Friday, May 31, 2024

An evening with the author of House of Leaves

In late March I was fortunate enough to attend a rare speaking event featuring the author of House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski. Anyone familiar with my work and interests knows how significant this was to me. The event was hosted at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia and an online friend of many years sent the announcement to me in passing. It wasn't highly advertised. I never would have known about it for this message and I'm eternally grateful for their thinking of me.

The host of the event, a professor, had an idea for a project (of which I'm curious to see how it turns out) by providing a litany of secondhand books to attendees of the events. We were to jot down notes and thoughts in the books as we listened to Z. speak, and then the books would be turned into a massive, physical piece of art. At a certain point though, I stopped taking notes that would contribute to this interesting piece and took out my phone to write down things I found significant for myself to think on later. These pieces and stray thoughts are what I'm recollecting now. Some are direct quotes and some are things I inferred from the public conversation. One way or another, it was a night to remember. 

Originally posted to my patreon and to my personal blog

Quotes and notes:

"...that's the personal bedrock and your Hades. The hero can only experience rising up once you've descended."

This was kind of self-explanatory but was still important to me. There have been a handful of phases in my life that I would have considered a rock bottom, but the most important part of those experiences was in that moment of admitting that I was the issue. At its core, getting better is only possible once you acknowledge your faults and the shortcomings that led to that need for acceptance. 

"...identity can become a honeytrap."

The casualness of this struck me. I think, especially with how important social media is to some today, this is something to keep an eye on. There's the possibility of giving yourself a hat to wear or an umbrella to work under, that it kind of boxes you in and makes you function only under a predetermined light. If you're struggling to maintain an aesthetic or always stuck in the "producing" mindset, you'll block yourself out from just experiencing things on your own. 

"...return to the novel, to fiction, to poetry. It's where imagination can and will flourish and grow."

He had expressed sadness for people saying that they couldn't engage with certain stories and thought that people were doing themselves a disservice by not reading. Of course, an author would be biased towards that, but I do believe it was an honest observation. I think everyone has experienced some sort of encounter with people's diminished attention spans due to the media available, whether it was recognizing their own impatience or with someone around them. 

"...once you've tuned in and determined who you are, you now have the joy of figuring out who you're not." 

This stood out to me because I feel like there's an expectation for abrasive personalities to make what they dislike (or even "hate") a prominent component of how they project themselves online and in their lives. Making the discovery of what you actually want to avoid, as a secondary function in self-discovery, was an incredibly refreshing take on this expectation. 

"...our words are threads, and they stitch together and become and make up what we are. We are the seamstresses of our own lives."

"...stitch something warm for those that are cold."

When things get tense between two people, or groups of people, a phrase that is thrown around is, "actions are stronger than words," and while that's true, I do think this quote stood out to me as a blending of those two ideas. Empty words are one thing, but living intentionally and with clear purposes, I think, compounds and makes a truer picture for yourself and people you interact with. 

"...anticipation can rob the present of its color and its moments."

Something I probably needed to hear a decade ago. I think it's a warning against both anxiety and the fear of missing out. Take a moment and see what it means (or warns of) in your life. 

" the loops of hundreds and thousands and millions of years... we are still so young."

"...find your own (meaning of) time. What is time to the trees, to the hummingbirds? What does time mean to the mountains?" 

While this could take on an almost nihilistic meaning to it, I still find it a positive and inclusive thought. To me, it doesn't diminish the individual, but instead charges the importance of our individual lives and moments. If those figures of nature experience the same passage of time that we do, it means there is an unsound camaraderie with the world around us, even in our loneliest moments. Only when we are feeling down, perhaps about considering time wasted or moving too quickly, it gives us context that it's really not in the grand scheme of things. 

But it likewise reminds us to use our time wisely, for this is all passing us by at the same time. The scales and relativity may ebb and flow, but this is a universal life to experience, both together and on our own. Discover and define it for yourself.