member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life


This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo


(Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It Shouldn't Be Hard




The belly dancer is trying very hard to be in control, but it's a tangle of wild rhythms...
Drawing by Zoe
Poem by Vesna:


It shouldn't be hard

How to get
The perfect beat
The ultimate sound

The one
that calls you
The one
that calms you
The one
that makes you
wild
The one
that makes you
reborn

It shouldn't be hard
But it is
There are so many ways
To touch with your palm
The ancient drum

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Way Through Doors

(The Book of Knowledge by Brett Ryder; discovered via Phantasmaphile)


“--Let us make a pact, she said. To madness at every juncture!
--To madness! Said Selah.” –The Way Through Doors (by Jesse Ball)


As I was preparing the last post on Ars Memoria (which probably serves as a sort of “Part One” to this post), I stumbled upon a book by Jesse Ball entitled The Way Through Doors. This is a book that has now been underlined heavily and filled with notes, and I was amazed at how it seemed to be almost a response to the question of how one goes about implementing the idea of re-arranging one’s knowledge of the world and one’s memory in order to consciously influence the present and future.

Selah Morse is out and about one day when he is struck by a lovely girl standing and looking up at a window in the building she has just exited. Horrified, he watches as a car strikes her, throwing her body into the air, and then drives off. She lands directly on her head. Selah rushes her to the hospital, where he soon puts himself into the position of boyfriend and caretaker of a girl with no memory. A girl he names Mora Klein. To keep her awake, and to help her jog her memory, he is to tell her stories of her own life. He begins by backing up only slightly, and re-telling very recent events with little differences here and there. Occasional differences. He begins the story with a bold lie, that of his own role, but only in exasperation with hospital bureaucracy and out of a desire to stay on hand and to help; after that, he takes little baby-steps into the world of lying—or creating. This is how the author creates the novel, and this is how Selah creates a life.

So, at first there are small differences. And sometimes, he backs up and re-writes a scene again. What is he doing? He is deciding his life. He is falling in love. He is shedding his old skin, putting on a fresh suit. He rewrites his entry into a new career, where he meets the message-taker named Rita, and she waits while he tries on his new “uniform,” an expensively-tailored suit:

“It fit perfectly. Pants, shirt, vest. There was even a pocket watch. My old clothes I put into a chute labeled,
THE FIRE THAT AWAITS US.”


I am reminded here of a quote from Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, in the chapter in which he explains “How to Build a Universe.” First, he underlines the fact that before you build this universe, there is nothing. “Naturally,” he says, “you will wish to retire to a safe place to observe the spectacle” of your big bang. But there is no such safe place, because before there is your universe, there is nothing. No space, no darkness, no time, no past. Then he says:
“The average species on earth lasts for only about four million years, so if you wish to be around for billions of years, you must be as fickle as the atoms that made you. You must be prepared to change everything about yourself—shape, size, color, species affiliation, everything—and to do so repeatedly.”

Selah, and for that matter, Jesse Ball, does not go quite that far, as he stays human (though not everyone does) and keeps wearing his new suit, but he is willing to undergo supreme feats of physical labor, life-style change, and human-life-rule-bending. He does not protest when he finds he must go down to the bowels of the earth in order to get to the top of the highest building, or when he has to come to the same place three different times—each time by some new, even more impossible path—before he will be allowed upstairs to see the woman he seeks, Mora, the woman he is steadfastly working to invent. When the world breaks its own rules and throws everything upside-down (just as it did Mora), he adapts. A fantastic version of this occurs at The Beard House, where he enters and then hears the bolt slide shut behind him, and he is told he can never leave. The rules of the house are absurd, perhaps violently so, but he finds his feet quickly basically by acting as one does when confronted by a monster in a dream: remembering that the world is infinitely malleable, and that the one thing one must remember (I must remember this in a nightmare, but Selah applies it to reality, which is, I believe, the whole goal of learning to dream lucidly: to live lucidly) is that we make the world as we go. Every evil thing anyone says to you in a dream is a thing you are saying to yourself, and it follows that the same is true when you believe yourself to be awake. Selah applies this knowledge in his response to Caroline, the lady of the house. She very politely introduces herself and generously offers to get her guests a drink, yet responds venomously when they concede that a drink would be nice. This theme is played through several variations until finally Selah calmly takes hold of the servant’s chord and pulls. A resident gasps in shock, then cowers beneath a desk. The lady of the house storms in, asking who dares to be so bold, and Selah says, I did it. Now, bring me my drink. And on the double.
“—Very good sir, said Caroline, curtsying.
She left the room.
The guess artist and Piers Golp looked each other in shock.
--Not bad, said the guess artist. But how are we to get out of here?
--I have an idea, said S.”


Selah also tries telling the story from different perspectives, switching sometimes into third-person narratives, and sometimes having to pull himself out of a story before things get too hairy. For example, in one section, the man “seeking” the woman is named Loren Darius, and the woman is Ilsa, but as the story develops, he becomes too enmeshed in the emotional details and psychology of the character. He has been handed a curse, and he sinks into it, drowns in it, drives himself mad. The reader's anxiety grows also, what will happen? Just as he is about to break into violence, he’s stopped by another version of himself, his self in the new suit, who is now some stranger in a bar. A black-bearded blacksmith tells him,

“--You sit here a moment.
Loren sat. His mind was in a seething fury.
The young man in the blue-gray suit came over and patted him on the shoulder.
--My friend, he said, this is for you.
He pressed an orange into Loren’s hand. But it was not just any orange. It was the orange that Loren had been about to eat when news had come to him of his parents’ death. How had the orange been preserved so long? How could it still be fresh? Yet it was. Loren peeled the orange, and it was as perfect a fruit as he had ever seen. He took a portion and put it in his mouth, and the taste filled him. It was full of freshness and new promise, the lifting of obligation. He gave pieces of the orange to everyone in the room, and they all ate, smiling.
The young man knelt by Loren and whispered in his ear:
--Though we pass away now, the world will return to you again; fear not.
For at that moment the black-bearded blacksmith began to speak, and all that he said became more and more certain until only his subject remained.”[Italics mine]

And from there, a different version of a different aspect of the story begins. This time narrated by some other aspect of the author/dreamer/ narrator. The whole world changes. The anger of Loren is lost, the all-consuming rage and loss he had been driven by stops, and the world begins again, fresh as an orange, as a morning glass of juice. And everyone drinking the juice shares in the story, listens, experiences, and believes, and that,
My friends,
Is what makes something real.
If I dream a dream, and you dream it too, then it can’t really be “just” a dream, right? This is why we tell stories of what happened to us. We repeat the good things, the amazing things, the miracles we have experienced, over and over, and in as many different ways as is possible so that the people listening or reading will feel what we felt, because if they feel it, they believe it, and if they believe it, it’s real. So what happens if we start telling the bad stories over and over again? To everyone who will listen?
Hopefully, a black-bearded blacksmith will come grab us by the arm, sit us down, and tell us a better story.

As the narrator tells us,
“Strength is nothing, ferocity is a plaything; when life is waged as a war, grace is the only virtue, grace shown through nimbleness.”
Or, if you wish to exist for billions of years, be prepared to change completely, to do many 180-degree turns, to be knocked across the street and land on your head and wake up in a Czech hotel as a cockroach. To mix metaphors. To grow fur, change gender, learn to cross streams of reality and come out the other side.

Over and over again in this blog, I have written about the idea (as in the last post) of Murakami’s central image, as developed in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, an image that defines and then controls the way you see the world around you (I’ve posited, along with others, that this image is developed within the first five years of a person’s life). Jesse Ball’s The Way Through Doors also explores that central image, this time expressed as a map drawn on a kerchief hidden up Selah’s sleeve:

“...when you are a child, somewhere between two and four years of age, a night comes that you have a dream. In that dream you dream your entire life, from start to finish, with all its happinesses, its disappointments, its loves, its hates, its pains, its joys. Your entire life. The dream should have to last an equivalent amount of time, but somehow it happens in just one night…
Most people forget their dream. In fact, everyone forgets most of it. However, I was a precocious child. That morning I was left alone by myself with a large sheet of paper and a bucket of crayons. While my dream was still fresh in my head, I constructed a map of my life, using symbols and writing down what I could. Somehow I realized that to write too much would ruin it, and would make me sad in the end. Therefore, what I wrote down were mostly clues as to how to manage the difficult parts.” (78)


Now, if this dream were completely subconscious, that is, if he had indeed forgotten it as soon as he woke up, he would simply be trapped in the image. He would be propelled forward by it, trapped inside the invisible walls of the image, never to escape. But he remembers guideposts. Only guideposts. Not details—details would also trap him. If the whole path is already completely defined, then you simply follow it, right? What the map he has made shows us is that each signpost that he’s made can be interpreted in various ways, and that is what he is doing throughout the book; he is trying out different meanings for them, the different possible paths from each one.

Early in the book, the narrator meets up with the Guess Artist, and this artist accompanies him until the end. What is a guess artist? He is a man who stands on the pier under an awning and guesses what you are thinking. Different people will walk up and ask, what am I thinking? He has a rule: he always gets at least two guesses (at some points in his past, he has asked for three). Usually, the first one, as detailed and meaningful as it might be, is not the “correct” thought, though sometimes it is still a thought belonging to that person. He doesn’t just guess a sentence, he guesses a situation--an image, you might say—which encapsulates not just a present fleeting thing, an addition to the grocery list, but a situation in the person’s life, and how it relates to that person’s life, and that person’s questions regarding both those things.

“—You are both thinking the same thing, said the guess artist. You are wondering whether the sun will ever go down, since you have been traveling now for six years on airplanes, staying ahead of the sun, and you have finally decided today to let yourselves see a sunset.
--That’s not true, said June. I design robots for use in private industry. We have an apartment on the West Side.
--Okay, said the guess artist. Three chances, right?
--Okay, said June. Shoot.
--You’re thinking about the cat you had when you were a child. There was one spot on its fur, to the left of its tail, which would never sit smoothly. The fur always stuck up. Somehow you thought that because the fur was always sticking up there, the world could never reward anyone with exactly what they wanted. This belief was for a long time unconscious in your head, but earlier today you realized why you believe what you believe. Furthermore, now you feel that it is certainly true. The cat died when you were nine. It is buried by the gate of your parents’ house in Tensshu.
--What is the cat’s name? asked June.
--You are being very careful not to think of the cat’s name, said the guess artist.
Then his expression changed. He looked at Takashi.
--The cat’s name was Octopus.
June gave Takashi a withering look.
--Don’t you have any self-control? she asked.
Takashi shrugged.
June looked at the guess artist.
--You’re pretty good, she said”


Several things are happening here. First, we can see how a single childhood image (even one that isn’t instantly unraveled into an entire dream-life which encapsulates every waking detail that later unravels in your world) can control the beliefs and therefore the actions and therefore the possibilities of a person. Also, we get a glimpse into what an artist or writer does. He or she looks at the people passing by and imagines whole lives, scenarios—the central mental image and its resulting possibilities—which might belong to them. Based on what? Based on the image of that person: the hairstyle, body language, sway of the hips, curve of the ear, glint of light off the eye, clothing, jewelry, skin-color. See how much an image means? See how much it influences? In your dreams, your different beliefs come up and talk to you as characters. They look and act a certain way, and they influence your feelings and dream-actions in a certain way. They are telling you, if you pay attention, something about your life. And if you remember that you are dreaming, if you remember that you are in control, if you remember that at any time, you can jump into a different character and look at things differently (they are all you!!!) you can completely change that other character’s behavior, too. As Selah does with Caroline. And in this novel, Selah is doing what the guess artist does; he is imagining full scenarios, completely new ones—for he is not tied the way we usually think we are to a single scenario. Mora doesn’t remember anyway, and he only has guideposts on his map.
The trick, maybe, is only to completely immerse yourself when you like what’s happening. Otherwise, climb out. Change your name. Cut your hair. WAKE UP.

Selah gives the reader a little more help than that, even. He is by vocation a pamphleteer, currently at work on what will be his greatest pamphlet ever, that of a World’s Fair full of only the most impossible and amazing things of the world—like the best dream ever, the story you always wanted to tell, the story of a wide-eyed child back from the most wondrous trip into the world he’s ever made: “and then, and then, and then…!” (Because what you focus on forms the world.) But he has previously written other pamphlets, including “The Foreknowledge of Grief,” which explains how to find (create) the love of your life, his own advice, which is what he’s now trying to follow. (He has a plan; he’s trying to make it real.)

“First, he says, you have to go out into the world. This is not a simple matter of going outside one’s door. No, that is simply going out. That’s what one does when one is on the way to the store to buy a loaf of bread, some cheese, and a bottle of wine. When one goes out into the world, one is shedding preconceptions of past paths and ideas of past paths, and trying to move freely through an unsubstantiated and new geography.
So, one goes out into the world, and then one wanders about.”

And that is what he does. And as he wanders, the rules change, Mora morphs from Rita to Ilsa to Sif and back again to Mora and Sif and Rita and Ilsa. And then….
Read the book.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ars Memoria with Cat


Ars Memoria with Cat by Zoe Blue


“Every event in the visible world is the effect of an ‘image,’ that is, of an
idea in the unseen world. Accordingly, everything that happens on earth is only
a reproduction, as it were, of an event in a world beyond our sense perception;
as regards its occurrence in time, it is later than the supra-sensible event.
The holy men and sages, who are in contact with those higher spheres, have
access to these ideas through direct intuition and are therefore able to
intervene decisively in events in the world. Thus man is linked to heaven, the
suprasensible world of ideas, and with earth, the material world of visible
things to form with these a trinity of primal powers” (Occult America, Mitch
Horowitz).


This drawing has formed as a process of exploring so many different ideas, it’s difficult to put them all down in a manner that seems even in the least bit linear, i.e. following logically from one point to another without jumping around all over the place. But here’s an attempt.

In one of my favorite books of all time, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, author Haruki Murakami explores, among other things, the idea that a central mental image drives everything that occurs to us and around us in the physical world. The image could be of a small, idyllic village surrounded by a high wall, with a few people placed in various spots. Maybe there’s snow. What happens is this: the snow will mean something, maybe cold, isolation, loneliness (maybe beauty, perfect smoothness and clarity, crisp clean air in your lungs). The way each of the people are dressed will give some hint as to profession or place in society, which in turn means something about the “types” of people you expect to see (and therefore see), and the way the village is structured or something about the walls can tell you something of the rules governing interaction or the innate behavior of the villagers towards each other. This meaning-laden image is the way you see the world. It will control your behavior, your interactions, and it will color the behavior of others, giving it meaning that it might not otherwise have. It will decide what kind of news you receive, what kinds of problems or miracles you are aware of, etcetera. Now, for part of your life (I’ve rambled on and on about this here before, and suggested that this “part” of your life lasts about five years), you are creating that image. Afterwards, you are driven by it, a little slave imagining himself as a free-willed being (so yes, you are both free-willed and fated).
What I’m insisting here is, if you commit yourself to the process, you can change that image later.

So here’s the girl’s image, shown via a cut-away of her skull: a princess trapped in a tower, waiting for her savior. There are monsters above her, and below her is a long way to fall, and she is weeping (her tears slide down and mingle with her hair, finally creating a small pool or lake in the ruins of an old castle below). And she is waiting. Because in all the stories, if the princess is good and beautiful, and she waits, her prince will come and fix things right up.

So she accepts certain details in the world, which you can see throughout. The spires of the church (tower) hold up a drawer borrowed from Dalí to hold the pomegranate, sometimes called an apple, which represents the sinful bite that Eve took which sent us all spiraling away from the garden of Eden. The fact that the two fruits are confused is interesting if we keep in mind the older story of Persephone, who was kidnapped and taken to Hades against her will (princess trapped in an upside-down tower). In that story, she would have been freed, when her location was finally discovered, except that in the meantime, she’d eaten three tiny pomegranate seeds—out of hunger, not sin—and anyone who has eaten in Hades stays in Hades (although later, it is worked out that she will stay down there for one month for each seed out of every year, thus creating winter). So, just like in the garden, the memory of what she has already done continuously punishes her, puts her in a place of darkness and suffering and brings winter and death to the whole world. Because that is the story that is told. Because why? God is not big enough to forgive even that transgression? Zeus is not strong enough to tell Hades to stick it? Sometimes we know that the monsters (and devils) are a figment of our imagination; sometimes we don't. Sometimes, we believe in a god, and we imagine him with hideous attributes. Here, the pomegranate is in the drawer of her false heart—her mirror-left, not her real left. That’s important.






“There was a time prior to the 20th century when imagination and memory were
seen as one and the same thing, Ars Memoria. Memoria was the old term for both.
It included the idea of memory, imagination, the unconscious and reverie. James
Hillman writes, “Memoria was described as a great hall, a storehouse, a theatre
packed with images. And the only difference between remembering and imagining
was the memory images were those to which a sense of time had been added, that
curious conviction that they had once happened” (Hillman, Healing Fiction).




She angles her head and gaze towards a particular constellation, that of the Centaur. According to Wikipedia, “This half-human and half animal composition has led many writers to treat them as liminal beings,” that is, beings occupying the uncertain boundary between two worlds. That is what I want him to do here. First, he is between animal and man, also he is between the stars and the earth; this centaur is her prince, not the one she is to wait for, but the one she is imagining; not simply a man, not simply human, but something more. And she will push him to become real. He drops to earth, attempting to incarnate, first as the two horse-headed men, a concept borrowed from the maquettes of Clive Hicks-Jenkins, who flounder in the pool of tears, not quite what she needs, and then as the two horsemen, leaving the ruins to travel up the path. She imagines him in the stars, she imagines him in the reflection in the water, and he struggles to solidify, to incarnate out of that faint line of light in the sky, out of that faint reflection, and finally, he does. He becomes flesh. He becomes these horseback twins. A different constellation altogether. Gemini.

Centaurs were generally, in mythology, basically rowdy teenagers—but there was a very notable exception, named Chiron. Chiron “represents honor, moderation, and tempered masculinity” (Wikipedia), and he is a doctor. That connects him to the horseman holding the caduceus; of the Gemini twins, who were once upon this earth as Castor and Pollux, one is a medical man (the other is a boxer, so, again a liminal area, two distinct sides of masculinity: the listening and healing, and the fighting). And Castor and Pollux bring us back to the title and the opening quote; they bring us back to Ars Memoria, because history tells us, or mythology tells us, or someone’s memory, anyway, that the Ars Memoria was born in the rubble of a natural/ supernatural disaster, helped along by the twin gods Castor and Pollux:
A man named Simonedes had been hired to give a flowery speech honoring the host of a huge banquet in an elaborately wealthy hall. He had, in a manner that was not unknown at the time, introduced his introduction with yet another flowery speech, this one honoring the twin gods (who were later turned into the Gemini constellation). Afterwards, the host had given Simonedes only half of his pay, snidely remarking that he could get the other half from Castor and Pollux, since they were so great.

And he did. There came a knock at the door, and Simonedes was called to respond to the summons of two unknown men. As he exited the hall, seeking his callers in vain, the building collapsed behind him, killing everyone inside. The bodies were so mutilated, they could not be identified, and it was by visualizing the great table and the interactions of the people at it that Simonedes was able to identify each corpse so that the families could give them a proper burial. Thus began the Ars Memoria, a method of active, visual, representative memory, so successful that it was referred to by some as witchcraft—a deadly accusation at times--, and it was, in fact, believed by its users to offer some control over the physical world (again, twisting memory and imagination into a single thing, again operating in liminal space).

The idea here is that she finds some obscure detail, some story that maybe shouldn’t resonate with her, and she focuses on it until it does. She’s unhappy with her lot, so she looks outside her lot. She finds some idea, she commits to it, and she makes it real. She is trapped, her life mapped out before her by the image she created before she knew what she was doing, created really by the circumstances of some mixture of her genes and her “lot” in the first five years of her life, and yet, if she unfocuses her eyes until something bizarre and outside her reality can be picked up and pounced upon, if she focuses hard on some meaningless detail completely outside her normal experience, she can reroute her associations, she can change everything. Her memory of how she got there, and her understanding of how to get out. Ars Memoria. With cat, which I’ll get to now.


III. They head up the hill, which we see is only a mantel, the mantel borrowed from Remedios Varo’s “Embroidering the Earth’s Mantel,” where she reflected on the feeling of a Catholic female, who at once creates the world but takes no part in it herself, cloistered away from events and color and living, trapped high up in a tower with her had down, focused on the rules of her task. In her painting, Varo imagined and then incarnated an escape, a hidden embroidered detail of herself and her lover climbing down the wall and into the world. Here, we are doing the same, first in the form of the cat, who, far from feeling trapped in the tower, uses it as a better vantage point from which to leap for a star, thus pushing the constellation of the centaur to earth and beginning the minute changes that grow into other changes, that butterfly-effect which rolls around this little universe. Underneath the pathway is the dark and shadowy forest of the unknown, where our once weeping princess is now swathed in an explorer’s attire, and she is wandering off the edge of the universe. She is followed, not led, by her saint—




IV. St. Mark: patron saint of painters, interpreters, and law-clerks, (shown as) a lion, which brought to mind, for me, the green lion of alchemy, and he was actually accused, in his time, of sorcery (witchcraft, again!). These leaves all around, the ones swirling down from the sky, burrowing out of the cathedral and landing on the tops of the trees which hold up the path over the dark and frightening forest—these leaves and the blooms here and there are of the datura plant, of special use to witches, especially for love potions. As is usually the case with a witch’s weed, too much is poison, but just enough can do some pretty amazing things. Among the effects of ingestion of datura are “a complete inability to differentiate reality from fantasy, and amnesia. (Just a side note to the curious, I don’t recommend eating it. You have to really, really know what you’re doing, or it’s really, really bad news.)







Back to Saint Mark, so we can go back to that rubble from which everything is arising: tradition had it that St. Mark’s boat was blown by accident to Venice, and that angels came to him saying he would be buried there, so, many years after his death two Venetian men stole his remains from Alexandria and brought them home with them, ostensibly to protect them from desecration at the hands of the Saracens. A church began to be built to house the remains, and during the building, those relics were lost. Upon completion of construction, “it was resolved, in June 1094, to keep a fast throughout the city, and to make a most solemn procession through the church, without devout supplication to the Almighty that He would be pleased to reveal the place of concealment of the holy relics. And, lo! While the procession was moving, of a sudden light broke from one of the piers, a sound of cracking was heard, bricks fell upon the pavement, and there, within the pier, was beheld the body of the saint, with the arm stretched out, as if he had moved it to make an opening in the masonry” (Curiosities of Popular Customs and of Rites, William Shepard Walsh). So, the constellation is brought to earth via a mighty leap from the cat escaping the tower; the centaur goes through one permutation that doesn’t serve him well, there in the lake created by a waterfall of tears and tumbling hair crashing down over the rubble of the great disaster which started the whole history of the Ars Memoria, out of which finally emerge Castor and Pollux, the twins who saved Simonedes from the disaster, as a gracious show of gratitude for his public praise—twins who here embody the man and horse combination, one the fighter and one the healer; but also, if we concentrate on the detail of this rubble-with-spring borne of tears and birthing new creatures (in whatever form we need them to be in order to make sense of them), we can just imagine that St. Mark was also unearthed from that ripped open building, and alive, why not, and also…a big cat. So there he is, calmly following our now intrepid explorer through the darkest, unknown regions of her own mind and off the edge of the universe--

V. –which does, in fact, curve up around that other (Leo the lion, the big cat, of course) constellation to continue in some other form with people of a castle: the red queen and her puppet, the as-yet-unenlightened Alice in a topiary garden of not-quite-real people and, well, cat. It looks like, perhaps, an old attempt at a fantasy escape which didn’t quite work out for her (well, she woke up, right?).





Detail of Ars Memoria with Cat by Zoe Blue





“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards” (White Queen, Through the Looking Glass).

In argument form: Things don’t change through a process of logic. It’s a focus on detail that ends up making a huge perspective shift of the sort that ends up somehow changing the universe—tomorrow, you wake up, and things are completely different, yet we believe that all of history as moved us inexorably to this moment. One example of this is what happens to your life when you focus on all your weaknesses, your failings, your inabilities, and then go out and try to do something. Spend a week like that and then share your life story with someone, and you know what it will sound like: a laundry-list of disasters and tragic flaws and chance occurrences that insisted on a hopeless existence (the theme of the movie Babel comes to mind). On the other hand, don’t spend a week like that. Why would you? The way we tell a story, from a ghost story around the campfire to bedtime story for a little one (that we don’t want to scare) to the story of our own lives (even the evening news! That counts!) is the way we form our own lives. It’s Ars Memoria, both memory and invention, past and future, and now.