the middle of any drama within radius, so as to have a reason…to run. I would run until a sense of separation from myself (which is what happens when I don’t write in particular) grew too unbearable, whereupon I’d finally capitulate to the intense need to keep creating.

Then there would be a writing binge. Accompanied by other binges.

Things are different now, and I wanted to share these thoughts because I’ve had to remind myself of why and how I’ve felt different, lately.

I have come to treasure a new, simpler relationship with myself, and my craft as it relates to that self. As a result of the last several years of trying and failing and learning, both in career terms and personal terms, I’ve come to feel protective of this new perspective and process. It’s not perfect but it’s less complicated.

I still feel anxious. The dread still comes, in waves. But, increasingly, I don’t panic.

Just a few days ago, someone was panicking (and directing his panic at me) and…I just didn’t want anything to do with it. He was worried about something, which was his choice. He asked if I understood why he was concerned. I said that I did but that I just didn’t feel like panicking about it. The conversation ended when he literally walked away.

I’ve felt that brand of anxiety before — still do, sometimes — and I sympathize with anyone who feels he or she can only proceed that way in order to get things “done” or “fixed”. But I’m learning there are other ways — asking for help, and/or expressing our fears major among them.

Panic used to be the only path I knew to take on my way to work. Now I’ve embraced other paths, like routine and patience.

I don’t miss the panic. I embrace, instead, the steady, daily urgency. But this is not to suggest that it’s always easy.

Say what you will about panic, but it does get people moving. I don’t judge myself for the years of fuse-lit stress. I had a lot of pages to burn through that just needed to be burned. Similarly, I think I needed to live fast for a while…maybe…just to keep on living. The way that it’s gone was probably always the way it was going to go, for me.

And even now, when the panic goes, it can become disorienting. After all, if all we ever know of forward motion comes from being driven by panic, how are we supposed to know how to achieve the same effect, once calm begins to assert itself in our lives? Won’t the whole system come crumbling down? Won’t a steady pace feel unnatural, slow, wrong — when we’re used to speeding, dead-ahead, towards The Goal?

Well, yes. Though, in my experience, the process of destruction and re-creation isn’t always so dramatic as it feels it’s going to be when we theorize about it at times of anxiety. This is mostly because, as I established above — we aren’t actually speeding in a straight line, when we’re panicked, are we? We’re speeding, then screeching to a halt, then pivoting and changing directions, or turning around, or attempting an impossible back-flip, or any combination (or repetition) of all these things.

In this way, panic’s false promise reveals itself. Panic isn’t the tonic it purports to be. It offers unspecific, largely unfocused perpetual motion in the guise of A Way Out. The insidiousness of the compact is that, while panic has you launching and twisting and starting and stopping — there’s no way to tell for sure whether or not you are in fact heading in the wrong direction. It wasn’t until I accepted that I had been “moving” too long without arriving anywhere, until I began learning to subsequently pause and look and listen and inquire — about myself, as I would any other external influence in my life — that I began to realize my “error”.

When the panic goes, we can take advantage of the resulting calm to begin building something more permanent, something that couldn’t have structurally withstood the sharp redirects or the sudden snapping halts that used to characterize our panicked state.

The change isn’t painless. Some days, I feel like I’ve lost a friend.

Panic drove my survival for so long — arguably drove me to write and to create in the first place. Sometimes I even give panic a call on the old land line and we end up hanging out, because few things ends perfectly — and then I wake up with a hangover or a foreboding sense of disappointment and I remember why it’s better for me to make the decisions about what to do and for how long.

The tricky things about panic is that it doesn’t come from a bad place. It comes from an understandably human place — a place of fear. But then, because of fear, panic leads us to a place that at its worst is assuredly bad, and at its best assuredly not good.

And, finally, panic has a charge to it — doesn’t it? There’s a bit of a high that comes with the sense that The Situation is Desperate.

But the reality is that it’s usually not. And the high gives way to a crash, and maybe, yeah, in the end you have a stack of paper or some other Piece of Art — but at what cost? And is it possibly as good as it could be if our truest, most focused self wasn’t completely engaged in its making?

I don’t buy the “necessary suffering” line of thought. Especially not anymore. I get that a hard life, that hard times — they often bring dynamism to the lives of people who subsequently (if they’re lucky) end up feeling compelled to expunge what they’ve experienced, absorbed and processed via some form of art. Having been through this myself, I get that panic is often going to be the first car to pick you up on the road.

Still, as I get further from a place of panic, I am coming to appreciate other, purer, more natural ways of proceeding through life, as I follow what compels me.

I try to write every morning, now, six days a week. Sometimes, it’s still hard, and I end a day without having gotten much done. But every page that gets written, every minute spent on a film, is one more than nothing, which is more than I was able to get done on a daily basis during previous years of my life that were ruled mostly by panic.

When the panic goes, I remain. That can be scary. But it’s real.

I like that it’s real. It makes me happy, much of the time. Even when it doesn’t — there’s at least no regret. And a bonus to all this is that panic finds it increasingly difficult to find new footholds the further I get from the belief that I need it.

I’ve been worried, over the course of these last few weeks, about not feeling panicked. I questioned my dedication, the righteousness of my projects, my points of view. I returned to constantly-revisited patterns of wondering who or what I was, in the broadest terms, because, despite all of the above, the distorted lens of panic has warped my vision after all these years. I struggled to understand how I could say that I cared — if I wan’t panicked.

And then, slowly, one routine at a time, I began rededicating myself to pause. I’m still struggling with it a bit. I probably always will. The whole process has and will continue to take patience.

At the moment, I understand this. I’ll probably forget it next week.

But that’s okay, too. I’m going to continue to worry, I’m going to continue to get anxious. Dread may come and go.

But I don’t have to panic.

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What I Liked This Week: The American Nightmare

Would you rather wake up from a nightmare or from a wonderful dream?

No one likes a nightmare. Or, perhaps, given what I’m about to suggest, some people actually do. Given the choice, however, I feel as if most of us would rather enter the day on the heels of a wonderful dream.

Or is that presumption too quick?

Our most wonderful dreams tend to overlap, however concretely, with our deepest wishes. Just as our nightmares often earn their name by how fully they represent our deepest fears.

So what is better? To deal with the worst while in the comfort of our beds, while we are unconscious, and then the wake to face the aftershocks? Or would we rather experience something akin to pure joy — at least in the narrative sense, however loose that narrative may be while unconscious — and then wake up to find that it is gone?

Perhaps there’s no difference. In both cases, what happened in the mind during sleep was not real. Though that is a tricky statement in itself.

What’s more real to each of us than these polar opposite considerations — that which we most fear and that which we most desire? How much more difficult does the question get in dark times, or how much harder is it to decide for those of us with darkness in our hearts?

Personally, I think I would choose the nightmare. A day of reprieve seems preferable to a day of letdown. I would rather proceed recollecting my worst fears at times, then finding the commonest anxieties pale in comparison. It seems just as frightening to me, to dream of wonderful things, and then to wake and be forced, for the rest of the day at least, to pretend that a smile is as genuine as it could be, a laugh as potent and pure, when in truth you experienced something while sleeping that can never be so simply or completely gotten while awake.

Then again, the best answer may be both. Life is never so simple that we can split it into such easy questions. Adult life, at least, doesn’t proceed this way.

This fact does not, however, excuse us from action. Too many nightmares ruin the lives of too many people every day that many of the rest of us walk around as if in a dream, here in America. Too many days go by wherein the world could be much better and safer for others if a few only realized the extent to which they are perpetually chasing the demon of their supposed happiness. With a vision of their most wonderful dreams in mind, they keep everything in the way of the realization of this vision apart from their lives — at all costs.

The result is a world that lacks a necessary deference to reality.

This is a good segue into the first item I liked this week, this article by George Packer, titled “Celebrating Inequality.” In words that are far more concrete than those I just used in the preceding paragraph, it explores our sick relationship with the celebrated individuals who we all-but-worship in our society. We make this fatal error, hundreds of times a day, through so many tiny, unconscious decisions, despite the fact that doing so helps hasten the widening of the gap between “them” and “us”; despite the fact that the last remaining doors, through which “we”, via hard work and enterprise, should be able to go through as well, are closing behind them as this “super-class” of Americans continue to help only each other.

That is the irony of our plight. We, the many, are split and isolated — even as we bump up against each other day in and day out, holding tightly to the shared nightmares we think belong to us as individuals only. Meanwhile, the wealthy and the powerful do little else but help each other, for a price — that is more often taken from us than from within their ranks. We, the many, sit idly on the mountain of power that is our collective voice, because we fear. This is understandable. But consider what just a handful of us can accomplish, when we are brave…

I liked this Georgetown convocation speech by Brit Marling, an actor and indie filmmaker who has done well lately after collaborating for years with a few special friends — who she makes the central focus of her speech.

Speaking of collaboration, I liked this poignant article from Slate, about the genesis of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, which eventually spawned two sequels that further explore the relationship of its lover-protagonists, Jesse and Celine, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Before Midnight, the latest installment, was written by all three artists, as was the middle film in the trilogy, Before Sunset. What began as a unique experience between two people — one of whom has passed from this world — turned into a collaboration between three (and more, since we’re talking about three films with an entire cast and crew behind each) that touched the lives of so many. It’s easy to forget, in an age wherein we are constantly bombarding ourselves with images and “stories” from The Screen, that we tell stories in the first place in order to make some sense of life, and to do this together. That used to be the idea, at least.

Then again, we also tell stories to expose the nonsense of life. Something else I liked this week was John Cassavetes’ Shadows, which was on my watch list for Sophia. If I start writing about the experience of watching this film, we’ll be here forever. There’s plenty of literature about it out there, anyway. The point here, despite a case that could be made to the contrary if you aren’t paying close enough attention, isn’t to write about or talk about making movies. The point is to make movies, and for the right reasons. Shadows was made in 1959, and over five decades later the nonsense it portrays (racism) is still alive and well in America, despite clear and measurable progress. More can be done, especially on the part of our filmed entertainment, to advocate for the sort of real-life narratives that are woven by a film like Shadows. Our current plight begs for a consistent daily doses of reality. And I’m not talking about the “reality” we see these days on television.

In reality-reality, America is not doing as well as The Screen would lead you to believe. For millions of people, reality is a heavy burden, an ever-present anxiety built upon the uncertainty of survival. The majority of us are not wealthy, most of us are stretched thin — many of us are barely getting by. I say this not to guilt anyone. I say it because it’s true.

The last thing I liked this week is one of those “I don’t actually like this” items. Unsurprisingly, it’s about something that politicians have done — nominally in the name of saving money but secretly out of an inability and/or a refusal to sympathize with the less fortunate on human terms — that will have the actual impact of not only costing money but probably lives as well.

This week, the Senate unanimously accepted an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill proposed by Republican Senator David Vitter or Louisiana. The amendment cuts certain convicts off from food benefits for life. This is in addition to billions of dollars that are already being cut from the program. To be completely honest with you, can hardly write about this.

I’m not going to go into all the reasons why this is wrong. I’m not even going to waste time explaining why I believe that a person convicted of a crime — especially through our travesty of a criminal justice system — still deserves some help getting food when times are tough. I’m not going to expound upon these things because I believe life is often very, very hard for the people who end up in our jails — and I’m talking about before they’ve become criminals.

I’m not naive. Those who commit heinous crimes should be punished. But not only should they not be starved — they should not be punished beyond their sentence for past transgressions. Further, their children should not be punished any more than they already are or will be.

Just because it is difficult and morally challenging to legislate areas of life that frighten us — which include the lives of people who for several different reasons end up significantly implicated in frightening circumstances — does not mean that we are excused from our civil responsibility to take care of others. This legislation is about food. Specifically, it is about helping to provide food for Americans who cannot fully afford to feed themselves and their families.

What this legislation basically does is take food away from the “lowest” members of society — leaving they and their families behind in the completest way possible short of actually killing them — at the same time that corporations and governments continue to get away with crimes that are arguably just as abominable and deadly on a big picture level as the equally horrible on-the-ground crimes committed by a single, sick individual.

And what of the unfortunate souls whose only crime is having suffered from a failure of justice? Do we further fail these citizens by refusing to help them feed themselves and their families, in a country where we are just now getting around to ending the practice of paying farmers to not grow food?

I liked Paul Krugman’s short, angry column in The New York Times that more succinctly summarizes all the facts in the overall war against food stamps  — and the ugly political truths hidden beneath those facts. But I didn’t hear about this situation from the news.

I heard about it from a college friend, who in conducting dissertation research on women involved with the criminal justice system with addiction…learned of a few real-world cases in which this short amendment, agreed to by a room full of comfortable, well-fed bureaucrats, would have serious consequences for real people struggling “on the ground.”

Below is her testimony about a case that should make us think twice about leaving this group of “rapists and murders” behind for life. I’ve edited each anecdote slightly for clarity/length.

One of them has three kids. She gets $200 in food stamps twice a month. She barely has enough to get by at the end of month; most of the time she has to go get food from friend’s houses or from church food pantries. She is pretty enterprising in fact. She has been incarcerated in the past for something dubbed “violent”: she was on drugs (methadone/benzos) and lashed out when cops tried to take her out of a club when she was 17 years old.

Another woman gets food stamps and was incarcerated for four years in state prison for knifing her abuser as he was shooting and stabbing her. She would lose food stamps that have been helpful in fulfilling her “basic needs”. She’s now four years clean and is going back to school to be an addiction counselor and trying to get her life back together and get educated, help others. She would be affected by this lifetime ban on “violent” crimes when in fact she beat back against her abuser in a domestic violence situation.

So, in the first case, a stupid mistake at 17 translates to the woman and her children being punished today with less food — under the proposed amendment to the farm bill. In the second, a woman in the process of getting what appears to be a very hard life onto a better track, loses some of the support we as a society have given her in order to make a success story possible in such terms.

As I said earlier: complex moral issues. Such situations are hard to conceive, for many of us. Certain politicians and certain reporters — particularly on the extreme political right — like to pontificate about details. They like to poke and prod at testimony, reports, statistics…until these already second-hand sources of information are confused by so many ideological ideas of what is right and wrong, and where, after that has been decided, the money should go.

How about, though, we make sure everyone has had something to eat first? As hard as things have been in recent years, are they so hard that we can’t help feed our hungry? We can’t tax the wealthy equal to the rest of us, but we can take food away from our neediest citizens?

What is the scope of the morality play that is contemporary American crime? Does the man in the tower, whose financial manipulations led to hundreds of thousands of job losses, which led to thousands of depressed white American males feeling useless and rejected by society, such that they took their own lives — is this man more entitled to his preferential tax treatment than the children of a murderer-of-one, who has paid his debt to society, are to food?

I’ve asked the question before and I’ll keep asking it: Is this nightmare our legacy?

What I Liked This Week: 4/13/13 (The Devilish Disruptor)

I had a dream last night that I can’t fully remember but I can still grasp the ghost of it (that’s right, I can grasp ghosts), and its nature seems to me delightfully mischievous. There was some sort of show going on that I was responsible for — perhaps a play, though I’ve never been responsible for a play or involved in one — and there was a sudden commotion among The Organizers of said show, because they had heard a rumor that someone in the sub-basement of the building, who I understood to be a bit of a devil, was going to cause some sort of disruption.

So I said I would go check it out and try to talk to him, but even now I remember being more interested in this devilish disruptor than I was worried about what he was going to do to The Show. The journey, in search of the sub-basement, as well as I can remember it, was similarly tinged more with excitement than concern.

At one point I found The Door I needed to go through to find The Disruptor, after eventually making my way to the basement-basement and asking someone for directions to said door. I only got as far as opening the door, which was heavy, strong and appropriately “rough around the edges.” I remember it being pretty dark on the other side. But, again, I also recall being more intrigued than afraid.

Aren’t we supposed to be everyone in our dreams? Is that What They Say? I like this idea. It seems healthy to me, that some waking part of me went in search of the devilish disruptor. That he wasn’t afraid. That he asked another part of me (the basement-basement guy) for directions.

Perhaps I should also mention that I’ve been reading Henry Miller.

Perhaps I should move on to the list:

Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller. Henry Miller is insane. And brilliant. And horrible. And I love him — just a bit more than I fear him. Tropic of Capricorn isn’t as good as Tropic of Cancer so far (I’m halfway through the former) overall. But if you’re a New Yorker, the passages about living and working and walking around the city, circa 1920, are worth the price of admission. When I was working my way through them, I had the uncomfortable feeling that, fundamentally, not much has changed from then till now, in terms of how life goes for most of the people who populate the city and keep it running. Also, despite what I just wrote, I’m enjoying it about as much as I enjoyed Tropic of Capricorn — for the lengthy, surreal passages in which Protagonist Henry Miller (pretty much the same as Author Henry Miller) details the internal realizations and processes that led to him becoming “himself,” or the version of himself that dominated the period following the timeline of the author’s life that generated this story. Also-also, don’t read Henry Miller in ebook form. It feels wrong and you wonder the whole time if the author’s ghost is leering at you while making lewd gestures and “farting in your general di-rection.”

Leaving the Atocha Station, by Ben Lerner. Wonderful book. Absorbing. It was a delight, following the protagonist through the trials of his year in Spain as a poetry fellow. Spending a year in Spain as a poetry fellow may not sound trying, except that said protagonist suffers from severe anxiety, and probably some other legitimate (perhaps also “common”) mental health issues as well — despite his clear intellect and apparent talent. Also, it’s fundamentally trying, living in another country (any country) where you don’t speak the language. Although I like that Lerner, via his intensely aware (in some ways) and intelligent protagonist, probes through the entirety of the language barrier situation from an internal perspective. It felt right, to go searching for that link and seeing the Paul Auster quote (see last week’s WILTW for my feelings about Auster), front and center. I can see the overlap in sensibilities (and I can probably feel it as well). Thanks to pal E.L. Kensky for sharing.

I also liked spending time with Sophia The Great this week, after several weeks away from the script while I let the notes from our reading sink in, and worked on some business-related development items. I have never felt so much affection for one of my characters, one of my stories. When I think about making the film, I feel an excitement unlike any I’ve felt before. Don’t get me wrong, I always feel excited about my projects — and I’m just as excited to finish Multiverse as I am to get truly started on Sophia. But there’s something about the latter that feels a touch different. This could have to do more with a change in me than anything else, a comfort with finally feeling ready to take on such a big undertaking, and with confidence. I think, though, it has to do with the place Sophia has taken me. I believe, to be truly genuine, that a film must represent not only a story told from the point of view of the filmmaker, but a story pulled out of the filmmaker (or the writer, and then the director, if they are two people). Writing Sophia was a journey for me, as all my stories have been journeys — but this one seems to have landed me in a more solid, discernible place than the other features I’ve written. A place where I want to be. Multiverse compares, but it’s a short little devil. It’s more about unwinding a moment. Sophia, I think (hope), is about rising to the moment.

Thanks, as always, for reading. May your week find you, at some point or another, for even a moment — exactly where you want to be.