Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Path Dependency

... and the wineshops half open at night and the castanets and the night we missed the boat at Algeciras the watchman going about serene with his lamp and O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

— James Joyce, Ulysses

We like to think, in this country, that we can invent and reinvent ourselves at will. But we are born embedded within a matrix of possibilities, in which most of the paths forward have been blocked forever. Are we blessed with brains, or beauty, or ambition, or none of these? It doesn't matter. For as we move forward on our chosen path, we spiral inexorably downward, in ever narrowing circles, as the funnel of our potential narrows with age and circumstance to its inevitable conclusion.

And yet, since most of this is beyond our control—if not indeed our very imagining—is it not incumbent upon us to make the most of our passage? Should we not struggle against the tightening bonds? Should we not "rage, rage, against the dying of the light"?

You already know the answer. The answer is yes.

... and I thought well as well him as another...

Because the spiral is fun. The spiral is beautiful.

The spiral is all we have.

Happy Birthday, Norma Jean.

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