The Other End of Sunset

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What’s in a name?

Hi there, faithful OtherEnders. It’s been a while since I talked to you. Well, I have talked to many of you, but not through this medium. And I think there are probably about 12 of you anyway, so I'm pretty confident that I’ve not only talked to each of you, but in fact annoyed you in the interim since my last post {grin}

I have been remarkably uncreative lately. Or, at least, my creativity has been subsumed into work, and my friends, and my memories, and a nascent proto- crypto-relationship. Thus, there has been nothing left to share with you, mes amis.

Please to forgive my listlessness, my lack of production, the empty few weeks.

And, no, your RSS reader didn’t break again, HJP!

You think this story’s over
but it’s ready to begin!
--Beastie Boys, “Paul Revere”

I just sorted a bookshelf at my house. It is nice to have stuff to do that requires essentially no brainpower. I like this house a lot – I'm comfortable here. Well, it’s in the middle of nowhere, in a place where I am essentially the only Democrat, the only unmarried male over 18, the only one without children, the only man with earrings and tattoos, the local ghost. Regardless, my dogs like the yard, and know the mailman, and have good doggie care for the hours that I am at work – I still work too much, and commute too far, but at least they are reasonably well cared for and happy.

Wait, I got off track. Sorry. I was talking about a bookshelf.

Much like names, I think bookshelves tell a lot about their owners. My houses have always had a “company” bookshelf. It’s the one in the front hall, or the foyer, and it has all the pompous books on it. You know, the big art books, the signed copies of Politics and Markets and Power Shift, and lots of highbrow literature. And the yuppie knick-knacks – you know, the art glass, the artistically broken clock, etc.

Then, in some other room, one has all the books one actually reads, regularly. You know, the deep secrets of your actual soul. The lousy war novels, the fantasy novels, the romances, whatever. The books that you make fun of, in public, and rejoice in, when you are alone. The books that your one night stands don’t see, but your love gets to read with you.

Well, in my ongoing drive to simplify, to unify my life, I have decided to do something different. I shall have but one bookshelf. Well, I will have loads of bookshelves, but only one in my house, that is relevant. I won’t put the soldering guides to random motherboards out, or the factory manuals to my stupid Italian bike out, but other than that, it’s all sitting there in my front hall.

Ok, I still have more than my share of highbrow literature, but I have some of me there too. For example, on the second to bottom shelf, I have a bunch of comic books – Dilbert, mostly – but also a couple of books on race car aerodynamics and a book on casino management. And, of course, a set of books about dead Generals and the like. And a few books on cryptography. And a lot of fantasy novels – on the bottom shelf.

What do books tell us about others? Well, I think that most people haven’t read what is on their public bookshelves. They are trying to present themselves as more erudite, or more art-loving, or something, than they really are. But you can usually get some hint of what they think about the world and when they grew up. For example, if they have a copy of Sun Tsu, they were probably a new manager in the early 90’s. If, instead, they have that Cheese book, they were learning to be a corporate drone around the turn of this century. If they have one of Roberts’ wine guides, they are a Californian Art Dude. Or a tool. Hard to tell which.

And what, dear readers, does a book about race car aerodynamics tell you?

Yeah, I don’t know either.

We all got up to dance,
Oh but we never got the chance.
‘Cause the players tried to take the field
--Don McLean, “American Pie”

I lost another reader this week. I'm fairly sad about losing this one.

I know I am doing better because I feel so much more than I did for a while. All my energy went into JR, and there wasn’t much left for me. That’s starting to change.

Thus, I'm glad I feel sad about losing this reader.

Have you ever seen a butterfly migration? I was lucky enough to be in one, once. There were butterflies everywhere, like locusts in a Dust Bowl era film, only prettier and less destructive. I wandered into a field, and could feel the butterflies brushing against me.

That’s how emotions are to me now, brushing gently against me, translucent, transient. I feel them fluttering against me, gently brushing my skin, and yet, before you can see them, they are gone, leaving nothing but the memory of (almost) a touch.

And emotions, like butterflies, can move on, leaving nothing but a few chewed leaves and memories of bright lights and colors.

Nice image that, emotions as butterfly wings, I like it. I think I'll keep it.

Indeed, this analogy has legs. Or wings. Whatever. We can go farther with it.

Think back to when you were a child, and saw a butterfly. I don’t know about you, but I would chase that lovely distraction as hard as my little legs would carry me. It didn’t matter whether that piece of beauty was actually attainable or not, I was going after it. And I never caught one.

But I did, once, have a butterfly simply land on my arm. Just for a second, I could see it not as a splash of light, but as a being. A touch of heaven. And then it flew away.

It’s ok that I couldn’t catch them. It’s the pursuit that matters. Indeed, as the poet said, you can’t always get what you want. But you can try.

And if you succeed, sometimes the joy is fleeting, and leaves. But at least you had it for a second!

I gave my life to be the person I am right now. Was it worth it?
--Richard Bach

There are so many things I want to do, and places I want to go. I want to go back to South Africa. I want to see Everest. I want to see rural Washington, with someone special. I want someone to read my lousy books.

I give the people in my life special names. Those names capture, for me, the joy of our relationship. But, sometimes those names need to change for one reason or another. Usually, names don't change for good reasons, they change because the butterfly has flown away, to another land, or another arm.

But it’s ok. It’s the pursuit that matters, not the capture. Nor the rapture. Nor, indeed, The Rapture, for you religious purists. It is not the single big decisions; it’s the many small ones that make us that which we are.