Sunday, March 6, 2011

Making a List

When I was writing yesterday's entry or, for that matter, when I was talking to the young man in question, I also had kicking around in my head a passage from a short story that I once read on a DVD. The movie was Memento, written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and the short story was called "Memento mori," written by his brother Jonathan. They had come up with the basic premise on which both the story and the film were based (if you haven't seen the film, you're missing out). Anyway, this passage stood out for me because I think it's on to something.

     Here's the truth: People, even regular people, are never just any one person with one set of attributes. It's not that simple. We're all at the mercy of the limbic system, clouds of electricity drifting through the brain. Every man is broken into twenty-four-hour fractions, and then again within those twenty-four hours. It's a daily pantomime, one man yielding control to the next: a backstage crowded with old hacks clamoring for their turn in the spotlight. Every week, every day. The angry man hands the baton over to the sulking man, and in turn to the sex addict, the introvert, the conversationalist. Every man is a mob, a chain gang of idiots.

     "This is the tragedy of life. Because for a few minutes of every day, every man becomes a genius. Moments of clarity, insight, whatever you want to call them. The clouds part, the planets get in a neat little line, and everything becomes obvious. I should quit smoking, maybe, or here's how I could make a fast million, or such and such is the key to eternal happiness. That's the miserable truth. For a few moments, the secrets of the universe are opened to us. Life is a cheap parlor trick.

     "But then the genius, the savant, has to hand over the controls to the next guy down the pike, most likely the guy who just wants to eat potato chips, and insight and brilliance and salvation are all entrusted to a moron or a hedonist or a narcoleptic.

     "The only way out of this mess, of course, is to take steps to ensure that you control the idiots that you become. To take your chain gang, hand in hand, and lead them. The best way to do this is with a list.
It's like a letter you write to yourself. A master plan, drafted by the guy who can see the light, made with steps simple enough for the rest of the idiots to understand. Follow steps one through one hundred. Repeat as necessary."
I would just add that this is also essentially when we do when we condition ourselves into habits that we want for ourselves--setting aside time to write, going to the gym, whatever it is.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely. Reminds me of Walker Percy's book The Second Coming, and the notes that the young woman wrote to herself about how to escape from the hospital and survive in reality.