Dessa is one of my favorite underground rappers. She was recommended to me by Spotify and I was not disappointed. Her verses are smart, raw and poetic….her book is no different. If you could add background music to this, I’m pretty sure we can have ourselves a musical.
The story begins with love: love of a person and love of an artform. It transitions to experience and it ends with acceptance. We are rewarded with sprinkles of complex moral and philosophical ideas.
We learn about the start of Doomtree and their touring routine. We learn about Dessa’s past work experience and we even get a front row seat on some family history. My favorite thing of all though is when Dessa lets us into her brain. This woman has experimented with science and spirituality (do not confuse it for religion) and has been molded into an observational thinker. She thinks about things that wouldn’t normally reach topics of conversations at dinner parties. It’s addictive, really.
She always ends each chapter with a statement, question or observation. It always feels profound and creative. She holds time and meaning between the pages. This is definitely one of my favorite non-fiction books this year. I would definitely recommend this.
Now, some of my favorite quotes:
“I wanted to be considered a success and I wanted to be on the right side of a hard fight. But I wasn’t sure what job or even what field to pursue.”
For any person who ever had unguided ambition, this quote is extremely relatable. We aren’t afraid of hard work, we’re just afraid of pointless tasks. We don’t want to waste our time. Time becomes a theme in this book.
Finding a place that aligns our spirits and our abilities is one of the hugest struggles we fight.
“Stage was a place for all of the outsized feelings that didn’t fit neatly into daily life. “
I mean, wow! This is so true. When I was in band (marching band…not a cool rap group like Dessa), I remember always feeling better after the performance was over. That first breath after knowing I survived yet another performance was always sweeter than the others. Playing music is therapeutic. You never realize how many troubles get released until you become deflated after giving it your all. The reason why muscle memory is so important for performers is because we need to rely on our instincts. We become our most vulnerable self when it comes to art.
“There’s no best-practice handbook for the pursuit of unlikely dreams.”
Bumper sticker idea! Or a shirt idea.
“This is the Tinker Bell model. She’s only real because she is clapped into existence. The children refuse to entertain any alternative, and the force of their desire and their determination has metaphysical consequences.”
Same as Santa Clause. He is real. I will fight you on this.
This model is also why the Wizarding World of Harry Potter became so big. People’s need for this type of reality to exist transcends any reason.
“When I first had that idea, it kicked back like a shotgun I hadn’t known I was holding.”
Thoughts can be deathly. Once aware, it’s hard to hide.
“Lonliness is the fare that you pay to be free.”
I remember this conversation would appear a lot in both my high school psychology classes and in all my English classes. What does freedom mean? Freedom means the right to feel. It’s why in every dystopian and utopian novel, emotions are always controlled. They instill fear, or they instill a promise of safety. But to be free to think can lead you into a rabbit hole of inner turmoil and self-doubt. Eve bit the apple and found that she was uncomfortable with her mere existence. We risk unhappiness and separation from our community when we pursue the path of knowledge. Alcoholics drink to forget. Book readers read to remember. Remember that in the end, this is all worth it. To remember that our loneliness only goes in vain if we stop trying.
“The sense of purpose squared my shoulders and liften my chin. Purposeful might be my favorite feeling–even better than happiness.”
Yes! I have a lot of coworkers who tell me that being charitable makes them happy. I wish I could say the same thing but, I’m a bit more selfish than they are. However, being charitable gives me purpose. I’ve felt happy and I’ve felt purpose…and I can tell you that it’s a lot easier to sleep when you know you belong and that you have a reason.
“It’s impossible to know which stories are crusual to your narrative until the story is over.”
I love this quote because I always think of this whenever I’m in the pursuit of new friendships. Some people are worth having in your life because they shape you (again, I’m not afraid of hard work). Some people are just there to help the time pass by. Some are just there. Each adds to the overall story, but some become mentors to a lesson you didn’t know you needed to learn. It’s amazing to be aware of each interaction and how it shapes you. It’s amazing to see how you, in return, contribute to their story.
“Even if you dodge all the landmines and retain the starring role, you might find yourself in a story that wouldn’t interest you. That’s why I don’t buy lottery tickets: I’d hate to win. A million-dollar jackpot would pivot my whole narrative on five random numbers–that would be the biggest story of me, the one I’d ask to tell at cocktail parties with my new rich friends and it’d be one that would strain all my phone calls with my old poor friends too. A story signifying nothing.
My concern isn’t about legacy, exactly. That’s an old man’s game. It’s more about agency, about trying to minimize the role of chance and maximize the role of will. If you can’t parse the merit from the luck, it’s hard to know what to think of yourself.”
“But I didn’t want to conceptualize myself as a quicksand pit of changing variables. I wanted something permanent, stolid–a cinder block of a self.
Maybe self works like the word here— the referent changes as you maneuver through the world. You just drag the word along, like PeterPan with his shadow sewn to his heel.”
This was just mental foreplay, really.
“If there are heaven, and it has walls, I doubt they’re hung with mirrors. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to pick ourselves out of a lineup. Maybe we wouldn’t recognize ourselves from any other red-lipped angel passing on the stairs.”
When I read this I imagined cars. Like dealership cars. Where they all look the same in the lot, and what makes it yours is when you get to decorate it the interior (i.e, we all have bodies but it’s our characteristics that define us). It’s also why, when it’s really dark, a lot of people just look for cars that look like theirs and can approach the wrong car.
I also don’t think our self-conscious isn’t really aware of our looks which is why our dream bodies are usually different.
But then there is an argument to be made with trans people. They don’t relate to the body they have, so trying to personalize the car feels awkward and suffocating. So if there was a line-up, they probably wouldn’t want to choose their given bodies.
But do we get to choose? Or is like, our bodies are created for our souls? What about people that have out of bodies experiences, but then get to return to their bodies? Or people who’ve actually temporarily died and then were resuscitated, could there have been an instance where the spirit returned to the wrong body. But then that implies that reincarnation is real. And the whole theory that when one person dies, another one is born, the soul could transfer over.
What are your thoughts on it? I am for sure overanalyzing this.
“But the art that really blows my mind usually violates the assumption I didn’t even realize I’d made, eliciting some variation of Holy Shit, I didn’t know you could do that.“
Basically, anything that alters my reality and rewrites “impossibility” is what I define as art. I can go to a museum and stare at the sculptures and portraits and think “this is talent, but not memorable.” Then there are those that scratch that itch of curiosity.
“Nobody gets to save up their health and beauty for redemption at a more convenient date. Living more or less celibate and alone, I feel like I’m squandering a resource, like part of me is being wasted.”
It’s really sad how much pressure there is on looks. I know the pressure was always there but now that online dating is mostly based on looks rather than compatibility, it becomes more intense.
“Freewill is just the ghost we strap into the machine when the manual gets confusing.”
“Charisma is an excellent attractant, but lousy glue.”
I should tell that to my friends…
“Maybe loyalty is just love fossilized.”
I believe this. People that I have loved, still hold a piece of my heart even if the feeling isn’t there anymore.
Cover copied from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38526745-my-own-devices?from_search=true