Saturday, January 08, 2011

Lessons to be Learned from Thomas Pynchon’s “V.”




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New year, new lease in life. That’s how it will always seem to me, from now on. I won’t beat around the bush, and I will say that 2010 was, without a doubt, the worst year I have ever had, and boy am I glad to get that ungrateful wretch out of the way.

I was reading through the final pages of Thomas Pynchon’s “V.”, and I read a character say that we all begin to die right after we’re born. Of course, this same character claims to be a 12th century seaman who sailed his xebec through a rift in time and into the late 20th century, but the statement bears merit. After all, what is life but a slow and agonizing journey to death?

Do not worry, reader; I will not leave you with that dour note. But it is a point that I wish to establish, a point that I had been unable to comprehend completely. There are times when I think I grasp the finite end of the continuous internal argument that that statement by the time-travelling captain is bound to create, but then life, as they say, gets in the way of living, and suddenly you’re struggling with the fact that you had just wasted another day in the life.

I say this because I am once again at a cusp of two things that are, in many ways, life changing (if I’m not mistaken, my life changes in the October – December months – quite so, as the sequence of events that led to where I stand now started at around that time). The problem about these cusps is that you can do very little aside from just stand there and wait for something to happen. You’ve cast out all of your nets, and you are just waiting for fortune to start biting on any of them, and in the meantime, you are stuck, stuck in a boat while waiting for things to happen.

And while that’s happening, you’re wasting precious hours off your candle. Shocking!

I don’t know who it was that told me this, but I was once told to stop taking myself so seriously. On a similar note, poet Lourd de Veyra once told me that writing for a living was just that: a job. What was their point? It’s true that you cannot do everything to please everybody, but surely trying hard, and putting on a straight face to be serious, is something that matters once in a while. But these success stories, the most impressive heroes I look up to – writers, outcasts, artists, and billionaires (a subset I would never have added to my list back in the day) – show that, indeed, sometimes their success came from the fact that they did what they did, and they never took themselves too seriously.

But my word, isn’t that just positively, well, careless??

Then again, Sinfest is a magnificent comic strip. At around this time, Death comes out of hiding to hunt down the current, biggest target (this year, it was old man speedster MMX), in order to kill him and make way for his replacement (MMXI). The kindly old man, as a last huzzah, takes a roadster out for a cross-country speed run, and picks up Squigley, who currently lives the life of a hobo, in order to bring him back to the loving arms of civilization, his friends, and his hashish. Death, of course, is after him in a Black Hawk heli, so what ensues is a high-octane chase throughout the countryside, ending when MMX pushes Squigley off the roadster, runs full throttle off a ramp into a collision course with Death’s ‘copter.

On his final kaboom, the year 2010 goes out with fireworks, having saved one poor swinish hobo, and while he does not kill death, he does maim him. The time travelling captain may have had a point when he said that people start to die right after they are born, but sometimes, we see the reality of things much too much, taking everything so seriously, and forgetting that maybe we should stop taking life itself too seriously, and stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

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