The Sloths Are Never Wrong

In terms of what planet Earth has to offer, the human race isn’t exactly the star attraction. We aren’t the biggest (blue whales), the fastest (cheetahs), or even the laziest (sloths. But Americans are a close second.) And to top it all off, we are literally killing and destroying our planet.

So, what are humans good at? What have we evolved from monkeys and small amoeba to do? What does evolution have in store for us? Like, if Darwin wanted to win an award for best example of evolution, how would he market us? What would his tri-fold poster look like at the science fair?

Well, let’s see. We’re definitely good at war. We like to fight and dominate and oh yeah, kill. (No wonder “alien” races from outer space stay away!) But so do monkeys. So, that’s not exclusive to us. And we can speak. We have hundreds of thousands of dialects and even more slang words. But any dog can recognize a command in our native tongue, even if it’s just because our voices get a wee bit higher when we speak to them. Okay, then. Okay… a talent, a talent, a talent…well, we invented naps, didn’t we? Nope, it was the sloths again. Rats! (Yup, they even helped us to understand modern medicine with that whole plague fiasco. We really have nothing.)

But the thing is, we do. Humans are great at…adapting. And sure, we can’t change colors, shed our skin, or change our sex automatically (we’re still having a lot of trouble with that one, even though approximately half the animal population can do it, and 100% of the animal population is fine with the fact that the other half are able to do it), but we are good at keeping on.

We can get beat down and get right back up. We can have a complete meltdown that we don’t talk about ever again, but somehow, we are still whole at the end of the day. Somehow, we’re the only animal that experiences intense emotional trauma that we inflict on ourselves. And truly, we’ve made it through some of the worst phyiscal tragedies known to this planet. (Granted, we also brought those on ourselves, but you get it.)

So, don’t worry about the next time that you mess up or you didn’t get what you wanted. Because you are absolutely going to be fine. Actually, you were built for it. You evolved to overcome it all. And if that knowledge still doesn’t work for you? Take a nap. The sloths are never wrong.

The Opposite of Loneliness

I’d like to think that I provide pretty good book recommendations, when pressed. (You know. When I DON’T go blank and forget every book I’ve ever read and the only thing that sticks out is some book that I loathed, so I blurt out, Izzy, Willy Nilly? Have you ever read that? Try it. Then they associate me with some book I actually hated.)

So, here is a book recommendation that I am poised to give. One that you should probably go out and get tomorrow. One that you should probably pay the utmost attention to.

Actually, to call this particular collection of words a “book” is to make it base. It’s a life’s work. I could probably never do it justice and overrate it at the same time.

It’s called The Opposite of Loneliness. And before I tell you about the story, I need to tell you this “story.”

Marina Keegan was a student at Yale. She was a writer in the broadest sense: a poet, a playwright, even dabbling in nonfiction. She won awards for her work and saw some of it published in The New Yorker and The New York Times. Upon her graduation, she addressed her classmates in an essay, entitled “The Opposite of Loneliness” that became an instant success. She died in a car accident five days later. Not even a week after she had worn a cap and gown, an entire lifetime of success ahead of her, she was gone.

And so, her parents picked up the pieces. They took a hard look at her body of work. They put it together between a binding, and they sold it so that others could come to know their daughter intimately. Despite the flaws that she probably would have revised and edited out of her work, her parents sent Marina’s final message out into the world. I am so glad that they did.

Because they could have been selfish. They could have decided that it was too large of an undertaking to assess what to put in a final book about Marina. No one could have blamed them if they had shied away and withdrawn into their grief.

But they didn’t. And really, they couldn’t have gone wrong with anything they picked. Yes, every page “throbs with what could have been” as one critic said, but Marina will always be recognized for her talent, whether she is here or not. Although she could have been so much more, her impact is great and awesome in the traditional sense of both words.

The book is a mix of her poetry, her fiction, and her nonfiction. But really, it is made of flesh, blood, and bone. Marina’s symbolism is both painfully obvious and overwhelmingly succinct. When you read her words, you feel an undeniable connection to her, but also the human race. She seems to embody what humans could be, if we free ourselves from our inhibitions. She was a better version of us all.

Everything about this book is difficult, mind you. It is hard to see how much talent Marina had. It is hard to hear her talk about her own death, when she thinks it will be years away, like we all do. It is hard to hear her talk about all the things that scared her, excited her, angered her. (I mean, it is especially hard because I am sitting here trying to find matching socks when we have shooting stars like Marina in the world.)

But we owe her that at least. We owe her an audience.

So, pick up Marina Keegan’s book The Opposite of Loneliness. Cry through it like I did. Be haunted by it. Loathe it a little. Love it a lot. But when someone asks you for a good book recommendation, pass it on. Give Marina what we all need in this life and the next: someone to listen.

Why I Was Not as Impressed with Lady Gaga Last Night

I told my dad to shut up tonight. This is not something I do often. This is not something I want to do often. But I think it was warranted, at least for a moment. Why don’t I tell you what happened, and you can decide? (As if you have a choice…)

We were watching a recap of the Oscars on the nightly news when Lady Gaga’s performance of the Sound of Music came on. In her flowing white gown and her equally white hair, she belted out the songs formally made famous by Julie Andrews and countless others. No one could deny that she did the Sound of Music franchise justice (after Carrie Underwood almost buried it completely).

Then, after her last note rang out, my father said the following: “If only she didn’t have a trumpet tattooed on her arm…”

And so, I said the offending remark because I am sick of people judging others for what they choose to do with their lives and their bodies. But then I thought about it. And I realized that my dad had only said what so many people had written in articles all over the Internet about the performance (so, sorry, Dad).

Everyone could not stop talking about how great she looked. But what they were really saying was how normal she looked.

You see, everyone liked Lady Gaga’s performance last night because everyone understood it. Because for once in her career, she wasn’t wrapped in meat, she didn’t have a mask on, she didn’t look strange. She looked like us, and she sang like she was “supposed” to sing. And everyone was shocked at how good she was! And yet Lady Gaga fans were saying, “uh, duh? Where have you been since ‘Poker Face’? She is tremendously talented! Not everyone has to sing opera to be considered a good singer!”

Now, as a Lady Gaga fan, I understand this reaction from the world, to a point. I definitely fell off the bandwagon when ArtPop came out. It was too politically charged with far too much symbolism (I know, coming from an English major that’s a bold claim.) After her latest album, I felt that she was trying way too hard, drawing inspiration from her fans instead of from the wonderful person she is, creating a vacuum where we drew on her and she drew on us.

Of course, I think we can all understand where Lady Gaga is coming from with her past appearances, even if we wouldn’t also wear shoulder pads that are the size of our own head. At one of her concerts, she talked extensively about how she was bullied as a kid. And you don’t need a psych degree to know that most of those costumes are her armor. She also said that she was told that she was too “broadway for pop, and too pop for broadway,” and so it is obvious that Lady Gaga has spent a lot of her time trying to fit in somewhere.

But along the way, has she lost herself?

We see it time and time again. Sometimes, the “persona” in Hollywood is really a shtick. Sometimes, when celebs get to be famous enough, they shake off the excess and turn into what the rest of the world wants them to be because they’ve made it, and they don’t need to draw attention to themselves anymore. And sometimes, that’s okay. I get it, anyway you can make it, you should. But I thought that Gaga’s creativity was a part of her, and not a complete front.

I don’t think the Internet is right to applaud for her not looking “crazy.” It sends the message that she shouldn’t be who she is because if she isn’t that person, more people can appreciate her talent. If she was more mainstream, she could make a real “comeback.” If she did what we expected her to do, she would be more successful.

In the end, I don’t care how Lady Gaga dresses. I don’t care how well Lady Gaga sings. I just hope that she stays true to herself because so few free spirits do, especially under the glaring eye of the media.

So, Lady Gaga, if that was just a quick dip into the normal gene pool, then I hope you don’t listen to anyone about how much “better” you look. I hope you continue to be yourself. And, if this is who you have been all along, then, welcome to the rest of the world. You will truly be at home here.