Sunday, June 29, 2003

Ever read a book that perfectly fits your mood? I did. Finished it just today, in fact. "The Great Gatspy" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sure, I "read" it years ago in high school. Just like I "read" books in graduate school. Translation: I flipped through the book, teased out important themes from random passages, and winged it from there. This time was totally different. Maybe I sensed that when I selected it a few days ago over "Breakfast of Champions" -- another book I ostensibly read in high school.

"The Great Gatspy" is, of course, famous for being a book about the irredemably rich. But at its core, it is a very serious commentary on the persistence of dreams in the face of unrequitted love. The riches of all the characters -- especially Gatspy himself -- serve only to highlight the limitations of wealth and power in securing enduring love.

It is a bleak book, ultimately. As bleak as Graham Greene in "The Heart of the Matter" or, yes, even perhaps Edith Wharton's "Ethan Fromme." Yet I sense ambiguity in its message as well, ambiguity which might in the proper light be construed as hope. All of the characters have qualities I identify with. Narrator Nick Carroway earns my respect for being wholly honest in his relationships -- something I have always admired and aspired toward. Gatspy gets points for fighting the good fight, for being at once shamelessly gregarious, generous, and also paradoxically anti-materialistic. He also scores for re-inventing himself according to the lessons of every newly acquired piece of wisdom. Daisy gets points for suffering and enduring Tom, and yet potentially more for finding a way to love him despite all of his obvious faults. Tom the polo player with the bone-crushing backhand, possessing the kind of contempt which only the privelaged can have for the less fortunate, gets points for finding beauty in something as plain as Mrs. Wilson. Jordan, the mercurial tennis starlet, earns points only for unflappability: perhaps the least admirable quality in a person honestly immersed in the messy business of life.

One passage in particular struck me, when Carroway describes Gatsby's mood in the garden after he has seen Daisy again for the first time in years:

"There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams -- not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart."

At first, this struck me because I have recently felt the exact contrary emotion -- a recognition that sometimes time and distance can lend the appearance of illusion to things which are enduring and fundamental. I am in L.A. again, briefly, confronted with a still vibrant memory of the life I lived here before leaving to lead the one I live now in the East. What I realized yesterday in Friday afternoon traffic, somewhere in the Hollywood Hills, was that I have consigned my past to the realm of illusion. It is reachable, but only in a controlled fashion -- archived, labelled, and stored for future reference. History. All the messy looseness of life, all the dangling intangibles and other possible avenues, have been tucked away into an acid-free shoebox in my head. Yet why, and for what? How much integrity can there really be to a life cordoned and studied, quarantined against its own latent antibodies and every residual emotion seeking to break through? How can studied removal from the past with its innumerable places, endlessly worthy people, and all forms of love (however imprudent or hopeless) -- be so automatic? I think I have found a partial answer these past several days, though the implications elude me in my present state of semi-wakefulness:

I think it is that the sum of all decisions large and small, by their very nature, preclude coherency. To believe that every choice taken was in the service of some emergent vision is itself a grand fantasy. Perhaps it is better not to know this, though. Perhaps it is better to think that wisdom and experience guide us always, steady us, and ultimately carry us through. It is better, whether it is true or not, that we do not suspect the existence of life's grandest illusion of all: that past decisions, once made, cannot be altered.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Well, I broke my blogfast the other night around 1 a.m. (PST). I was jet lagged and loopy. I wrote something funny about...well...something funny (what else?). It was one of those "imaginary conversation" blogs where I pretend to be talking to someone who is really just a figment of my imagination, then I answer with another figment of my imagination. In so doing, I reveal the poignant and the tragic of common life -- its ultimate heroism in the face of undeniable meaninglessness.

Then the computer I was working on urped, blinked, and reset. Erasing everything. I admit, I was upset. For fifteen seconds I sat staring at the Windows "scanning for disk error" screen. At about 35% I shut the thing off, crawled into bed, chuckled to myself, and fell asleep.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Well, here I am again, dusting off my sadly neglected blog. Poor blog. In my absence, beatles have been nesting in it. Small saplings have sprouted from its pages. My old words are moldy and sneezly. Time for new ones.

I've been around. Enjoying my "free time", waiting for high paying job offers to roll in. Its been gloomy around here. Its tough to fire up the ol' laptop and wax self-importantly about life when nothing is happening.

I've been avoiding the news, too. Lately even bedrock news sources like NPR have started to drone on and on about the same old issues, jumping whenever a government spokesperson makes a statement, predictably airing the same permanently fixed positions, treating posturing and propaganda like news.

I am especially fatigued by lthe tedious, blow-by-blow account of the situation in Palestine/Israel. Here is the last word on the situation: the Jews in Israel aren't going to stop colonizing the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians aren't going to disarm before the Jews stop colonizing the West Bank and Gaza. Meanwhile, thousands more rock-throwing eleven year olds will get blown away by helecopter gunships and cafe goers will get shredded by nail bombs. Both sides will remain sanctimonious and claim to be the greater victim, the war will go on. And on. We will give it a disproportionate share of our attention while thousands and millions more are killed in hot spots where white skinned people aren't dying.

On the brighter side, I've been hitting Fruity Loops again. I chopped up an oral history interview I did last semester and dropped it into an ambient track. It rox.

More later.