Friday, October 20, 2023

Joe Gould and Me

Why me? There is a fascinating interplay among Joe Gould, his chronicler Joe Mitchell, and Jill Lepore, whose own read on history feels bright. Joe Mitchell seems to mirror himself in what he makes of Gould, while Jill Lepore despairs of history's sinkholes. Imponderables all. Not everything has an answer.

Father/son there are these imponderables whereupon Big Decisions get made. Mitchell puts me somehow in mind of Cormac McCarthy, maybe based on shacks in the South they both wondered in and about. When I think of my Big Decisions, they get made in the same way I might think through an engine mount, or a piece of furniture that I'm fashioning or refashioning, or how to rig part of my new old sailboat. I can get angry if someone sees it differently.

But the Big Decisions have big consequences, like buying the little travel trailer in which I lived for a while. Or the sailboat which still weighs me down for its puzzles upon both my present and my memories of bolder sailing. I seem to enter into these matters blithely, as a kind of thinking experiment until it's a done deal. Very much not like falling in love, which is how you might think it should be, given the consequences sometimes.

But then, whatever is the material consequence, I do always find it fetching and rather cathect myself upon the object, more blithely than compulsively. Managing to find the perfect motorcycle though it morphs from Honda to Harley, like as though I went from blond and thin to curly and fat.

I suppose it necessary to conjecture yourself into this new future and find it more attractive than others you might already be in possession of, as it were. Like, what the hell, let's give it a whirl, always leaving an exit strategy; falling short of absolute commitment. 

Like Joe Gould's father, my grandfather also sunk too much money into gold prospecting schemes. I think Dad had to work through some of that. It must be like how tech enthused kidlets blithely put their purchase on the ephemera of bit-coinage, little understanding what an economy is and how much harm can come from crowd beating.

Children must never be possessed of so much choice, and yet adults may also resent their fathers' ministrations. Is the excitement of investing in a gold mine more similar then, to falling in love than something navigated more within one's means? I suppose it must be. 

Just now still, and for a long long time before, I wonder about consciousness; that thing about ourselves, as humans, which makes us count for more than any but God could have wanted. I make a narrative more compelling even than yours, when it comes to me. Of course I know the survival value of that fact. But the me remains even though I'm as crazy as Joe Gould, who might also have had no real choice in the matter.

Personality imposed, but still self-manufactured overall, might you say? Can we ever be other than ourselves? None other. 

Joe Gould seems to have edited himself to death. Never turning to the exclaimed task at hand, though surely always intending to, in some sense. 

Me too, right? I rehearse those truths which religionists have always rehearsed, though while they jump to true belief, I remain always trying for some kind of scientific precision. My chapbooks are all up here. Enough to prove that I don't have the words to prove what I know. What I know. 

And all the world seems perverse, to me, in all the basic assumptions about humanity and intelligence and consciousness, unexamined as I might say. And so I too am on the outs, like, forever I suppose. Though I do like tinkering on my boat my bike this house as those are the things which give real meaning. Of a sort.

But look. You and I agree that questing for physical immortality can only guarantee that you'll waste the life you have. That however special you have made yourself and no matter the popular acclaim you'll never be more than me in the basics. That too much money is the biggest diversion of all. While too little is terribly painful. And that sometimes the most freakishly intelligent people say and do the stupidest things. 

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