Monday, January 20, 2003

She wasn't very different than other people. Although it was hard for her to verify this. After all, what might make her quite different was what went on in her mind and as we all know that is a secret realm. There's no telling what went on in the minds of others. The childhood dream of mind-reading had to be abandoned.

Certainly a lot of it is buzz and hum. Something brief and flitting. Occasionally though, there is something so sharp and clear it is enough to structure your life around. For her it was the idea that time was passing rapidly, this was a bleak fact and death was inevitable.

She thought about her death daily. Not in a morbid way but as a way of marking time and because it gave a sense of mystery and poignancy to the most ordinary encounters and experiences. It started around 3rd grade. The obsession with death was in fact very tied up with the idea of time passing. The actual bodily death seemed less significant than the thought that time itself brought with it a kind of death in the form of adulthood.

Adulthood was a death of oneself as a child and children and adults appeared to be so different at that time as to seem different species. There was the caterpillar/butterfly motif. The idea of course is that the caterpillar fears its chrysalis (was there some children's story about this?) but it needn't.

This is all wrong of course. She knew it even as a child for the scam it was--The butterfly is the death of the caterpillar as the adult is the death of the child. An incremental change. Of course, this gave her a reason to doubt she was really a self after all since there would be no point one could mark between 'child' and 'adult' which would be clear or sharp. The childhood self would be like a pile of dirt dissolved by the rain until the flatness of adulthood was all that was left.

The first thing that came to mind (she was only 7 or 8 after all) was the idea that willpower might have some kind of effect. Do children become adults by a failure of attention--or even worse--by the desire to be an adult (which could only be the result of propaganda)? Perhaps if she didn't want it, it wouldn't happen.

Then she later confused time with space. While running around the school playing field she imagined herself grabbing onto a pole and stopping time as she stopped her body from moving. (Both the main characters of 'Bewitched' and 'I Dream of Jeannie' seemed to have the power to freeze people or even to warp time--it was unclear what they were doing exactly).

All to no avail.

So her final solution was to utilize memory--to pay close attention to certain moments. It was difficult to say which were the moments that would stick. Later on, she hypothesized that they were those when she became the most self-conscious--the most aware of herself as a conscious being. She remembered looking through her reflection in the car window at a sky full of stars. She remembered--this was from very early childhood--coming outside clean from a bath and looking at the moon while the chill air cooled her head. She remembered reading a book which affected and moved her so much she built a little shrine out of sticks on the edge of the canal and burnt it. This was from high school. And of course there were the memories of horrible things--humiliations, bodily injuries. But these did not have the same evocative time-freezing quality.

Of course, the idea of recording, marking, taking note of, only increases the unfortunate element of death--which would either involve the utter dissolution and destruction of this history (assuming there is no afterlife) or the lack of interest in any sort of nostalgia (assuming there is an afterlife).

But it was the best she could come up with at the time.


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