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Snowfields and Inspiration

Sat, Jan 20, 2001 12:40PM -0600

I have always been fascinated by snow. It may have been a significant reason why I had agreed to go on this madcap adventure out here in the Midwest. Maybe these thoughts have come to me because I've been thinking about my college days, particularly my senior year in 1997-1998, when the course of events that eventually led to my friends' recent engagement had been in full swing, and I had been simultaneously aware and unaware of it.

But what I was thinking of right now was a rather trivial memory, of playing this game on the Playstation, Final Fantasy 7, released by Squaresoft, where part of it involved running around in a freezing cold snowfield, and it was easy for your characters to get lost and pass out from the cold. Jeez. This is really convoluted. Anyway, I remember how I thought my life was a lot like that, being blinded by snow, and not being able to see which direction I should take. And passing out before I had made my decision. More imagery comes up from that animated movie "Anastasia" by Don Bluth, where in one of the first songs ( "Journey to the Past" , sung by Liz Callaway) the title character is on a snow-covered road which forks in multiple directions.

So maybe what I'm trying to say is that subconsciously, snow is another symbol for my ongoing existential dilemma, to jump or not to jump, and why, oh, why can't I just stay right here in the fork of the road and wait for all eternity?

But this is really neither here nor there. As I was saying. Snowfields. It's strange that after a month or so of seeing snow on the ground, you sort of forget it's there. Maybe it's mostly because it hasn't snowed much since I got back from California. The snow along the side of the roads has pretty much turned dirt black. It really just looks like piles and piles of mud. It's not quite as awe-inspiring as it first was. But apparently last night, enough snow came down to sort of freshen-up the existing snowcover. Everything looks a little brighter again. Another blank canvas to draw on.

But anyway, this morning the first thing I did was buy some power-steering fluid, because apparently there is a leak in my car, and it's been groaning and humming lately, which is rather disconcerting. I don't like it when a hunk of metal starts getting anthropomorphic on me. On the way back, I drove through the "Lake County Greenbelt" and marvelled at the snow covered fields and forest (I know it's pretty dead, but it's still nice to look at). And now I've finally gotten to the point of why I'm writing this.

OK. Not quite. I think I should explain that I get a lot of inspirational thoughts while driving. It's my Angeleno heritage, I guess. There's something magical about getting in a car and just driving, who cares where you're going, as long as you're in motion. Especially in L.A., it's like you're experiencing a tacit, consensual mass delusion. Here you are flying across asphalt, not even two feet away from other people, but you might as well be universes apart. On a basic level, you're all experiencing the same stimuli--the feedback of the steering wheel, the hum of rubber spinning against concrete, watching the almost choreographed intricacy of idiots in front of you weaving back and forth across the seven lanes of freeway, trying futiley to get ahead, experiencing but not really understanding the razor thin edge you're dancing upon between continued life and instant fatality as you careen headlong at 70 mph. You can really get disconnected from reality when you're driving, make no mistake. But who knows what's going on in your head as you clutch the steering wheel. At times like this, sometimes I'm lucky to experience a moment of lucidity.

Finally. What I was thinking of was this: what I mean by inspiration. I'm always clamoring for inspiration. That's what I need. Then I can flush this book that I've been meaning to write for years now from my brain and get on with the rest of my life. But I say "inspiration" like it were some magical incantation, as if the word alone would solve all my myriad problems. But what it's really like is this:

Everyone is oozing ideas that are demanding to be written down, or at least expressed. If anyone were so inclined, they too could write down a novel, or a treatise, or sculpt a work of art, or maybe photograph infinity, or whatever. Life is all about oozing out. The soul is always trying to escape from the body. That's why death is inevitable. What life is, what existence is, is finding ways to keep the soul in the body for as long as possible. Like it or not, entropy will triumph in the end. The scientists have already figured out the measure of the curvature of space, so, like T.S. Eliot said, the universe will officially end in a cold, dark whimper--the vast heat death that the principles of thermodynamics prophecies. But this doesn't really matter right now. Who among us is really planning to stick around for about 10 billion years?

In any case, ideas and energy are just coming out whether you want them to or not. It's up to you to harness it properly. If you're lucky, you might be able to write it down, or paint a picture of it, or something. Most of the time, it just evaporates into thin air, gone forever. Don't worry, you won't miss it. There's always more.

But wounds will puncture you, and the soul will seep out even faster. You can't just keep it blocked in, you can't caulk up all the holes and just keep the soul trapped in there. It's just like any body of water. Keep it stagnant long enough and it'll putrify. But you really can't just let it ooze out freely. You can't just punch yourself full of holes and expect to survive for very long. Once it's all oozed out, it's all over. You probably won't even want to wake up in the morning. So the key to life is to know which holes to block, and which ones to keep open. I think this is probably how magic works. Or at least art.

So here we are again with an existential dilemma. A part of me just wants to let my soul ooze out. Not completely freely, but enough so that I can get this book going. I don't really care about anything else right now. That's really all I want at this juncture in time, the rest of my life be damned. But then another part of me would really like not hemorrhaging anymore, spiritually speaking, be able to live a "normal" life, strive for the American dream and all that rot, and I'm finding it easier to just block up all the holes I can find. Which is very bad.

Times like this, I begin to wonder if one person's soul is not enough for such a task. Maybe you need to borrow from other people. They need to fill you up to the brim. If you're alone, you won't reach that critical volume, and whatever you let out will just evaporate, carried away from the wind. You need to be able to let enough out so that when you let it drip onto the paper, it has time to seep and leave a mark.

OK. Enough with my obscure analogies. Man, that was a doozie.

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