Yesterday morning, I was listening to an old This American Life, Americans in Paris. In the first act, Ira Glass follows David Sedaris around Paris. While talking to Glass about the anxiety that he feels, living in Paris and struggling to speak in French, Sedaris says:
It’s that thinking that makes me feel alive. And it makes me notice everything around me. When I become complacent like I was in the United States…you know, you just get used to things, so you don’t think about them….Whereas now, with me, the anxiety starts early on and I’m always afraid that someone’s gonna throw me a curveball and ask me a question like, what sign are you? Just ask me a question like that out of nowhere and I’ll appear foolish. So it keeps me on edge. But really, that edginess, has always made me feel alive. [When that anxiety] is removed for me, then I probably won’t be interested in living here anymore. I’ll probably leave.
Glass describes Sedaris’s life of curiosity and wonder in Paris:
For now, things are good for David in Paris. He still feels curious about everything, about figuring out what it all means. And that makes everything so interesting, all the time. The mystery has not ebbed from everyday life.
I’m struck by the connection that both Sedaris and Glass make between wonder, curiosity and anxiety. It reminds me of my discussion of Avital Ronnel and her valuing of anxiety in The Examined Life:
- curiosity, anxiety, paranoia: inspired by the north shore
- anxiety, the examined life and staying in trouble
I want to spend some more time thinking about these ideas. Although, I must admit, it’s hard to think about anxiety right now as I sit outside in my backyard on a beautiful spring day.