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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Time Travel Revisited

It is the last November day, and I felt it apposite to revisit the past  --180 degrees across the zodiac minus seven years-- to an outdoor cafe with my friend of over half a century. Somehow the gist of conversation and Rasputin Beer seems appropriate. The enigmas discussed over that summertime table seemed to bear on the present --a chill winter, December tomorrow, and a world in contention. I was recently reminded of Thos. Wolfe's line: "You can't go home again."  In fact, even if you do go home, it's nearly impossible to find a parking place.  Time travel seems the best solution. I am privileged to travel at least this far and relive a warm and delightful day. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Time Travel

[Lunching with Willie. Trying to remember the name Rasputin so I could order another stout. My hair highlights caused by misfiring synapses.]

Time travel, with its paradoxes, enigmatic loops and plot lines is a staple of science fiction. Wellsian machineries cast our thoughts swiftly back and forth through time. We are thrilled in incomprehensible forces. We should also be thrilled to know time machines actually exist.

Real time machines fall somewhat short of imaginary ones. They travel slowly and into the future only. They do last a lifetime, but tend to go to pieces before the journey's end. I refer to the normal process of ageing, which goes forward in reality but only virtually into the past. One recalls the past --a memory, a figment-- less precisely as time goes by.

This by no means presages mental weakness. I have devoted much work to getting older and can attest, the power of progressive memory loss should not be underestimated. Most of politics and all of public opinion are based upon it. With practice, we can persuade ourselves it is not always what we remember that interests us, but what we forget. And, of course, there are some experiences for which amnesia is simply the most accurate memory. Wisdom stirs.

It does not stir quietly. How distressing to find the wisdom of age predicated on a falsehood, not upon experience so much as just keeping one's mouth shut. One has something to contribute to discussion but exact names and places are on back-order. Time is not travelled uniformly, and prudence demands a dignified, alert silence. Happily, this can serve to sensitize us to truth.

Age quiets us into keen observers of truth. We tend not to view it as ultimate, absolute good but as something quite dangerous, best rationed out over a period of time. Time. As we recognize truth, especially in places where it is neither expected nor plentiful, possibly not even welcome, we gain some control of our time machine. If we keep our own counsel, we can explore undisturbed.

There is a freedom in restraint. Perhaps it comes from gradually concerning ourselves less and less with the good opinion of young people. The reasons we older people go about things need in no way trouble them. Let's consider that a prime directive.

Young people are in better repair than we are, mechanisms less encumbered by the past. I have said the past is virtual, and it is. It has no mass, no weight, yet if we dwell on it overmuch it can crush us. This new world, with a few jarring differences, is much like the world I was young in. I spent considerable resources learning how to have a past and am qualified to advise a policy of non-interference.

These new time machines are tuning themselves over our imperfect past, a dream in which the floor moves and the house keeps coming down. They have much to contend with, but it is more likely during their spans of operation than ours that the secrets of time will be solved and all our journeys explained.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving And Upper Division English

As we inched our way out of Bel Air Market parking lot yesterday, we saw another day-before-Thanksgiving shopper crossing our path with her last-minute purchase, an orchid --a table centerpiece perhaps-- and watched her walk by with blossoms bobbing over her head with each step she took --much like the topknot plume of the California quail. I doodled her over "Wavin' Man" because it was a similar situation and Wavin' Man wanted in on it. You might say they're on the same page.
Thirty years ago, I carved two quail --ground-birds still welcome and plentiful on this property-- over some sheet-aluminum reinforcements on our back door. I headed them into each other because they describe a heart between their heads. Observe:
I thought this sculptural collision positive, life-affirming and even romantic --still do-- but, when I think of humans trying to emulate it with feathery hats, I cannot escape the the strange memory of a college class in Restoration Comedy. High-elevation headgear only amplified the middle-school tenor of the scripts and caused me to withdraw from the class after opining "Thank heaven for Oscar Wilde". Prof. didn't like that and became adversarial. He thought the jokes had to be 300 years old and I was not equal to the task of enjoying them.  Restoration was important because it produced art in defiance of Puritan dominance, but if it is to be effective, it must refresh it's punchlines again and again. One doesn't always take the right classes, I know, but still one resents the fact that mistakes are not realized until after they are made.

So, on to the closing Normaphoto of metal sculpture purchased on an outing with our sister Christina:
It shows a typical family of Callipepla californica --the sort that runs around our yard. When I pass by it, I forget about mistakes, collegiate errors, Puritans, middle school, everything except the garden. I strongly suspect Nepenthe is not a drink but a garden that leads us not out of but INTO reality, dream and discovery. I am thankful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, all of you.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Sermon, Nearly December, Windsprint, Self-Assessment

Let us begin with a recent Normaphoto this month.

Compared to a Normaphoto from a year ago...(to see year-ago post, click within parenthesis)
...I'd say some progress has been made. I spent a winter on oxygen therapy, feeling my thoughts wander farther and farther away from my brain. 

I read news. I got hooked on trending topics: "Man turns $20 into $20,000,000 by adding lots of zeroes with a Sharpie then used it to pay supermarket self-checkout and got nearly $2 million change."

Then I read Cicero:"We are obliged to respect, defend and maintain the common bonds of union that exist among all members of the human race."

One of my happiest and least certain moments was when I piled all those O2 canisters and O2 concentrator into the car and returned them to the medical supply co. 

Now I cannot remember where I was going with this post. Probably something about experience and aging. I shall be 68 next month and have certainly achieved an early childhood ambition: to be more vigorous than kids twice my age. I had not envisioned  my nether-regions making noises indistinguishable from my Mr. Coffee Espresso Machine, but that is a minor detail.

Your regular pastor will be back next week if he finds God is not on the FBI's list of subversives. 

Go in peace.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Spirit of the Wavin' Man

For me, it began in 1958. We were moving out of the farming settlement on Garcia Bend, headed east past Florin. There was an old men's home, weathered red brick, with a weathered old man on a bench out front. His name was Pete, and he directed traffic at the 4-way stop. When he wasn't directing traffic, he just waved at everybody.

35 years later, I passed the same intersection. The old men's home was long since razed for other development, but there was a younger, muscular man in spandex who jogged along my predawn route to work. He would stop jogging frequently to dance on the sidewalk and wave to morning traffic as part of his routine.

In the early '90s, there was again an old man who sat in morning light upon his own lawn and waved to all the cars passing Carlson Drive. I had not encountered this spirit again until this afternoon. Driving home from the pharmacy with my prescription --and a bottle of Cabernet (I cannot imagine why my health insurance does not cover Cabernet, as I could save 50% or more with a simple copay)-- I found myself stopped at a red light along with 12 other lanes at a 4-way intersection. Usually, I can see when one or another lane goes green and reckon my own signal but they were all stopped. That meant somebody needed to walk across the road. It was this guy:

He had such a happy smile, and I was in no hurry. He waved to each car, made gentle eye-contact to each driver, I just started to feel better and better. Then I waved back and thought "Wavin' Man, is it you?" I didn't have a camera --probably wouldn't be appropriate anyway-- but I doodled him soon as I got home. Wavin' Man is a spirit that guides, has guided, good souls all my life. How does it assume possession? How does it sustain itself in these contentious times? How does it seem to appear when most needed?
It is an enigma. Amid the myriad distractions of modern times, it appears, it appears.

I could do worse than end up a Wavin' Man.