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Cracks and Prisms

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Broad views of the world can never afford you the smaller angles of repose. I used to think that all my traveling and living abroad (and growing up with multiple languages in a globe-trotting family) would somehow render myself immune to small-mindedness, impervious to inertia. Not so. It was only a matter of time and habit before I found myself fully committed to the chaos of the 210 freeway or the endless loop of commercial mass media, raging against the machine of modernity in both cases, completely trapped in the little prison of my provincial mind. What I needed wasn’t a way out. It was a way in… into smaller, more localized frames of reference, which would afford me, ironically, a more generous view of the world, and smaller angles of repose.

William Carlos Williams once wrote:

So much depends

upon a red wheel

barrow glazed with rain

water beside the white


The most local is the most universal. Really to be somewhere, to arrive, to show up, be present, awake or asleep. Tolstoy understood this to be the critical discipline of living: to be present to one’s life, to others, to God ~ to all of the cracks and prisms of light that shone just beneath the surface of things. Not scheming for some sought-after prize in the future, not brooding on some displaced virtue of the past, but be like a child again, fully awake and alive to what is here, and now. In doing so, we live into the future, and settle accounts with our past, in the only way we were ever intended do either: fully invested, fully alive.

The picture above is of me and my son on a friend’s yacht in the San Diego harbor, fully present to each other, fully alive, he fast asleep on my chest, I completely awake to the weight of his life on mine. No borders, no boundaries. Just space… and time. All kinds of space and time. Life as it was meant to be lived.

Small angles of repose.

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