Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cross-Referencing Life

It started this morning, when on "Smallville" the egregious Lois gives Clark a speech about how the yet-unnamed, and yet-unknown-to-her hero (at this point in the series, cringingly referred to as The Blur) PROTECTS her by never revealing his identity.  Oh, but it wasn't about to stop there.

Today is my dad's 75th birthday.  He may not be with us to celebrate anymore, but to say "would have been" his birthday is dirty to me.  The day still is.  He just isn't the physical constant, with us, we once had.

I streamed up some Neil DeGrasse Tyson tonight - and the ep of Nova Science Now Netflix had on top of its stack, happens to be "Where Did We Come From?"  An apt choice - we grew up on Nova, on PBS, on Sagan and James Burke and learn-y stuff and adventure-y stuff like Wild Kingdom and National Geographic.  Not even all of it televised, either, kids.

Toward the end of this episode, we have a look at the science of memory, and a pretty good discussion about the nature of identity and humanity, in the context of memory making us who we are.

"Imagine:  you're an adult person, and you spent a lot of time accumulating an identity.  You might not like that identity ... but the very notion that you could literally remove all of it--I don't know what you would be.  I'm not sure you'd be human." --Andre Fenton

Some of the nastiest disagreements I have ever had in my life actually turned on the morality of this question.  Specifically, disagreements with Mr. X.  He's not, shall we say, the most self-satisfied person I ever met.  On occasion, he has wished it were possible that I could be delivered of ever having known him.  He thinks this is the height of morality - the desire to remove a stimulus or stressor which (from a certain, limited perspective) is a negative.

To my mind, of course, the loss of self that represents is unconscionable.  It's all very cute for sci-fi or magic to provide "solutions" for perceived victims of evil, saving them from the memory of an event ... or a person.  Superman thinks he's a great guy for PROTECTING (fostering the ignorance of) the inferior (female) Lois.  The girl in Harry Potter like mind-wipes her parents, apparently quite the heroism (I seethingly care for no part of at all).

We all lie to save people.  But to actually usurp from those around us ... *who they are* - by removing their experience of tragedy, betrayal, hatred, heartbreak - there is no standard by which this can be made whole, by which this can be made morally acceptable.

X has pointed out, as I should here, his impulse is never to actually DO this thing.  Were there such a power (don't ask Dr. Fenton for the "help"), he knows it would be un-wieldable.  And so it seems to him that to be a *theoretical* good, a desire for someone beloved not to have to experience pain.

This is how we misjudge ourselves.  Life can't be conducted without pain - and life without the experience of X (as he knows) isn't worthy of the name.  I don't mean that I would kill myself if I hadn't known X:  I mean that what knowing him has given me (far apart from anything HE has, directly, given me by volition) is as important to me as what knowing my dearest, oldest friends, what knowing my family endowed me with.  The aspects of the person I've become in the ten years since I met him are peerlessly valuable.  The person I am now is not merely someone I would not give up, but is a self I would give my all to defend.  The very idea of alteration, of loss, of all these past ten years have made of me is offensive beyond almost anything else I can conceive.

And I have a high threshold of offense.  It takes a great deal to put me in the state.

Today is my dad's birthday, and even if I don't get to talk with him anymore, the woman I am is made and honed in tribute to My Father.  I'm human, and flawed, and weak, and manipulative ... but I am proud of those parts of me beyond these things.  Proud of the offering I have become - and unashamed that my offering is not just to my father, but made through every single day, in almost everything I do.

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