One year ago today, I got in the driver’s seat of a car that my mother paid for and gave me and drove from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles, California to (at most) flourish and (at least) not die. Ten years ago today, some normal-sized people hijacked some normal-sized planes and flew them into the Twin Towers in New York City, two of the tallest buildings in the United States of America, and killed nearly three thousand people. They killed thousands of people, and they psychologically killed thousands of others and ushered in an age of broken America and they made the date 9/11 into something more than it ever should be. It should be some lame day in mid-September where a lame kid complains about going back to some lame school. Instead, it’s an anniversary.
How many is 3,000? I guess I know the answer to that. It’s a little more than 2,994 and much less than 2,498,670,210,952. But realistically, my brain can’t comprehend more than about 322. That’s how many kids could fit in my high school auditorium, where my twin brother and I once did an interpretative dance as Hitler for a class final (we got an A; suck it, Hitler). I can’t estimate. If I had to guess, I would say there are exactly 100 sites on the Internet. So the tragedy that is 9/11 (or the Holocaust, or Darfur, or…) is too big for my small brain. And there’s a special subset of suburban guilt reserved for the inability to comprehend a horror.
Part of the reason that I can’t make myself feel the grotesque grandeur of 9/11 is that I’ve never been in a tragedy. I’ve experienced bad, but I’ve never experienced tragic in the epic, transformative, Greek sense of the word. Tragedy is like a branding iron. Everyone who lives through it becomes a product of that tragedy. You realize you’re just a slab of meat. You might continue living your life in a fairly normal straight line, but that tragedy knows to whom you belong. You have its smoldering mark on your body.
I’ve never been disfigured by tragedy, but I have felt joy. Transformative joy. Whatever the opposite of 9/11 is, I have felt that. I have experienced the not-small miracle of being able to do what I love. I am healthy enough that I don’t think about how healthy I am. I get to live in the fun house mirror that is Los Angeles. LA is so silly, in the most benign sense of the word. Its streets are stupid and benign. Because I’m privileged and young and white, I am blessed enough to not know about the streets in LA that aren’t silly and stupid and benign.
Because of that, it’s easier for me to imagine one year ago today than it is for me to imagine ten years ago today. On September 11, 2001, I was in eighth grade and I very calmly thought to myself, “Well! I will not ever play varsity volleyball in high school, because the world is over.” On September 11, 2010, I took the first steps of what would become my pilgrimage to my dreams. For the past year, I have attempted to slowly close in on my dreams in concentric circles. For me, the world began on the same day that it ended, albeit nine years apart. (Spoiler alert: I never ended up playing varsity volleyball anyway, due to my doughy, Jewish physique.)
I can’t think of a better day to speak directly to my “demographic” – skinny 18-to-34-year-olds and spam bots. I am talking to YOU right now, Tweeters and Tumblrers and Bloggers and whatever the HECK else portmanteaus we can whip up while sitting in ironic coffee shops ironically listening to Spotify. We are coming of age in a culture not of un-enjoyment, but of anti-enjoyment. Passion is not just superfluous – passion is weakness. If you like things, you might like the wrong things, and then you’re WRONG with a capital “DOUBLE-U” with a capital “D”, and then you’re BAD and ugly and FAT and SUPER FAT. The Internet can’t figure out whether it wants to beatify things or damn them, so it just gets all sorts of contentious. Contention on the Internet is silly in the worst sense of the word. Personally, I hate confrontation. I like to think of myself as a sickly Victorian child, or a maybe a sickly geisha. Very demure and easily persuaded and sickly. If the Internet is a super highway, we all have road rage.
To participate in this chic backlash against passion is to have a small mind. In my humble, unimportant, normal-sized opinion, it is better to have a small BRAIN than a small MIND. If you have a small brain, you can still be a good, kind, hard-working, dumb person who can manage some sort of farm or daycare. If you have a small mind, however, you very well might hurt people with it. You are just getting a sliver of the delicious Bacon, Ham, & Cheese Lean Pocket that is being young in America.
Spending your youthful energy on combative, kinetic apathy is a waste. Stuff is AWESOME, GUYS. Something about everything is awesome. Because I live in LA, CA, USA and not other places in the world, I get to write things like “fuck fuck FUCK fuck fuck FUCK” on the Internet (the title of my next blog post). I can condemn Burkas while comfortably wearing a Snuggie (a gateway Burka). I can do an interpretative dance as Hitler for 322 people (suck it, Hitler). I can do whatever I want (sort of) and I can eat whatever I want (not carbs) and be the opposite of dead.
The people who, ten years ago today, flew those planes into the sides of two of the tallest buildings in America had minds that were even smaller than mine (and possibly yours, if you’re wearing a shirt from Threadless Tees). Their worldview was so closed to interpretation that they thought the only answer was a large-scale terrorist attack. I’m not saying Hipsters are Terrorists (though that is a very funny sentiment that I never thought I’d get the chance to write). I am saying that closing your mind to sincerity and praise and appreciation might be the first step in squandering the fucking awesome human condition you possess. Please do not close your mind to the not-small epiphany that epic joy exists.
Please, PLEASE feel free to completely disregard and disagree with and disJimBelushi (I made that word up, because I CAN, IN AMERICA) this essay. Why should you listen to me, when I’m forehead-deep in the disaffected goo that is my generation? I’m sitting in a hipster coffee shop in Hollywood, a living, breathing, self-important, self-hating cliché. My caveat is, I sort of wrote this for myself. I want to read this diary entry in one more year, or ten more years, or three-hundred-and-twenty-two more years, and see how wonderful and confusing it is to be happy and young in the face of slaughter.
If you are reading this, you are not dead. I myself happen to be very not dead. I’m giddy and sleepy and fighting the need to pee and listening to one of my favorite songs (“True” by Spandau Ballet) and physically not dead. I make enough money to waste it. I’m spoiled enough to be addicted to the culture of coffee. I wear rainbow sunglasses every day. I have a crush on 40% of the boys in my gchat bar. Jesus, this is awesome. I want to be not dead every day of my life.
I love LA and I love NY and I love America and I love being not dead. Happy anniversary(s). Here’s to one and ten more.