Tuesday, June 29, 2004

All About the Hate II

A man's memory is a strange and independent force, resisting all efforts to be dismissed by both the cacaphonous events that demand our full attention in the moment, and the ever-looming concerns over the future. Despite such competition, your memory fights ceaselessly, and although at times it appears vanquished, it is never down for good.

In some cases, of course, this is a good thing, but in others not. The elder and wiser man would like to think that he is better for having abandoned the passion of feeling once felt for a certain person in his life, settling instead for a stable watered-down emotion that, even if less exciting, is at least more predictable. But his memory plays cruel tricks that undermine that conceit. He becomes like the manic depressent submitting to medication, and giving up the "highs" in exchange for not having to bear the "lows." But for some reason, he can't put the highs out of his head - out of his memory - they stay there fixed, while the lows seem to recede into the distance.

Sometimes it is as if all of this takes place without volition, as if every time the man's eyes shut for rest, the memory revises his picture of the past. But then something triggers him to recall these re-written memories, and though he trusts them, they are not worthy of it. It is almost like having read a book years ago, and re-reading it again in the present, only this time each page has been altered slightly in a way that does not alter the look or feel of any given page, but changes the whole meaning of the book, making it seem more significant.

And so it was that I was recently awakened to a particularly passionate feeling for someone from my youth. Having convinced myself that I preferred the mirror-like calm of the still lake over the towering waves of a turbulent sea, one simple event made me crave again for the crest of that youthful wave.

You tell yourself you can live without that intensity of feeling, but your memory makes a liar of you. With one image, scent, or forgotten song, all of the things that attracted your passion to that one person come flooding into your consciousness. And the pale substitutes for that intensity of feeling that you have chosen are revealed to you in their emptiness.

The book launch for Bill Clinton's My Life made me realize that I will never hate anybody with that same dedication I reserved for him from 1992 thru 2000. John Kerry can throw other people's medals over the White House fence and straddle every political fence from thereon, but I cannot muster the same degree of disgust. Al Gore can foam at the mouth in a pale imitation of Howard Dean, and I can barely frown. Ted Kennedy could tour the country lecturing on how to escape a car sinking into a river, and I would barely notice. I tell myself that I have used it all up, that I'll never hate this way again, but I keep hoping. With apologies to Dionne Warwick, a slight alteration to her lyrics sum up the way I feel:

I’ve kept the memories one by one
Since you took me in
I know I’ll never hate this way again

I know I’ll never hate this way again
So I keep holdin’ on before the good is gone
I know I’ll never hate this way again
Hold on, hold on, hold on

A fool will lose tomorrow
Reaching back for yesterday
I won’t turn my head in sorrow
If you should go away

I’ll stand here and remember
Just how good it’s been
And I know I’ll never hate this way again

I know I’ll never hate this way again
So I keep holdin’ on before the good is gone
I know I’ll never hate this way again
Hold on, hold on, hold on

What hope keeps me holding on? Hillary in 2008!


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