Like Tears In Rain

Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the passage of time in a lifetime.

I started typing that as a brief status update on Facebook, of all things. I do that a lot, these days. I start with a small motif and build a symphony of words. I do it mostly in emails, but I do occasionally share it elsewhere, as well. Today, I think I’ll do my job and post on my own blog. But that’s not the point I came to make.

I’m listening to the first Supertramp album AFTER Roger Hodgson left. It’s the first time I’m hearing it. It has a lot to recommend it. Rick really pulled out the stops. I’m ashamed I missed it.

In the album, snippet recordings of Reagan and Bush and probably Margaret Thatcher and others, play in the background periodically. They’re all gone now, more or less. These are different days. Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, is trying to revive the good old days of late 20th Century pseudo-democratic fascism, and is doing a damned good job of it. But he doesn’t make that many memorable public speeches, the way his predecessors did, so we’re not going to hear as many soundbites and such in twenty to thirty years, ironically reframing his sinister reign. We’ll have newspaper clippings, and someone will catalogue and share out the public addresses he did make, but he’s so anonymous here in Canada that it’s impossible to point to a speech he made that really cements his reign. He’s remembered these days for his blatant, bald faced lies and obfuscations, the flat denials, and for having written a treatise on the possibility of a dictatorship in Canada. Oh, and his famous quote (misquoted here, because I hate quotes), ‘In ten years, you won’t recognize Canada’. Hitler is famous for having said something similar. Yes, I just Godwinned myself. Make of that what you will.

The point I’m actually trying to make isn’t a political one, though. What I really want to say is, these are the best of times, and these are the worst of times, but they’re also living times, and we have living memories of veritable dictators, both foreign and domestic, who have set the tone for the beginning of the 21st Century in a way that none of us, save a few savvy Sci-Fi authors in the 60s, ever really imagined. We note with irony the rise of groups like Anonymous, whose infamous Guy Fawkes mask made it into modern pop culture thanks to a graphic novel written by one of my personal writing heroes, Alan Moore. It was a cute film, but you need to read V For Vendetta to really grasp what a marvellous tale it is. But again, that’s not what I came to talk about.

The thing is, we all live with our own slightly skewed sets of recollections of how it all went down. Science is empirical and truth is not subjective, except that, in a very real sense, lies become the truth when we accept them and allow them to mold our viewpoint. The colours change, but we scarcely notice, because our world is full of myriad mixed colours already, like one of my abstract paintings. In a way, I paint those to help illustrate my individual perception of the lack of harmony that I perceive in the world. But again I digress.

Like Roy Batty up on the rooftop at the end of the film, I feel like all of this raw experience is going to be lost and misunderstood in time. You only have to look at the activities of Tea Partiers, who tend to extol the virtues of Saint Ronnie, to realize how badly our public perception has been manipulated. Remember how Richard Nixon was virtually canonized in the last few years before he died? Many of us felt like he’d served his sentence. He didn’t. He lived out his days relatively quietly, but he wasn’t pounding rocks, and he wasn’t lining up with food stamps, either.

The point I’m really trying to make is, memory is a sieve. Even in these days of forensic historical data, we revere the garbled memories of dead tyrants and wave a heavily edited and translated book like a flag. I know. I was one of them. I have several copies of the Holy Bible, in different editions, including one with a fake leather cover. I was considering becoming a missionary, in fact. Nowadays, I think of the way modern missionary work has pretty much infected poorer nations with a rabid, fervent religious zealotry that could only lead to trouble, and it does. Executions of gays and rape gangs trying to convert lesbians. When faith becomes a gateway to barbarism, you have to question not the faith, but the mentality behind it, because every faith has its dark history, but in modern times, most if not all of them are meaningful and hopeful. Or at least, they were when I was younger. These days, it seems everyone is trying to bring about Armageddon as early as possible, so they can be posthumously declared the winner. The irony just knocks me out. We’re all gambling on an afterlife we can’t see, thinking we can afford to burn the bridge we’re standing on, because angels will catch us when we fall. But again, I didn’t come to talk about this, either.

“Memories. You’re talking about memories.”

Yes, Deckard. I mean memories. We all have them, and we can barely keep track of them, and we scarcely recall things correctly or in the right order, but we insist we understand reality better than everyone around us, and push our agendas on one another like it’s our sole imperative in this life to leave behind ideological clones of ourselves to carry on our work, no matter how odious it was.

Is it any wonder we’re all so angry and tense all of the time? The happy few are those that ignore just about everything going on around them, until the badness comes for them too. I think I’ve reached a point where I believe in only one thing, and it’s a sentiment that is echoed in numerous of my favourite songs: Something’s gotta change. I think we have to start with really looking at the way we misremember the recent past and really try to see where our perceptions have been coloured and manipulated to allow us to more easily accept and even condone the tragedy and the high crime of the world around us. We can’t make things better if we don’t even see the problems clearly. We have everything explained to us so vividly by our elected authorities that we actually start to believe this is how it has to be. When we start accepting injustice and ineffective government and poverty and economic disparity, we climb onto a spiralling chute pointed downward, leading to nowhere, but giving us the impression we’re going somewhere inexorable.

The only thing that is inevitable is, if we keep going the way we have, we’ll exhaust everything and die off. Our ashes and bones will wash away, unremembered and unmourned. We’re gambling on the big afterlife lottery, and failing to recognize that, whether you believe or not, there is no empirical evidence anywhere that any reward waits for us after we die. None. All we actually have is each other, and we have the temerity to treat each other like despicable competition for the last seat on the last great train ride into the sky.

I think our world has a death wish, and it’s poisoning everything, including us. I refuse to believe there is a sky father judging everything we do, but I also refuse to believe that there is anything for us to become a greater part of if we can’t manage the simple task of not defecating where we eat. Not poisoning and ruining the very ground we stand on. We have one great world, so far, and we can’t bring ourselves to take better care of it and our neighbours on it. We are all looking for the exit door, and failing to recognize that there is no exit.

But if we burn it all down around our ears, it’s a dead certainty that we all lose. And all of our efforts and grand schemes, our science, our history, our achievements, our successes and failures, will all wash away. All lost.

Like tears in rain.


Don't be shy. Tell me what you really think, now.


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