Jan 16, 2024

One Good

I started to get dizzy in January 2023. It began with ringing in my ears after attending a loud concert and gradually worsened. Some days, it was debilitating, almost like being on a spinning ride. Other days, it felt more like being on a constantly rocking boat. They called it vertigo, and when doctors use that term, they take it seriously and subject you to numerous tests to determine the cause. In my case, they were unable to pinpoint a definitive reason, and after about 45 days, the symptoms lessened and eventually disappeared over the next few months. During these investigations, they also discovered high-frequency hearing loss in my auditory range - completely unrelated to the vertigo! - but most likely caused by years of exposure to loud live music.

This reminded me of my friend Keith who was one of my concert-going friends a long time ago. Keith and I backpacked around Asia after we graduated from school. I’d like to think we were a good duo as Keith pushed me towards adventure (“don’t worry it’s safe if we give them our passports to rent these motorcycles”) and I got us to Bangkok and back from Singapore many months later. One time he hiked to the top of Mt Batur on Bali at sunrise while I stayed behind, too sick with food poisoning to join him. When he returned he took a photo of me recovering with one of the few disposable cameras we brought to document our trip. Back then, there were no mobile phones to capture memories in an instant. Even though we talked about our travels often for years afterwards, I never really told Keith how meaningful the whole thing was. We have those few photos, though.

This got me thinking: the area codes linked to our phone numbers once indicated our current location, but now they represent our place of origin.

That change in perspective gave me an idea: in a world of abundance, the real question is not what we can do but rather what we should. What if the aperture of what was available was then, and instead, narrowed down and limited?  Imagine a service that offered only one item within your desired category. Then I poked around and noticed that others were also thinking about this same thing.

Fair Warning is an art service that auctions only one piece of art every other week or so.

1001 Albums wants you to listen to all the great albums of all time but only presents one a day to you. Dudel Draw is an app that gives you one new shape every day to draw on. One Thing is a newsletter about one interesting thing, each time. 

What if there was a movie service that offered only one film per week, exclusively on Wednesday nights? And once the movie was gone, it was gone for good. The catch? You wouldn't even know what the movie was until two days before it played. Is this interesting or just a gimmick?

The concept of narrowing focus made me think about this thing my friend R and I do. We send cold emails to interesting people we want to meet, obsessing over who we choose and what we write. Most of the time, these emails go unanswered, but I’ve come to realize that's not the point. It's not about getting a response; it’s about the idea of doing the act itself, challenging yourself, and taking a (small) personal risk. Maybe it's more about the idea or memory of doing it than actually doing it.

These emails reminded me of something Sarah Manguso wrote: “The first beautiful songs you hear tend to stay beautiful because better than beauty, which is everywhere, is the memory of first discovering beauty.”

I remembered something else that has beauty: the  Jewish custom of saying “may their memory be a blessing” when someone dies. They may no longer be with us, yet their memory remains a gift and a blessing.

All these thoughts made my mind drift to a few weeks ago when I found myself in a tiny basement bar in the West Village late into the night on a random weeknight and a jazz trio was playing mid tempo songs and people were drinking martinis and talking loudly and strangers were dancing and it felt like the center of the universe. Ever get that feeling?

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