Friday, December 11, 2009

Life Stories

People, like nations, have several autobiographies in them,
multiple versions as if the shard of glass in the kaleidoscope shifts a bit with each retrieval.

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I might be the hero of my narrative; the one person whose autograph I cannot live without. On Tuesday and Thursday I could be the guy who bluffed his way this far with a paucity of smarts and a plethora of nonsense. On weekends I abstain and the wise-fool emerges.

It helps to have a long memory for events that never happened. Like some pebble on the beach polished by the rush of waves I can see myself rounding the bases after hitting the homerun and the ovation in my ears is deafening . Too bad I didn’t make the team.

When I wrote my memoir I did it as a manuscript of about 90 poems. Many were imaginings or outright fabrications. My references were not necessarily factual but sought an emotional truth instead. They were just one version of the chronicle. From a slightly different perch I could view it otherwise.

Was FDR the compassionate and bold leader who responded to the economic crisis with social programs that made him beloved to every class and race? Or was he the president who denied entrance to Jewish refugees, interred the Japanese-Americans and continued Jim Crow in the armed forces? He was all of the above.

When we first studied American history in school we got a simplistic account of our past. As young adults we probably add some movie images into our heads and come away with a pale distortion which serves us for a lifetime. How many of us think we know the French revolution from the film version of A Tale Of Two Cities?

If we are serious about our beginnings we would do well to reconsider our presidents, our wars and the entire arc of our relatively young republic. Too often we are taught military campaigns apart from social history or technological innovations or religious movements or through the lens of architecture, language or entertainment.

Neither individuals nor countries can escape the distortion of a single perspective. As muddled as they may be lives are dimensional and warrant a cubist rendering, up close then back then off to this side and that as various as the viewer.

We have art, Nietzsche said, so we shall not be destroyed by the truth.

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