I Don’t “Get” Anything/Everything
Like you, I’m a soon-to-be dead person on the planet. All I have left to do is earn a few dollars, eat a few meals, retire and die. Oh, and I’ve also been tasked with making a report on anything/everything at all. This last point is why I’m writing to you now.
Let me backtrack a moment though to tell you that before I was on my way to death, I was part of an enormous and unimaginable void. In the suburbs, I was nothing in a vast expanse of more nothing, and at some point I went somewhere else and did nothing. My parents lived fruitful lives of love and failure, and as a result I was introduced to touch, sight and other senses.
In short, I’m no stranger to anything in particular.
However, after encountering something (or really anything) recently, I realized that I don’t really “get” anything and/or everything ever. Or rather, I kind of “get” anything in as much as everything at all in isolation can be “gotten,” but I don’t “get” anything as it is meted out to me in discrete experiences, one moment after another.
After a recent experience, or interaction, or exchange, or whatever, I confronted a friend or “something” about my dilemma: having to write a piece on what I don’t really understand (anything/everything). She recommended I read the HTML Giant piece by Bethany Prosseda titled “I Don’t ‘Get’ Poetry.” I ripped off the title, but what choice did I have when Bethany said it so well the first time? Bethany’s title is modest. It blames no one but Bethany herself for her inability to “get” poetry.
There are others, however, who are more hostile towards anything/everything and its various associated artifacts.
With the whole Lena Dunham Girls craze sweeping the nation, I thought I’d watch her film, Tiny Furniture. What particularly stuck out to me about the film was a statement one of the characters made about everything/anything. It went, “Anything is a very stupid thing to be good at. Everything is basically like dreams–something that everybody likes to tell other people but nobody actually cares about when it’s not their own. Which is why everything is a failure of the intellectual community.”
These are not my words. These are not necessarily my sentiments. These are someone else’s words, someone else’s opinion.
Dunham’s sentiments, or at least the sentiments of her characters in Tiny Furniture, got me thinking: if Dunham—who is undeniably making a mark in popular culture (how permanent that mark will ultimately be is another question entirely)—feels this way about anything at all, how many other people share her sentiments?
If I were to answer this question based on the number of people having any kind of experience ever, I would say that not many people share Dunham’s attitude towards everything ever. I think every person in the room or the world, or pretty close to it, has experienced at least anything. However, anything I’ve experienced has been isolated to my tiny life and nothingness, which I’ve been blessed to choose to continue, so one has to ask: how many people are here of their own volition? I ask this because it’s common practice for circumstances beyond our control to make us experience anything and everything. The reason this requirement is common practice gets caught up in issues of funding, branding, and other politics, which are all highly volatile topics that I believe should be acknowledged in this conversation but that I have no desire to provoke further.
To rephrase, there has been a good turn-out for everything/anything. A former person, who clearly admired something that happened, has at one point introduced one thing or another. The only detail I recall is that people experienced a series of events one after another and mildly enjoyed or did not enjoy it.
After that, situations unfurled. “Something/anything started with and,” as any and all things are wont to do, and anything was then followed by “another thing beginning with and.” After that, everything implored us to experience anything at all. At one point, everything began singing. The song goes: “Roger has died and gone to his grave.” Repeat.
In the vast pool of events and objects that constitute anything/everything, something spoke out about global warming and the state of the environment in general, or whatever. A few other things have touched on capitalism: “My toilet seats are new and made in China,” and, “It’s simpler now, you just die in the office.” Then, “There are no free popsicles!” and finally, “This place we are in is a place. Broil the asparagus.”
Afterwards came the Q & A.
The first question: how many experiences should you have before you consider it something at all? I’ve not recorded anything’s answer.
The second question: how does one thing relate to another thing, especially in the context of everything. Somehow, chronology came up.
The third question was mine (I think!): “Do you feel that anything/everything gains or loses anything/everything when experienced as opposed to when encountered in passing?” Anything’s reply: “When I experience anything, it’s interesting to hear how everything happens versus how I happen in my head. Sometimes, I’m like, ‘I can experience anything better than everything.’ When anything at all happens, there’s a vibrational relationship… The way one moment passes into another or the way one thing is or isn’t something else… You wouldn’t know from experiencing anything in particular that there should be singing in that one part.”
The final question: “I’ve experienced literally everything… Before, whatever, I felt experiences were evocative, beautiful, experimental. Now, nothing feels more accessible.” I didn’t write the answer to that one either, but it brings me to the keyword upon which this essay hinges: accessibility.
Earlier, I said that if I were to answer the question “How many people share Dunham’s attitude towards everything and anything?” based on the turnout alone for life in general, I would have to say “not many.” This question, however, was too troubling for me to allow it to be answered by appearances alone. I wanted to hear from the people themselves, so I conducted several interviews afterwards. I’ve included some of the responses I received below.
These responses are not my words. These responses do not necessarily reflect my sentiments. These responses are comprised of someone else’s words, someone else’s opinion.
“There were certain moments I enjoyed, but I feel like those times between moments were more interesting.”
“The idea of anything at all, as a community, ends up feeling elitist because you identify as something instead of simply using nothingness and the void as a medium through which you say: “‘This is how I express myself.’”
“I feel like everything is trying to keep out basic, conversational language. Experience feels dead. It’s been done.”
“The problem with anything at all is that it’s a medium that’s only accessible to other ‘things.’”
The response that really stuck out to me was this:
“We’re introduced to everything as it relates to the concept of time at a young age. We all saw and touched one thing or another, and to us, that’s what everything was. Then, when we encounter it later in high school or college, we learn that time is destructive and so are things. This new experience is hard to understand, and we still love.”
As a person living in the world and surrounded by objects and experiences, this question really resonated with me. Every day, I see the blank stares wash over my friends’ faces when I present them with anything at all. Every day, when I ask them to share anything with me, I’m showered with everything, and every now and then nothing at all. There’s nothing wrong with any of objects or people, but there is something problematic about the spread: everything is happening, and their moments have passed.
I think this generalization points to a shift that has occurred in anything. It seems that at some point, everything went underground. It went quietly and without a going away party. It forgot to send Christmas cards. So, it stands to reason that when anything showed up again at its high school reunion twenty years later, no one recognized it anymore. Everything spoke a different language, and no one at the reunion knew how to converse with it beyond the small talk anymore. But that’s not to say that anything and everything didn’t have friends because it did. It had underground friends that understood everything and spoke its new, underground language.
There’s nothing wrong with the new anything. It’s just intimidating. This should be understandable. It’s only human to feel intimidated by something you don’t “get.” I wonder though, if that’s the approach that everything really wants to take. But what do I know about anything? Not much. All I know is that we’re living in a time of great accessibility. Our news no longer comes to our doorstep but to our phones, often in the form of two-minute videos. If we want to watch a movie, we no longer need to take a drive; all we need to do is click, and Netflix, Hulu, or HBO will deliver. If we don’t know how to get wine out of a carpet, we no longer have to call our mothers; we can just ask Google.
I’m not advocating for anything at all to change. It doesn’t need botox or rhinoplasty. Everything’s beautiful just the way it is. I guess all I’m trying to say is that, deep down, everyone likes getting invited to the party and being asked if they like it.
Huynh has an uncanny penchant for predicting the future; uncanny in that his predictions are completely unpredictable. Sometimes if he brushes up against a person, or simply passes nearby, he will know what will happen to them in the next few minutes, or in the next hour. But it’s always something trivial that no one besides me would pay the slightest attention to, something so insignificant it’s hardly worth mentioning.
Steve Bradbury’s translation of Lo Kwai Cheung’s “Me and Him and Chris on Northbound 101” inverts time and space on a long drive in the rain. Read the rest in Asymptote’s new Spring issue.
(artwork by Ellen Blom)
Listen to this music by Kyle Hillbrand! He made it in response to a short story I wrote called ”Euclid’s Postulates” — which you can read in the most recent issue of PANK.
Here’s what Kyle has to say about how he created the music:
1. straight line = interval of a fifth
2. continuous line = spiral of fifths
3. circle = enclosing spiral of fifths into circle to create a scale within an octave
4. right angle = shift of music to a different fundamental/mode
5. two lines intersecting = low fundamental and higher harmonics (this one was more related to story)
Some basic ideas I had in mind from the story: limitation vs. freedom, how events are related/reflected, one thing continuously changing forms - death/change, confrontation with “otherness”
For the beginning two sections of music I had in mind being on the road which goes on endlessly. Once he gets the rental car, I wanted the music to have more motion and feel lighter from the heaviness of being “stuck” in the first two sections. The music for the 4th section is more active, but also anxious with guilt. I wanted to subtly foreshadow the winning of the cruise with the cello harmonics - it comes in around where he signs up for it and then when they spot the other ship. I also wanted the end music to be slowed down (like the reading of the postulates) and open (like the ocean - there actually is a recording of the ocean during the last part) to reflect the more contemplative nature of the ending.
I used instruments from many different countries, like how the character is wondering where they think he’s from. Also, part of the music is based on early Greek music (nod to Euclid).Plus! I included the illustration that Forsyth Harmon made for the story as well! Woohoo!
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Hey guys! We’ve got a new video for you all, Dolan Morgan reading from “Starfish Over Oyster”. I don’t know about you but I really know where he is coming from in this video.
I know Dolan personally. This is not an act. This is the essence of Dolan.
Ah, the New York life…all robes and black socks.
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If you’re afraid for your son’s life, Idris roared, you better make sure he grows up like a man, because if a man who carries my name behaves like a woman I will kill him with my own hands. He let go of the boy and walked out.
(image is by Ellen Blom)
Forsyth Harmon drew this great image for a story of mine that’s out in PANK today, “Euclid’s Postulates.”
Composer Kyle Hillbrand also created some fantastic music based on the story and the math.
“When happy, ferrets may perform a routine known as the weasel war dance—which is characterized by a series of hops and frenzied attempts to bump into things. This is often accompanied by a soft clucking noise called dooking.”
Sounds like me.