Thursday, January 26, 2012

Time and Other Shaky Dimensions

For a while the other day, my life turned upside down—-literally. My computer screen inverted itself and would not return to normal no what matter what I did.

After numerous shutdowns, I adjusted to a world in which the cursor moved in the opposite direction from the mouse, managed to find a “restore point” and, clicking on it, brought the screen back to normal.

Curious about why the computer had turned on me, I Googled for an explanation and found it, but the experience has led me into wondering about other dimensions of life we take for granted and how much they change over time.

In the next week, two people dear to me have milestone birthdays—-one 85, the other 90—-and soon afterward, I will be 88. “Old age is a shipwreck,” a saying goes, and in many ways it is.

Even as friends and family gather to celebrate, the object of their love and warm feelings is, in many ways, physically and psychically, moving away from them. “We live in one universe,” Aldous Huxley wrote in a novel, “and die in another.”

We adjust in ways true to our nature. Most women I know are better than men at keeping up connections with one another in the real world. For someone who spent a working life as a writer and editor, transferring ideas and images from his head into those of unseen others, I spend much of my time now doing this, sending out notes in a bottle in the hope that other human beings will find them interesting enough to glance at occasionally.

In a sense, my blogging is an attempt to make connections between my own present and the past, when I was too busy coping with life to think about what it meant to me. Now I live in the past, because it keeps living in me.

All this is reinforced by release from the Kennedy Library of audio tapes that JFK had made, unknown to others, nobody knows why, of his last days on earth.

Listening to a fuzzy voice worrying aloud about his upcoming campaign for reelection would normally have led me to write a post connecting it to Barack Obama’s situation today, but instead it provokes a far different memory.

A friend who was a concert pianist had acquired a roomful of the most sensitive audio equipment available, and I brought a Louis Armstrong CD over to play on it.
The sounds were amazing, not only from his trumpet, but Louis’ breathing and mumbling, all that had been on those records unheard for half a century, waiting for future technology to give them to those who love his music.

That brought me back to the “restore point” of my computer adventure. If only we had such capacity to rewind our lives and find what lies hidden there and perhaps change what we then do...

Yet that recalls the warning of being careful about what you wish for. On the JFK tapes, there is an exchange on November 20, 1963, before he left for Dallas about his schedule for the following Monday.

“Well, that's a tough day," JFK says. "It's a hell of a day, Mr. President," an aide responds.

That turned out to be the date of John F. Kennedy’s funeral.


hking said...

Robert, I for one do enjoy your posts and I keep coming back for your insights into current events. You have a wealth of history locked up in your brain. Please let us know when you turn 88 so I can wish you happy birthday.

Since you obviously know so much about Kennedy, let me confirm something with you. I read in a biography or history book that 3 months before Kennedy was killed he gave approval for the killing of the leader of South Vietnam. Sometimes what we do to others will come back to haunt us.

Brett said...

I love to read your blog everyday!

Anonymous said...

I also love to read your blog every day. You offer great insight into the events of the day and yet keep me connected to the world I grew up in--the 1960's and 70's (I will turn 55 this year). My father died last month at the age of 84 and I'm already realizing there is so much that I wished I had asked him about. So please keep pounding those keys as long as you can knowing that your messages in bottles are being received out here in the electric ocean.

Fred A.