Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Michael Benton: I Am Past Imperfect (Thanksgiving Reflection)

(It is time for my annual Thanksgiving post... what am I thinking this time of year as everyone gathers for the feast brandishing their steely knives. Nods to Eviatar Zerubavel, Tim O'Brien, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Critical Art Ensemble, Crimethinc., Errol Morris, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Philip K. Dick, Parker Palmer, Robert McChesney, Evelyn Fox Keller, Howard Zinn, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Charlie Kaufman and my far-flung archiving comrades... who had nothing directly to do with this writing, but definitely influenced the current self that produced it.)

“I Am Past Imperfect”
by Michael Dean Benton

The little boys make up the man. A collection of little boys nestled together and masked to the world as an individual man. Russian Dolls situated one in another, each new incarnation rising out of the collective to claim the seat of power like a Roman autocrat, shouting out to the world I am "The Man." Each ascending self, conceiving of their self, as an immortal individual. Foolish little selves thinking that they will rule forever. Foolish little selves believing they are "The Man."

How do I remember who I am? Can one peel back the layers of one’s selves and penetrate to the core? Will I only find a million little pieces that people will revile as false and misleading? Is it just one missing piece somehow stuffed in the pocket of one of my selves that can make me whole? Can I ever be whole, or, is that just an illusion? Do we only become complete in death, our last breath, the author’s signature? Is the seeking of completeness a fool’s errand?

I’m sure this task requires a sense of humor because the surgeon of the soul exposes foolish personas; but mocking laughter would not be the worst effect, insecurities would be exposed, fears confronted, and hatred examined. My life has been violent. My life has been peaceful. My life has been boring. Do I have the courage to travel down the road that leads to the abyss? Can I stomach the dark tea time of the soul?

However foolish I have been in the past, my future self, now, now, now, now, now, recognizes the (im)possibility of truth(s). We re-member and re-cognize the past. The act of remembering reconstructs the past. The viewer gives meaning to the view. I remember what I remember today and will remember what I remember tomorrow. No one can expect these memories to remain the same. I am but an archivist of the self, pulling traces out of my clogged brain, seeking narrative sense, pulling fragments together, a collage of the selves represented as a self. Restor(y)ing the self.

This will be a horror story. No. This will be a bildungsroman. No. This will be a romance. No. This will be a comedy. No. Can we label today what may change tomorrow? No. This will be a true story? No. Yes. Maybe. Depending on what you conceive of as the truth. Some may even re-cognize themselves in what I write, but I warn you it is not you I write about, although, you might ask why it is I am writing about you? You might ask what is in you that you recognize in my story? You bring your own story to my tale in completing it anew for you. My story becomes our story when you read it, like love’s warm embrace, each union is unique. A fiction full of lovers, come feel my key stroke, aching to unite with you and create new meanings.

This will not be a true story. Yes! No! Maybe? This will be a true story. Yes! No! Maybe? What has always amazed me the most in life is not that so many people remember the same event/moment differently. No, that seems obvious to my 21st Century Mind, what amazes, nay, scares me, is how so many people, and societies, are able to erase the distinctive and memorable recognition that memories are but constructs of the moment and will change again and again and again. This is the violence we do to ourselves, a violence as deep and painful as our erasure of the fact that one day we will not exist. We are past imperfect.

So, what will follow is the absolute truth…



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