What does it mean to you?
What does it mean? Why do you care so much?
What? I don’t know.
You know that saying “I don’t know” means “I don’t want to know,” right?
Ha, well I don’t know about that.
Hey-o, look at Mr. Clever! For real though, what’s going on?
Nothing’s going on.
I don’t believe you
You don’t have to.
What’s going on?
You’re acting weird. What’s going on?
Nothing really. I’m just living life.
I don’t believe you.
I don’t know what you want me to say.
I don’t want you to say anything! I want you to say what you want you to say.
Tell me, what are you thinking?
Not a lot.
Is this what you expected?
Is this what you expected? Did you expect to feel like this?
Feel like what.
Like whatever the boring, flaccid thing you’re being right now.
I guess I uh
What do you think’s going to happen? Keep doing what you’re doing. What do you think’s going to happen? I’m serious. What do you think is going to happen?
Why do you care so much about this album?
In Rainbows. Why do you care about it?
Why do you care about it?
It’s just good
Are you kidding me
It is good!
Well no shit! Why do you care so much?
I don’t know
It’s good! I don’t know what you want me to say. It’s good, okay? The way it was released, that was cool. That was fucking cool. I don’t like commoditizing art. No matter how good, no matter how much time went into it, no matter what, it’s just music, just another fucking album. It’s ridiculous! This was different.
OK but who cares? Since when have you cared about, like, economics?
It’s not about the economics. This album could have been an easy money grab, and they took a risk. I like that. But it’s not about that. You’re right. It’s what the risk represented. It’s about letting people do what they want. It’s about putting the power in the hands of the people. It’s about making things fair.
Fair to who?
Don’t you mean, “To Whom?”
Yeah, I mean, look. It’s an album. It’s good. You can’t listen to it all the time, but it’s good. It’s what you make of it.
Where are you going with tihs?
Like, you ascribe the meaning you see to it, you know?
This sounds like bullshit
I don’t know what you want me to say.
There isn’t anything I want you to say. I just want you to say something, say anything. Why are you so hung up on this album?
I guess you could say I ascribe the meaning I see to it.
I mean it. Life is what you make of it. You ascribe meaning. You ascribe value. And music is a manifestation of life. You ascribe meaning to it, and you ascribe value to it. Right? I can’t quantify what this album means to anyone else, and I don’t want to try. But it means something to me, and that’s important.
So… you like it because… you like it?
It sounds weird when you put it like that. I like it because it allows me to ascribe meaning and value to it. That’s the whole idea behind “pay-what-you-want.” Pay for it, or you’ll pay for it, right? You have to put a value on what you think matters.
What are you trying to do?
I want everyone to be more honest about what they want, and I think I need to start with myself.
I don’t know.
Yeah, that I believe.
My staircase has 14 steps. More precisely, there are 5 steps, a base and then 9 more in an opposite direction, each one about 10 inches higher than the last. It looks like, I don’t know, like fucking stairs.
One time in middle school basketball practice my teammates told me I was “really weak.” Well, they said it to each other and I was in earshot. They laughed. It was funny. We had a good practice.
I ran home that night, sprinted up the stairs to my room. My walls were covered with posters of athletes. I put on my little waterproof stopwatch, and I ran back down the stairs.
I clicked start and timed myself going up again. Stop. I did it once more. Start. I ran up the stairs. Stop. Again. Each new interval was faster. Each new interval erased the last.
I didn’t have a goal. I didn’t get tired. I didn’t stop. I just kept going up and down, up and down, up and down, over and over for an eternity.
I think I went up the stairs a hundred times that night. Clocked and cleared every one. Who’s the weak one now.
The next day I woke up sore as all hell. I would have stayed home but stopwatches don’t work like that. I very slowly descended the 14 steps, and went back to school, back to practice. Start
“CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION,” the large black man yelled to a crowded train car. Yes, it matters that he’s black.
“I JUST GOT OUT OF PRISON.”
“I SERVED FOR EIGHT YEARS, AND I PROMISED MYSELF I WOULDN’T RESORT TO LYING OR STEALING OR ANYTHING ILLEGAL. BUT I NEED YOUR HELP.”
Setting the bar high.
“I BROUGHT TWENTY RESUMES WITH ME. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE I CAN WORK?”
“ANYTHING WOULD HELP, EVEN A QUARTER.”
Unrelenting, remorseless silence.
“Thanks for your time,” he drifts away, dejected but determined.
The one black woman on the train gets up and gives him a dollar. Yes, it matters that she’s black. Clearly it fucking matters.
“Brian, where’s your paper?”
“I didn’t finish it.”
“I had food poisoning.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“It’s not a big deal. Well, aside from the vomiting and lying motionless in bed for five hours. But I could have written it.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I’m a bad student.”
“No, you’re not. You were sick.”
“I could have done it.”
“What did you do instead?”
“I tried to create a utopia.”
“I tried to create a utopia. Everyone is unhappy. I want everyone to be happy.”
“Calm down. You were sick. That’s not a good time to consider the point of life.”
“No time is a good time to consider the point of life.”
“Very well. Turn in your essay next week.”
“Give me a zero. I didn’t do it.”
“Turn it in next week.”
“I could have done it, but I didn’t. All of my life I’ve hated being told what to do. I don’t happily submit to an authority unless I agree with the goal and the means of achieving it. I’m not going to submit to a poorly cooked egg that came out of a powerless chicken’s butt.”
“I’m better than this. I get what I want. And I try make sure it’s what everyone else wants, too. I want everyone to be happy.”
“No, you don’t. You want yourself to be happy. Everyone else is in the way.”
“Tell me. Is helping people for personal gain worse than not helping people? Why can’t it be a two-way street?”
“You’re starting to sound like a politician.”
“I hate the limelight.”
“Then why do you seek it?”
“It’s better than darkness, than loneliness.”
“So you’re going through an existential crisis.”
“No. This is how life works.”
“This is how you think life works.”
“Doesn’t everybody feel this way? Everybody should feel this way.”
“They’re stupid. All of the smart people I know are depressed.”
“They’re stupid because they’re happy?”
“They’re not happy. They’re stupid.”
“Are you depressed?”
“I don’t think so.”
“So are you not smart?”
“I am. That’s why I think I’m special.”
“You and everybody else. Did you create that utopia of yours?”
“Millions have tried and failed.”
“Should I stop then?”
“No. Turn in your paper next week.”