A manifesto for a more wondrous age.

"What are you writing?" Someone asked me this as I stood in the grocery store, pen and notebook in hand, jotting down some thought that popped into my mind. I don't remember what it was; as I've gotten back into carrying a notebook, I've made note of everything from to-do list items to potential story ideas, and everything in between. "Just a little note," I said. They didn't push me for details, but they didn't quite get the premise. I remember trying to explain: I write down things I want to remember later, thoughts that occur to me, things to look up, research, or explore. "What's the point of that?"

I don't think they meant it as such an existential question, but it was hard for me not to take it that way. Many notes I never return to. But I find if I don't write it down, I probably won't remember it. Would that be a problem? Probably not on the face of it. But it's satisfying to find the connecting thread between two disparate points—to be able to put something in context in a different field, or across mediums. One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from Ben Lerner, who describes a fiction becoming "writable" for him when the disparate ideas, images, and kinds of language he's been pondering "suddenly form a constellation." This is how I want my fiction to feel too, but it's also just a pleasurable mode in life for me.

There's a funny dichotomy at play here. I associate many moments of pure joy, pure emotion, with a simple directness of experience. True living in the moment, a meditative state where there's little obfuscating the experience from my perception of it. It's something that happens when I get out of my own way as much as possible. But the reverse, the highly categorical, tracing a line from a piece of art to a story I heard or a random fact I know is also deeply satisfying. Maybe this is just intellectual vs. emotional insight. 

But I think this is also the impulse of art. When I was younger, I wrote a lot of stories that seemed to center around an idea I thought was interesting, a concept I wanted to explore. I still think there are ideas in my writing, of course—themes I set out to write about—yet more and more am I captivated purely by the recognition, creation, and sharing of beauty. I like reading a Richard Powers book and feeling small in the wake of nature, but I also like the inexplicable fleeting feeling some of my favorite photos give me.

I've been interested lately in the difference between intelligence and wisdom (put away your D20s, nerds). On Futureland, user Pixel has a journal I follow called "Random Wisdom," where they share items (often quotes or scenes from manga) they consider wise. I've been thinking about starting my own similar journal, with quotes from books and whatnot. I've always loved the quotes at the bottom of each two-day spread in my Hobonichi journal, and tend to take photos of my favorites. One recently said:

I probably started drawing because I think there are more things that cannot be expressed in words than can be. That's why I often feel like quietly crying when I am finishing a picture." — Daisuke Soshiki, Illustrator

I don't think either mode is superior to one another; but I want to remember that both exist.

So many of the photos I love exist in this "snapshot-esque" category, yet seem to capture something deeper than simply the instant the image was made. What's beyond the frame, what happened in the seconds before and after the image was made? How could there be so much emotion in the image of an out of focus woman walking down an alley in blue hour?

Image courtesy of metaphor_472 on Instagram

I told someone recently I thought everyone should attempt photography, if only to gain a better appreciation and ability to recognize beautiful light.

Beyond the notes, I take a ton of photos on my phone, like many people do. When someone asks me what I've been up to, one of my first impulses is to look through my camera roll: Oh, I went for a bike ride; I walked through the park; I went furniture shopping. These are not really documentary photos, but they tell me everything I need to recall the day. I've started using the app Retro lately, and really taken to it (username ianjbattaglia; or DM me to add me!). These photos probably don't mean much to others—they don't even have a caption to put them in context. But they capture something fleeting that meant something to me; that I want to share. I guess they'd be more fleeting if I didn't share them at all. But it feels nice. I saw something that struck me, that moved me, that I thought was funny, that I thought was beautiful; how does it make you feel?


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