My new year’s resolution, and the Secret to Pizza and Life™
I made two life-changing discoveries this weekend:
1. Homemade pizza should have a hole in the center.
2. Everything in the universe is connected.
Hear me out.
#1. Has anyone on earth ever made a pizza from scratch in their home oven that was not slightly undercooked in the middle? I defy you to show me ONE homemade pizza that, when sliced, did not flop down at the pointy end. This weekend, after accidentally poking through center of my dough while attempting a one-handed Italian pizza toss, I expanded the hole so that the base was shaped like a flat donut, making a little crust in both inner and outer rings. Result: crispiness on the outside and the inside! 0% floppiness!*
(*Addendum: After some internet research, I am slightly dismayed to discover that I am not the first to have this revelation. Why is this not the standard for all homemade pizzas??)
#2. A little while after making the pizza, on a train, I read an essay by David Foster Wallace about the apparent brainlessness of elite athletes. He cites post-game interviews and autobiographical sports memoirs as proof.
“It remains very hard to reconcile the vapidity of [sportsman speak] with the extraordinary mental powers that are required by world-class [athletes]. As is so often SOP with the truth, there’s a cruel paradox involved. It may well be that we spectators, who are not divinely gifted as athletes, are the only ones able truly to see, articulate, and animate the experience of the gift we are denied. And that those who receive and act out the gift of athletic genius must, perforce, be blind and dumb about it — and not because blindness and dumbness are the price of the gift, but because they are its essence.”
This paragraph was the cherry on top of my growing suspicion that there is no such thing as progress.
Allow me to share my theory. (Those uninterested in esoteric philosophy being jotted down on an iPhone notepad should turn back now.)
In Life, broadly, we do not improve or ascend toward an ultimate purpose or goal. We feel as though we are taking steps up and forward with every dollar earned and minute saved and tickbox checked and lesson learned, as if, at the end of it all, we’ll win a prize or attain eternal peace or lay on our deathbeds and close our eyes with an overwhelming sense of completeness, having lived all the life we were allotted.
But every so often we pause, zoom out on our lives, and have a fluttering flash of panic at the vision of our existence inside an M.C. Escher drawing of unending loops. Hearts sink with the dreadful thought that for every step we climb, three more appear above it, ad infinitum.
Hence midlife crises (What am I doing with my life?!). Hence the clichés of why the rich are depressed and the famous are lonely and beautiful are mean and the pious are prideful and why, generally and confusingly, the pursuit of one thing so often seems to spawn its opposite.
We think that knowledge will make us happy, but who is more blissful than the ignorant (a la DFW’s athletes and Forest Gump)? Who more capable of authenticity than criminal outcasts of society, unbound by uncountable layers of conformism and social conditioning (a la Boris from Goldfinch)? Who more capable of forgiveness, empathy and tolerance than the committers of sins (a la Jean Valjean and Alex from A Clockwork Orange)?
But underneath what seem like an annoying pile contradictions that make you want to roll back over in bed, To Hell With It All, is a glimmer of something that might actually be meaningful. It’s Newton’s 3rd Law. It’s Yin and Yang. It’s Alan Watts’ “Balance.” It’s Robert Pirsig’s “Quality.” It’s The Force which encompasses the Light and the Dark sides. It’s the Journey to where we are. It is not nihilism or apathy; just the opposite — it is the Truth that nothing matters as a means to an end but everything matters as an end in itself. We already are all we ever will be and possess all we will ever have within us, so time on earth and Life Itself is purely how we see, taste, feel, smell, embrace, and breathe each moment of this reality!
Yikes. This iPhone notepad hippie stream-of-consciousness is spiraling out of control. Let’s bring things back down to earth, shall we? (Because the occurrence of this idea not as not, in fact, inspired me to quit my job and spend the rest of my days in lotus position in some stinky Nepalese meditation center.)
How does this change everything and change nothing? (I ❤ paradox)
I don’t go to work to make money. I go to work to experience working and the realness that is Monday and office banter and stress and excitement and boredom and the present-mindedness of doing something so elementally human as thinking to solve problems.
I don’t eat to consume vitamins and proteins and Omega 3s. I eat to experience taste and fullness and routine and to momentarily empty the mind of everything but biting and chewing and swallowing.
I don’t run to get skinny or win or impress people, but to be aware of my physical body and pain and endorphins and pride and nervousness and defeat and the simple pleasure of something so basic as breathing and moving.
I don’t meet people to grow my network or find a life partner or boost/shatter my ego, but to partake in the acts of listening and empathising, and the emotions of jealousy and love and heartbreak.
I don’t read novels and watch YouTube and listen or music to get smart or cultured or advance to some goal level of intellectualism. I use art to stir up emotions and to experience the uniquely human endeavor of learning and imagining.
None of that is actually true. (I am literally writing this in an iPhone internet tab next to tabs for “Quick Healthy Recipes”, LinkedIn, and my Google Notes To-Do list.) But it is how I imagine a “good” (true, real, existentially swallowable) life could be lived.
I suppose my New Year’s resolution is to stop turning everything in my life into a goddamn resolution. Which is itself a resolution (and down and down the rabbit hole of the impossible paradox of trying to stop trying… Doesn’t matter, life is art.)
In many ways, this infinite loop is like a pizza with a hole in the center. A circle with no beginning and no end.
(And no, this does not mean that there is any less pizza.)