“… what do you live for?” This question keeps appearing in the entertainment I consume. I’ve considered the question myself, but it’s the voices of other people’s fictional characters that have been asking it of me lately, and they usually preface it with, “not what you would die for but …”
Recent deaths in my family have made me fearful of living for other people, but my loved ones are, and always will be, a significant element in what drives me. As characters in the fiction we consume often say, in some roundabout way, the pain is the point. Living for something is painful. Living for something involves constant compromise. Because this choice is much more difficult it is supposed to be more fulfilling. It is supposed to establish agency. Actively living for something leaves us feeling empowered, especially in societies where so many decisions are made without our conscious permission. Do I want to stare at an ad while I sit on the toilet in a public washroom? No. Did anyone ask me? No.
To live for something means entering into a relationship with whatever you choose to value. This thing may give you a rush, a sense of urgency, a completeness or deep satisfaction when the world is topsy-turvy. And this relationship may not always be easy.
What emerges in this issue of Sewer Lid, amongst other dilemmas, is the push and pull of living with people. Justin Lauzon’s “The Sailor of Marseille” documents the realization of how easily we can lose ourselves and become someone else and how people can turn out to be someone completely different than we thought they were. Salma Saadi’s “Notes to my working life” mirrors the ways we lose ourselves in the masks we wear. Wiliam Doreski’s “Black and White Stripes” contains the description of bodies tangled in passion and suggests this human ritual confuses the independence vs. co-dependence binary. John Grey’s character tells us, “I’m power grids or I’m nothing,” reminding us that so often our relationships with others are mediated by inanimate objects, with which we also develop relationships.
Ben Gallagher’s playful line, “what a cloud can do I can do in my mind,” presents another theme in this issue of Sewer Lid, the dilemma of living with nature and technology. Nature, science, and religion take on new lives in Aidan Chafe’s poems. The lines of mwpm’s poem, “breathing habits,” are as long as short breaths. In “fire of conflict” and “A440,” Kristen Smith highlights both the struggle of relationships and of choosing to tune into the bittersweet music of life.
Our identities seem to be ignited by the push and pull we experience alone and with each other. Sliding against one another, people have to sacrifice or suffer, alternatively or simultaneously. We can be inspired to move, or act, or change.
In “halifux” by Benjamin Dugdale and in Rony Nair’s work, the main characters are unsettled, roaming through daily life and on the way to discovering more about their quests for meaning. Yet everyday life has a tendency to demand urgency and efficiency from us. Daily life forces us to be reactive. We must deal with the elements presented to us in the moment rather than taking the time to examine the layers of each decision we make. We see these competing demands in Boona Daroom’s “Good Listening Hygiene.” While the writer’s perspective in “Dinktown” by Clive Gresswell foregrounds the signs and directions in life, we wonder who is in the background pulling the strings on our quests to fulfillment.
The tensions in these texts remind us to resist passivity. There is a way to live with agency. The choice, and it has to be a choice or otherwise passiveness sets in, is to choose what we pay attention to. David Foster Wallace describes this choice, which he sees as a type of freedom: “you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. [It] […] involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom” (Wallace). Being present in each moment you are in, be it by yourself or with others, is a possible feat.
Learning from the creations of other’s is a great place to begin. We can return to the written word or, even the recorded image, as in Her First Look at the Sea by Walter Savage, again and again, infinitely perhaps. With the present, we are forced to react to whatever is thrust upon us. Yet, if we expose ourselves to art, people and situations uncomfortable or unfamiliar to us, we can decrease our ignorance. The creative perspectives or expressions of others help us reach the level of caring where we inherently empathize or sympathize. If we practice the discipline of awareness, we can reach caring, and finally, be well. Extending Jack Hostrawser’s metaphor in “There Is No Plan A: Jaymz Bee And The Art of Making It,” we are all tossed into Plan B, in that the lives we lead never had our full consent. But we are in it together.
Sewer Lid is an online magazine that is dedicated to communion. We publish art to cultivate understanding of unfamiliar points of view. We aspire to facilitate an experience that will help readers become present in their moments, more aware of the molds in their societies and comfortable in the liminal.
Wallace, David Foster. This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. Little, Brown and Company. 2009.
NIKOLINA LIKAREVIC is a graduate of the MA Literatures of Modernity program at Ryerson University. She is the Associate Editor of Sewer Lid, a magazine of urban art and literature. Currently, she is completing a Master of Information in Library and Information Science at the University of Toronto.