Milky Way

A perfectly temperate and clear night in Chicago with the lingering light of sunset desultorily hanging on. What I wouldn’t give to see the Milky Way. But that ain’t gonna happen with these damnable city lights and such.

But I know it is out there–the Milky Way, that is–and I’ll just pretend I saw it. As pretty as it is for real, it might even look prettier in my mind’s eye.

Published in: on August 15, 2010 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who are you, anyway?

At the beginning of his Shakespeare’s Philosophy, Colon McGinn highlights three major philosophical issues of which Shakespeare was concerned: appearance vs. reality, other minds, and most importantly to me, the question of personal identity.

I tend to agree with Shakespeare’s statements that we are actors on a stage playing roles until our time is up.  Those roles seem forced upon us because of social obligation.  I would take it a step or two further.  We create our own narratives and consequently the roles we play in those narratives because that is what we delight in doing.  What sets us apart from other species is that we have these incredible imaginations with the ability to create metaphors that just happen to be apt when dealing with our fellow travelers and our specific physical circumstances.

Montaigne and Shakespeare swam against the tide of philosophical thinking about self identity by positing no central identity and recommending a multiple selves interpretation of the soul instead.  Despite that spectacular thread of thought, philosophy crushed their ideas, unless you count Hume’s famous account of personal identity or get into postmodern times when all interpretation became suspect or relative to the eyes of the beholder.  I think of Whitman too–“do I contradict myself…”

Let’s say I know my roles and the narratives of which they are a part.  Does that constitute the real me?  No.  It’s all going to change tomorrow based on my emotions, circumstances, and the delight I play in making shit up and then trying to make it come true.  I’m many somebodies and nobody at the same time.  Tomorrow, another somebody will be added to the list of players.

A multitude with no discernible organization seems like chaos.  And chaos, at times, seems like nothing at all.

I will die.  No immortal soul will survive me after the event, for that single isolated nonexistent soul–my so called essence–never was.  When I think about that and realize I am many people trapped in one body, yet not just that, but also many people I have created and have yet to create–well–it’s as a jewel sparkling in the sun.

Published in: on August 14, 2010 at 10:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

The persistence of Antony

We were reading Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.  Our discussion leader persisted in asking us what we would choose: ruling the world or possessing the love of the most beautiful person in the world–if we could have only one.  That’s a question I could not answer almost 20 years ago and still can’t.

Yet the question persists.  Maybe, it is time to explore it if not answer it.

Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  


I’m reading more than one book per day.  I don’t consider that a major accomplishment: for one, who cares, and two, I would bet it is taking me less time to do it than the average American spends watching TV everyday.

Yesterday’s book was Memory Wall, Anthony Doerr’s fine new collection of short stories.  Today’s book is Hitch-22, C. Hitchens’s new memoir.

Tomorrow, I don’t know.  I’ll figure it out after Hitch has entertained me.

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 11:21 am  Comments (3)  

Every decade

I read a copy of War and Peace I’ve downloaded to the iPad.  She has fallen asleep on the couch.  I mute the TV without bothering to notice what she has been watching.  I turn off the light next to the chair where I sit reading.  Reading something on the iPad in the dark intensifies the nighttime reading experience.

Her hair has fallen across her face as she sleeps.  She’s recently cut it and colored it a soft auburn, an auburn that flatters her face.

I finish War and Peace before midnight.  I run the numbers.  I’ve read it five times in 45 years, once every decade since I was 17.  A small sadness comes upon me, for I feel I will never read it again.  The memory of it will fade even when I look at it sitting on a bookshelf.

I download The Big Short and begin reading it.  I am quickly absorbed.  I can read again for the sheer pleasure of reading.

She wakes at around 1:30.  We go to bed.  Even after sex, I am not tired.  I go back to the chair and read until I fall asleep shortly before dawn.  When I wake it is light outside.  I go back to bed, but do not sleep long.  I get up and start reading again.  She sleeps on.

I finish reading The Big Short just before she rises late in the morning.  I make another pot of coffee.  Over coffee she apologizes for falling asleep early.  I tell her it’s OK since I had good books to read.

“That’s one of the reasons I like inviting you over.  You know how to entertain yourself,” she says.

The thought passes quickly through my mind: it will be strange when she’s gone.

Published in: on August 2, 2010 at 9:23 am  Leave a Comment