Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Failure of the Day: Conspiracy

I clicked on this story last week on whim, and the name of the guy it is about kind of jumped out at me. I did a little digging it turns out that he is the guy I used to date around 1990 (he was cuter then, and less dogmatic); in fact, one of the best poems I ever wrote is about him.

Apparently he’s a fairly well-known 9/11 conspiracy theorist these days, which I guess is not all that surprising—he’s the guy who introduced me to Philip K. Dick after all, and he was writing his thesis on the VALIS trilogy when I knew him. I also recall that he pursued me aggressively and was terrifically charming, but I was never all that into him, despite the breathlessness of my poem.

Back then I was seriously into conspiracy theory myself, but I’m not at all interested in it any more. I have no earthly idea if it was actually a missile that hit the pentagon or if the WTC was actually a controlled demolition. Maybe it was. But I don’t think the idea that the official story is mostly true is laughably naive, either. I don’t know, and I don’t know if it is possible to know. The only thing I do know is that I don’t ever want to believe something just because it makes me feel better than believing some other thing.

That’s pretty much the reason I could never be in any way religious, too. I think being devoutly and relentlessly and unforgivingly rational is about the only appropriate response to a culture that thinks Because I Said So constitutes incontrovertible proof. And even if that entails abandoning some of the theories that make me the happiest, I’ll do it. The world is slightly duller for it, but I choose a matte reality over a dazzling lie any day. I’ll say it: Maybe Metallica didn’t cause my remission. Maybe there wasn’t some terrible mix up and I am not really Mrs. Dr. Buckaroo Banzai.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Failure of the Day: End Times

And so I find myself in these, the last days of my 30s, not feeling particularly jarred by the specter of 40, but not entirely untouched by occasional visions of an alternate present, born of choices I might have made differently. At the very, very top of that list—no lie—is the ghost of how I might have looked if I had not self-medicated with a peanut M&Ms binge of staggering proportions during the first year of my illness. My body, recovered almost completely now from the years of paralysis, has never recovered from the year of candy.

I also have the odd vision of what might have happened had I not so badly botched that 1998 job interview with Launch.com—I might now have a career in writing marketing copy instead of editing it—but I’m not sure that would be any sort of step up. Overall, I am happy with my choices; there’s very little I’d revise. Really, it’s just the damn M&Ms.

This fall, no fewer than 3 of my co-workers have turned or will turn 40, and I’ve enjoyed seeing how each reacted to it. One woman began competing in triathlons. Another guy threw a massive party for himself complete with, no kidding, synchronized swimmers and baton twirlers. I’m not a big party thrower—even when I lived in the city my neighborhood was too geographically unappealing to attract many guests—but Chris got us tickets to see a band we like at the Warfield on Friday. And a couple of weeks after that, I’ll run the 5k portion of the Silicon Valley Marathon.

October is also the 10-year anniversary of my remission, which I suspect has more to do with how many miles I find myself running each week than my brave new decade. I find myself the proud owner of a truly great jogging bra and a pair of high-tech wonder shoes that look for all the world like puffy robot bumblebees, so now, with the four barriers to my running career, if not removed then at least strapped down and braced for impact, I run. I don’t exactly enjoy it, but I like it much more than I ever thought I would, and I love how much of a badass it makes me feel like.

As a compulsive autobiographer, it occurs to me that my 20s were spent surviving what was happening, and my 30s were spent coming to terms with what happened, so my 40s, I hope, will be spent getting on with it already. I’m getting up and going into work on my birthday, because I’m big on really obvious metaphors. I’m ready to go. I just wish someone would tell me what terrible thing is about to happen to my neck, because seriously, it’s freaking me out.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Failure of the Day: Effort

I've spent the last four years writing the first 30 years of my life as a story. Thanks to this tool, I just summed it up in three panels.