On Resisting Awesomeness

I am sometimes a little late to discover things. Sometimes it's because I'm simply busy being obsessed with something else that I find utterly fabulous. But sometimes, I'm sad to say, it's because I resisted the awesomeness for some reason. Well, usually for one of two (somewhat idiotic) reasons actually.

Reason #1: a misplaced idea of being too cool or (as John Green* might say,a desire to create "ironic distance"...either way, it's stupid...a lesson I learned the hard way). You may be familiar with this line of logic:

Everyone in the entire world:

"Ahhhh!! _______ is the most amazing (book, movie, etc etc etc) EVER!"

Me: (secretly and smugly to myself)

"I just can't jump on the bandwagon...it's too lame." 


You wanna know what's too lame? Announcing that _______is the most amazing (book, movie, etc etc etc) three years AFTER everyone in the entire world told you so and you were just too busy being cool to listen to them.

How did I learn this lesson, you might be wondering? Harry Potter, that's how. I was too-cool-for-school for years, despite everyone I knew telling me I'd love these books in ways I could scarcely dream of. Being oh-so-cool, I resisted and resisted. And then sometime around the release of book fourI finally gave in and reluctantly started reading. Three sleepless days later, I emerged from my total and utter immersion in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and swore that I would NEVER be a stubborn git in that particular way ever again. And then I bought a wand and waited in line with the 14-year-olds at Barnes and Noble for the midnight release of The Goblet of Fire.

It turns out that when everyone in the entire world agrees that something is awesome, it usually is. You should at least give it a whirl.

Reason # 2 that I sometimes resist awesome things: a less-than-stellar introduction to said thing. Take...ummmm...poetry for example. Do you remember your introduction to poetry in high school? I do. It was a whole lot of Shakespeare and Keats and e.e.cummings that seemed inapplicable to my life and was taught to me by people who didn't love it (or maybe understand it?) themselves. One or two got through (Eliot's The Hollow Men and Crane's A Man Said To The Universe), but not much.  

The tide began to turn for me when I found a tattered paperback of Whitman's Leaves of Grass that was left in the "guideshack" at the first rafting company I ever worked for, specifically my first reading of Me Imperturbe (which still gets me every time). I finally began to see how poetry could be a poignant distillation of ideas and emotions. In general, however, although I truly wanted to appreciate poetry, for the most part, I just didn't get it. So when people asked me if I'd ever heard of this poet or that, my answer was usually something along the lines of "no...I'm not that into poetry." 

Which is sort of like saying that you're not that into food, just because you had a crappy meal or two 20 years ago. Ridiculous.

Then it happened. I was wandering aimlessly around a bookstore and picked up Sharon Olds's Stag's Leap and proceeded to spend the next two hours sobbing on the floor of the poetry section as if it were my own 30 year marriage coming to an end. It was my first time reading a modern poet. And it changed my relationship to poetry entirely.

So I've had a lot of catching up to do. Poets that everyone (it seems) has known about forever and I'm only just discovering. Raymond Carver and David Wagoner, for example. And most recently, Mary Oliver (who is utterly brilliant and I am hopelessly in love with everything she's written). 

So just in case you, like me, weren't properly introduced to the amazing world of modern poetry (which, I will warn you, is totally a gateway drug to the old stuff, much of which I've grown to love), I will leave you with this recent favorite of mine, which you can find scribbled on the first page of my most recent journal:


Foolishness? No, It's Not {by Mary Oliver}

Sometimes I spend all day trying to count

the leaves on a single tree. To do this I

have to climb branch by branch and

write down the numbers in a little book.

So I suppose, from their point of view,

it’s reasonable that my friends say: what

foolishness! She’s got her head in the clouds again.


But it’s not. Of course I have to give up,

but by then I’m half crazy with the wonder

of it — the abundance of the leaves, the

quietness of the branches, the hopelessness

of my effort. And I am in that delicious

and important place, roaring with laughter,

full of earth-praise.


Ugh...it's SO good, right? You are very welcome. Happy New Year...make no longer resisting awesomeness one of your new intentions!



*Do you know about John Green's awesomeness? Lest you think him only brilliant writer of young adult fiction that can make you snot-cry in public, be sure to check out his other great work, most of which he does with his equally awesome brother, Hank: Vlog Brothers, Crash Course, Project For Awesome, etc...and, just for good measure, don't forget his TED Talk