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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another symptom of the aging process?

I'm experiencing an interesting phenomenon that may not have been noticeable in former years. I appear to be entering a place (a mind space) where former life lessons are colliding with current ones, with the result that newer experiences are being crowded out of consciousness in many cases, leaving me with a head wallpapered with question marks! As crazy and convoluted as that sounds, it appears to be quite true.

It's as if I'm being forced to accept new values that contradict old ones -- yet a part of me refuses to give up the old. I'm tending to hold all of the conflicting truths in equal status -- and it all appears to be at least tolerable. It means that I'm sure of less and less as time passes -- with the assumption that this (inconsistency) is the nature of life, and that when I begin to draw conclusions based upon these fragments of truth, it will be the end.

Example: My experience with the Daughters of the American Revolution two weeks ago. I brought so much angst into the experience with me -- so much of which was associated with a past that I did not live -- a past that was the legacy of long dead generations. (And could they not echo these very words?) That legacy didn't hold up in the presence of today's DAR reality--at least not in that meeting room in San Francisco. But one might wonder -- if blame is never assigned or acknowledged -- what happens to accountability? What happens to atonement? To reconciliation? To redemption?

Yet, the noose symbolism is a direct descendant of that old "Constitution Hall - Marian Anderson" history, and is undeniably relevant to what we're seeing today. Those echoes of racial bigotry have found their way into the legislation that governs our lives -- and continues to color our times and pollute our national domestic and foreign policies. Racism remains an unresolved national dilemma. The cancer is by now so well-buried in our national psyche that the everyday effects are hardly recognizable anymore, except in the extreme. The cancer may have by now become who we are in the world. What a frightening thought!

In the middle of the experience at the War Memorial I was totally unable to bring those collective memories forth -- so was only able to see the immediate scene before me -- and that scene was benign; dear well-dressed ladies in a time warp. I was as much an anomaly in their lives as they were in mine. Probably not one of us in that room would hold the experience in mind for long but would move on as if it never occurred. They would remain as an interesting surprisingly pleasant experience for me, and I -- on the other hand -- would perhaps simply become this one-of-a-kind African-American woman in a park ranger uniform who appeared out of the blue -- and is surely "not a bit like those others ... ." And we will have all survived the Saturday afternoon experience at the San Francisco War Memorial without having to alter our values or our notions about one another or the nature of our shared national Life one iota.

Is there something that is necessarily protective that enables us to re-arrange "mind matter" in ways that saves us from having to question our sanity at such times? Could I have handled the memories of those searing images of the Ethel Waters performance had it been necessary to hold those competing realities in mind simultaneously? I suspect there is. As surely as I was able to compartmentalize those two entries only inches apart here on this screen. It is as if they rose from two different lives -- from two different minds -- and several generations apart. But both lives are contained under one skull -- sharing a brain -- living my life.

But are they?

I thought again today about " e=mc squared", and of these curious bursts of intellectual energy that appear without warning from time to time -- about the relevance of the time continuum ... and about over-lapping realities .

If this all seems inconclusive -- it is. This is another Saturday -- two weeks hence -- and I'm still chewing on the dramatic contrasts life continues to present.

...there's something telling about the way my mind has separated these experiences. In a way they really are not related, except in my head.

Sunday morning: Last night I was rudely awakened by a flash of insight. The third paragraph above does a fine job of describing (in microcosm) just what may have happened to that long-awaited apology for slavery -- and reparations. You have to read it as a Reader's Digest condensed version, of course. Or maybe a Fox News or Hard Ball sound bite, but the elements are all there, I think. This may describe our national amnesia on the subject of race relations. But, of course, that's silly. Or is it? Dreams and middle-of-the-night insights have their way of collapsing wisdom into ridiculously simplistic bits and pieces -- but sometimes ... .

Yet can this huge rubber-band ball of a mind of mine be stilled -- ever -- or will my conflicting truths continue to build until I'm no longer sure of anything at all?

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