Despite the tendencies of common conjecture, this post is not about Avicii’s friends.
I don’t know who Avicii’s friends are, and thus I am not going to try to embarrass myself by writing about them. But I do know who Avicii is, and he has a nice song that I want to write about, and I also know who my friends are, and I want to write about them.
It’s not often debated that the best relationships bring the best out of a person; if a relationship brings something else out of you, it’s not one worth having. Or at least so goes the conventional Internet wisdom.
In February when I had a Mild Existential Crisis (post of the same name is around here somewhere) I talked a lot about how I was losing touch with the passions that rooted me ontologically. Ontological rootedness is leftover humanities talk which makes me cringe now because I’ve written it so many times, but it’s still important to the point I’m making. I have a handful of passions which root me ontologically: which keep me grounded in the world and the people around me. That said, there are several people who keep me grounded in those passions, and they are called my friends.
The oldest of my passions is reading. I learned to read when I was four and considered it an essential part of my personality through much of my early school years; as with most people it diminished once I reached high school and had a million other things to do (and also social networks to waste time on), and of course existential crises get in the way, but I’m still crazy about books. And interestingly enough, the oldest of my friends grounds me in this passion. I am referring, of course, to Hannah.
Hannah inspires me to read, and I think this stems from her incredible love of story, as Madeleine L’Engle would describe it. Hannah loves story. She is also aware of how much humans learn through story. And perhaps I return over and over again to Shakespeare and Dostoevsky and of course L’Engle because I know in these books, in these stories, I will find the same things to ground me that I find in Hannah – things like beauty and triumph and pain and wonder and revelation.
In addition, a love for words brings me to my probably newest passion – languages. This is also the one I have the most trouble explaining. I could not for the life of me tell you why I think tenses and the declination of adjectives and the @#$%^& German subjunctive are so interesting, but they are. I just love them. I love the way they work. I don’t know why. And before anyone says that grammar is illogical, that’s a rotten lie. Grammar is logical. It’s just not particularly regular. But I delight in that ridiculity. And the friend that grounds me in this passion is Ronja, because she also thinks it is cool, for whatever unfathomable reason it is.
My most unremarkable passion is music. I say unremarkable for a couple reasons: everyone is passionate about music, and I myself am particularly unremarkable when it comes to ability. Also, it’s not the oldest, or the newest, or the deepest. But it’s still important. I have said somewhere before that music is where I find God. (Even when it’s Beauty and the Beast Broadway.) I find God in music, in the way so much beauty can come out of such a simple, almost limiting structure. Most recently I’ve been finding God in the ever-reaching notes of Ludovico Einaudi’s album I giorni (I just love when it gets really fast and you’re reaching for that high A and then it’s there and then you’re cascading down again but it’s no less beautiful for having been there). And, not least because he also likes Ludovico Einaudi, the person who grounds me in this passion is Derek. Derek is the friend who asks me at 2 am what I think about God, and it is for this reason that I think he grounds me in my search thereof, and thus I continue to return to music.
My deepest passion would have to be writing. Admittedly this word choice is sometimes appropriate because it is buried deep under all the other things I try to do with my life. But of all the things I love to do, writing is the most persistent. I am no Chekhov: the thought that I must, that I ought to write does leave me sometimes. And I am no L’Engle: sometimes it leaves for a good while at a time. But it always returns (and it always presents me with a huge guilt trip). Writing may be buried, but it is buried at my core, where it is important. I have yet to figure out what I want to do with it, what kind of story I want to tell, what sort of truth I will find in it. And for those reasons I will cite my newest, quickest, and most interesting friendship with Helena. I have yet to figure out what sort of truth I will find in that friendship either. And that’s okay. There are such things as passions (and friendships) in progress – it means I’m not dead yet. Perhaps I will learn a thing or two about my writerly self from her. Life will out.
Speaking of friendships in progress (and passions as well, I suppose – bad puns), I want to talk about that Avicii song still. And some other things that relate to it. Remember that person in Minnesota who likes kissing me and being kissed by me? Yeah. That one. (Gosh, what a long name he’s got.)
I was listening to Avicii’s song “Shame on Me” today. The whole song doesn’t hold water in this situation – for instance, I don’t want him to go to hell, nobody’s lied about anything, etc. – basically, the song is about a level of emotional investment that we are simply not at. But a couple phrases do stand out – namely:
Shame on me for loving you
Shame on you for loving me
I believe in you and I believe in you, in you
Okay, this is failing, because words on a page are not songs. Why didn’t somebody invent one way to communicate everything? (Peanut gallery: Because everything is too complex to fit into one way, idiot.) But we’ll sally forth with what little we’ve got.
To put it as simply as I am capable of doing, I like Minnesota Guy. I am reasonably sure he likes me. But are we a couple? No. Should we be? Probably not, considering a couple of things like the thousand miles’ worth of Montana and North Dakota between us and the year between now and the earliest we’ll see each other again and also the fact that there is actually very little to our relationship besides the couple of talks we had, some Facebook messages and some kissing (read: we’re still getting to know each other).
But are we just friends? To paraphrase Augustus Waters, he may be, but I’m not.
There’s no getting around it. I like him more than that.
And Hannah, in her usual good-advice dispenser mode, said, “Maybe you should just not worry about what it is and just enjoy that it is.”
About which she is entirely right. And it is a probability, if not a definite possibility, that we’ll see each other again next summer. But (there is always a but) what about the meantime?
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say.
They also say out of sight, out of mind.
And the thought occurred to me, what about all the girls in Minnesota? what about all the boys in Idaho?
(Peanut gallery: well, what about them?)
Mostly that they’re there. That Idaho boys are there when Minnesota Guy is not, and vice versa.
This is where “Shame on me/you for loving you/me” comes in. Are we stupid?
Then again, Douglas Yates did say that “People who are sensible about love are incapable of it,” and that makes me feel a bit better.
I have no idea what is happening. But, after doing a lot of L’Engle reading (mostly The Love Letters and Walking on Water), I am reminded of loving with open hands. I think that is what I have to do in this situation. If you love, you love. Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds (love is not love which changes if the other person changes). But, as Billy Joel sang, you can make decisions too, and you can have this heart to break.
Side note: I keep saying love because it’s easy to say it that way. I don’t mean to imply that degree of seriousness. As stated, we’re still getting to know each other.
But that last phrase of Avicii.
In the song, it’s repeated over and over again, so at first you think he is saying “I believe in you and I,” which is not only grammatically incorrect but also a comforting thing to say, until he swings into “believe in you, in you” again.
I guess that’s the point, is just hang on. Remember shouts into voids (post of a similar name is around here somewhere): things are only worth having faith in if they seem impossible, only worth hoping for if they seem hopeless, only worth loving if they seem utterly unlovable. Believe in you. (And
So that is what I will do with myself. I will find myself in my passions and my friends (sometimes simultaneously), and in the meantime I’ll just hang on, and you can have this heart to break. Or not. Either way. Really. Either one is fine.
And to close, I’m going to cite a line from Doctor Who (the one passion which doesn’t have a friend to ground me in it. Perhaps because it doesn’t need one?).
I never know why, says the Doctor to Clara. I only know who.
I like to say this in Swedish (Jag vet aldrig varför, jag vet bara vem). I never know why.
I only know who: I know who grounds me. I know who I want to love or at least show love to. I don’t know why. I don’t know why it’s important or why it will or won’t work. I only know who: who is important to me.
Okay, that’s sappy enough for today.