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Cruel compendium #40 🎶
I’ve spent the last few days listening to a lot of Stephen Sondheim, thinking about life and love, and feeling very tender. I wrote about how Sondheim’s work, specifically the song “Being Alive,” helped me through intense grief back in 2019.
What I wrote then I feel more strongly about now than ever:
“I don’t know if I have anything useful to say about the dualities of life and love that hasn’t already been said by Aristotle, and Shakespeare, and Pema Chödrön, and bell hooks, and Sondheim. Or by all of those motivational phrases your aunt posts on Facebook. (The journey is the reward.) But bury me in their earnestness and universal appeal. May we all find a love that makes us say, ‘Love is a single soul inhabiting two bodies,’ and mean it. May saccharine words continue to drip from my lips as long as being alive continues to be the greatest cliche of them all.”
Austin Kleon sums up the way I approach much of my life now: Follow the goosebumps.
Not-harsh writing advice via Nicole Zhu’s creativity newsletter
JP Brammer responds to a reader who was cruelly ghosted:
When I find myself in periods of mourning, I like to remind myself, “I’m going somewhere.” I’m not trapped. I’m not going to be hurt forever. I am undergoing a transformation, albeit fitfully. My world hasn’t stopped. I am still in motion.
I'd give anything for someone to write about me the way Jerry Saltz writes about Jasper Johns:
Each time I’m around him, I feel a kind of tidal force. He is much taller, larger than you might imagine. Every time. He is witty, articulate, patient, curious, thinks of things in almost microscopic detail, is generous with information, a great story- and joke teller. He is interested in everything — nature, politics, poetry, ceramics, plants, plays, history, movies, dance, cooking, whatever comes up. I don’t think that I have ever heard him swear. The only time he asked me not to talk about something is when someone asked me ten years ago to talk about my time on a reality-TV show about art. He turned to me and simply said, “Please, Jerry. Don’t.” I didn’t. He exudes dignity, magnanimity, poise, circumspection, and inwardness, and he doesn’t bear fools well. He’s often described as cryptic, difficult, taciturn, or distant. I’ve seen very little proof of this. Some say he can be sharp. Many claim he’s this cloistered Scrooge-sphinx who’s spent the last 30 years living hermitlike in Sharon, Connecticut. This is flat-out wrong. He goes out often, drives himself everywhere, and has one of the best senses of humor and irony I’ve ever witnessed and the best blasting laugh. It’s like an eruption of joy released.
“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic
I’m listening to:
Invisibilia: A Friendly Ghost Story. Where do the friends who ghost us go?
Adam J. Kurtz’s You Are Here (For Now) podcast: How to Be a Person with Ashley C. Ford and Mary HK Choi. All three of these people are deeply in love, and I found this conversation to be incredibly hopeful.
I devoured all six episodes of Unread, a true story about a friend exploring his grief after his friend dies by suicide, leaving him hints to follow to unravel some unsolved mysteries. Every episode is emotionally intertwined with Britney Spears’ own journey to freedom, which #FreeBritney fans will love.
Questionable self-care advice
📖 Ann Friedman’s favorite newsletters. SO many gems here.
The Dirt polls people on which heart emoji they prefer and it’s fascinating! For the record, mine is 💖
🌀 Emojitracker visualizes emoji use on Twitter in real time
🎵 RoomtoThink—soundscapes to work to
💸 MakeMyMove.com shows you where you can get paid to move if you work remote
💉 In two minutes this video tells you how the Covid vaccine works
🎃 I just want to be a sweet pumpkin-headed boy
“No One is Alone” by Stephen Sondheim, performed by Bernadette Peters
Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood
Others may deceive you
You decide what’s good
You decide alone
But no one is alone
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You are not alone!