Saturday, October 27, 2012

Birds of a feather fly together

Memory is a fickle tool. I use tricks to help me remember and to develop a nuanced understanding of events or people. One such tool that I employ is writing eulogies. Not real eulogies, those where I have to stand up in front of family, friends and acquaintances and talk about the deceased life. Trying to encapsulate what their life meant to you.  No, eulogies are make believe ones because the person is still alive. I am not a sombre person.

These are personal eulogies that I write about people while they are alive to help me understand them. These stored mental edifices, living mausoleums,  help me to appreciate people with whom I am close with.  The word  mausoleum is perhaps not accurate. Mausoleums are static. The word comes from King Mausolus who ruled over Caria in Asia Minor--what is now a part of Turkey--who after his death, had such an edifice built by his wife Queen Artemisia. The pyramids of Egypt and the Taj Mahal in India are other examples of ancient mausolea. But in my mind these phrases of eulogies that I build up slowly are bricks that help me  form mausoleums in honor of my friends. They  are more than these wonders of the world. They are living, evolving edifices of living friends  that I honor. And they are mostly funny.

Because my friends are not perfect, I try and understand them with a grain of salt. Some of whom I just cannot fathom their motivation or interest in specific activities. One such mental mausoleum starts..." He succeeded. He killed himself.  He is now dead. Congratulations. He has been trying to find ways of killing himself since he started bull riding..." and you can see how it evolves from there. "She always got what she wanted, except that she never quite knew what she wanted..."; "At last she will sleep soundly tonight"; "I wish I am here to give her eulogy but I am not which means only one thing, I died before her..."; phrases--sound bites--that pop up while I am doing something else. Then I store these phrases like a singular brick, to be used to build upon earlier, existing phrases. A brick at a time to build a mausoleum.

I try and understand my friends by using language. A recent development, because now words have a reciprocal meaning. For me, language was a way to translate what I think, but now words help me  find accurate representation of what I see, beyond my perception. Having a working definition, such as a eulogy, helps me to refine and more accurately capture the true nuances in a person.

Not an accurate tool, but a tool I can use to dissect and by returning to the subject I find that a specific word or phrase best separates what I want to see from who they are. Language helps me incrementally record a more detailed and accurate representation of who that person is.

This goes on for all my friends. Sometimes, it is a short eulogy. Sometimes it is a longer one. But when these swirling narratives become quiet, I start to  think "who is writing mine?"

I have noticed that there are particular characteristics that I start with in my eulogies. To me this initial definition is the true essence of that person. Who do I see when I think of them. I find this vision direct, and I am sure others similarly find it easy to conjure a vision or attitude of that person. And for me all my friends share a commonality. We are all covered in the same pattern. Some in great swaths of cloth others a small patches of this pattern. And this pattern is a strong sense of thanatos.

Not the thanatos of Greek mythology, nor that of Freud even though he never called it as such. It is not a death drive which motivate people to engage in risky and self-destructive acts likely to lead to their death. More the thanatos that compels you to jump off an existence of normality into the unknown.

My eulogies are grounded in exploring the question of what it is about people that have this wish to jump off. To leave behind what is expected of them. Jumping into the unknown. These are the friends I write eulogies for. And although I do not know who is writing my eulogy, I know that I am flying with birds of the same feather. I might be writing my own eulogy through them.