When I was growing up, I often wished that, when we died, we could go to a giant library. I remember when I’d just gone on the England Abroad and I was rooming with Ripe, I realized that, for the first time ever, I could see clearly in every moment the one thing I was supposed to be doing. For once, I wasn’t vacillating between many options, thousands of books. I could see, “Now is when I learn the terms and concepts of Shintoism” or “Now is when I blast Coldplay and stare out the window at the School of Government” or “Now is when Ripe and I go to lunch.”
The other day I was in the library, and as I stood in line, I saw E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey on display. I thought, “I am never going to read that series. Or, rather, I know that right now I should not read it.” My creative writing professor taught me the difference between popular and literary fiction. That doesn’t mean I turn my nose up to popular fiction. She also taught me that everything is art; art is life. I consume plenty of pop. It’s nice to know what people are talking about, and we can study our cultural consciousness by examining what is most loved right now. For that reason, I often listen to pop music in my car, thinking things like, “These lyrics sound like calls to riot and rebellion.”
However, I can’t spend my life consuming only the popular stuff. Also, I can’t be a priss and claim that every book can be filed into one of two categories.
But I can listen to my impulses. There’s only so much we can read. That’s why I wanted heaven to be a library. We have to listen closely for what we need to be doing right now. And right now it feels necessary to listen to Sia belting out, “I am titanium!” and unnecessary to pick up E.L. James. For some reason. I don’t know. I’m just listening.