Wednesday, August 4, 2010

there is no better.

today, while i should've been working, my mind was wandering like a little bee, and landed on a piece of paper thumb-tacked to my desk, with these words:

when we know better, we do better.

this is what maya angelou says. i'm sure she meant it in a pretty, lofty way...which is why it's been hanging on my desk for years. but lately i started thinking about it, and that pretty, lofty phrase started looking more like an ugly, imposing monolith, telling me i should be...contained. how uninspired you are, maya angelou. if everyone went through life "knowing better," there would be no happy accidents. there would be no me. i was born of an accident. knowing better isn't in my genes.

to "know" means to discern, and "better" is one of those words that only exists because of what it is not — better is not worse. so, to know better you also have to know worse. then, according to maya angelou, you will do better instead doing worse. and that reeks of all sorts of things that make me itch.

better is just a word, and words don't mean anything in and of themselves – they're stand-ins. at some point in history every word has been designated to signify a concept or thought or sound, so we can communicate with each other...sort of?...comprehension notwithstanding, i guess. in the generally accepted connotation of "better," i have almost never done better. i could let it make me feel bad, and i have at times. when i'm reminded of things i want but don't have, i imagine what life would be like if i had always done better. it would be uninspired.

so i think i'll take maya off my desk. i don't think she's wrong, i just think she's wrong for me.
some people go about their lives "knowing better." they are the ground. other people live by following their instincts, their heart, their tail, whatever it may be. they are the sky. i like it that way.

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