Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Living between Time

Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven (1971) has influenced my perception of life more than I care to admit. The gist of the story is that reality is transformed by what the hero dreams. His psychoanalyst suggests ridding the world of racism. When he dreams about that, he awakens to a world where all of humanity is now gray-skinned. This and many other startling changes are brought about by his lucid dreaming.

Through the years, I didn't consciously think of that novel which I read at 15 or 16. I once caught a PBS adaptation (1980) which delighted me by its distillation into quite a completely different story from what I had imagined it to be. Nevertheless, for about 20+ years I've had the odd suspicion that some elements of life have changed ever so slightly than from what I clearly remember them to be.

One of the earliest occurrences was being completely befuddled at finding that a chord or motif that I had been so certain existed in the Beatles' Hey Jude, did not, in fact, exist. I imagined that I was mistaken, but in my mind I could still hear the other version that I had been familiar with. Now this is before bootlegs became widely available on the Internet and in Greenwhich Village rare records stores. It saddened me that I remembered a version of this famous song, that, in fact, no longer existed, or perhaps, never existed.

Another startling occurrence deals with a book that I have been reading since I was eleven, October the First is Too Late (1966) by the astronomer/mathematician/philosopher Fred Hoyle. I've read this perhaps four or five times in my life. The last time I read it I was astounded by the fact that a encounter between the hero and a historical/mythical person that I had vivid memories of having read many times before, suddenly had disappeared from this only paperback copy that I have always used to reread this story. I tried rereading it in case I had missed this significant encounter, but, alas, it was not to be found. I have a feeling that if I were to read this book again I might either find this missing scene again, or perhaps new ones missing, or--even more perplexing--a scene that I know I had never read during the previous readings of this unique book.

The latest occurrence of this personal phenomenon was when I recently learned of Ingmar Bergman's death. This stunned me more than you'd imagine, as I distinctly remember reading that Fanny and Alexander (1982) was his last film. I never heard anything else about Ingmar Bergman until this past month when all the news agencies reported his death at a ripe old age. Now the confusion may be that, yes, this film was in fact his last film, and his Swan Song, as far as feature films are concerned. He, however, continued making other kinds of films, mostly for Swedish TV. Now as much as I loved his work, and as much as I have immersed myself, obsessively at times, you'd think I would have read at least a review or two in the ensuing years, but that was not the case. Not until he died did I see anything in print in any of the major film or cultural media about this singular director. To my mind, this was indeed proof, that the reality I remembered quite certainly that Bergman died some time in the early 1980s, had, in fact, changed.

These are only two glaring situations in my recollection that illustrate this point. There have been, in fact, many others, including meeting people that no one else remembers, but I remember them because they left a huge impact on me. I always ignored these inconsistencies with other people's memories until I was able to reveal to relatives or close friends things they had said to me, 20 or 25 years ago, that upon some reflection, they admitted that they very well could have said that, but it was long gone from their memory. This gave me some assurance that if I remembered statements or situations in family member's lives or in those of close friends, perhaps I remembered other realities that others no longer remembered at all.

I'm not sure what this phenomenon is called. I thought briefly of how fascinated I used to be with the concept of déjà vu until until I read that it had nothing to do whatsoever with a mystical reality, but rather that it was caused by a trick of the mind. For years I often had episodes of déjà vu and they delighted and perplexed me greatly. Since learning that this phenomenon is a trick of the mind, I no longer experience episodes of déjà vu .

Recently I read in the New York Times that one major cosmologist believes that we change our evolutionary and cosmological past by what we collectively choose to remember or imagine it to be. This was both startling and comforting. I'm still looking for this recent quote, but, it seems to elude me the way other memories or recalled incidences have done for more than 20 years.

Perhaps one day I will remember that I wrote this post, but will find that no one read it or recalls it, and even more problematic, I will find no copy of it either here or in my hard copy binder of blog posts I've written.

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