Some Thoughts on Being Quiet and Powerless

If I weren’t sitting at the funny conference table at the Emerson (the resort which happens to house a gym of which I am a member) gearing up for a shower, catching up on my work here, in other words, in a rush because I don’t have electricity at home due to Sandy’s recent visit, I would be looking all over the place for blog posts like the one I am about to write, and finding them, I’m sure. I guess this is one more good thing about being in the dark: I get to be the first to say it’s kind of nice being quiet and powerless.

Of course I don’t wish hurricanes on anyone, so let’s not get silly. But since it happened, I’m just sayin. I like it when the computer doesn’t work. I like it when the lights are off. I like the quaint little ring, ring of our non-electric phone. I like feeding Azalea her breakfast of rice checks and hard boiled eggs (which I boiled as part of our storm prep) on paper plates by candlelight. I like washing my hands in the bathtub full of water for flushing. I like reading the new biography of David Foster Wallace by flashlight.


“Keep talking like that,” he said to his friend Jonathan Franzen before he killed himself, “it helps.”

What a sad dude.

The thing is, I always feel like I am scurrying around on someone else’s clock. Azalea’s? Thayer’s? The world’s? Because if it were up to me, except for moments when I am all agitated and move very quickly to, say, organize the pre-storm kitchen, I would take way more time than is available to, say, cook. And eat. And walk. And talk to friends. And read! I like the get the some stuff over with, the work, the bed-making, the bill-paying in order to languish as much as possible. And with the lights out, that’s the natural pace. Do what you can until the sun sets. That kind of life.

So what is it that keeps me cranked up with the lights on? Of course I have to make money. Of course I have to fix things. But the heart of what keeps my engine revving up is ambition—a constant seeking outside of myself. What do I think is out there? A giant life raft. What do I think is sinking? Me. Who do I think is not sinking? Everyone else. What do we call it? Ego. Attachment. Separation. Delusion. Ok, ok! I get it!

But with the lights out, I feel it, too, this other softer self that isn’t going anywhere.

I’m not going start spouting crazy talk about how now I am going to change stuff. I know I won’t, not a darn thing. Candles are a serious hazard anyway. And I’m not ready to risk the life I have.