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Published: Tue Apr 15 2003
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Destruccion por un remolino del aire Xocomeel del Lago Atitlán / Destruction from a Vortex of the Xocomil Winds around Lake Atitlán (detail), 2014, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Five Stories

A Short Philosophical Primer

The way the winter sky is both sunny and ominous, this is good. All things that are ambiguous but reliable are good. Foods that take decades to be appealing, like turnips and beets, are good. Records that you hate at first are good. Paintings that you don’t understand for years, but which then reveal their intensities, very good. The weird ebbing and surging of long friendship is good. Things that disappear and then reappear are good, socks being one example. Things seen backwards through binoculars are good. Waiting is good. Waiting even longer is better. Extremely long, dull waiting periods when you imagine you will never do anything but wait, these are hellish, but sometimes good. Sleeping with someone and forgetting about the explosive part of it, this is often good and refreshing. Remembering that there was a thing you wanted to do, and then forgetting it, this is often very good. Youth is good when you are young, but middle age is much, much better, much more good, and in middle age youth seems vain and self-satisfied, except in certain exceptional cases. Blurry photographs are better than photographs that are distinct. Stories in which the narrative is all but absent are extremely good. Indistinct narrators are good. People who come back into your life after long intervals, with apologies, are absolutely good. Pieces of music that do the same things over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over, until in the repetition you begin to see that the repeated thing has infinitely more variety than you hitherto believed, these pieces of music are so good that we need to laud and magnify them. The repetition of the word “good” until it is drained of all meaning is good. “Good,” since it is overused by children early in the learning curve of language acquisition, needs to be made good all over again. Virtue is good and virtue stippled with failure is even better. The acknowledgment of earthly failure is always good. Ideals are essential, but lapsed ideals are nearly as good. Good is perhaps derived from Sanskrit gadh, to hold fast, which implies that uniting is good. Bearing things together when they are apart is good; finding the order in the disparate is good; people with extremely large eyes are good, laughing in the dark is good, and whispering is good and all silences are good, as are the times after silence. Plato is good, Aristotle is less good, Nietzsche is good in some ways. Fear of death is very, very good. Making up things as you go along is a good way of working and then rearranging the order of these things very quickly without looking is also good. Your insides are good, your organs and viscera, and you should let them be outside, this would be good, at least in some metaphorical way.


The rest can be found in AGNI 57, where this originally appeared.

See what's inside AGNI 57

Rick Moody is an American novelist and short story writer. His latest books are The Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions (Little, Brown, 2002) and Demonology: Stories (Little, Brown, 2001). He is a past recipient of the Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award, the Addison Metcalf Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship. He lives on Fishers’ Island, New York, and is on the core faculty of the Bennington Graduate Writing Seminars. (updated 5/2003)

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