I’ve always been exceptionally interested in philosophy. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, including memory. No two people remember the same circumstances in the same way and no one remembers something in the same way each successive time. Throughout the course of my lifetime, I’ve always been quite smitten with memories of very long ago. I seem to have quite a utopian, Garden-of-Eden ish relationship with the long ago past. A good example of this is in a conversation I had a few years ago with my cousin Gary’s daughter Tina. Gary grew up in Queens and his wife Maria is from Brooklyn. Their kids, Joseph and Tina, lived in Brooklyn until they were twelve and ten years old. Tina told me they were so crazy about Brooklyn because they were from there. I’ve always said the same thing about Queens, having lived there until my twelfth birthday. The more I’ve thought it over since then, though, the more I’ve recognized that it wouldn’t have been the same if I could have been lucky enough to have lived there throughout my entire lifetime. The everyday practical realities of life there would have made it impossible to recognize significantly the good things. The present tense is filled with boring, ordinary chores and habits. What is fr
esh, by definition, will inevitably become stale with time. That’s why each of us always complains about his being taken for granted. Nothing and no one ever truly satisfies. The faraway past, though, precisely because it’s no longer available, can be quite intoxicating. Pop culture is yet another example of how I tend to see the distant past. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always thought of the 1960’s as the most interesting time frame of all, and that’s only possible precisely because of their never having been available to me in the present tense. I was born in 1959. Besides that, the older I get the more easily I’m able to recognize all the interesting things that were going on during my youth. Recent vivid memories can be especially nice but they lack the property of availability to the imagination. Memories from a bygone era are literally representative of another world entirely. It’s like everything I’ve ever heard and read about good literature. A good literary work should tell a sufficient amount of the story, yet at the same time it should leave enough available in order that the reader may put himself into the story and imagine more than the author provides. The distant past, unlike the recent past, makes that possible too. I’m a bookworm for the same reason I enjoy the distant past. It allows my imagination to wander into a world that’s otherwise entirely unavailable.
Although I’ve always quite thoroughly enjoyed music, I’ve never been talented enough to become famous. I most certainly can’t sing. As far as I can see, my main talents appear to lie in writing and public speaking. In spite of what people seem to think these days, all the great writers of yore were in the conservative tradition. Now in our modernist and post-modernist era people are entirely too smitten with things like semiotic deconstruction and other means of deception-a pox be upon you, Jacques Derrida! It’s most certainly not the least bit coincidental that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Milton are so often touted as the greatest of writers in the western canon. Each of them could tell quite an exceptional story. Each of them also put forth significant points about both human nature and the significant political, philosophical and social currents of his era, but in narrative rather than didactic form. They were very good at following Emily Dickinson’s rule about telling all the truth slant. If I were a writer I could get to know all the intellectual and literary figures who shape our current modes of thought. To my chagrin all my favorite public figures are those from the past. T.S. Eliot, Walker Percy, Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor were among the very best of twentieth century writers. I don’t really know of anyone from this era who strikes me as especially good or interesting. Unlike a lot of great authors throughout history, I simply don’t have a healthy enough constitution to get away with their hard-drinking, hard-living behavior. Mine would have to be quite a quieter, less intense sort of lifestyle. I’ve always had quite a flair for the more comedic and lopsided side of life. It might be a really good idea, then, for me to emphasize all sorts of dysfunctionality in at least a few of the characters I may write about. I could take advantage of all sorts of ideas and literary traditions I’ve always really liked. Knowing me I’d have to write something in the style of either Cervantes’ “Don Quijote” or Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey”, each of which refers to other literary works within its story line. Each author seems to have his favorite kinds of symbolism to which he has frequent recourse. Graham Greene was fond of using hard-drinking alcholics among his most prominent characters. Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot were known for their Sanjuanist themes. I often think I could do quite well at public speaking too. Of course I should have to be a lot more knowledgeable than I am currently but with a little extra effort I honestly believe that I could do quite an effective job of arguing my side of any subject. Nothing has ever been able to stop me from arguing unofficially anyway. In college classes I’ve taken, I’ve always struck my classmates and professors as quite a formidable opponent in a debate. Under those circumstances I can suppose that I should be the same, in didactic form, as I should be in a narrative sense, with my writing. The humanities have always been my favorite intellectual discipline. Whenever I get into a significant debate about matters of either a theological or philosophical nature I get exactly as exceptionally enthused as I do about classic western literature. Our current cultural climate is quite seriously disturbing and someone simply must speak out against the way things are going now. We need as many people as possible, these days, who are both willing and competent to defend traditional western cultural mores from the absolutely insatiable leftist determination to control us all. My imagination, combined with my understanding of reality, and a determination to get my point across to people, could really make quite an impact if I were famous.