Riffing On Happenstance


Written in Chicago last week.

“The airborne class and those who brushed against it came to represent what we might call ‘encounter thought’: a way of processing the world which grew from easy geographic leaps and happenstantial connections.”

—Nathan Heller, writing about the rise and potential fall of air travel in The New Yorker


A Facebook status I posted a few weeks ago, which is entirely true, and, if likes are any indication, somewhat universal:

“Sexual fantasy: someone ‘dominates’ me by completely changing my regular routines, rituals and habits, forcing me to completely fuck it all up for a month, so that I can stop relying on repetition to make me feel at ease.”

Happenstance. I go to great, often questionable, lengths to avoid it despite there being a part of me that craves it like someone in the throes of the most irrational lust. For reasons too repressed for me to identify, I taught myself at some point that taking a chance on chance was far too risky—that the unknown should be rid from my life whenever possible. Instead I would implement the strictest routines, ward off chaos with inflexible beliefs and follow a path so narrow that even the unexpected joys of life could not get in.

This first manifested itself as anorexia—an extreme case of avoiding what you can’t predict, dressed up solely as a weight-based issue, but one that is significantly more complex. It leant me the false feeling of being innocuous, of finally having learnt how to play the game of life—by controlling it, dividing it into preordained moments that could not falter. An iron-clad safety net, if you will.

While in a much healthier place today, my life is still ruled more by avoidance more than anything else. Risk is my dirtiest word, ex-communicated from the falsely holy life I’m still trying, and struggling, to live. And by holy I mean still hoping for perfection, despite having a brain entirely aware that that’s a futile pursuit. Perfection not just in bodily form but in all potential arenas—be it my writing, my relationships or the goddamn way I brush my teeth.

Unfortunately for this Hitler complex stuck inside my chest, the better parts of me are getting louder—their nasal passages clearing up enough to realize that this shit really stinks. The result has not been some exciting overthrow, but a never-ending battle of my insides—the hopes and dreams that I have for my life perpetually sparring with thought processes I’ve convinced myself should (no—must) stay in place.

Travel gives me the false sense that I’m shaking things up, when, in reality, all that changes is my location. I bring all the usual baggage with me—the impossible standards, the fear of flaws and failure—and continue to rifle through it, sad but not all that surprised that it’s still here. Chance remains a dream, one I wake up drooling over but block from every entry.

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