It's Only Being

May 26th, 2018

“It felt like being a child again, though it was not. Being a child is like nothing. It’s only being. Later, when we think about it, we make it into youth.”

—China Miéville, Embassytown

There is no better place to have read that line than here, in my childhood bedroom in Skokie, Illinois.

This isn’t my first time reading the fantastic Embassytown, by the amazing British writer China Miéville. According to my Goodreads, it was November of 2012 when I finished it for the first time. That would make me newly 17, in my junior year of high school. I probably read the majority of it in this very bedroom, in between Tumblr posts and Doctor Who episodes and AP Psych assignments.

I must have skipped right over that line, immersed as I was in the deepening worldbuilding of the novel and the sympathetic revelations of the main character, Avice.
But last night, six years separated from my first read, it hit me like a freight train. Because it’s true.

I freak out a lot about my relative youth/lack of it. Especially now, less than a month graduated from college, I’m wondering if I did it “right.” But of course that’s only something you start to worry about afterwards, when in Miéville’s words you “make it into” its own category of your life, give it shape and posthumous meaning, spin it around in your mind like a 3D model to examine all of its angles, its flaws, its surfaces.

When you’re in the moment, when it’s happening, it’s only being. That’s how I remember my time in this room, this house, this suburb. A lot of being.

While reflection is necessary, it’s almost too easy to get trapped in the moments of making and re-making your past and forget to just be— even just in service of giving yourself the experiences needed for future reflection.

I hope that this transformative year in my life will lead me back to a state of balance, between the being and the making, the doing and the remembering.

Anyway, Embassytown has it all. Bizarre alien linguistics, political scandals, clones, houses made of flesh, dimension-hopping space travel. Highly recommended for fans of LeGuin, Chiang, and Gaiman.

For more Miéville goodness, check out The City And The City (a modern classic) or my favorite short story collection of his, Three Moments of an Explosion.

I’m also currently working my way through Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, but I’ll do a post on that once I’m finished… stay tuned!