I cried at the Whole Foods fish counter the other day. As soon as the fishmonger asked me what I’d like I felt the sting… warm face flush, heat in the eyes, wobbly bottom lip. I recognized it immediately and laughed at the absurdity. So did he. We shared a nice little moment over some responsibly sourced tilapia.
I had been walking through the grain aisle. You guys already know what I saw. Gorbachev-era Soviet Union-style empty shelves, the kind we’re not supposed to experience. Rectangles of dusty white that seem to say “No Help Here.” Defeat and exhaustion overwhelmed me. I realized exactly how tired I was and thought, “but I’m doing everything right..?” The sight of the bare shelves, the fatigue, it made no sense to me because I’m doing all the things I should be doing, I live a good life, I work hard, I have a moral center and discipline. I shouldn’t be this tired. I shouldn’t feel this lost. And there should be pasta on those shelves.
I taught on the fallacy of the Protestant Work Ethic a couple weeks ago. About how this idea of ‘the more you suffer and grind, the more you deserve, the more you’re worth” does not, under objective scrutiny, pan out. I know a lot of western households are built around this ethos and I was a competitive athlete so I’m certainly not suggesting that there’s Nc relationship between hard work and success. But honestly ask yourself about the last time something went really wrong, really haywire… like a fight with your spouse or a blowup at work. Was it because you didn’t work hard enough? One of you didn’t deserve happiness? Or was it because there were fundamental misunderstandings at the outset, or different perspectives that went undiscussed? It wasn’t that we were undeserving of peace or success in that moment. It was that we hadn’t relaxed our preconceptions and seen the issue clearly from the start.
Carlo Rovelli, an Italian physicist, says “the world is made up not of objects but of actions.” He says that we want to understand the world in terms of things like stones. We feel we know a stone, we can categorize it, and it exists in a finite space. But in fact, Rovelli says, the world is made of interactions, like kisses. No two kisses have ever been the same. They’re entirely a product of the intentions and circumstances present at that one exact moment. They are both fleeting and infinite in how they affect us. They are energy, and that energy is endless.
I’m pretty heavily programmed to think the harder I work and the more I grind, the better things will be, the easier they will be, and someday everything will be stones. Everything will be certain, everything will be ordered, and I will be deserving of all of it. But Rovelli says even a stone is a kiss… if you look at a stone over a long enough time arc, it’s just some sand that decided to come together and then eventually split back apart. No matter how hard I work, there are no stones. No matter how much I suffer, there is no certainty of pasta on those shelves. All I can do now is accept that how I interact with this moment, however fleeting, defines me for all the universe to experience. My place in this world is determined both ephemerally and infinitely by the energy I put out there. Stay in it, my loves. I’m here with you.
Hugs and kisses,