Thursday, 15 July 2010

Until we lose ourselves, "this narrative is us." Or so said Oliver Sachs about the stories that become our lives, and it's a sentiment with which I'm inclined to agree. Not everyone does. Augustine stockpiles his narratives in that famous warehouse of his and puts himself in charge of it: "It is I myself who remembers, I, the mind" (Confessions 10.6). The mind here is distinct from the life that shaped and shapes it, but even he acknowledges that without "the force of my memory, I should not be able to call myself myself" (Confessions 10.16). By "the force of memory," Augustine means the actual act of remembering, which to my mind—albeit against his stated wishes—puts him in my camp, because to paraphrase Beckett, to have lived is not enough: I have to talk about it. Life is not real until it comes into language, but those words are meaningless until they cohere into narrative. By which I mean that, over the course of the day, I have increasingly come to recognize my affinity with Harvey Pekar. Not that I didn't already know this about both him and myself, but I never appreciated our common compulsion to transform the scattered detritus of life into neat meaningful narratives. Had someone not told me yesterday that she did nothing of the sort, I would have assumed everyone connected their messy celestial lives into orderly constellations that, though imaginary, are visible to others. When I talk or write about my life, I transform a sky full of random stars into patterns others can perceive. Do those patterns exist in the experiences themselves? No more than constellations exist in nature. But that doesn't make either any less real. I'm chattering on about this as a way of explaining where I disappeared to from the 28th of June to the 8th of July. Because I don't know where I went. I can tell you where I was located, which was here in the apartment; and I can tell you what I did, which was work and watch the World Cup; but I can't tell you where I was. I had disappeared. That simple sense of narrated self had been knocked clean out of me by an old lady in a nice car. I had lost the plot. Because it turns out that I will break if bent enough. The sum total of the horrors I experienced this quarter finally hit the point at which my narrative became absurd. Since absurd narratives are, by virtue of their absurdity, unbelievable, I could no longer believe in myself. An incoherent narrative begets an incoherent identity, and so for approximately eleven days I wandered about my life in the state I'd entered when I caught sight of that car in my peripheral vision: This cannot be fucking happening again. As I landed on the car, I was more concerned with a failed narrative than bodily harm. I unraveled into I because neither could fit this new incident into an available narrative. I had ceased being believable, and...

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