Wednesday, June 17, 2009

D = R * T (my progress is quantifiable)

I'm coordinating my address books, lately. I have some addresses in Yahoo, some in Gmail, and some written down in my Moleskine. I've made some significant corrections and consolidation of information. I even recalled my account info for and copied down all the birthdays my friends volunteered several years ago! Now they're much more cagey about that information, less forthcoming, but I've got it (and I'll keep it secret).

Gmail allows me to attach photographs to these accounts in my Contacts, too, so I can easily paste a face to someone's multiple e-mail addresses, street address, birthday and anniversary, note their personal Web sites and significant others. If Gmail Calendar could only read the birthday information in Contacts and set up recurring events automatically, that would just be the bees' knees.

But the photos... these are killing me.

On my laptop, SCHopper, I have a certain database of friends' photos but mainly those are to be stored on my workstation, SCMagritte. (SCValery was my old machine: I thought I'd name all my computers after Surrealists, but I like Edward Hopper better. And "SC" stands for "Supa Computa" because of how specifically I build these machines.) So I'm digging through years and years of old photos, looking for the best shots of some of my friends, and then comes the nostalgia. Nostalgia for great parties and social events in the past.

And then comes the regret. The regret for being so drunk so frequently, thinking it was hilarious, urged on by acquaintances who also thought it was hilarious but not for the same reasons as mine. The regret for being so insane or immature, missing something intrinsic in my development, and sharing the brunt of that on a number of failed relationships, poor women who deserved much better than I was capable of providing. A friend accused me of having great style but lacking in substance, and I was resentful of that at the time but with each passing year, with the increasing clarity time and distance provide, I'm only more and more aware of how true it bears out.

Sometimes I feel like I'd be a prime candidate for mind-wipe technology. Unable to digest or subsume my incredible grief over my actions, it would be more mercy than I deserve to have those sections of my life surgically excised from my mind. But I've read enough sci-fi to know that when people receive such a gift, they also lose the terrible lessons they gained from those experiences and run right out to reenact them all over again. It would solve nothing.

It would only be more awkward, now, to live out the stupid mistakes I've made, now that I'm older and less attractive. We grant considerable latitude to youth and beauty, and while it would be difficult for me to proclaim myself beautiful around the time I was inarguably young, there really is no other explanation for why I haven't had my nose broken or my throat slit by now.

Did I burgle/pillage/impregnate/rape/kill anyone? No. I did none of the worst and most visible crimes. My driving and police records are unblemished and featureless. But I was not always honorable or honest, and I did not always behave with the highest integrity. Mostly I tried to be a good, decent man, but sometimes my cowardice or greed got the best of me.

So much regret in these photos. Better than a mind-wipe would be to crash all my hard drives, sell all of my crap, and flee to Denver, Lexington, or Osaka. Chalk it all up, the second half of my life, to a loss, declare it non canon, and start all over. Amazing, that that would be the "easier" solution.

But I couldn't get rid of everything: I'd still be stuck with myself. I'm looking at me in all of those photos, too, with loathing and contempt. Is there really, really any such thing as true redemption? I don't think so. I think, in the best-case scenario, you cut your losses, vow to start all over, and most people around you agree to let you. I think that is the most that is possible.

Still. The idea of setting up in Denver with five cats and a small library has its appeal.


Shanna (Crabbit) said...

I remember feeling the same way at one point, like I had been a total dunderhead throughout most of my youth. Later on I realized the past is not as important as what we are doing in the present.

Or you could just say you needed to get all the stupid out of your system so you could be a much better person later. **smile**

Christian said...

That's true. No one starts out perfect, knowing everything about how people and society operate. If I've felt my way around in the dark more often than other people who preferred to hide under their beds, technically that should make me a better person. Technically.