Commonplace

seeking the story in the ordinary

One year. It’s been nearly one year since I began this blog. Since I started writing regularly. And I’m sitting here in disbelief. That it’s been a full year. That it’s been only a year.

Time is funny that way.

When I set out a mere several hundred days ago, I never could have known all the worlds these words would take me, all the lives it would bring into mine. I look at these letters lined up, marching one right after the other, created out of nothingness and brought into the world to say ‘I’m here.’ And you have responded, ‘me too.’ I am more convinced than ever that this world, this life, is a common place, one we walk through together.

My ‘blogiversary’ aptly coincides with the turn of a calendar year. I have always loved New Years. While it once meant frolicking on the streets of Philadelphia with old friends, now, more often, it involves sitting in sweatpants with a glass of red wine and the crackle of the countdown broadcast in the background. But always, wherever you are, it feels like early morning—full of promise and possibility. Reflection and reminiscence.

It is a clean slate. A blank page. Untouched, unmarred, unknown. Like newly fallen snow. Footstep-free.

There was a book I read in college that had a profound impact on me. I recently re-read excerpts of it. The Crisis of Democratic Theory by Edward A. Purcell, Jr., and specifically chapter 4, explores how the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry transformed intellectual thought. In a nutshell, non-Euclideanism proved that alternate, valid mathematical truths could exist other than Euclid’s, which were (up until that point) considered absolute.

Suddenly knowledge—about how the mind and world work, across disciplines—was no longer presumed to be a priori, or innately true (as opposed to discovered through logic and experience):

“The concept of non-Euclideanism…robbed every rational system [religious, social, ethical] of any claim to be in any sense true, except insofar as it could be proved empirically to describe what actually existed.”

“Horace M. Kallen concluded that it was impossible to discover, much less validate, any single, universal system of ethical beliefs.”

“Certainty has vanished, and there is no hope at present of its return in any form which we might recognize.” – Eric Temple Bell

At the risk of butchering the philosophy for the sake of simplifying it here:  these theorists suggest that there is no irrefutable objective reality, no single truth. Only our experience of it, our being in the world. This is all we know for sure.

Nothing is inherently right or good.

No one belief is superior to any other. Because it is fundamentally impossible to prove the truth of any of it.

Michael Frayn wrote the compelling play Copenhagen, which explores a meeting between physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1941. He has a haunting quote in the postscript:

“And since, as the Copenhagen Interpretation establishes, the whole possibility of saying or thinking anything about the world, even the most apparently objective, abstract aspects of it studied by the natural sciences, depends upon human observation, and is subject to the limitations which the human mind imposes, this uncertainty in our thinking is also fundamental to the nature of the world.”

All knowledge is subjective. Uncertainty is inevitable. It is part of the very fabric of our shared human experience; it underlies the fundamental nature of all things. It is of necessity.

And it softens, humbles us. It opens us to the possibility that we are wrong. That we know not everything. That someone, somewhere—elsewhere—sees things differently. And they are right, as we are. That we shall hold a space beside us, across from us, millions of miles away from us for others to coexist, walk alongside, perceive—in their inevitably idiosyncratic way. In the way only they can. In the way they must. And speak of it, and write of it, in their necessarily unique voice. And if there exists a kernel of commonality, of understanding, of the ability to relate, well then, coexistence. Community. Connection. These become possible.

The only truth is that there is none.

All we can know is that we cannot know anything for sure.

Jarring, perhaps. But freeing too. I’m comforted by this uncertainty. The thought that as little as I can know to be true, it is the same for you. And so we walk together. Living in the questions. Comforting each other. Lifting each other up.

It is in good company that we timidly turn this calendar page, round this corner.

We can stop searching, seeking, yearning for something else, more, different. For an answer. For some other life. For we are, right here, in this moment, all that we are meant to be.

Let’s softly saunter through this shared world of ours, unsuspecting, unassuming, open to possibility. There is only this day. Only this moment. Only our experience of it.

The blank page.

The year ahead.

Let’s simply set out and see what will be.

photo-95

*Parts of this post were inspired by my dear and talented writer friend, Barbara Mahany, and the deeply moving experience I had as part of a two-week writing group called ‘What If You Knew,’ led by Jena Schwartz.

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28 thoughts on “One Year

  1. Nina Badzin says:

    It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year. I’m so glad you’ve joined the blog world. You bring depth and an intellectual curiosity to this space, as evidenced by THIS post and many others here. Happy one year!

    1. Thank you, Nina! What an incredibly kind thing to say. I’m so glad I’ve found you here. You’re one of those people I feel like I’ve known IRL forever, even though we’ve never met! And I’ll always be grateful to you for generously sharing your blogging & Twitter wisdom, which helped me enormously as I got going…xo

  2. Tricia says:

    I am so grateful you are here and that I met you this year. Your words and friendship made an impact on me this year and I’m sure will continue to do so in the new year! Happy new year and anniversary to you!

    1. Thank you! Sending those very same sentiments right back at you…so happy to share this (cyber)space with you. It has made my experience so much richer. xoxo

  3. Amen to all of this. Let’s simply see what will be. I love that. I can’t believe you’ve only been writing a year! I can’t wait to see what the next year(s) bring …

    1. Thank you so much, Lindsey. I can hardly believe it either. It feels like I’ve always been doing this…thank you for being such a supportive & inspiring voice out there since early on…very grateful for you. xo

  4. rudrip says:

    Your voice is authentic and offers a resonance that makes me feel less alone. I look forward to your insight and emotional depth as you navigate your life in this space. Connection. Community. Nodding my head to these precious commodities.
    Raising my virtual glass to your one year anniversary!

    1. Thanks so much, Rudri! Love connecting with YOU and our supportive writing community & look forward to continuing to do so in the years to come…xo

  5. I’m excited to see what you do with this “blank page” of yours. I believe your footsteps will leave beautiful patterns in the fresh snow. I always look forward to reading your words and am grateful I connected with you. Congrats on a your blogiversary!

    1. It’s mutual, Sarah! I’ve loved connecting with you too, and I always look forward to your words. You’ve been such a kind, generous, supportive writer friend, and I am deeply grateful. More than I can express. Thank you for making me feel heard. xoxo

  6. So I’m a little late to the party, but so glad I found my way here.
    It’s wonderful to see this part of you.
    “Holding a space beside us” is exactly what your writing does for me. Sending a warm hug.

    1. Oh that is so kind, Jill. I’m so glad you’re here too–and that I’ve met you ‘out there.’ Feeling very lucky. Your comment made me smile all morning. xoxo

  7. omnimom says:

    Well this spoke straight to me. I have spent many years of my life studying conflict and uncertainty, the idea not that there is no truth, but that there are many. It is a similar sentiment, with slightly different implications. Happy one year! I am so glad to have met you and, now, to know you. P.S. I love the play Copenhagen, I remember seeing it in London when it first came out, a lifetime ago.

    1. Lauren, I suspect our formal intellectual explorations intersect substantially. I may be your only friend in the blogosphere who desperately wants to read your book! This post was much longer at its inception–vestiges of the thesis I never wrote. One day: you, me, some red wine, and a long discussion about ancient and ethical philosophy.

      Also–I too saw Copenhagen in London when it first came out! Funny to think we may have been sitting in the same theater 100 years ago without even knowing it. Oh how I loved it then & my appreciation for it has only grown with time. (Have you ever seen Frayn’s other play-turned-movie, Noises Off? Easily one of my favorites & I have a hunch you share my sense of humor and will enjoy it too.) So yes, clearly…so happy to know you too, friend. xo

  8. zsmc says:

    It always seems like our journeys are very similar — even in the timing of when we started our blogs. I am so glad that I met you and that I get to know your truths. Happy anniversary!

    1. Thank you, Zsofi! Oh how grateful I am to have you as a fellow traveler. It is indeed a comfort to walk beside you, my friend. xo

  9. acb23 says:

    happiest celebration of one year, and looking forward to your words in the next one…

    1. Thank you so much…xox

  10. Dakota says:

    Congratulations on your blogoversary! Without the dates, I never would have guessed you’d only been blogging for a year – everything is so polished here. I so love your writing, casual and thoughtful all combined!

    1. Oh what a kind thing to say! Thank you so very much.

  11. bam says:

    dina, this is so beautiful. your intellectual curiosity is a breath of fresh air. i only just figured out — i’m slow at these things — how to make sure i get commonplace dropped into my mailbox whenever you post, so i can begin to catch up. i’m a year behind, and hungry to inhale all that i’ve missed. i was, of course, so so touched when i got to the bottom of your post, and recognized a name. but before i got there i was deeply touched by your meditation on deeply honoring our uncertainties, our deep knowledge that to write who we are and how we see, we are exposing ourselves. and the trust it takes to do that truly deserves the gentlest of holding each other up, honoring each other. i don’t know one truth-telling soul whose journey through life — and especially motherhood, oh motherhood that demands so much from us, and all we’ve got is heart, gut instinct, and the sharpest, deepest wisdom we can muster — don’t know one truth-teller who isn’t fraught with self-doubt, second-guessing, and the harshest self-criticism we can dish out. so what we need, what we need desperately, is what you offer here: a commonplace. a place to hold each other up. without illuminating difference, but rather shining radiance on that which brings us into communion. i am much richer for walking forward with kindred spirits whispering in my ear — and of course in my heart….

    the first year is one HUGE anniversary. so congrats, and blessings. i’ll be catching up….

    1. Even this comment reflects what I love about your thoughtful, lyrical writing. There is no need to feel any pressure to catch up (I’d have 8 years worth!)–I’m just so grateful to have found you and your words, and I look forward to where we go from here. Thank you, always…

  12. Lara says:

    Beautiful piece, Dina. I have to go break up a squabble between the boys so all I can say is that my days are so much richer with your voice breaking through. I am forever grateful for our friendship in this strange and wonderful online world. I can’t wait to see what this next year brings your way. You have a true gift, my dear friend.
    xoxo

    1. I hope you know by now that it’s entirely mutual. Thank you, dear friend, for lighting the way…

  13. “Let’s softly saunter through this shared world of ours, unsuspecting, unassuming, open to possibility. There is only this day. Only this moment. Only our experience of it.

    The blank page.

    The year ahead.

    Let’s simply set out and see what will be.”

    These glorious words met me exactly where I am with the exact dose of what I needed. Thank you for sharing you, and happy happy anniversary. xo

    1. Well, this made my day. Thank *you*–this comment filled me up.

  14. Jenn Meer says:

    Thank you for offering up this space with your wonderful words. They are always a gift to read. Happy blogaversary!

    1. I feel the same about your space, your words, lady. Thank you, always, for being out there. xo

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