Friday, January 26, 2007

Let's Talk About You. What Do YOU Think About Me?

We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.
Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

So here I was the other day, indulging in that creepiest of children's games this side of "...step on a crack and break your mother's back", the counting of celebrity deaths in groups of three. There was James Brown on Christmas day, 2006, Gerald Ford a day later, and Yvonne De Carlo on January 8th, 2007, to name the three that leapt to mind. I realize that many famous people die almost every day, certainly every week, and that we simply group them in threes and then start the next three whenever we notice. I suspect it probably has something to do with ancient superstitions going back to pre-druidic practices. Or maybe a Victorian prank, I don't know.

At any rate, there's been a longish lull between posts here recently for a couple of reasons: First, and the lesser of the reasons, is I haven't had much of any import to impart. The reason that's the lesser of the reasons? Having anything of import has never been a criterion for any of my rants, rambles, or musings. The more substantive reason slowly became more and more apparent over the last few weeks.

I was in a minor accident earlier this month (minor in terms of cosmic importance anyways, it shook me up pretty good). I was rear-ended while stopped and waiting to turn in a rainstorm. Car is still getting fixed, my shoulder was separated but getting better, and I've already received a fair settlement from the other driver's insurance company. The problem is, this is the first accident I've been involved in in 33 years of driving, so now, of course, I'm driving like a little old lady, which can't be a particularly safe thing to do, not to mention that I approach intersections like a S.W.A.T. team approaches a meth lab. And believe me, I know how to drive offensively AND defensively. I grew up in Chicago.

The followup to this little life-glitch happened a few days after the accident. I find out that a friend of mine was just recalled to Iraq for the second time in 8 months, because he teaches bomb and mine disposal. He has a couple of kids at home and his wife has Macular Degeneration in both eyes and is almost blind in one. Oh yeah, and this friend of mine is in his late forties and ALREADY did a full tour in Desert Storm I.

AND THEN, I'm reading blogs like Mother Courage, by a high school classmate of mine (I've mentioned her before), about a mother with a son in the line of fire in a desert.

And I, bless my ego-centric heart, am writing about pet peeves, cloned food, and reunions. I suddenly felt like Burt Bacharach sitting between Bach and Beethoven the first day in Composing 101. Suddenly Saliere seems an even more sympathetic character to me.

But, much like the old joke that ends: "...But enough about me. Let's talk about you. What do YOU think about me?", I realized that scale is a relative thing, and a blog (this blog at least) is for presenting who I am and what I think, much like the original use of places like Chicago's Haymarket Square, where the original soapboxes (real soapboxes) were set up for anyone to state an opinion, and hundreds did, from the trivial to the monumental. So, what the hell. Back to the podium, if a bit tentatively.

This last bit of reasoning got me to thinking about mortality, raison d' etre, and legacies. It is said that no one dies as long as someone remembers them. The reality is no one remains immortal, and the most famous of the famous is gone from memory in the blink of an eye, in the greater history of the world. Memory becomes history, and we've already talked about how screwed-up history can be. Then history becomes legend, and legend becomes myth (didn't I steal that from one of the Lord of The Rings prologues?) The most famous (or infamous) last the longest, but everything fades as mythos after mythos rise and fall.

Beliefs are obviously a difficult concept to discuss, especially in a world where there are people who will not only die but kill (and in some cases both) when your beliefs contradict theirs. I've spent many years fairly comfortable in the position that I believe in very little, but I believe in the possibility of almost everything. There's another old joke about a very pious rabbi who is on his deathbed, when his family comes in to see him receiving the last rites from a priest. His children are aghast, and when they ask what in the world he's doing, the rabbi replies: "Couldn't hurt." I don't know what happens to me after I die, and I expect that I'll find out when the time comes. I wonder because I don't know, along with everything else that I don't know. That being said, if God (in any incarnation) actually DOES contact me, I expect I will believe with every fibre in my being. Proof doesn't necessarily have to be empirical, just convincing. If not, I just hope He/She/It understands a questioning mind and skeptical nature. If not, oh well. I can't justify "in-case" belief (In case there IS a vengeful God who'd be irritated I doubted).

So one does what one can do. I'm not actually a believer in the concept of reincarnation (although I may be as close to a believer in that as anything), but hell, if I can get a mulligan on this life for a shot at living a better one, I'm there. Short of that though (***TRITE ALERT***TRITE ALERT***), the more people you influence positively, the longer you live. Sure you get remembered for negative influence too, but who needs THAT kinda Karma?