A certain someone turned two recently and I can’t help but reflect not only on these past few years but upon the nature of the past and its reflection on the lives we lead now. There is a deep part of me that believes that the past never existed and the future will never be here — but as I approach my later years, I know this is not true.
Further, it’s this complex of suspicions, arrogance, and insecurity that makes me question the past and how it is and how it lives in our lives. Afterall, I look at the photos of this certain someone and note the change in expressions, in bodily form, in composition, and in personhood, all of which are either communicated through photography or have accomodated our drive for having those things communited to us. But I’m less interested in how someone like Susan Sontag would describe the perception of the world through these images than I am in the way that I now interpret the past through the scrim of these photos and how that veil is more or less a distant shadow of me.
Let me try to be more clear. I see an image from the past. I know that person and that time of my life inherently, coherently. It moves me and I then see the world as someone would after my death, through my eyes, without them being me and perhaps never knowing me. It’s as if the photos are personal and profoundly apart from me and the shadows they cast are that of death, which is both personal and profoundly apart from me as well.
I watched the ball drop last night on television and then went to sleep. I felt absolutely little connection to the hoopla that was going on only about 7 miles from me in Times Square, which was strange in that I could barely feel the immense human energy and excitement emerging from the tube.
It’s not that I’m cynical or skeptical about New Year’s or that I have bad feelings about it. Afterall, I met my wife on New Year’s a number of years ago. But in listening to the fireworks going on overhead and the shouts of men beneath the window, I couldn’t figure out where the celebration was coming from. Were people happy to be alive another year? Were they simply drunk and happy? Or does the new year mark a happy moment for people who are ordinarily pretty happy?
Happy new year!
I’m sending out the annual holiday calendars to clients, friends, ex’s, colleagues, partners, vendors, family, and others who I like a bit (not in that order). As I was carefully going through the list of people and their addresses, I realized a few things:
1. I’ve refused over the years to delete those who have passed away from my contact lists. I can’t do it, but these folks should not rightly be mixed in with the living, right? I’m not sure what to do with these entries, including my grandmother who died over one year ago. Obviously, I’m not sending those are dead calendars nor will I need their contact info. Why must I keep them and am I “contaminating” the rest of the people populating my rolodex?
2. There are so many people that I’ve lost touch with in the past five years. If you happen to be reading this, my apologies. If you’re not reading this it’s because you’ve lost touch with me as well.
3. I tried printing out the list (it’s about 1000 entries) on one sheet of paper and it looks really, really tremendous.
Wishing you a day full of pleasantries, little social friction, healthful food, a feeling of calm and well-being, and thoughtful gifts of thought.
I watched a great friend complete the Philadelphia Marathon today at 11:58:08 (I think). Althought I’ve been here in New York for many years, I’ve never actually thought of attending a marathon (let alone participate in one).
But watching my pal complete the 26.2 mile course around the entire city was not only a milestone for him, but one for me. I saw not only the spirit of pure individualistic athleticism but the mysterious advances of almost perpetual motion on the human form. I witnessed a woman weeping as she crossed the finish line. I watched a man in a wheelchair fly across the finish, arm muscles bulging brightly. I saw two retired-looking women cascade through the gates together, almost holding hands. I felt the pain of one woman who walked through the finish line after stopping every 5 seconds to look at her evidently badly hurting foot. I saw one man do push-ups on the pavement only six yards from the finish as the crowd gushed. And I saw sheer glory in the smiling faces of people cheering others’ accomplishments, on the largest scale in the smallest form.
The startling number of deaths, including today’s story in which “17 U.S. Soldiers Die in Iraq Copter Crash” is truly unnerving. It makes me think of the old saying that “Every is political,” because all of these deaths are. But it also makes me think that every death is also truly alone, that every individual, couched in his or her cocoon of personal armaments and hidden monologues, is supremely final, forever, foreign.
This came up time and again after the WTC came crashing down. Commentators asked of us to imagine what these people thought about and felt during the hour or so of panic before their tumble to earth — and it was easy to imagine the hell because it was televised. But for almost every other person in the world who is about to die, we only ask locally to imagine their life, at the funeral, the wake, and the graveyard. The public is safely away from it all. Are we thankful or relieved by this? Are we well served by our distance from others’ private deaths?
I was showing photos of our family and friends to our daughter this evening. This has become a favorite part-time pasttime for us, which I find moving, difficult, and thrilling all at the same time. The pictures dislodge memories of younger days, when I looked wiser and more alive, and the baby pictures remind me of those squawking first few weeks that gave life to a new being. Some of the photographs depict people who are no longer alive, like my grandmother. I told my daughter, “this was my grandmother,” and as the words rolled out, I found myself drowning in the word “was,” a word not like any other, a word that shows the finiteness of our being in three long letters and one syllable. I also thought about how the word “was” somehow indicates objectness — a non-human quality, as if the coil sloughed off of us is an it and not part of us.
Sometimes it’s important for me to note whether a country with nukes has the capacity to blow us up. It appears, from the news today, that North Korea perhaps has two bombs ready to go. Heartening. Then I went to look at who owned northkorea.com just to make sure that one couldn’t just push a button on their site and send a missle over to Japan. It seems the owner is Reflex Publishing, which appears to be a crappy web development and content company that happened to purchase during the “height,” domains like humor.com, baseball.com, and, well, northkorea.com. Why would someone own northkorean.com? Why would someone check who owns northkorea.com?
What can one intelligently say about Mr. Schwarzenegger and his recent win in California? I would argue that absolutely nothing can be said of any substance or consequence. Sure, there will be cover stories in Time, Newsweek, and US News and World Report. Sure the pundits will get a story out of it. It’s not incredible in these days that he won, nor is it a precedent.
I wish California lots of luck.
A quick bookmark-like but important political post. Here are nice and neat link lists of both Democrats and Republicans running for the office of President of the United States in 2004. (Most of the design is kind of fugly, but that’s another post.)