Saturday, July 14, 2001

As you may have noticed, I've been thinking about permanence a lot lately. Although I'm not quite up to bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang, the blossoms are long fallen and the leaves have lost that first golden green. I can no longer be a child prodigy, or "an exciting young author", or "the next new thing". My expiration date, whatever it may be, is closer than I'm ready to accept.

In some self-help book or other I found the oddly comforting phrase, "In a hundred years, all new people." In other words, no matter what you did today, in a hundred years, there will be nobody left here to remember it.

Which, of course, means that you won't be here, either. Fact. If you're lucky enough to believe in an afterlife, you know you'll be elsewhere, being rewarded or punished. The rest of us... well, we don't know what is coming, but we have an unhappy guess it's nothing at all.

In my case, I'll leave behind two children; if I'm lucky (or they are), they'll have children as well, and my oddball contribution to the gene pool will be passed on for a generation or two. Perhaps a few of my gestures, my tricks of voice, my idiosyncratic phrases, will carry on, mutating as they pass from person to person. That isn't really enough, but it's all there is.

I admire the writers, like Sei Shonagon, or Jane Austen, or Boswell, who pop, alive, from the page, who can take up residence in your head, whose voices ring on from the silence of the past. I want very badly to be one. But it's quite possible I won't. That's a terrifying thought. Death is hard enough, but oblivion is harder still.

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Spike and Dawn.

WitchQueen asks why Spike and Dawn should be friends. Because, y'know, Spike is evil.

My favorite part of Buffy Season 5 (and believe me, I had some issues -- *cough*Bory*cough* --) was the growing complexity of Spike's character, built on the hints that had been dropped before. Note that in "Lie To Me", he kept his bargain of having Ford vamped, even though Ford hadn't exactly succeeded in his evil scheme. Note his coming to Buffy to solve their mutual Angelus problem. Note his ongoing tenderness to Drusilla. Note the brief flashes of kindness in Season 4.

One of the ongoing themes of Buffy, it seems to me, is that people and vampires are more complex than we give them credit for. The Mayor was bona-fide evil. He nonetheless was the best thing in Faith's life, and surprisingly tender and nurturing to her. Admittedly, his idea of a parting gift (the body-changing plot device) was evil, but that was in character -- he couldn't conceive of an existence for Faith without him. Similarly, the saintly Giles has a dubious moral past, great difficulties forgiving, and committed cold-blooded murder at the end of this season.

So, yes, Spike is evil. That's his métier. But he's capable of selflessness, kindness, and, yes, love. Which makes him all the more interesting. Like Angel, he's torn between who he believes he is and what he is becoming.

Monday, July 09, 2001

The Persistence of Memory

Some time around the 9th century B.C., an Irish monk was working on copying a manuscript. He grew tired, or playful, or perhaps bored, and scribbled a poem in the margins of the manuscript. Here's the Old Irish.

My favorite translation begins:

I & Pangur Bán my cat
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.
'Gainst the wall he sets his eye,
Full & fierce & sharp & sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

That's all we know about the author. He (Irish monks were male) loved his cat and his work. He had a sense of humor and a sense of proportion. He had the scholarship to not only copy manuscripts, but do his best to redact them. He was one of the warriors against oblivion, who preserved what we have of ancient culture.

And we know this only because one night, for some reason, he turned away from his real work and scribbled a funny poem in the margins. In that one moment, he lives forever.

Oh, and Pangur Bán is "white Pangur". So the cat was white.

Sunday, July 08, 2001

Earlier this week, I put up a birdfeeder on my second-story office window. I see a lot of goldfinches and titmice. I also see a lot of birdy fist-fights. (Beak-fights?) Sometimes the birds land on top of the feeder (it's Lucite) and yell at me. Sometimes they land on the windowsill and yell at each other.

Finches are not little feathered pacifists, y'know?