Wednesday, July 11, 2012

the soft, weird passage of time

The sweet, soft, weird and implacable passage of time means not only that people can no longer get on someone else's page ... it also means that they can no longer get on their own page. The implications and imperatives for self-image and image of the world around us can be pretty startling. Who am I if I don't know who I am?

A study released today asserts that the most memorable TV event of the last 50 years was the attack on the World Trade Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. But after that overall conclusion, other events tended to have impact according to age. Hurricane Katrina is stuck in some memory banks. But the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or the Vietnam conflict remained fresh only for those old enough to have experienced them instead of knowing them as a bit of history. Interestingly for the TV mavens, news events had more memorable impact than entertainments like sports or favorite sitcoms like M*A*S*H.

How assuring and reassuring are memories. They are so close that they seem to come before assumption -- sort of like the air within the air. TV, of course, is a mere segment of this intimacy. Everyone has actual-factual experiences that fill the air of their lives. These experiences/memories are like some backdrop to a high school play, painted panels of hills and streams and war and love until finally, here we are ... right now, breathing the air of this right-now life against a backdrop that is seldom consulted and simultaneously shapes and creates the right-now of every breath. If I am a function of my past and the past is gone, then what am I now? And if it is the same for you, on what basis do we connect or fail to connect? Is this a dream talking to a dream and if so, when does anyone wake up?

Since investigating this realm hardly ever happens, there is no need for anyone to get their knickers in a twist. There are chores to do and problems to solve and laughter to laugh. Fuck it! Everyone's got what they've got ... no need to ask what they've got.

And yet here is the case if Jeremiah McDonald, a fellow from Maine who has made a quirky viral video (sorry, I can't find a version that is not preceded by a 12-second ad) of his 32-year-old self talking with a televised version of himself at 12. Without really asking the questions about how our experiences create a world in which human beings both connect and yet pass each other like ships in the night, still there is something provocative and evocative about the video. Not only do I sense the disconnection in the midst of connection with others, but, when push comes to shove, I sense a similar disconnection in the connection with myself. If I am who I was, then who was I?

Purveyors of spiritual life may bounce around, waving their hands wildly like some third-grader who knows the answer to the teacher's question ("Oh! Oh! I know the answer to that one! Pick me! Pick me!" And they're always smiling on their web sites. Why are they always smiling, asserting their frozen friendliness and their fatuous promise, "I don't bite?" I've begun to take all such smiles as a sure sign that I want to be some place else, a place in which 'answers' are offered without conditions, a place in which those who answer are willing to fail. Save your smiles for some other rube!).

But before those who answer the questions that leave the heart uneasy rev up their motors ... well, perhaps the uneasiness is enough. It is enough because it is uneasy and uneasiness has a way of slipping into the past just like 9/11 or Vietnam or the last episode of M*A*S*H.

I may not know who I am outside my past -- who I was. So who was I? And if I don't know who I was and I don't know who I am and I sure as hell can't know what I will be, what precisely do I actually know as I run around knowing things? All in all, it seems to be an unfounded foundation.

I once heard a Zen teacher say, "Don't complain. Don't explain." But we are born complaining and probably die the same way. And in between, there are a host of explanations, each more amorphous and not-quite-satisfying than the next.

Another Zen teacher put it another way: "There is birth and there is death. In between there is enlightenment."

"In between" ... who makes up shit like that?

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