QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 20
In the beforetimes, I tried to read at least one poem first thing every morning. Instead of reaching for my phone, plunging myself into an abyss of messages from friends, meetings and action items from work, and the incessant catastrophe of breaking news, reading poems aloud would simultaneously ground me and lift my spirits—the best way to start the day.
If you open your eyes and ears, poetry is everywhere. Only in the most narrow view is poetry just another genre of literature: Prose can be poetry. Fiction and non-fiction can both be poetry, as can standup comedy, a dramatic play, or a memoir. A religious text. A speech. The liner notes on the back of a record. But what about the record itself? Poetry doesn’t need words: A painting or sculpture, a film or a song can all be poetry. But poetry doesn't end at art either. A conversation on the bus, a dance move in the club, a quiet moment with a lover at sunset...
It’s not just another genre like “fiction” because, in reality, “poetry” is a praise word. In other words, a book is just a book and a song is just a song, but poetry is the good stuff, the stuff that sends shivers down your spine. Poetry makes you new.
Today I’m thankful for that.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 19
There is work for money. And money is nice. As family, friends, and millions of strangers have lost their jobs, taken pay cuts, and had their hours cut, I must admit that I‘m grateful for my job.
But there are other kinds of work, like a set of push-ups on the living room floor. Or dancing in the club. Or cooking for a loved one. Or staying late at the machine shop, constructing a compass that points to the center of the universe. Or driving three hours to the countryside studio to spend eight hours a day laying down punk rock on tape for god knows whom. Or, hunched over the typewriter, cranking out a novel that maybe no one will ever read. Or carrying, giving birth to, and raising an entire actual human being.
We put in hours, we put in sweat, we put in our mindshare, we put in our souls, we put in time, we put in space... and what do we get? If not money, then hopefully strength, knowledge, or maybe simply the satisfaction of having done something good. Because: If you’re gonna do it, as Bill Withers sang, “do it good.”
Today I am thankful for work.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 18
Video meetings in leopard-print pajamas, happy hours in leopard-print blazers. Chatting by the water cooler, chatting by the well. Muttering atop the castle wall, murmuring in the trenches. Asking mommy why the sky be blue, babbling on the Zoom.
We observe. We notice. We communicate with others, exchanging observations. A vase falls to the ground; later, we pick up the pieces, trying to figure out how it fell. A virus sweeps the planet, and our first defense is perhaps our oldest—not vaccines, not guns, not swords, not love, but
The motherfucking Internet.
Information, communication, cooperation.
Today I am thankful for the data we gather from the world around us, the methods by which we exchange what we’ve gathered, and, upon that foundation, our daily-growing knowledge and wisdom.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 17
“Let there be light.”
They say you shouldn’t play god but we do it every day, simply by flipping on a light switch.
As with fire, humans didn’t invent electromagnetism—we just figured out how to harness it. Now we can play god with light. And stare at our phones too late at night. And too early in the morning. And microwave all our meals. And forget to call our parents. And invest in Tesla stock. And Bitcoin. And vape. And write random notes like this and passively publish it to a hundred random people. And, most importantly of all, play music really really really really really really loudly, and have no regrets about it either.
Today I’m thankful for another one of humanity’s most excellent discoveries: electricity.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 16
After my first two days of giving thanks in this series (air, water), one of my favorite philosopher friends messaged me. He was concerned that I would never make it 21 days because I was rapidly running out of classical elements—the rest being earth, fire, and maybe æther. Well I’ve so far covered all except one... so this goes out to you, buddy.
Thank you Prometheus for the gift. Thank you to that human who first harnessed its power. And thank you to the humans who tend to the pile. (Looking at you, Kurtz.) Even though my apartment doesn’t have an open flame on the stove or heater, I trace every warm meal and every cozy winter night to those first sparks, tinder, and kindling nurtured by our ancestors. We used to shiver and fear for our lives, but now we can dance all night in wonder and love.
Today I’m thankful for one of humanity’s most important discoveries: fire.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 15
Brewed in a basement or distilled in a factory, cultivated in a vineyard or harvested hydroponically, plucked from a pile of cow dung or neatly manufactured into an FDA-approved pill, drugs come in infinite forms.
Some make it easy to befriend a stranger. Some encourage new perspectives, illuminating art, music, literature. Some make the dull or outright painful reality of life easier to bear. Some make you do or say stupid things. Some will kill you. And some have been known to be the gateway to deeply spiritual, life-changing experiences.
It’s a harsh fact that drugs demand that you make a choice—to accept them or not—and in that choice is an exchange. You may trade clearheadedness for comfort. Brain cells for ecstasy. Cocky self-assurance for doubt, introspection, empathy. Cold hard cash for a small slice of heaven. This is one reason the war on drugs has been and will always be a failure: because it’s really a war on personal freedom.
And so, with all due respect to those who choose sobriety, today I am thankful for drugs.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 14
Ever been far from the city, walked out at night, and lay beneath the Milky Way? Nothing compares.
Recognizing that we all spend so much time fretting about this little fraction of dust we call Earth, I want to send this one out to the 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999997% of the universe that doesn’t include us.
This goes out to the bright white rock, our planet’s chief companion, who never turns her face away, in her fullness turning the night into a dreamlike day. This goes out to the glowing gems in the sky that do not twinkle: Venus (the herald of night), Jupiter (audacious in its brilliance), and all the other rocky, gaseous planets swirling around our shared sun. This goes out to the gazillions of stars, those infinitesimally immense points of light, fire and gas and dust and rock performing choreographed waltzes, slamming into each other, exploding, and unleashing energy over and over and over again. And to the rest: Dark matter, dark energy, and all the space between—terrifying, beautiful, literally incomprehensible.
Today I’m thankful for the moon, the planets, and all the other celestial objects that make up this wild, wonderful universe.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 13
Even for someone with their head in the clouds, I appreciate being grounded.
The feeling of gravity, feet on the ground. Looking at my feet, gazing at the sky, eyeing the horizon. Taking a single step—or six million. Walking, running, cycling. Lying down, feeling the force of the earth against skull, shoulders, sacrum, heels. Everything equal and opposite.
Waking up in the morning and climbing a mountain—what a pain. But then you’re on top of a mountain. Easier: rolling down a grassy slope like the happiest kid in the world. Staring at ants and earthworms, wondering whether they know how small they are. Wondering the same about the pyramids, skyscrapers, Taj Mahals—piles of dirt piled up by people treated like dirt by kings and wealthy bankers who are now or soon to be dirt themselves. The whole lot of us, iron, oxygen, and energy, slugging around, feasting on organic matter. Life feeding on life feeding on life.
Today I’m thankful for this big sphere of soil and rock we call home, planet Earth.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 12
Last weekend the sun shined so brightly that on Monday the mayor held a press conference just to scold us all, reminding everyone to stay home. She has nothing to worry about this grey weekend, but isn’t it a miracle that through dark clouds and fog the sun still lights up the world?
No one knows if gods exist but we all know godlike power: It greets us every morning. The sun is so intense it can’t help but dole out curses with its blessings. It‘s the source of life but, like any old wrathful god, also death. It fills our harvest with nutrition and energy, but also scorches fields to desolation. It warms our skin and nurtures our bodies, but too much dehydrates us, frying our brains into stroke. It dazzles the world with color—flowers, rainbows, sunsets—but look at the source itself and everything goes black.
Endlessly shifting its radiant white light across the sky, our local star is the divinity—to borrow from George Carlin, the Aztecs, the Egyptians, and almost all ancient peoples’ beliefs—most deserving of our worship.
Today I’m thankful for our local star, the sun.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 11
Our hearts beat to your rhythm,
Our bodies ride your waves,
Our brains burst fat like bellies
With your nourishment when we reside
Inside of you, our home, our health—
We dream of you, we wake in you,
We feel love and heartbreak through you—
We celebrate you with family,
We create you with friends, and,
Even once our measure’s over, we know
You’ll go on playing in our leftover light.
Today I am thankful for you, music.