Ramadan Day 28 – Post-Memory Human

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(I’m pictured center-right.)

 

It’s a murder of crows and a memory of elephants. – from trivia night.

 

Over two hundred writers sit in a room. They flip the pages this way and that. I fall asleep thinking of the ocean.

 

Who was I to think that fasting would become easier and easier in the last few days?

 

It has not. Instead, I am tired and weak and inside my head are pokey thoughts. Somehow, the peace is louder than my little demons. It’s not that the demons no longer exist.

 

To fast is to take a risk. To take a risk is the spiritual journey. How afraid I am of falling.

 

Mary Jo Salter began her talk today about post-humanism. This is a subject close to my heart. We may soon begin, she said, to feel nostalgic about our nostalgia. Honey, I’m already there. The imperfection of human memory is the well-spring of human creativity, she argued. Getting things wrong is human.

 

She asked us at the end of the talk combining artificial intelligence and Shakespeare – “And if you prick us do we not bleed?” Afterward, I approached her and confided that the story I submitted for this workshop (I AM RITA) suggests a morality that robots cannot replace or truly enhance human nature. I asked her did you mean that the robots do not bleed when they are cut? What a wonderful question, she said. Interesting, but I think you could take it both ways. I meant that we bleed, which makes us more human than the robots. (paraphrase of Salter’s lecture).

 

I am so pockmarked by kindness that my skin is no longer smooth, or cruel.

 

The cicadas are a robust choir. One woman said that in the rainforest of Costa Rica, there are so many that you can feel their pee in the jungle. They remind Frenchie of Twelve Years a Slave. I hate them! she says. We are walking, not so deep in the woods when she takes out a flashlight and shines it on a man walking in front of us. Excuse me, sir, Excuse me, she says, deepening her voice. Cut it out, I say nervously. Well, this is how cops do it, she explains. We giggle, and the man it turns out is a friend.

 

I find that I cannot remember things, so instead I try to meditate. Every time I meditate I fall asleep. It’s the sound of the ocean again. How I wish to dive into the water. I dreamt. In my cupped palms was an infinite teardrop that became the ocean.

 

Although I smile a lot, it always hurts to realize that I’ve met that 1% immune to my smile. I smile through that too.

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We sit around a table telling ghost stories. I marvel at the realization that I’m not the only one who’s lost a parent who isn’t ready to die. People are angry, Frenchie points out. They don’t want to go.

 

I get to the Inn for Iftar but they’ve run out of food. I can make you a burger the server says. Please, can I have two? Two? he looks shocked. The other is for second dinner, I say. Of course, and ask me for anything else you need.  Here on this Episcopal campus of Sewanee, I have been treated with such kindness for my fast.  I am very grateful to carry home the second burger.

 

I continue to be obsessed with all the poets, not the kind that knows exactly who they are, but the kind that’s borrowed a hat someone left behind on a chair. They’re convinced they should return it. Poetry flits somewhere in the woods with the cicadas. I’m convinced I should borrow Frenchie’s flashlight.

 

Why is it so hard to write when tomorrow is the last day of the fast?

 

I intend to drive to Nashville, Tennessee for Eid prayer in someone else’s rental car. But that is a story I intend to save. Perhaps I am saving all my good stories. I’d like to believe that is truth.  But is it?

 

I contributed next to nothing to my trivia team. We had to go into town to the bar because Rebel’s Roost burned down. That’s the name of the regular bar for the conference every year. Yep. I didn’t wish to drink there.

 

I made one contribution tonight to my team. We did not win. Of course, I’d say we won in spirit. I guessed a title the trivia game’s designer said, “is very, very hard. I don’t think anybody will guess it.”  I think we should put the word [here] in brackets before will and after anybody.

 

Name this opening passage. Thank you Sol Q. Garda for telling me once that this was the most beautiful opening line in the English language.  After which, I re-read this passage.

 

We cannot remember much until we live moment in which we tell ourselves: remember this.

 

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the same horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.”

 

Scroll down further for the author/title.

 

 

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Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

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