“If others examined themselves attentively, as I do, they would find themselves, as I do, full of inanity and nonsense. Get rid of it I cannot without getting rid of myself. We are all steeped in it, one as much as another; but those who are aware of it are a little better off — though I don’t know.” — Michel de Montaigne
This is all about joy.
The pure pleasure of being alive with another human being. Love, belonging. Even if it’s just happily belonging to yourself, as I’m feeling right now. It feels great.
If you’ve ever known that, you’re good to go. If you knew that feeling but don’t have it now, please hear me out: You will. That is a given. Nothing ever truly ends. It’s waiting for you down the line. I promise.
This wasn’t so clear to me a couple of weeks ago, when I was Nightwalking. So I hope you’ll forgive the superabundance of optimism, but it feels really good to head in that direction — and to be writing to you — it’s the closest I get these days to Daytalking.
But ironically it begins with Stargazing — awaking this morning knowing I have some lovely plans for the weekend and good prospects going into next week. I like that feeling a lot. It allows me to bring things to the party that is life.
So I was thinking of all the songbooks my late mother bought so she could learn how to play them on our piano and, later, organ. There was a collection called “Sounds of the ’70s” and I’m now realizing she bought them because she thought I’d be inspired to learn them, too, being that the songs were on the radio I listened to in my bedroom and they were “speaking to my generation.”
Aw, isn’t that sweet?
One song was by a group called The Sandpipers, “Come Saturday Morning,” that won an Oscar as best song in the 1969 film The Sterile Cuckoo, starring Liza Minnelli. That was the kind of film I would not have seen as a kid (and it wouldn’t have interested me in the least), but the songs in that music book were speaking to me because it was of its time, I suppose.
So here’s where Stargazing comes in: I’ve got questions. Did I ever see The Sterile Cuckoo? (Yes, on video many years ago, probably on another Stargazing jag.) What is it really about? Does it have any themes that might be pertinent now? (“Maybe everybody’s in a little bit of trouble, did ya think about that, Jerry?!”)
You see, Stargazing is supported by other underlying Stargazing. The habit of Stargazing builds on itself. Once you start doing it, you can’t help but get ancillary Stargazing moments. The underlying one now is a fascination with the French essayist Michel de Montaigne.
I knew nothing of him in high school. It was only after I started college at the University of Minnesota in 1979 that, at my night shift job, an older guy gave me a copy of Montaigne’s Essays that he didn’t want. So I read it and thought, “Well, hell’s bells, this is an odd book for its time!”
Turns out, that’s quite an understatement. Montaigne inspired a host of thinkers, from Shakespeare to modern writers and artists. All because of one book. That’s quite a Stargazing achievement!
The beautiful thing about Stargazing is that it becomes its own reward.
You don’t need to ask yourself, “Am I Stargazing this correctly?”
There are no wrong or stupid questions. Just questions. The more, the better. It’s a willingness to get lost in a tidal pool of crazy odd creatures, mostly trapped in the cozy comfort of your own mind.
And perhaps this is another feature of how this works: if I’m Daytalking, you can also share my Stargazing. If I’m Nightwalking, you will probably rightfully fear and resent me. It’s a horrible state to be in: incurious and isolated.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to just wait out Nightwalking.
There’s a further shore and, although it might take a while to reach it, it is a much, much better place to be.