Life

If you read one post tonight, read this one:

No, not mine, Amanda Palmer’s.

I spent my day thinking about the future. I sat surrounded by designers and programmers, people with better clothes and longer resumés, and we talked about two kinds of future: long and short. Long is foresight: picturing a problem a year or ten away. Short is preparation: doing my homework. Wondering what my role in the classroom will be. Normally I start things off, I ask uncomfortable questions, I summarize, and things move on. But normally I’m in a different kind of classroom, one where we’re all sharing a similar lexicon of references, and it’s easy to jump from Freud to Haraway to BoingBoing without too much trouble. So today I listened. I took notes. I haven’t taken serious, meaningful notes in a long time. I haven’t needed to. It felt like a real first day of school.

Then I came home, and BoingBoing was all 9/11. And so was the news. And it felt like returning to a dead baby brother’s room at home and seeing that it had been kept exactly as it was eight years ago, the old toys carefully dusted off for this one special day a year, a gesture of love and pain and hopeless aching loss mingled with raw fury. I wanted to grab someone and say put it all away, it’s been eight years now, it’s over, this isn’t what they would have wanted, they would have wanted us to live.

But in truth it’s never over, no matter what tragedy you observe or endure, whether it’s large or small or private or shared. In one small cinema house sandwiched between the unyielding chunks of your vertebrae, it’s constantly playing — matinee, evening, midnight. And sometimes you’re lost and you wind up there, drawn in by the smell of stale popcorn and ancient carpets of no recognizable colour, sitting alone, watching, wondering why you can’t get up even though you know how this one ends, you’ve seen it before a hundred times.

it was just a few months later that the challenger exploded off the coast of florida.

there were lots of terrible jokes circulating the 4th grade classroom that year…mostly made about christa mcauliffe (“what color were christa mcauliffe’s eyes?? blue! one blew left, one blew right!” “where did christa mcauliffe take her vacation?” “all over florida!”).

i had an image in my head, for whatever reason, of an astronaut’s wife, waiting on a beach for her husband’s return, only to watch as his body parts landed on the beach in front of her.

but at least she’d have something – some reminder.

Your past becomes your future with little effort on your part. It twists and things flip over suddenly, like a Möbius strip, and everything is upside down for a while. But then you get used to it, you start marching along, until you hit that same point again, and for a little while up is once more down. You can’t help it. It’s not something you did. It’s the pattern of the world and the pattern of your life. It was in your past, which makes it your future. You will wind up there without having intended to, whether you like it or not. The only thing which is up to you is how soon you start walking away, toward that moment’s next arrival.

2 thoughts on “If you read one post tonight, read this one:

  1. I was trying to tell my coworker about how I used to write adventure stories where my best friend and I would take a boat to the Caribbean and search for the astronauts and how we found them, but they had to keep their identities secret and couldn’t tell the world they’d survived for whatever reasons we could cobble together. It was how my best friend and I survived the year the Challenger blew up, because before that we’d been drawing the shuttle and sketching the various satellites and trying to design space stations…and then the Challenger happened, and things were never quite the same.

    It’s easy for me to fall into a pattern where I find myself vaguely irritated by the 9-11 ritual….right up until the point when somebody says where they were and what they were doing and the thoughts flowing through their head, and then suddenly I find myself doing the same. The ritual, I don’t have much use for, I guess, but the shared memories and perceptions….I guess it’s a sort of siblinghood.

    1. Oh, it’s definitely a siblinghood. For the people who remember, it’s inevitable. But like all familial relationships, it’s occasionally frustrating.

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