Regretful Things

Inspired by the thing poems from Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book. You can read select writings of her’s here: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon Translated by Ivan Morris.

An idea sinking into your unconscious. It’s an intriguing catch, the start of an epiphany about something remembered. The top of it rides the waves, and you think you can still grab it. But no, it’s gone under, capsized by the brewing storm. You sail, searching for El Dorado once more.

It’s gone forever.

Passing by people you cherished. Desire to pop across and preach the pent-up tension brims from the top of lungs, waiting to burst. But no, they’ve drifted by and you’re still frustrated. You sought the salty popcorn you two shared at the movies, the wild jokes you exchanged, the promised emotional bedrock. But they’ve gone past. They’ve gone.

It’s gone forever.

Expecting the unexpected. Memories of surprise, elicited by unorthodox syncopation, enjoyable obtuse syntax, a twist in the fold of a story. But even diamond wears down with time. Memories rusted by overexposure – you’ve opened the vault too much – refilled the vault too much. Listened to that mixtape enough to burn your ears deaf. Read that book enough to rewrite it, but not anew, not fresh.

The wonder is gone now.

It’s gone forever.

Passing a deadline. Your gut starts coiling before your mind does, but your mind is what should be coiling. You need to coil yourself out, to safety. Maybe this time it’s a paper, or a presentation, or a project. But the exit is gone forever.

Your train passed your station, and it’s one-way. Your time is gone, and your luck is too.

Something pivotal disguised as a mundane task. Thinking you were making another inconsequential decision, you arbitrarily pull. The clanking inevitability veers left into the foreboding darkness, which is mantled by a stone arch. All along you were part of a Trolley problem. Something down the track is gone forever, thanks to a certain someone’s choices. Nothing exists in a vacuum, there is no 0K.

Something is gone forever.

There he lies, his face alarmingly violet. Nothing hits him from behind, drags him back out of bed, backward into places now a sepia or greyscale. There are no foregone conclusions left born of living life fully. Regret is the real grim reaper, you can’t escape it, even if you avoid it. Yet you wake with a start, and your face widens, half cheerful, half fearful.

You’ve not gone yet.

On Writing Practicallity

Stravinsky accused music conductors of tarnishing his craft for their own self gain, likening them to noxious weeds. Hughes decried existing standards of teaching excellence, whatever those are. That who must not be named in academic papers according to the majority of academics adds a disdain for writers to the fray. But why, one might ask, does the being who should be excluded from existing in academic papers at all cost hold disdain for writers? Writers are respectable, aren’t they?

Writers are typically thought of as noble creatures. Having been educated through cliches such as “the pen is mightier than the sword”, it is only natural that this is so. A pen wielding army scours the globe constantly, searching for news, inspirations, topics. They inevitably will prod the tightest of lips open and expose the horrors hidden within society. It follows that the typical journalist should be welcomed as a crusader doing good work in good faith for the common good.

Is this the image people hold of writers? No, and perhaps with good reason. In a society which rewards intellectual genius applied to physical reality, writers, who work with an abstract art form, are left in dire straits financially. The end goal becomes not the truth but the paycheck, and so writers are left to scour for scarce leads, which are then embellished as needed. Thus, writers distort a truth sent often to millions and gain a benefit for one. Even when the distortion is not for monetary incentive, it is often born of an unconscious desire to influence others to see what the writer sees, which laughingly assumes that what the writer sees is somehow right, or even means anything.

But, can we blame a writer for acting in this way, if society is the one who forced them into it? Yes. Yes we most definitely can and absolutely should. Consider a world where the fault of an action can be transferred to a prior cause, much like how we would presumably transfer the blame for yellow journalism from writers to society. Why stop at society? Doesn’t society have a cause? Why not blame the Earth which nurtured society? Why not blame the gravity that created the Earth? Why not blame the space time which curved, creating the illusion of gravity? Why not blame the universe for existing at all?


Thanks to absurdity, we have established the sins of nonfiction writers, yet what about fiction writers? Instead of prodding reality, they weave an entirely new universe for both the young and the old to enjoy. It is now possible to frolick around in an endless array of parallel universes even when restrictions are in place. The person who would be blasphemous to mention in any sort of academic writing could potentially endlessly sink time into consuming Japanese graphic novels, thanks to the work of the intrepid crafters.

And to what end? Consider the following scenario. A writer releases a book, which garners popularity immediately. Millions of children, housewives, or elderly idle around absorbing garbage for 48 hours. Imagine what could’ve been done with those 48 hours. 3 college essays. 2 lucky egg frying attempts in which the house survives. A lawn which actually has every slice of grass mown. The development of wifi which does not lag. Ascension to the top of the osu! leaderboards. Getting sniped from the top of the osu! Leaderboards! Infinite amounts of procrastination and existential crisis with and about osu!. The laying of bricks across the border between Canada and the United States. The transport of a police cruiser to the top of the MIT main building dome, and then a walk down MIT’s infinite corridor. All are possibilities which the millions could have done.

But objections might be raised to the prior list. First, shouldn’t children at least read books, since they nurture the development of imagination? No, since evidently any attempt at imagination is and should be squashed, as we are admirably currently doing in our public schools assumingly in order to compete with the human calculators in China. America, after all, needs its nerds to protect its integrity as both a superpower and a math olympiad medalist. Secondly, shouldn’t housewives be allowed to read after resting their dainty hands following a hard day in the home? Well, shouldn’t women be allowed to waste their time in the rat race instead of on books like men, instead of being caged in their domestic sphere? Finally, observation of student treatment of elderly substitutes in Stevenson, namely mass cheating on a quiz by convincing the sub that notes, and by extension iPads, were allowed, allows us to conclude that people don’t care enough about the elderly for a refutation to worthwhile.

Well, surely the poet, who manages to shape human emotion into a sequence of squiggles on a page, who creates something which can move its readers through sheer visual detail alone, deserves praise? To address this the comparison of an artist and a poet, and the realization of their shared lack of practicality is sufficient. Sure, the admiration of nudes in a museum can invoke emotion in an audience, but what good is emotion? It can, assuredly, help us last through stabilizing our minds until our inevitable deaths, but that’s about it.

Scholars are thankfully, not writers. Writers twist existing truth, and are forever doomed to languish in imperfection. A scholar on the other hand, has no qualms with telling his teacher Russell that he couldn’t do philosophy, ridding the discipline of a perhaps the only writer available, spending decades in a movie theater, and finally emerging from the theater with an entirely new set of beliefs. Such is the fortitude of a scholar: they will raze their minds and plummet into the void to find their truth., away from useless reality. Writers, instead focus on spreading worthless ideas and connecting people. When the last man on earth climbs out of the bunker into the nuclear wasteland of Earth after the end of WWIIl, hopefully it’s a scholar. He/she would imbue the world with truth, where a writer would continue the unacceptable diversity of thought unnecessary in a world with only one person.