1002: Secular and Inconsolable

1002: Secular and Inconsolable

1002: Secular and Inconsolable


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

Some mornings I wake and say, “Today is the day I will turn off the phone. I will ignore alerts to meetings. I will not open the laptop. Today I’ll disregard all that beckons — coworkers, friends, family, pets too.” But of course…I hop up, brew coffee, feed the dog, sharpen some pencils, and get to work answering emails. For those, like me, like most everyone, I’d guess, who struggle to achieve work-life balance, playing hooky should be a national holiday. Just picture it: scores of us abandoning our desks, heading to nearby parks or movie theaters, beaches, or libraries. Can you see it, a nation basking in a self-contained bubble of condoned indolence?

Neither can I.

Last month, I was forced to slow down, so to speak, and did not like it. While biking to a meeting, I was struck by a car. The driver signaled left but abruptly steered toward an available parking spot on the right. I went down hard. I emerged with a severely bruised shoulder, broken wrist and abrased elbow. After a visit to the ER, my full left arm was wrapped in a cast.

Unable to work, I experienced frustration, boredom, and worthlessness. While, indeed, I host a podcast that encourages mindful reflections in a moment of pause, the truth is, living simply and adhering to a less-demanding schedule requires internal rewiring.

Today’s poem slyly champions a life of modesty and ease, where our priorities lean toward leisure, joy, and acceptance — rather than excessive ambition and the stress and anxiety that is accelerated by modern life.

Secular and Inconsolable
by Noah Blaustein

My goal was to wake with nothing 
in my head—it’s nice to begin a day
having already achieved. Sunlight
on the dead grass of the ski slope.
A lone runner works his way up
the fire road, a dull throb in my ankle
where it twisted on the edge of getting 
younger, of celebrating my luck 
in still being able to run. Ralph, my friend,
has been trying to convince me for years
that the life of an adult is boring 
but I’ve never aspired to the life
of an adult. My wife holds up a diaper,
“A pound of pee.” There’s joy in that.
In another city, strangers excavate
our old lives to make room for our
new ones. Why we don’t say we’re lucky
and leave it at that, I don’t know. “You know,”
I say, “there’s enough water in Lake Tahoe
to fill a canal fifty feet wide and two hundred
feet deep from San Francisco to Los Angeles.”
A full sentence that startles me but I’m 
still not ready to say something big,
something about grace and the rhythms
of a body moving from half state to awake
and someone on the stereo is already
asking if this life would be easier
if I had someone else to blame. Outside,
a shriek and giggle—the girls
we listened to last night
smoke their first cigarette, cough 
in the high of transgression, run
through the grass to cheer 
camp. My ankle throb synchs
with the sprinklers. I do a Jesus
stretch and my daughter clears 
her sore throat like a prop plane.

"Secular and Inconsolable" by Noah Blaustein. Used by permission of the poet.