and we called that calculation perfect love

So we made our own computer out of macaroni pieces
And it did our thinking while we lived our lives
It counted up our feelings
And divided them up even
And it called that calculation perfect love

– The Calculation, by Regina Spektor

Speaking of perfect love, I was browsing blogs some time ago when I stumbled on this really intriguing Etsy product, spotlighted on Here Comes the Sun, who found it on tumblr.

The description as written on her blog:

Corezone is a ceramic heart-shaped vessel that you can place your thoughts, feelings and emotions into. Write them down on pieces of paper and put them inside. You must then physically break your own heart to free them.

From the Etsy listing description itself:

An attempt to fulfill emotional needs by the means of an object, a try to withhold immaterial beeing in a material space.

Very interesting! The shop recently reopened, selling this item and they’re selling very fast. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a product like this. It’s like a piggy bank, except you don’t put money into it. You put things that are intangible, like thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Things you might not want people to see. Things you might want to keep hidden away. And if you ever want to find them again, you have to break the heart. It’s like a diary, except that you have to take some drastic measures to read what you’ve written.

These things are, in a sense, more precious than gold or silver. They are little scraps of paper which are wound tightly around our own hearts, and through the pulse and the beat remind us that we are living and breathing. They contribute to who we are.

Makes me think of true love.

Maybe we as human beings speak of finding true love and our “Heart’s Desire.” At the same time, we would protect our hearts so truly, barricade them in a dungeon… protect them too truly till we forget that we once knew what true love meant.

Falling in love is dangerous.

Automatons in glass houses, and paper birds in our skies.

We would hide our true feelings so deeply that we would bypass true love and the things we really need. Simply because true love is a fearsome thing. Deep. And heartbreaking in so many ways. Risky. Like promises made in the dark and a crumbling at the sunrise and a setting into stone all at once.

Or are we are so blinded by our failures that some of us would rather believe that there is no such thing as true love? Because while I hold out my heart to you, you could leave me alone to pick up the pieces when it falls? If I took the biggest risk of loving someone who might never ever love me back, what should I do when I have lost the gamble? Or because I have already held my heart out to someone who walked away with it, and it took me a while to glue it back together?

So in the process, we would make our love a small small thing. We’re safe, but are we happy?

Our love would be precise and calculated, give a little of this and take a little of that, and someone to keep the balance and a glass jar full of change. If you offer your heart, strings are attached and they must not break. I like you, but we must live our lives making sure the balances are kept, one on either side of the wall.

We would have it all, and we have nothing.

And we don’t know anything… anything at all. Because we would not reveal too much, or release too much. In a sense, the loneliness of comforting, because the unknown is rather too frightening.

Though we are together, we are actually alone…

Maybe sometimes we do try to lock away our feelings and emotions inside little glass boxes, and attempt to hide the key somewhere so far away that we’ll eventually forget where we put it?

What if you were to one day wake up, and take our little glass hearts, and break them, letting all our buried thoughts and emotions spill out into the daylight? And the wall shall break, and there will only be “green grass where it once stood…”

To find true love, you might have to go deeper.

You might even have to break your heart to get there.

Pictures from Etsy. Song lyrics: The Calculation by Regina Spektor, from the 2009 album Far.

It started out as a feeling…

I’m sure that by now, everyone who’s been following my blog for a while knows that I absolutely love Regina Spektor. If I were a guy, I think I would want to marry her. Her song lyrics are pure magic, and I could probably listen to her all day and not get tired of her amazing voice. Getting a new CD of hers is like opening a box of chocolates: there’s so much wonderful stuff to fall in love with. What song lyric of hers will wind itself in my mind and play itself over and over again and again until it turns itself into a blog post? There are so many possibilities.

So many, that she has her own blog category.

This is a love affair that began the moment I heard “The Call” on the Prince Caspian soundtrack. Absolutely awful movie, which was somewhat redeemed by the inclusion of some Regina Spektor (and Switchfoot’s “This is Home” as a matter of fact. Check it out). I, uh, downloaded it illegally because I had no wish to pay 10 dollars for what would have just been one song (album only? Are you kidding me?). I still wish she’d record it on a new CD or something so that I could officially buy it. (This is the only song that I’ve downloaded illegally. I suffer guilt from this memory, but not enough to pay the requisite 10 dollars.)

It started out as a feeling,
Which then grew into a hope.
Which then turned into a quiet thought,
Which then turned into a quiet word…

Picture from etsy. Song is "Time is All Around," one of my favorite "new" Regina Spektor songs.

“The Call” lead to “Laughing With,” which led to “Fidelity,” which led to… a love affair with any Regina Spektor song I could get my hands on.

The other day, I decided to search on Etsy with the term “Regina Spektor.” And I found some pretty amazing prints! I don’t think my devotion to her music stretches so far as to buy a keychain with Regina Spektor’s face on it, or a key rack like the one on the left, but I’m perfectly willing to buy several amazing Regina Spektor song-inspired prints for the house that I will probably only get in like twenty years.

First, there’s Lisa Chow, an artist/illustrator based in Texas. I love the style of her ink and watercolor drawings — they’re so whimsical! She’s doing a print series called “City of Love” wherein she draws a picture inspired by and named after a song lyrics snippet that the print reflects. Her blog can be found here.

And without further ado, here’s her “Two Birds on a Wire” print.

I love those little red hearts! “Two Birds” is probably one of my favorite Regina Spektor songs. So much so, that I wrote a blog post about it some time ago.

Here’s another print, titled “Hero of this Story.”

Again, the little hearts are so lovely. Probably my favorite out of the two, honestly. I do like the city, though I probably couldn’t stand to live in it forever. This print makes me think of freshman year in college where I lived on the 8th floor of a dorm and I had the most amazing view of the city.

The song it refers to, “Hero,” is on the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack. I’ve never watched the movie. I do like it, though not as much as some of her others. It’s pretty sad.

I think this next one is my favorite Regina Spektor themed print of all, though, in terms of sheer cuteness and heartbreaking melancholiness (and I’m surprised the latter is an actual word). Painted in watercolor by artist Jordan Lynn Gribble, the print is made up of four small paintings also inspired by the Regina Spektor song “Two Birds.” Which I’ve already mentioned is one of my favorite songs by her, ever.

It does make me feel so sad for the little bird, though.

I think part of the reason I love Regina Spektor so much is that she can find such beautiful, expressive words and phrases to form feelings that are very very real. Her songs are at times sad, nostalgic, regretful, and questioning, but wonderfully alive at the same time. I’m not sure how I can put it better.

I also love how they’re so offbeat. Who would make dolphin noises in a song? Who else but Regina would write a love song using such terms as macaroni computers or hours out of cupboards or little stone hearts?

Or sing about meat markets and helium balloons and orca whales and yet give listeners the sense that these songs are so true to life?

PS: For more Regina Spektor love from me, check out here, here, here, and what is probably my favorite Regina Spektor blog post that I’ve written.

Pictures are from Etsy sellers.

This is how I work.

This is how my screen looks when I’m working on a new blog post.

Click for large size

Having everything cluttered like that makes me feel busy, I suppose. In some sick way.

And I love Regina Spektor. Haven’t bought this song yet, which is why I’m listening to it on Youtube. I work pretty well listening to music, unless I’m having trouble with something, or need to get my thoughts more together. Or if I have to finish something before I go to bed. Then the music goes off.

Sometimes I collect ideas in a Word document before I type the blog post out into WordPress. I’ve been doing that a lot more lately, especially with longer, more research-consuming posts. At least I call it research. I usually have more than one WordPress window open when I’m blogging, though, because I want to check comments and see my stats.

If I’m doing a picture-heavy post, the corners of the screen get covered with picture files, downloaded from Flickr under a Creative Commons license. Blurred some of them out for obvious reasons.

What does your screen look like when you work?

Play it again

I fight so hard to flesh out words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into a constructed whole. To take an idea, slippery inside my mind, and form it, shaping it into something solid and quite tangible in its own way. And then during the edits, rewriting it again, sometimes one more time with feeling. After all, like the song says, I’m saying it in my mind until I know that the words are right.

Hold on!
One more time with feeling
Try it again, breathing’s just a rhythm
Say it in your mind until you know that the words are right
This is why we fight

As the pianist takes a musical idea, a sense, an emotion, a reply, and pushes it forth into the notes of the music. Practicing it again and again… one more time with feeling. Performing it before a crowd of unseen faces…

Play it again… one more time with feeling.

As the songwriter crafts a melody out of scraps of notes. A song to steal the darkness away…

It can be ridiculously hard to come up with feeling, especially where it counts. Or does this absence of emotion occur because where there is evidence of feeling, there is failure of expression? If so, this failure is a sad excuse and proof of our inadequacy.

Then again, it is not always easy to pour your heart out freely. In fact, there are times when it really becomes quite hard. How can you go on when it feels as if there’s no moon in your sky? Those times are when breathing in and out is a sort of rhythm. Try it again, and again and again and again, even though the numbness is pervasive, threatening to steal the light away and the movement from your bones.

Live and survive, even though your scars are twisted. Play on, even though your piano is broken.

After a while, you can do that which is an impossibility — feel again, for there are too many who have yet to regain this.

By the writer and the musician and the poet and the artist’s own battles and eventual victories, we may in turn help others to feel, and come alive again.

This is why I fight.

Inspiration: One More Time With Feeling by Regina Spektor, from album Far

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

Den of thieves

I’ve realized that my posts have been kind of depressing so far. I apologize in advance for that! This is one of my favorite songs by Regina Spektor, and the music video is so awesome in terms of design and creativity and the stop-motion. I had to write a blog post about it, and the words finally came, even if they are a little sad. I want to be encouraging as well, so I tried to put some of that in there, too.

Thank you for reading! And happy posts are coming up.

We’re living in a den of thieves
Rummaging for answers in the pages
We’re living in a den of thieves
And it’s contagious
And it’s contagious
And it’s contagious
And it’s contagious

An echo from faraway alerts one person that not everything is all right.

One person sees the other searching, and realizes that there’s been something missing all his life that he hasn’t been able to put a name or a word to. He doesn’t know why. All he knows is that it’s there, nagging at him, even though he’s tried to drown it out with his headphones. Even though he’s pushed it down until it’s become a soft but irritating buzz that never quite goes away. He’s used distraction all his life to remove the feeling, but it hasn’t quite worked.

He can’t shake the feeling that somehow everyone knows about his problem and is laughing at him. Silently. Secretly, behind closed doors and windows.

They made a statue of us
And put it on a mountain top
Now tourists come and stare at us
Blow bubbles with their gum
Take photographs for fun, for fun

The sight of his fellow neighbor searching for something, any comforting meaningless nonsense answer, brings it all back to the forefront. The fear that his life will never amount to anything. That his bleak life will end just as it has begun, without him being blind and deaf and mute, always thinking but never knowing. Feeling too much and feeling too little all at once, and being slowly drained dry.

They’ll name a city after us
And later say it’s all our fault
Then they’ll give us a talking to
Then they’ll give us a talking to
Because they’ve got years of experience

There’s too much conflicting information coming his way, and he can’t handle it. He doesn’t understand. The voices keep on coming, and he can’t stop it. He can’t stop anything.

Oh, and the loss…

We wear our scarves just like a noose
But not ’cause we want eternal sleep
And though our parts are slightly used
New ones are slave labor you can keep

As the time passes by, we feel the stares, the awkward silences.

They made a statue of us
They made a statue of us
The tourists come and stare at us
The sculptor’s marble sends regards
They made a statue of us
They made a statue of us
Our noses have begun to rust

Our noises are rusting, and it’s so cold. Winter is coming and we have to stop soon.

We are living in a den of thieves, always rummaging for answers and clues wherever we can find them. Until the books are all worn and old, and we leave them, scattered pages, right where we found them.

Without having ever found the answer, or even remembering what the question was.

Don’t give up.

And it’s contagious, it’s contagious

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

i won’t let go of your hand

Two birds on a wire
One tries to fly away and the other
Watches him close from that wire
He says he wants to as well but he is a liar

- “Two Birds” by Regina Spektor

I was trying to find a Youtube video with the song, and I found this utterly charming music video, filmed and directed by Alex Calleros and starring Adele Watkin and Dan Beckner.

I think it’s absolutely beautiful, not to mention poignant. And it almost makes me want to cry.

Both song and music video illustrate so well what happens when a couple grows apart instead of growing together. Maybe one wants the two of them to keep moving forward in life. However, the other one is, for some reason, afraid. Maybe afraid of what those changes might mean. Afraid that things won’t be the same.

Afraid that if he (using he because of the music video, though it can always be a she) himself were to change, he would no longer be in control of anything.

The sky’s too big.

Exhausted even before he makes the effort, he sits on the couch and plays video games.

Two birds on a wire
One says c’mon and the other says I’m tired

He is the bird clinging to the wire, while the other bird, the one who wants to fly away with him, keeps telling him that he’s slowly killing himself where he’s at.

I’ll believe it all
There’s nothing I won’t understand
I’ll believe it all
I won’t let go of your hand

In retrospect, it looks foolish. His bird companion wants to help him. She takes him as he is and tries to understand where he’s coming from. At the same time, she knows that he can’t stay on the wire. We were never meant to just stay where we are. Birds fly, even if the sky is overcast. We can’t avoid change, however much we’d like to. Even though change is scary.

But when change can be a beautiful thing as well?

She’s even promising not to let go of his hand.

The sad thing is that she can’t sit on the wire with him forever, either. Eventually she will have no choice but to leave him on the wire, if he wishes to stay there. Even sadder, these are two people who have made a commitment to each other, out of love. He delays her journey from the wire as well as his own by leading her on, telling her that sure, he’s going to do it when really he’s not.

He says that he will but he’s just a liar

How many times have I wanted things to remain the same as they ever were? How many times have I purposely kept myself from moving just so things could stay as they were?

We can all be scared little birds sometimes, but we have to move on and let go of the wire if we are to live the full life that we were meant to live.

After all, the sky is a big place.

But we’re not alone.

I won’t let go of your hand. . .

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

it’s like forgetting the words to your favorite song

For some people, the forgotten song is one they sung for years and years before “life” got in the way. Or a dream they used to chase until disappointments and sadnesses blurred out the memory of the dream until only vague pictures and scenes were left.

For some, it’s the joy found in simple things, before life got so complicated.

Little things, like cloudy days. Or a simple mug of hot chocolate while the rain falls outside. Taking the time to drink in all the beauty that is to be found in open seas, grassy meadows, magnificent forests. Things are spectacular as the waves rushing in on a stormy night, or the simple stark beauty of a bright red starfish sitting in a rocky tide pool at dawn.

Little moments of solitude, with nothing more than a cup of tea and stillness.

Or the simple thread of melody from a favorite piece of music. Playing that melody over and over and never getting sick of it. Singing the words that fit so well to that beautiful melody… and then lending the CD to your friends to listen, too.

Or falling so deeply and surely in love.

you can't believe it, you were always singing along

Or simply being happy.

But what happened? One morning, you awoke, feeling that something was terribly wrong. Throughout the day, try to sing it like you’d always done, but find that for whatever reason, you couldn’t. It’s out of tune, the words are all wrong, the rhythm can’t be felt, and the magic is gone.

It’s like that one book you read over and over when you were a child. The words flowed together so smoothly, and the story held you enthralled through many rainy weekends. The pages became dog-eared and wrinkled from the love you gave it. You could recite whole passages from it, that’s how well you knew it.

Then one morning, as you got older, you suddenly realized that you hadn’t read that story, or even thought about it, for a while. You tried to recall passages and scenes, and only vague pictures came up.

Perhaps you felt like Lucy of the Chronicles of Narnia, where during one of her journeys she read a story “for the refreshment of the spirit.” However, she realized that the magician’s book she was reading wouldn’t let her turn backwards to read it again.

How can I have forgotten? It was about a cup and a sword and a tree and a green hill, I know that much. But I can’t remember and what should I do?

– C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader

What should you do, indeed?

It was so easy and the words so sweet

Or was it that the words were meanwhile slipping away day after day while life became more and more muddled and confused?

You spend half of your life trying to fall behind

How did something that used to come as effortlessly as breathing now be so difficult?

Or just… falling out of love.

There are those around you who asked, Did we even ever have a favorite song? Doubts creep in. There are those that choose to forget, opting instead to fill their lives with motion blur and noise so as to prevent the awareness of the dissonance to creep in.

You’re using your headphones to drown out your mind

Oh, to be blind, and deaf, and to forget all that one once knew…

We’re too busy, and it’s too hard to move.

However, maybe you are different. The thought of not remembering, not knowing, not feeling that thing which was a part of yourself for so long before you lost it almost drives you to desperation.

Many of us, instead, are searching for the words to that favorite song. Hearing someone pass us on the street, humming the tune, we turn our heads, hoping to catch it before it goes. A simple black and white photograph catches our attention… but then we discard it when the words don’t come. Or maybe a friend inadvertently speaks a sentence that sparks a faint memory. “What did you say?” We lean forward.

As if listening for some faint and faraway sound.

You can’t remember, you try to feel the beat.

It’s a maddening, maddening itch you can’t scratch. And so, you continue to search.

After all, we can bear the sadness.

It’s the emptiness of forgetting that we can’t stand.

And the encouraging reminder that there are others who have found theirs.

You can’t remember, you try to move your feet

And when you do find it, it will be like coming alive.

All photos are under a CC license and used with permission. Click photos for credits.

I also credit Maggie for the inspiration. She is an awesome lady, who is going to China to serve others. I know that she will do awesome things for God, and inspire so many others while she does it. Read her blog!

Further credit goes to Regina Spektor, who wrote the beautiful song on which this blog post is based.