Sunday, June 12, 2011

and now for something completely the same

AP Photo
In the Philippines, Junrey Balawing's hometown of  Sindangan threw a party on his 18th birthday today -- the day on which the Guinness World Records proclaimed him the world's shortest man. At 23.5 inches tall, Balawing replaced Khagendra Thapa Magar of Nepal, who is a towering 26.4 inches tall.

Fifteen minutes of fame for being who you are, for being what you cannot escape, for what cannot be otherwise. The mundane and plain is suddenly uplifted and special. How sweet life is!!!! Finally, the glass slipper of success slides perfectly onto the scullery maid's foot and what was same-ol'-same-ol' drudgery becomes a circumstance for celebration.

When I was a kid, my parents, among others, used to say, "If you don't know how to spell it, look it up in the dictionary." That used to irritate the hell out of me: If I didn't know how to spell it in the first place, how was I supposed to look it up?

On another, more amorphous front, those willing to encourage my desire to write would suggest, "You have to find your own style and voice. You can't use someone else's voice. You can't copy." What they never told me was how I was supposed to find my own voice if I didn't know what my voice sounded like in the first place. Maybe I should have looked it up in the dictionary.

These time-honored wisdoms were always handed down with a kindness that was galling. Those who seemed to possess the wisdom expounded were no longer seeking the wisdom they possessed. But to anyone seeking, that wisdom could be a matter of desperate longing and desperate importance... don't pat me on the head with nostrums, hand over the peace of mind that those nostrums arise from!

Once, at a Zen center in New York, everyone was sitting around, sipping tea after an evening of meditation. I was relatively new and not at all at home with the lingo of Zen, the "roshi's" and "satori's" and "kensho's" and names of past teachers and well-worn paradoxical sayings. And I remember sitting there and thinking irritably, "Just tell me what I want to know and I can get the fuck out of here!" I never did express that sentiment aloud but if I had, I can imagine someone might have told me, "You are already enlightened. All you have to do is get used to it."

If you don't know how to spell it, look it up in the dictionary.

Find your own voice ... which is precisely the voice you already have.

How can what is as plain as day, every day, be a cause for celebration?

What is irritating about all these bright laurels that have yet to be placed on my head is that there is all the work, all the floundering, all the two-steps-forward-and-three-steps-back effort that is required. Why must I work to find the voice I already have? It seems so unfair!

Any explanation or analysis only deepens the hole in which anyone might be stuck. The short response to such wailing, the one which is no more consoling than the long and profound ones, is, "Tough titty!" You can't get to the market by sitting in your La-Z-Boy recliner. Look it up in the dictionary. Get used to failure. Look under the bed -- maybe your voice is there. Sweat and strain. Put some effort into it.

And then one day you may find that, same as before, you are 23.5 inches tall and singing with your own voice. How kool is that?! Let's party!


  1. I have not given up, never. It is just that I saw upon a time (like a few hours ago) that there is nothing to give up on. ... I should like consentrate about trying to feel well and "ignore" honor which is pure horror if lived.


  2. That's a cute little dude.