Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The loneliness of a long distance writer

Loneliness is a state of mind. You need not be alone to feel lonely. Nor do you need to feel lonely if you are alone. Perhaps the greatest loneliness is not in living thousands of miles from the people closest to you, but in being surrounded by people every day who seem so far away.

A writer should write about what he knows. Or so the saying goes. Perhaps this could be worded differently.  A writer should write about the things that he yearns for, but are always just out of reach. Running the marathon of his own emotion and lack of experience. There will always be something missing.

It's a question of maturity, I suppose. Wine gets better as it ages. But should we really compare ourselves to wine? Perhaps we are more like water, which evaporates.

How can there be loneliness in writing when you are reaching out and speaking to the world? Instead of keeping your most intimate thoughts to yourself, you are sharing them with strangers, with little knowledge or control as to where they may finally end up. True, you may clothe it as a fictional account, leaving it to your readers to guess where you are in all of this. But when it comes down to it, it is all you. And when you have finished writing, you are just another stranger reading the words, wondering who this writer may be, hidden between the lines on a page with no ending and no beginning.

I once thought that the loneliest part of writing was in the writing, itself. But I have slowly come to realize that it is in the emptiness and echoes which follow. It distances you from others, rather than bringing them closer. You have set out by yourself on a long and sometimes treacherous journey, but for them it is as if you never left. And the more you write, the less they know you.

What is it that a writer and a long distance runner have in common? Is it the distance we must travel? The pain and anguish in getting there? Or the loneliness which encases us in our solitary cell, moving almost unnoticed among the others until we reach the finish line. Even then, we may disappear into a sea of faces. But our journey has been recorded. Whether or not this has meaning for others, it surely must have some meaning for ourselves.

Yet there is no finish in writing. Just as the long distance runner never stops running - even if his body betrays him and he continues running only in his mind. Although at times we become so tired, we wonder what would happen if we simply stopped.

I can't imagine stopping, for I can't imagine living without even the echoes.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sir Andy Murray and Dame Kim Sears

So, that's it. After a 77 year drought, Andy Murray - the bad boy from Scotland who once said, "I'll be supporting anyone but England." (referring to the 2006 World Cup) - has won Wimbledon for the Brits, and brought back that old English pride.

Much credit has been given to his girlfriend of many years - Kim Sears. She not only led him to leave behind his reckless boyish behavior and become a more mature representative of the United Kingdom, but she is also credited for the increasing maturity in his play - being viewed as the rock of his success in the tennis world. During the Wimbledon final, the camera didn't seem able to get enough of her, panning back and forth between her - in her Victoria Beckham designed dress - to the play on the court. Some may feel that she didn't warrant such exposure, but I admit that I found her stunning and I enjoyed every minute that the camera zoomed in on her. Her facial expressions, in watching Andy Murray struggle towards his place in history, were as much a part of the spectacle as anything else Actually, the last woman I found so stunning was Kate Middleton. Both women appear to have captured our imagination, bringing back the magic to a jaded empire: each regal in her own way. And there is already talk of Andy Murray being knighted. He, himself, has stated that he doesn't think this victory deserves such an honour, but millions of Britains appear to disagree.

But I may be jumping the gun here. Andy and Kim aren't even married. Apparently they are also not talking about marriage, at least Andy isn't. Before the beginning of the Wimbledon final, bookies offered 66/1 odds on Andy proposing to Kim at some point during the Wimbledon final. After his Wimbledon final victory, the bookies slashed the odds, now offering 8/11 odds on Andy proposing to Kim before the start of Wimbledon next year.

But let's give Andy and Kim a bit of a breather, eh, and let them enjoy some deserved privacy in their six bedroom mansion. Back to the world of tennis, and a little bit more about women and tennis.

During my teenage years, I used to play tennis with one of my best friends - let's call  him Greg (in order to protect the seemingly innocent). This wasn't as simple as it sounds. Tennis was in no way popular then as it is now. Greg and I had to actually ride on our one speed bikes for miles (at the time we still used miles) to reach the nearest public tennis courts  (down by Birchmount and Kingston Road, for the Torontonians among you). I think we put more energy in getting there and back than in the tennis, itself. But we had a lot of fun. Those were the days of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court and Billie Jean King - with Bjorn Borg bringing in the new age. Like most kids,  we imagined ourselves to be Laver or Rosewall out there on the court, but we never kidded ourselves into believing that we could be anything nearly as good - much in the same way we knew we could never emulate a Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau or Johnny Bower (hockey heroes, for those of you who are clueless).

Oh yes, I promised you something about women and tennis. Well, Greg and I didn't get into tennis because of women. I don't think girls were even on our mind when we started playing tennis.But later in our teenage years, Greg and I started going on double dates. Safety in numbers. You know what they say. Anyway, we discovered that our best double dates were when we went out with two girls to play tennis. Perhaps because we didn't have to talk much. (Greg and I had the habit of finishing each other's sentences, which drove the girls crazy). I mean, how much trouble can you get into playing tennis? Unlike taking two girls to see "Love Story". A bit of advice to you guys out there - never laugh at a movie when your date has taken out a tissue and is sobbing profusely into it. And beware of girls like M who believe that the perfect double date is going out with both of you at the same time. One of you is going to get dumped in the end. And it wasn't Greg.

But we couldn't depend on double dating and tennis to save us for too long. One day you are bound to find yourself standing there without a tennis racquet, and A is crying. That is another thing about doubles. One partner goes and the other leaves the game also. At least that was the case with R. Paul... I mean Greg (where is the backspace on this thing) never forgave me for that. I am not sure whether it was because he lost R as a date or as a very good tennis partner. (Which is harder to find, do you think?)

I didn't do too well with girls and tennis after that. Perhaps it was because I set my sights too high. I would never go out on a second date with a girl who didn't like tennis and Monty Python - a lethal combination. I remember watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail with X. She didn't even laugh once. And I didn't see any point in giving her a chance to prove herself on the court, after that. But I don't think she left that broken up.

Now, I don't know if Kim Sears even plays tennis. But I am less rigid now and would suffice with her watching me play with that special adoration in her eyes which until now has been reserved only for Andy. And I'm sure she loves Monty Python. You can tell just by looking into her eyes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Working our way backwards through time

Will Google glasses one day allow us to relive past moments? Walk down a street, click (blink) on a date and observe all that happened at that point in time and space? Is this really that far fetched? And if we can go that far, why not a time machine that allows us to become active participants in past events? Yes, I am aware of the argument of logistics. If we can go back in the past and change something, then the present will change also. But if so, then it must have already happened. It must have already happened.

But what if logistics is simply our excuse for not being able to break out of the confines of our present level of comprehension. Logistics once seemingly proved that the world was flat. And there was a time when no one would have even conceived of the possibility of the light bulb, let alone the computer. Each generation appeared to entertain the smug belief that the greatest possible enlightenment had already been achieved.

Inventions reached their limit long ago, and I see no hope for further development. ~ Julius Frontinus, 1st century A.D.

Everything that can be invented has been invented. ~ Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899,

Is time travel another electric light bulb waiting to happen?

Let's borrow from the world of computers in order to offer one possible theory of time travel. Computer systems have a backup utility which allows us to go back and restore our system from a restore point in the past. This is particularly useful when something corrupts the present and we prefer to return to an earlier point and start over, erasing everything from that point on, as if it had never happened. Apple even calls their MAC backup utility - the Time Machine.

Tempting, eh? Start over again from an earlier point in our lives.

I suggest something similar in time travel, but with a significant twist. The restore point is only created when a time traveler goes back to a specific point in the past and does something that will change that world in some way.

"You are about to change this world. Click save to accept, or cancel to cancel. Warning: this change is irreversible and you will lose all future data."

But wait! Before you go back and present your old self with Sports Almanac so as to become rich through gambling - as Biff did in Back to the Future - you must realize that any change that you inflict will not affect the world that you go back to. Rather, you will have created a parallel world with a different future from that point on. Would there be any point, then, in making a variant of yourself rich in another world? A world whose future you cannot witness? Or would this be similar to wanting to leave a legacy for your children? You will not witness the effect of your legacy after you are dead, either.

Now some of you may claim that the universe cannot house an infinite number of parallel worlds. Yet you don't appear to have a problem with the millions of new souls that are born into the universe every day - each new soul with a new consciousness, sending bouncing thought waves everywhere. Others among you may worry about the ever-increasing possibility of meeting yourselves coming and going. It may just take one errant wormhole and there you are, standing in front of  yourself face to face. Do you recognize your other? Is this a meeting of matter and anti-matter, which will perhaps cause the universe to explode, or implode?

I can see some of you looking for the price tag. Sounds promising, but what is the cost? The going price of a ticket for space travel is $250,000. Can we expect time travel to be in the same ball park?

Word on the street has it that not only does such a machine exist, but that it is in the hands of Google. And word on a Tel Aviv street corner will tell you that it was originally an Israeli startup. The last thing I heard is that Google is looking for beta testers. Any takers? Here is your chance to try out time travel for no cost. You may disappear into a black hole somewhere, but hey, we'd still be back contemplating the wheel if we weren't ready to take chances. Will Google be willing to add this to the Google+ profile, depending on advertising alone for monetary benefit? Will this be the straw that breaks Facebook's back? How long will it take Microsoft to clone the invention, somehow side stepping patent law?

What good is it then, if we can't go back and help avert calamities and foolish decisions, both for the benefit of mankind and the benefit of ourselves? Maybe it is time for us to simply accept the past as something that can't be changed, at least not in this world. At the most, we can try to understand it better, and through this understanding make the world a better place. The best place is to start with ourselves. Too many of us keep repeating the same mistakes.

So, if you were offered the opportunity to go back in a time machine, what part of your past life would you choose to visit - for whatever reason?

Oh, I forgot to tell you. You can only go back as an active participant to some point in your past life. You can't interactively visit someone else's life, or interactively visit a point in the past before you were born. However, you can go back as observer only, to any point in the past. This is definitely one up on reality shows and will definitely change our conception of history. They say that history is written by the victors, but here we have our own direct line to the past.

If I were to go back in the past, I'd choose the sixties. Why? That will have to wait for another blog posting. Right now the ink in my pen is running dry, and the more that I write - the greater the chance that I will meet myself coming and going.