The Hardest Trick of All

On Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 1:00 AM, wrote:

The Hardest Trick of All

“You’ve been giving serious thought to the best way to live this third chapter of your life since mom died,” said the skeleton.  “I know one large feature is that you’ve turned aside from fighting, to a surprising extent, I have to say, even though your mate, a natural born wrangler, can’t seem to resist testing your resolve regularly. 

“Of course, since you’re going to read this to Sekhnet, let me define ‘wrangler’ precisely, so you can possibly avoid an ass-whipping.  A wrangler wrestles unruly steers and horses into the corral.  Sure they can be quarrelsome, but the main qualities a wrangler needs are strength, fearlessness, toughness and a stubbornness equal to a bull’s.  Heh, maybe you get your ass whupped anyway,” said the skeleton with a grunted laugh.

 “I get that you’re taking to heart Erik Erikson’s insight about this third chapter in life being about regrets or some kind of fulfillment, I believe he calls it Generativity vs. Bitterness.  You wrote about it, you could throw a footnote in here for the reader,” he said.  

(He didn’t know about hyperlinks, though he may have clicked a few toward the end of his days)


“Look, you’re trying to do the hardest thing in the world, the hardest trick of all.  I salute you in this noble quest, even as I recognize the idiotic hubris of the attempt.  You want to critically examine our lives and come away with some kind of insight to move you toward a productive last chapter of your life.  I applaud it, dead man though I also am.  

“Here’s the trap, as I see it, you’re trying to view life through the lens of critical history, a lens that, certainly when used to look at, say, the descendants of African hostages long experience here,  gives ample reason for pessimism.  Your challenge is maintaining some vital force that will allow for action.  At your age, at 60 now, it’s harder to have the energy, of course, but it’s psychic energy I’m talking about, which you need to see as a renewable resource.  

 “And that, my boy, is the trickiest trick of all, continually renewing your faith in a world that has become more and more about a system of domination that does not want the wrong kind of faith.  You had a good idea, working creatively with doomed kids.  Didn’t work out too well for you, you are up against billionaires with megaphones, after all and those hard-charging opinionated winners always dominate any discussion they get into.  No matter.  You have to keep moving forward.  I see what you’re hoping to do with this book, and I hope you succeed, for both of our sakes, but here’s the trap I hope you don’t fall into.  The rabbit hole that turns out to be a worm hole, or black hole.

“Don’t let your ambition blind you.  Your plan for this book is super ambitious, you want it to be a game changer, for you, for your program, for anyone who reads it. You want to tell the story of my life, set in historical and political context brought forward into today, told by a narrator I influenced greatly, if often perniciously, even as my once illuminating idealism turned to darkness and bile.  The narrator is determined to not suffer the same fate as the abusive father was doomed to by the father’s abusive mother.  


“It’s possible that for all the narrator’s seeming insight, the tragic missing insight is that the narrator has already been, and remains, long fucked.  By not competing against his peers all along he is a no-name flash in the pan who writes a fine book too late, published by an obscure outfit with no money to publicize it, it sinks like a stone a week after publication, and the writer is worse off for having written, discounting the princely $7,000 he was paid for the work.  


“Until, of course, five years after your death, when the book is exhumed by an influential person, reissued, suddenly celebrated as the important work it was all along,” the skeleton paused, seemingly to take a whiff of the stink of a decomposing animal dead somewhere nearby.


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