Thomas Edison's last words were "It's very beautiful over there". I don't know where there is, but I believe it's somewhere, and I hope it's beautiful.
When adults say, "Teenagers think they are invincible" with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.
Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. (...) You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you'll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.
I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.
What the hell is that?" I laughed. "It's my fox hat." "Your fox hat?" "Yeah, Pudge. My fox hat." "Why are you wearing your fox hat?" I asked. "Because no one can catch the motherfucking fox.
Francois Rabelais. He was a poet. And his last words were "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." That's why I'm going. So I don't have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.
It's not because I want to make out with her." Hold on." He grabbed a pencil and scrawled excitedly at the paper as if he'd just made a mathematical breakthrough and then looked back up at me. "I just did some calculations, and I've been able to determine that you're full of shit.
At some point, you just pull off the Band-Aid, and it hurts, but then it's over and you're relieved.
Oh God no. I’ve maybe read a third of ‘em. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read.
And then something invisible snapped insider her, and that which had come together commenced to fall apart.
I found myself thinking about President William McKinley, the third American president to be assassinated. He lived for several days after he was shot, and towards the end, his wife started crying and screaming, "I want to go too! I want to go too!" And with his last measure of strength, McKinley turned to her and spoke his last words: "We are all going.
Sometimes I don't get you,' I said. She didn't even glance at me. She just smiled toward the television and said, 'You never get me. That's the whole point.
We are all going, I thought, and it applies to turtles and turtlenecks, Alaska the girl and Alaska the place, because nothing can last, not even the earth itself. The Buddha said that suffering was caused by desire, we'd learned, and that the cessation of desire meant the cessation of suffering. When you stopped wishing things wouldn't fall apart, you'd stop suffering when they did.
It's not life or death, the labyrinth. Suffering. Doing wrong and having wrong things happen to you. That's the problem. Bolivar was talking about the pain, not about the living or dying. How do you get out of the labyrinth of suffering?.
I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails.
If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can't know better until knowing better is useless.
You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you'll escape one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.
Before I got here, I thought for a long time that the way out of the labyrinth was to pretend that it did not exist, to build a small, self-sufficient world in the back corner of the endless maze and to pretend that I was not lost, but home.
People, I thought, wanted security. They couldn't bear the idea of death being a big black nothing, couldn't bear the thought of their loved ones not existing, and couldn't even imagine themselves not existing. I finally decided that people believed in an afterlife because they couldn't bear not to.
The Colonel led all the cheers. Cornbread!" he screamed. CHICKEN!" the crowd responded. Rice!" PEAS!" And then, all together: "WE GOT HIGHER SATs." Hip Hip Hip Hooray!" the Colonel cried. YOU'LL BE WORKIN' FOR US SOMEDAY!.
I hated sports. I hated sports, and I hated people who played them, and I hated people who watched them, and I hated people who didn't hate people who watched or played them.
After all this time, it seems to me like straight and fast is the only way out- but I choose the labyrinth. The labyrinth blows, but I choose it.
That is the fear: I have lost something important, and I cannot find it, and I need it. It is fear like if someone lost his glasses and went to the glasses store and they told him that the world had run out of glasses and he would just have to do without.
For she had embodied the Great Perhaps--she had proved to me that it was worth it to leave behind my minor life for grander maybes, and now she was gone and with her my faith in perhaps.
She's cute, I thought, but you don't need to like a girl who treats you like you're ten: You've already got a mom.
And in my classes, I will talk most of the time, and you will listen most of the time. Because you may be smart, but I've been smart longer.
Someday no one will remember that she ever existed, I wrote in my notebook, and then, or that I did. Because memories fall apart, too. And then you're left with nothing, left not even with a ghost but with its shadow. In the beginning, she had haunted me, haunted my dreams, but even now, just weeks later, she was slipping away, falling apart in my memory and everyone else's, dying again.
Don't you know who you love, Pudge? You love the girl who makes you laugh and shows you porn and drinks wine with you. You don't love the crazy, sullen bitch.
I felt the unfairness of it, the inarguable injustice of loving someone who might have loved you back but can't due to deadness.
We were kissing. I thought: This is good. I thought: I am not bad at this kissing. Not bad at all. I thought: I am clearly the greatest kisser in the history of the universe. Suddenly she laughed and pulled away from me. She wiggled a hand out of her sleeping bag and wiped her face. "You slobbered on my nose," she said, and laughed.
But a lot of times, people die how they live. And so last words tell me a lot about who people were, and why they became the sort of people biographies get written about.
She said, "It's not life or death, the labyrinth." "Um, okay. So what is it?" "Suffering," she said. "Doing wrong and having wrong things happen to you. That's the problem. Bolivar was talking about the pain, not about the living or dying. How do you get out of the labyrinth of suffering?... Nothing's wrong. But there's always suffering, Pudge. Homework or malaria or having a boyfriend who lives far away when there's a good-looking boy lying next to you. Suffering is universal. It's the one thing Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims are all worried about.
There are times when it is appropriate, even preferable, to get an erection when someone's face is in close proximity to your penis. This was not one of those times.
I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.
He—that's Simon Bolivar—was shaken by the overwhelming revelation that the headlong race between his misfortunes and his dreams was at that moment reaching the finish line. The rest was darkness. Damn it," he sighed. "'How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!' "So what's the labyrinth?" I asked her. "That's the mystery, isn't it? Is the labyrinth living or dying? Which is he trying to escape—the world or the end of it?.
There comes a time when we realize that our parents cannot save themselves or save us, that everyone who wades through time eventually gets dragged out to sea by the undertow- that, in short, we are all going.
Why don’t we break up? I guess I stay with her because she stays with me. And that’s not an easy thing to do.
The nature of the labyrinth, I scribbled into my spiral notebook, and the way out of it. This teacher rocked. I hated discussion classes. I hated talking, and I hated listening to everyone else stumble on their words and try to phrase things in the vaguest possible way so they wouldn't sound dumb, and I hated how it was all just a game of trying to figure out what the teacher wanted to hear and then saying it. I'm in class, so teach me.
So why don't you go home for vacations?' I asked her. I'm just scared of ghosts, Pudge. And home is full of them.
You can't just make yourself matter and then die, Alaska, because now I am irretrievably different..
Hold on." He grabbed a pencil and scrawled excitedly at the paper as if he'd just made a mathematical breakthrough and then looked back up at me. "I just did some calculations, and I've been able to determine that you're full of shit.
You can't just make yourself matter and then die, Alaska, because now I am irretrievably different, and I'm sorry I let you go, yes, but you made the choice. You left me Perhapsless, stuck in your goddamned labyrinth. And now I don't even know if you chose the straight and fast way out, if you left me like this on purpose. And so I never knew you, did I? I can't remember, because I never knew.
How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!" to a margin note written in her loop-heavy cursive: Straight & Fast.
Everything that comes together falls apart. Everything. The chair I’m sitting on. It was built, and so it will fall apart. I’m gonna fall apart, probably before this chair. And you’re gonna fall apart. The cells and organs and systems that make you you—they came together, grew together, and so must fall apart. The Buddha knew one thing science didn’t prove for millennia after his death: Entropy increases. Things fall apart.
Principled hate is a hell of a lot stronger than "Boy, I wish you hadn't mummified me and thrown me into the lake" hate.
I hated talking, and I hated listening to everyone else stumble on their words and try to phrase things in the vaguest possible way so they wouldn’t sound dumb.
I still think that maybe the "afterlife" is just something we made up to ease the pain of loss, to make our time in the labyrinth bearable. Maybe we are just matter, and matter gets recycled.
We got off at the next exit, quietly, and, switching drivers, we walked in front of the car. We met and I held him, my hands balled into tight fists around his shoulders, and he wrapped his short arms around me and squeezed tight, so that I felt the heaves of his chest as we realized over and over again that we were still alive. I realized it in waves and we held on to each other crying and I thought, 'God we must look so lame,' but it doesn't matter when you have just now realized, all the time later, that you are still alive.
Muhammad brought the promise that anyone could find fulfillment and everlasting life through allegiance to the one true God. The Buddah held out hope that the suffering could be transcended. Jesus brought the message that even the last shall be first, that even the tax collectors and lepers - the outcasts - had cause for hope. And so that is the question I leave you with in this final: What is your cause for hope.