Thursday, October 09, 2008

Familiar scenes and recurring faces

I was sitting in my car last night, waiting on friends for dinner, reading Roger Angell. A light rain was tapping time on the windshield. Truth be told, with the cloudy grays and gentle precipitation, I could have shut my eyes and napped.

But as it was I read as Angell, a New Yorker editor and baseball essayist I've long admired, re-created the moments of his life. What he said about it is downright profound.

The stories we remember about our life, Angell says, are mostly fiction.

"Life is tough and brimming with loss, and the most we can do about it is to glimpse ourselves clear now and then, and find out what we feel about familiar scenes and recurring faces this time around."

He's right on a number of levels.

Thinking back on the times of your life, your baseball prowess becomes better than it was, the fish you caught as a lad were bigger, the sweethearts were sweeter, the successes were more profound. If you're a romantic, you tend to glorify the past, or at least remember it as a sentimental, blissful state, better than today. To Angell's credit, in his book "Let Me Finish," he does neither.

The mind is a tricky instrument. It's more powerful than a computer, and yet it often alternates roles as your best friend and your worst enemy.

Angell nailed it. Maybe remembering the memories with stark clarity years after the fact, total recall, isn't all that important. What matters is what we do remember about his familiar scenes and recurring faces, what we learned from it, and what it means to us now.

A point to ponder on a Thursday morning in early autumn.

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