Given the Circumstances
Sunday Letter | #58
If these letters to you have seemed like they are all about transitions lately it’s because I am still in very much a transitory state. My buddy Sha he says whenever he travels it’s like he leaves behind a deactivated body which on return must be powered up again. Please imagine robot motions.
I listened to a podcast a few days ago in which Jack White talked about recording his first solo album. Unlike the more collaborative process of playing in a band, here he was orchestrating the music for the first time. Seven or eight session musicians would come in and stand there waiting for him to tell them what to do. He’d choose the musicians on the morning of, call and ask can so-and-so come and play drums:
“What I love about that is, oh that drummer’s out of town, he’s playing a gig – now the whole situation is totally arbitrary and now we can create something out of that … You do get in these scenarios where you use somebody I would not have normally used and it’s sort of like, all right, that guy’s only bluegrass and we’re going to put him on this rock and roll song and we’ll make it work; that wasn’t my first choice but now we can make something cool and usually it’s better that way.”
Which had me wondering is it possible to orchestrate life in the same way. Or to put it as a question: What is the best life I can live given my current circumstances? In South America I was happy to let budgetary constraints dictate my travel. I wrote but my writing was more memoir than non-fiction. I could have meditated more and did a better job at staying not hungry. A bit more discipline would have helped, yes. But discipline is possible, I think, only after you have accepted where you are and what you have.
This week in Brooklyn has been conducive to novel-writing, people-watching, and afternoon walks. I compose poems on my iPhone in the subway and when I sit outside. I have powered back up my New York body. Next week I’m at the yurt again, which will produce its own arrangement. And if I were to inherit a brownstone suddenly, or if I were to discover two months from now that I am living out of my car, I’ll aim to find the music in either circumstance.
So here is the mantra I am reciting each day: Decide at the last moment and work with what you have. It’s usually better that way.