Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weekend Update

Weird science. One of the quickest ways to creep people out about history is to remind them that George Armstrong Custer's widow lived to see Adolf Hitler become Chancellor of Germany. To me it seems impossible that Libby Custer and Hitler were alive at the same time; if they ever actually met, that would put Hitler one degree of separation away from Abraham Lincoln, which to me is mind-blowing. On the same level of blow? Who knew that Arthur C. Clarke and George Bernard Shaw traded letters about interplanetary exploration?

A monologue for Saturday. You think doing nothing is easy? When every impulse in your body says act, speak, commit? Doing nothing is hard. You feel the impulse to speak and act, but something inside you drops his shield and shoves the impulse back. It’s an odd sensation -- the movement of time slows to a halt, just as it does in battle when you face your first enemy soldier, and he runs at you screaming with anger or with fear, his sword raised, his shield up; and then time stops, and he stops, but for some reason your awareness doesn’t -- trapped inside your time-frozen body, which heeds none of your commands to strike out or duck or move to the side, your mind is well aware that if you had the gift of speed, you could range across the battlefield like a god in a pause like this, killing all these frozen soldiers between one moment and the next. In just such a moment, you can do anything. Say anything. Every muscle inside you is ready to spring into action. But you hold back. You say nothing. Do nothing. You know how hard that is? That first moment of inaction? It’s excruciating. It’s as hard as grabbing onto empty air to pull your off-balance body back from a ledge. The second moment is even harder. It always is when you don’t act immediately; you feel an urge to second-guess your original decision, to question the feeling that kept you silent in the first place. If you can survive that, the third moment is when it all becomes so easy that it seems natural to be silent and do nothing. You’ve done it for two heartbeats already. And now three. And now four. See how easy it is? Each heartbeat is a step backwards away from that ledge, away from the point where words would have jumped from your tongue; each step is easier than the one before, until you have taken so many of them that you cannot even see where that ledge was. So you turn your back on it and walk away, and if you’re lucky you will forget that there was ever a time when you could have said something that would have changed the direction of your life. If you're lucky.

Barcade birthday. Sarah turns 30; Maddy drinks gin with a candle.

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