SINCE WHEN, IN THE MOVIES, did the Romans become the good guys?
IF YOU’RE CURIOUS ABOUT LIFE on the other side of the foghorns, waste no time in clicking on marinetraffic.com — a global, scalable, real-time map of the world’s shipping traffic, from cargo and passenger vessels to navaids and tankers to tugs and pilots. Each is labeled with specifications, course and speed (if applicable) and destination. (Think of it as a very stately air-traffic control diagram. Which makes me wonder if there’s one for air traffic … clicketyclickety … yep: flightradar24.com. Cool. Limited, but cool.) With this in one window and the Califonia Highway Patrol’s dispatch logs in another, I feel like a secret peeker at the world’s gears.
(Thanks to Friend-of-the-Show Steve Marler for sliding this my way.)
A SHORT LIST OF WORDS which, through overuse, have been consigned to the meaning-deficient self-parody heap:
(There are others, but these are what I found in this morning’s newspaper. Additions and substitutions welcome.)
ANOTHER GREAT PIXAR ROMP — IMAGINATIVE, colorful, well-rendered, well-written. But I can’t get over what a JERK that stuffed bear is.
ANOTHER THOUGHT ABOUT STEVE’S DEATH: A social molecule is a group of co-creators of a private but shared reality — a sort of living group-mythos inexplicable to those outside its specific bounds but real as air to those within. When one of the co-creators dies, he becomes a fixed element of, instead of a player in, the mythos: he belongs to it as memory, and ceases to belong to himself. (We all belong to each other that way already, but death makes this more obvious since the decedent can’t really do anything about it — he hasn’t a voice in the matter any longer.)
Like most reading this, I am not at all looking forward to how this dynamic plays itself out in real time. The only way my desperate naked brain can justify this unending and inevitable torment of gradual loss is that it shows how deeply we love, which although some comfort seems to doom those with big hearts to big pain; the atoms of my various social molecules have — are known for — their bigness of heart. But to refrain from love out of fear is only to swap the pain of loneliness for the pain of belonging, and while loneliness may be final belonging has more laughs. There’s no escaping the pain, but the laughter at least makes it bearable.
And it is something to know that, as the great shadow falls over us all, we will not be alone in our oblivion but wink out single file, a line of curious children holding hands as we dance ourselves into the darkness.
I hope there will be cake.
WE ARE IN TROUBLE IF our need to be heard exceeds our need to understand — or to be understood.
IF YOU BELIEVE IN AN afterlife, then one reason my friend Steve Territo died yesterday is to hold the good tables for the rest of us. And if you knew Steve, you know why that’s apt: I don’t have one memory of him where he’s not laughing, smiling or playfully conspiring. And few people I know, living or dead, are more qualified to slip the maitre d’ something for one with a view.
Steve is the first of my immediate Renaissance Faire tribe to die. Social groups are based on the unstated assumption that its members will remain so; when that proves, inevitably, not to be the case, it rattles everyone’s sense of propriety. Death is wrong, in our stubborn primate way of things; it makes us squint and fumble to adjust the picture. And when that picture is as uproariously life-loving as the Cardiff Rose — each of us as lusty an Elizabethan archetype as we can build for ourselves and each other — Steve’s passing takes on something of Biblical proportions. (Remember when God unmade the universe for forty days and nights? Sort of like that.) As one friend put it, “Steve defined ‘life.'”
But Steve is also the first of my friends to die P.F. — Post-Facebook — and in addition to saving our table he seems to be showing the way toward a new form, or manifestation, of mourning. Our tribe is scattered over most of Northern California and beyond; Steve married and moved to Tennessee a few years ago. Wherever he went, as good men do, he made solid friendships. Watching condolence messages begin to queue is like watching a holographic flower unfold: although we’re all in different rooms, it feels as though we’re all together, remembering and laughing and crying and just sitting in disbelief.
And I hope it feels that way for everyone, at least a little bit. When people die, they leave a soul-shaped hole in the world. Touching the edges through my keyboard doesn’t make the loss any easier. Nothing does. But the electronic handholding helps; at least a little bit.
Zecher tzaddik l’vracha — the remembrance of the righteous is a blessing.