Tuesday, July 7, 2009

revisiting your life

usually, i'd say it doesn't pay. why glean the old fields with the straw all gone? i try not to repeat a wonderful experience. for example, in kandy, sri lanka, i stumbled into a tree ceremony, lots of beautiful hangings, incense, elaborately dressed women chanting buddist sutras. like all travelers who go to asia, i felt i'd been transported to shangri la. alas, i was dumb enough to go back a day later. the whole scene appeared burnt out, dead, like the day after an lsd vision and transportation. suddenly, the heavenly world turned to ashes.

i did have similar experiences in kandy, the windows of the english church blown out by a terrorist bomb (they were actually after the buddha's toenail in the temple next door), the pathetic elephant being examined for weapons by the police, and so on. yet, i do remember the place with affection, thinking, 'a civil war creates stable power structures, especially when it last longer than 20 years.'

yes, i'm rambling, but it has a purpose: to re-arrange my memories. this is actually a happy practice. for example, a couple days ago i put all the snapshots i could recover of myself online. and i thought, 'yes, i have had a life."

before my friend berta died, her sister sat her down with a world map. they put pins in every place berta had been: china, rwanda to visit the mountain gorillas, borneo. her sister demonstrated berta had had a full life. true, only afterward did i find from the sister a mysterious black hole in berta's history when she'd left home at 16 to escape an acoholic father. that piece of her life remained her's alone.

you can see pictures of my travels with berta here: www.pbase/wwp/berta strange, we never know which person in our life we will miss most. it will certainly be those who keep our stories.

the most amazing thing can happen when a neighbor, now grown old, suddenly reappears and says, your father, that horrible man! and your memories confirmed. a little bit of self-knowledge goes a long way.

my mother once transcribed three hours of my childhood. she's long gone, but the voice and anecdotes remain. each time i listen to them i feel refreshed. in 'the tales of don juan' carlos castenada mandates, 'erase your personal past.' however, my experience refutes him. if you remember enough of your life, you realize how full it's been.

my snapshots at www.pbase.com/wwp/snap