Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Person's Life

The Generous Writer
A person's life consists of a collection of events, the last of which could also change the meaning of the whole, not because it counts more than the previous ones but because once they are included in a life, events are arranged in an order that is not chronological but, rather, corresponds to an inner architecture.

- Italo Calvino, Mr. Palomar

* * *

You have been forgetting. I know, I know, it is hard to keep everything relevant. What once seemed the whole of your experience, your understanding, your sense of place in this uncertain place is gone, or poorly remembered or only refreshed with the sudden appearance of a face you'd once known, a smell you once loved, a sound that echoes deep in your still beating and splashing heart and then...  you remember.

All this living you've done. How are you supposed to keep it all straight? What defines you now is not what defined you then and this moment is the one you have to attend to. No?

But fucked fuckity fucked fucker that you are, you have done what all us fucked fuckers do: you've lost sight of the forest because of all these damned trees.

* * *

Among the fucked are two great camps of misunderstanding: 1) the linear and 2) the absent. The Linear believe there is a line from cradle to grave that propels each event into the next; a causation as solid as ore and that brooks no challenge to its headlong rush from hour to hour until there be no more hours. The Absent want there to be such a line, but their lives are pocked with absences - yawning gaps where they have no idea about what they experienced or how to incorporate that experience into their worldview because, frankly, they have no worldview. All those absences thwart any such thought if they'd bother to think it all.

When you are tied to time, the measurement of it, the ticking of it, you force an order on yourself that does not exist without that ticking. When you cannot recall the name of one you once loved, or why you might have loved her in the first place, you strip yourself of the meaning you built into loving her in the first place. Great blanks, great dead spaces pollute your life and you tell yourself this is simply the way things go.

In both instances you are nothing but a coward.

In both instances you cede the authority for your life over to either a construct outside of yourself (time), or to no construct at all (apathy).

My dear friend Epictetus would tell you this: Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life!

* * *

The generosity of Calvino's spirit, as expressed in his writings, is such that he looks deeply into such questions and plumbs an answer that he freely shares in a clear and elegant language so that you might understand it: are arranged in an order that is not chronological but, rather, corresponds to an inner architecture.

It is this inner architecture, this inner construct of meaning that determines not only the outward appearance of any life, but also (and more importantly) the value you, and you alone place on the life you are living. This is why the linear and the absent are so very fucked. You are the author of your days. The narrative you build is all you have to help you navigate this experience of living in this uncertain place at this uncertain time.

* * *

I prefer drinking coffee and chicory, the impoverished coffee of New Orleans, and am stupidly happy when I search it out and start my day with a goddamn pot of it. Most people I know can't stomach it without cutting it with milk or cream. Black, a bit of sugar and I am stupidly happy. Why is this so? Because once I was in love in New Orleans. The love did not last. It turned sour, but part of my inner architecture hoists that experience up as a beam supporting an expanse of meaning: I was such a man as who could fall in love in New Orleans, suffer its consequences and still believe I was no fool to do so. The difficulties that grew out of that experience are another part of that inner architecture that moves not according to a calendar, but rather according to harmonies and resonances with other experiences. All of which allows me to sit here in the morning with a cup of coffee and tap out these signals.

Each experience does not fall into line; it re-jiggers the whole, helping it come into focus, helping you see the shape you, and you alone, have given to this uncertain place, this uncertain time.

So, the question must be asked: what are you building?

* * *

I take mine black, with a bit of sugar.


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