June 23, 2008

Anna Karenina: Fluffy, yet possibly profound life questions.

I looked for an answer to my question. But reason could not give me an answer-- reason is incommensurable with the question.
Life has given me the answer, in my knowledge of what is good and bad. 
- Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy


It was the summer before my senior year in high school when I first met Mrs. Karenin. Although I had no idea what the hell was going half the time because all the character's names sounded the same, I read it again. And again. And again. It was like polishing a diamond in the rough: with each page I turned, my appreciation for Mrs. Karenin's world grew to match my initially inexplicable feelings of amazement for Tolstoy. 

Yes, fluffy, I know. But wait! There's more to it.

I am a self-proclaimed skeptic. I'm one of those people who walks furtively past the pubescent couple practically eating each other's faces and mumbling melty, moldy, saccharine sweet-nothings to one another. I'm one of those people who always double checks my take-out bag from McDonald's at the register despite the ridiculously long line behind me to make sure I got my extra mustard sauce and napkins. I'm one of those people who always has a little nagging voice at the back of my head saying, "He doesn't really like you. There's got to be a catch to that sale at (insert big name corporate store here) Yadda yadda yadda." I hate fluffy things, aside from my cat and...

Here's where the "and" comes in. Sometime ago, I was chatting with a friend online. It was the usual, bored-out-of-our-minds, liberal college student, middle-class, Democrats-for-Obama stuff: his videogames; me hating not-quite-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, yet-still-ridiculously-effing-out-of-my-mind-boring-suburbia; religion and whatnot. And then he asked:

What makes you wake up every morning?
(or something to that effect. I don't remember the exact wording.)

I was more-than-ready to reply with one of my snappy, smart-alek responses. You know, like:

Mom on phone: So, what did you eat today? 
Me: Food.

Well, you know what I mean. But something made me stop, despite the obvious fluff. His reasoning for the question was that he wanted to know this about all the people in his life, in what I see as an effort not to have inane, shallow relationships with people. He's got me there. 

My inner skeptic still yelling through the fluff, I told him I'd get back to that question-- someday. I needed more time. Duh.

Most of the time, when people ask me questions I don't have my usual oh-so-snappy responses to (see above), Time usually swallows the question into a big black hole of forgetfulness. 

Well, I estimate it's been a month already, and I've still been thinking a lot about that question. FLUFF FLUFF FLUFF FLUFF. It's a battle to be won: Fluff vs. Skeptical me. 

I realized something that night: I didn't know the answer to this question about my Mom. Or my Dad. I tried to ask my Mom this question the day after, but I stopped and changed it to some question about some far-off relative-- I was certain she'd give me a look questioning my "hippie plant" usage in college.

It's a deceivingly simple question that speaks volumes about human relationships. I think it's remarkable that I'm tentative to ask my own blood this question. I think it's awful that I don't know what makes the people closest to me who they are, in their own opinion. Of course, that raises more "fluffy" questions: Who are we? What are we doing here? What's my dosha?* What's man's purpose? 

There are battles to be had. I have an inkling of an idea that in order to figure out the answer to this particular question (and to get answers to it from others!) I have to overcome this skepticism, which another inkling of an idea tells me is related to unnecessary ego. Oh, Freud! 

Sometimes, you benefit from fluff, if you think about it enough. In my black-hole, skeptic mind, I kind of feel that it's just that bit above the ego. Fluff is above ego. Life is above ego. Or at least, more than just ego. 



I am a girl. I love to make fun of you. I love to make fun of myself. 

*I'm a pitta-kapha. And I also love yoga.