“I did this because of that? I did that because of this? I defined myself around that accident or that person or that ridiculously minor event?”
— From Ghost Exit by Philip Roth
I’ve been in bed these last days. I began reading Ghost Exit, by Philip Roth, with a high fever and a head ache, and felt like his words might be causing my symptoms. You know what I mean? I was in no condition to be reading. My eyes hurt. I was delirious, my hips and neck ached. I was sick to my stomach. And he was going on about mortality, about illness, incontinence and impotence. About longing, the desire that continues after the ability to act on it has gone. About memory loss. About finding the world a suddenly hostile, alien place where everyone is tethered to a cell phone. About being affected by the long ago past. Zuckerman looks at the young lives in progress around him and he can see into their future. They are “not-yets” who will become “no-longers.” It was moving, fascinating to read. But today I had to throw it off a little bit.
I’m still feeling weak but went out to the studio and worked on the song called “Oh, The World.” I mentioned it to DW at our meeting last Monday and he wants to hear it as a possibility for a campaign he’s working on. I like the song. The lyric is good, I think. But it’s not really about the world. It’s one of my songs. It’s about the same thing all my songs are about more or less. The chorus lyric goes like this:
You change your shape
I lose your scent
Still, I’m hellbent
On chasing you down
Where have you gone now?
Well, maybe it is a bit different from my other songs. Maybe it has something in common with the Philip Roth book, in fact. It has this verse:
Oh, the world
The maps are torn
The tracks are worn
The memories long
It’s evening now. I’m sitting here at the dining room table. The big wooden bowl full of oranges looks beautiful. Outside the wind has picked up and it’s started to snow. When the wind blows here, it sounds as if the trees could come down. They roar. I wonder if the electricity will go out? Sally is sleeping near me on a chair. Whenever the weather gets bad, I’m thankful she’s an indoor cat now. She’s still in denial but she’ll get used to it.
That quote at the top of this post is really something, isn’t it? With its suggestion that life’s choices have been almost arbitrary. That maybe crucial, pivotal decisions were made for the wrong reasons. That life could have gone this way or that. I’m not sure it’s the case though. Sometimes I wonder, If I could go back and make this decision or that one again, would I make the correction? And I’m not sure. I think I might do all of it again. Make all the same mistakes. For all the same reasons. I’m not saying I’d want to. Maybe that’s what fate is.