Notebook

Nevertheless, the mundane continued to nudge the eternal.

Elizabeth Hardwick

The Impulse to the Narrative

Author and art historian Mary Ellen Miller noted something else besides the nearly identical forms of the two men carved from stone by Olmec sculptors. Their detailed headdresses, their about-to-spring kneeling stances, their facing opposite each other, collectively suggested that "the impulse to the narrative emerged at this same early time frame." That desire to tell a story seems as sacred to us now as it was then to Mexico's Olmec people, the foundational culture of Mesoamerica preceding the Mayans and Aztecs, who "brought a religious narrative to life." 

I am reading about Mesoamerican art while simultaneously reading Joan Didion's Salvador, her 1982 take on El Salvador's civil war. This is my second time reading Salvador, and probably due to the timing during the pandemic, I care less about the political confusions and manipulations, more about Didion's ability to tell a story through doubt, through shifting meanings, through words that cancel confidence. Whereas the kneeling twins are two rock-solid objects traced to the Late Formative period of Mesoamerica and conveyed a definite message to its early viewers, Salvador is only as certain as her uncertainty, which is the point of a story narrated by a skeptical voice. Didion described visiting the valley cliff popular among executioners on all sides of the war as "...nothing came of the day but overheard rumors, indefinite observations, fragments of information that might or might not fit into a pattern we did not perceive." She came to understand that "the change of a name is meant to be accepted as a change in the nature of the thing named." She mentions a "fragment of a retrieved legend."

The ideas of these two books combine into the challenge of documenting, creating something authentic during the COVID pandemic: the impulse or compulsion to connect the dots and link the days of this pandemic into something intelligible and meaningful is disoriented by the unanchored buoys of all that is happening now. What do we know of the story and how to convey the unsettledness of knowing an assumed fact is quick to decay and what it means to go to sleep and wake up wondering how much the floor titled during the night.

The Ways We Were

$56 BBQ platters 

Hired photographers for vacation photos

Lunch clubs

Mid-life crisis at 30

Local-Micro-Craft Beer Labs

Co-Living 

$19 smoothies

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