Sunday, March 12, 2006

You Forget So Easy

I've been reading a series of sci-fi books recently (The Book of the New Sun and The Urth of the New Sun) in which one of the major elements is the perfect memory of the narrator. Severian doesn't just recall the events of his past, he relives them. And I am just the opposite.

If you know me, you know I have a brilliant (if I may flatter myself) memory for facts, for ideas and for the written word. However, my own past is a foreign country, whether it was ten years or two days ago. I tell my own stories badly because they're always a matter of reconstruction; if you were there and you tell it as it was, it's like a new adventure to me.

Perhaps this is a good character for living in the present, never being too concerned with things like moving across the country or passing my qualifying exam, my regrets in life happening upon me only in rare spasms and then evaporating. But it doesn't much help with the Delphic injunction; knowing oneself is as much a matter of memory as wisdom.

I'd been struck with the San Francisco Bay Blues for some time now. I'd breathe in the clear air, stare at a world of February green under a pure blue sky, and think of futility. I've found myself incredibly awkward, incredibly inarticulate and shy, in my whole time here, and I've been quite hard on myself over it.

I was writing in my journal about it all this week, feeling pretty darn sorry for myself, and I wrote something to the effect that I've never been so out of place before. And the answer drifted back to me from years of forgetting: of course I have been, four years ago, my freshman year at Chicago in the winter months. All the same emotions, frustrations, wanting so badly to be cool, to be admired by those around me. Silly rabbit, popularity is for kids; I've got better things to look after.

But the Eternal Recurrence is freeing and joyful, as Nietzsche has it. To know that my melancholy and alienation have precedent, that they faded away as I grew up into the place I came to love so well, is for the spell of those feelings to be broken today. It's for me to recognize the same lesson I learned then: be patient, content with seeking the good and avoiding evil, because it's not all about me.

So I skipped the dance party and read Brighton Rock last night, and I hooted as I ran in the rain today, and I won't worry about impressing my parents this weekend (they love me, wise or foolish), and I'll stop being so darn serious around you, I promise.

Oh, and have you read Brighton Rock? That ending, it just hits me in the gut; I couldn't fall asleep for thinking about it. That's the sign of a great book for me.

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