notes from tonight’s performance

I am suddenly aware of my physical existence. A fuzziness in my ears from listening intently all day, and a tickle on the arch of my right foot as I stretch it out on the ground in front of me. A mild cough that hasn’t gone away from that particularly bad cold a month ago. The sound outside of campus police patrolling the apartment complex after our drunken neighbors broke the wall last night. My reflection in the mirror to my left, and the taste of strong peppermint tea, cooling my mouth.

My thoughts are scattered tonight, but they’ve been scattered for a long time. My brain is on paper these days. There’s no room in my head to remember little details like, when is that term paper due? and, when is the exam again? I’ve been noticing a mental fog for the last while, when thinking feels like pushing play dough through a very, very small hole.

There’s something pleasant about just sitting here, drinking peppermint tea and doing nothing. There’s no music playing, and the silence is so sweet. You learn to appreciate silence when you’re a music major. I would say that the stillness is like music to my ears, but I don’t have to analysis tone sets and phrase structures when it is silent. At least not this silence. There’s something about concert halls and picture frames that have a way of creating expectations. Silence in a bedroom is bliss: silence in Walt Disney Hall is 4’33” by John Cage. Frames are magic. Frames contextualize happenstance, turning a nothing into a something, and a something into a Some Thing. Suddenly, where there was once something unremarkable, there is something that has been remarked. All because of a frame.

Framing this time of sitting as a Torrey project turns it into Some Thing, and every person who walks by enters into the performance, unknowingly.

Performative Nothing. I like the ring that phrase has to it.

The Personal Challenge

I have not been particularly good about blogging recently. I hesitate to check the actual statistics, but I think I’ve averaged about a post a year for the last two. In large part, this is because life has been happening and I haven’t had the time for introspection and private writing, but also because the speed with which my life has been changing has left me a little out of breath.

The scarcity of posts is going to change, at least for the next two months. This is not because my life has slowed down enough for me to catch up: on the contrary, I am facing an uphill battle just to graduate this semester. Long story. I’ll tell you about it some other time.

No, the reason I’m going to be writing more is because I have set myself something of a personal challenge for the final Torrey project of my career. Over the last four years, I’ve read an awfully large number of books, many of which (I’m looking at you Traherne, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky) dealing with the ties between enjoyment of and engagement with the world and the health of the soul. Being the most awkward combination of a type-A personality and a hopeless romantic at heart, I have adored these books and the thoughts they have inspired while also realizing that such a connection to the created order is entirely outside of my grasp.

You see, I am bad at doing Nothing well. Incidentally, I just realized that this ties into recent studies I’ve run across that link boredom with increased creativity levels. I just realized my project may have even more ramifications than I initially thought. But back to that statement. I am bad at doing Nothing well. I really hope you read that as it is intended and not as some sort of braggadociousness on my part. As my boyfriend is fond of pointing out, I have a hard time making space in my life during which nothing occurs. Every semester, I think to myself “Self, you have learned your lesson. No more overloading for you!” to which my Self says, “Indeed, but for my own good I must add 35 additional activities beyond the requirements for graduation to my plate.”

It’s a vicious cycle.

So for this semester’s Torrey project, inspired by great writers of the Western tradition, I am attempting to engage in five hours of Nothing per week. There’s obviously some structure involved in this great attempt, but a large amount of it comes from writing reflections on those periods of re-engagement with the world. I have a feeling that some of them may even be fit to publish.

Consider this a warning: there may actually be more than one post published in 2017.