What It Means To Be Alive In Today’s World
Like many New Yorkers, I came to the city with whimsy in my heart and little to my name. Echoing the sentiments of the somewhat psychedelic title sequence for children’s show Reading Rainbow, I said to myself, I can go anywhere. I can be anything. I floated through the wind tunnel that is 23rd Street on a breezy day, and life was an invigorating series of inexplicably magical moments.
My adoption papers say that I was abandoned on the doorstep of a police station in Seoul, South Korea. I was put in an orphanage and then adopted to two folks from North Carolina and raised in a conservative town where people asked me if I knew karate and if I was related to the one other Asian in my school. Nevertheless, it was filled with goodhearted people, and I grew up with the intense realization that I could be anywhere else, not because I wanted to be, but because I didn’t want to be. The realization that I was one of the lucky ones.
People say, Life is what you make it, and I agree, but I also agree that Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. I always felt like my own life was a narrowly missed adventure, that one shuffle in a different direction would have taken me eons away from where I ended up. In light of recent events, people say: How do we make sense of these tragedies? And how do we know what the right answers are, or even if there are answers at all?
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Mark Oliver Everett, lead singer of The Eels, wrote an autobiography that really resounded with me, and I was reading it right around the time I moved to New York. His father was Hugh Everett, a quantum physicist who originated the many worlds theory that essentially states that there are an infinite number of lives and possibilities and circumstances happening throughout time and space. The author discovered his father dead in his house, and not too long after that his mother died of cancer and his bipolar sister finally succeeded in one of her many attempts at suicide. Instead of retreating, Everett took these circumstances and let them be an inspirational catalyst to the school of thought that “Life is short.” Anyone who has ever taken a look at the Eels’ discography can see that he used his life circumstances as creative fuel for the fire.
I inhaled that book and closed it and was held entranced in what Nora Ephron once described as a literature-induced “rapture.” But over time, and by its very definition, one cannot live in a sustained state of rapture, and things change from technicolor to a more muted state.
However, sometimes things happen that cause us as a collective body to gasp and question the meaning of life. Sometimes children die in mass shootings, movie-goers are killed, cities are challenged as pieces of its fiber are literally blown apart. And then lawmakers vote down pieces of legislation that seem common sense to many, leaving the masses utterly helpless. If our democracy cannot afford us change, then what do we do? How can we help? How can we deal with these things that happen?
And aside from things in the news that cast a shadow over everyday activity, this existentialism has been creeping back into my life in the form of random Netflix movies involving cancer plots and embracing life for as long as one holds onto it. It’s shown its face in dreams that normally consist of ridiculous plot lines where pterodactyls piss me off by stealing all of my DVDs, in exchange for vivid dreams where intruders are violently murdering me and my roommates in our sleep, waking me in a cold and clammy sweat. It’s appeared as a friend’s father who just learned he has three different types of cancer.
What do we do? How do we deal with these things? If we haven’t learned anything, we’ve at least learned that we have very little control over anything, but life can still be a series of inexplicably magical moments, if we let it be.
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