Beiträge

I am not sad

He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. ›I am not sad‹, he would repeat to himself over and over, ›I am not sad‹. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others – the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. ›I am not sad‹. ›I am not sad‹. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by midafternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. ›I am not sad‹.
(Jonathan Safran Foer – Everything is Illuminated)

Significance

I read the first chapter of A Brief History of Time when Dad was still alive, and I got incredibly heavy boots about how relatively insignificant life is, and how, compared to the universe and compared to time, it didn’t even matter if I existed at all. When Dad was tucking me in that night and we were talking about the book, I asked if he could think of a solution to that problem. „Which problem?“ „The problem of how relatively insignificant we are.“ He said, „Well, what would happen if a plane dropped you in the middle of the Sahara Desert and you picked up a single grain of sand with tweezers and moved it one millimeter?“ I said, „I’d probably die of dehydration.“ He said, „I just mean right then, when you moved that single grain of sand. What would that mean?“ I said, „I dunno, what?“ He said, „Think about it.“ I thought about it. „I guess I would have moved a grain of sand.“ „Which would mean?“ „Which would mean I moved a grain of sand?“ „Which would mean you changed the Sahara.“ „So?“ „So? So the Sahara is a vast desert. And it has existed for millions of years. And you changed it!“ „That’s true!“ I said, sitting up. „I changed the Sahara!“ „Which means?“ he said. „What? Tell me.“ „Well, I’m not talking about painting the Mona Lisa or curing cancer. I’m just talking about moving that one grain of sand one millimeter.“ „Yeah?“ „If you hadn’t done it, human history would have been one way…“ „Uh-huh?“ „But you did do it, so…?“ I stood in the bed, pointed my fingers at the fake stars, and screamed: „I changed the course of human history!“ „That’s right.“ „I changed the universe!“ „You did.“ „I’m God!“ „You’re an atheist.“ „I don’t exist!“ I fell back onto the bed, into his arms, and we cracked up together.
(Jonathan Safran Foer – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)

Confusion

What if the water that came out of the shower was treated with a chemical that responded to a combination of things, like your heartbeat, and your body temperature, and your brain waves, so that your skin changed color according to your mood? If you were extremely excited your skin would turn green, and if you were angry you’d turn red, obviously, and if you felt like shiitake you’d turn brown, and if you were blue you’d turn blue.
Everyone could know what everyone else felt, and we could be more careful with each other, because you’d never want to tell a person whose skin was purple that you’re angry at her for being late, just like you would want to pat a pink person on the back and tell him, „Congratulations!“
Another reason it would be a good invention is that there are so many times when you know you’re feeling a lot of something, but you don’t know what the something is. Am I frustrated? Am I actually just panicky? And that confusion changes your mood, it becomes your mood, and you become a confused, gray person. But with the special water, you could look at your orange hand and think, I’m happy! That whole time I was actually happy! What a relief!
(Jonathan Safran Foer – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)

Die Kunst der Kunst

Art is that thing having to do only with itself – the product of a successful attempt to make a work of art. Unfortunately, there are no examples of art, nor good reasons to think that it will ever exist. (Everything that has been made has been made with a purpose, everything with an end that exists outside that thing, i.e., ›I want to sell this‹, or ›I want this to make me famous and loved‹, or ›I want this to make me whole‹, or worse, ›I want this to make others whole‹.) And yet we continue to write, paint, sculpt, and compose. Is this foolish of us?
(Jonathan Safran Foer – Everything is Illuminated)

In heaven we feed each other

Mr. Black said, „I once went to report on a village in Russia, a community of artists who were forced to flee the cities! I’d heard that paintings hung everywhere! I heard you couldn’t see the walls through all of the paintings! They’d painted the ceilings, the plates, the windows, the lampshades! Was it an act of rebellion! An act of expression! Were the paintings good, or was that beside the point! I needed to see it for myself, and I needed to tell the world about it! I used to live for reporting like that! Stalin found out about the community and sent his thugs in, just a few days before I got there, to break all of their arms! That was worse than killing them! It was a horrible sight, Oskar: their arms in crude splints, straight in front of them like zombies! They couldn’t feed themselves, because they couldn’t get their hands to their mouths! So you know what they did!“ „They starved?“ „They fed each other! That’s the difference between heaven and hell! In hell we starve! In heaven we feed each other!“ „I don’t believe in the afterlife.“ „Neither do I, but I believe in the story!“
(Jonathan Safran Foer – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)

Every love is carved from loss

Let me tell you a story, the Dial went on. The house that your great-great-great-grandmother and I moved into when we first became married looked out onto the small falls (…). It had wood floors, long windows, and enough room for a large family. It was a handsome house. A good house.
But the water, your great-great-great-grandmother said, I can’t hear myself think.
Time, I urged her. Give it time.
And let me tell you, while the house was unreasonably humid, and the front lawn perpetual mud from all the spray, while the walls needed to be repapered every six months, and chips of paint fell from the ceiling like snow for all seasons, what they say about people who live next to waterfalls is true.
What
, my grandfather asked, do they say?
They say that people who live next to waterfalls don’t hear the water.
They say that?
They do. Of course, your great-great-great-grandmother was right. It was terrible at first. We couldn’t stand to be in the house for more than a few hours at a time. The first two weeks were filled with nights of intermittent sleep and quarreling for the sake of being heard over the water. We fought so much just to remind ourselves that we were in love, and not in hate.
But the next weeks were a little better. It was possible to sleep a few good hours each night and eat in only mild discomfort. Your great-great-great-grandmother still cursed the water (whose personification had become anatomically refined), but less frequently, and with less fury. Her attacks on me also quieted. It’s your fault, she would say. You wanted to live here.
Life continued, as life continues, and time passed, as time passes, and after a little more than two months: Do you hear that? I asked her on one of the rare mornings we sat at the table together. Hear it? I put down my coffee and rose from my chair. You hear that thing?
What thing? she asked.
Exactly! I said, running outside to pump my fist at the waterfall. Exactly!
We danced, throwing handfuls of water in the air, hearing nothing at all. We alternated hugs of forgiveness and shouts of human triumph at the water. Who wins the day? Who wins the day, waterfall? We do! We do!
And this is what living next to a waterfall is like, Safran. Every widow wakes one morning, perhaps after years of pure and unwavering grieving, to realize she slept a good night’s sleep, and will be able to eat breakfast, and doesn’t hear her husband’s ghost all the time, but only some of the time. Her grief is replaced with a useful sadness. Every parent who loses a child finds a way to laugh again. The timbre begins to fade. The edge dulls. The hurt lessens. Every love is carved from loss. Mine was. Yours is. Your great-great-great-grandchildren’s will be. But we learn to live in that love.

(Jonathan Safran Foer – Everything is Illuminated)

I love you

I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else, and never will love anyone else.
(Jonathan Safran Foer – Everything is Illuminated)

Plug the dike

She never said no and never said yes, but pulled, slackened, pulled her strings of control.
Pull: ›What would be nicest‹, she would say, ›is if I had a tall glass of iced tea‹. What happened next: the men raced to get one for her. The first to return might get a peck on the forehead (slacken), or (pull) a promised walk (to be granted at a later date), or (slacken) a simple ›Thank you, goodbye‹. She maintained a careful balance by her window, never allowing the men to come too close, never allowing them to stray too far. She needed them desperately, not only for the favors, not only for the things that they could get for Yankel and her that Yankel couldn’t afford, but because they were a few more fingers to plug the dike that held back what she knew to be true: she didn’t love life. There was no convincing reason to live.
(Jonathan Safran Foer – Everything is Illuminated)

I don’t love you

Brod’s life was a slow realization that the world was not for her, and that for whatever reason, she would never be happy and honest at the same time. She felt as if she were brimming, always producing and hoarding more love inside her. But there was no release. Table, ivory elephant charm, rainbow, onion, hairdo, mollusk, Shabbos, violence, cuticle, melodrama, ditch, honey, doily… None of it moved her. She addressed her world honestly, searching for something deserving of the volumes of love she knew she had within her, but to each she would have to say, I don’t love you. Bark-brown fence post: I don’t love you. Poem too long: I don’t love you. Lunch in a bowl: I don’t love you. Physics, the idea of you, the laws of you: I don’t love you. Nothing felt like anything more than what it actually was. Everything was just a thing, mired completely in its thingness.
If we were to open a random page in her journal – which she must have kept and kept with her at all times, not fearing that it would be lost, discovered and read, but that she would one day stumble upon that thing which was finally worth writing about and remembering, only to find that she had no place to write it – we would find some rendering of the following sentiment: I am not in love.
So she had to satisfy herself with the idea of love – loving the loving of things whose existence she didn’t care at all about. Love itself became the object of her love. She loved herself in love, she loved loving love, as love loves loving, and was able, in that way, to reconcile herself with a world that fell so short of what she would have hoped for. It was not the world that was the great and saving lie, but willingness to make it beautiful and fair, to live a once-removed life, in a world once-removed from the one in which everyone else seemed to exist.
(Jonathan Safran Foer – Everything is Illuminated)

What did thinking ever do for me?

I never thought about things at all, everything changed, the distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn’t the world, it wasn’t the bombs or burning buildings, it was me, my thinking, the cancer of never letting go, is ignorance bliss, I don’t know, but it’s so painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think, I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.
(Jonathan Safran Foer – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)