Tuesday, July 7, 2009

as for living, our servants will do it for us

oscar wilde showed great foresight when he wrote those lines in 'the importance of being earnest', for it has come to pass.

it's with sadness i watched videos of michael jackson after the marx brothers in 'a night at the opera', one of my favorite memories from childhood.

not being of jackson's generation, i didn't understand him as a phenomenon. not only did he show energy and talent, he made strong statements against racism of any kind. that certainly helped prepare the way for things as they are today.

alas, as an icon, he couldn't be allowed to grow old. andy warhol and marilyn monroe had to vanish before the wrinkles and trembling set in. what a rush, to be celebrated. yet a cause for fear as well.

what i mean to say is, we need stories. rather than wearing a uniform and being blown up, we need to watch 'a night in bagdad' and live that life as well as our own.

there's perhaps a certain melancholy we all feel from not being able to experience a dozen lives at once. luckily, we've the movies, novels, heroes, performers, to do that for us. it's much more fun to watch 'devil in tahiti' than to be bitten by sandflies.

yet we need our own life too, a sense of its trajectory. albert camus stated every life has a shape, no matter when it ends. he also said, 'there's no substitute for a long life.' he should know, surprised by death at fifty-one, sitting startled in the back of the car that had hit a tree.

in the don juan books carlos casteneda declares, 'erase your personal history.' supposedly, that will make you free. i've found the opposite to be true. when i listen to the three and a half hours of audio my mother made about my early life, i feel reborn, in a strange way.

it seems important to revisit your personal history every once in awhile. each important event in the present affects everything that has gone before. when it became apparent my friend berta would soon die (you can see her pictures here: www.pbase.com/wwp/berta ), her sister sat her down with a map of the world. they stuck pins in every place berta had travelled, and the earth covered with them. a lesson in recovery of memory.

a few days ago i strung a series of personal snapshots together, myself as the subject. and afterwards i again felt refreshed, as though i had confirmed something, grounded myself, and let something go. as vague as that sounds, it felt good.