Last weekend Julian, Flavia and I were in California to attend and celebrate Venus and Chiara's graduation from UC Berkeley. While hanging out in the house we rented on Warm Springs Road between Glen Ellen and Kenwood, Flavia brought me a copy of Jose Ortega y Gasset's The Origins of Philosophy from the home's bookshelves, knowing I'm drawn to books like that. In it, he writes that when we read the words of poets, or philosophers, we recognize our own thoughts---they have simply taken the time to write them down and perhaps organize them.
The day before the graduation ceremony, the day we arrived, Flavia and Venus went off to Trader Joe's to pick up food and drink for the party, while I walked up to the bookstores on Telegraph Avenue, only three blocks from Venus and Chiara's apartment. In Cody's I picked up three books on Cognitive Science, my latest obsession. On the way to the register they had a prominent but low-key display of the talk poet, David Antin's, just published i never knew what time it was. I've always admired his ability to just stand up and talk and be interesting, casual and honest.
While paying for the books the cashier asked me, "don't you want him to sign your book"? Turns out that's what the display was about---he was giving a talk that night, in fact right then. I went upstairs to the talk space and saw about 14 people waiting, the small number surprised me. Unfortunately David Antin was not there yet and I couldn't stay---we were scheduled to drive into San Francisco to meet Chiara and her parents and sister for dinner.
This morning, reading his book, he says what he is doing is "entertaining ideas not people." In one comic section he talks about mouse traps being a logical machine embodying a single truth: desire leads to death. But a fastidious mouse may not press the lever, thus another truth: manners are a life and death matter. Or a clumsy mouse might jostle the base setting it off without even entering it: god looks out for fools.
The talk continues with his distinction between story and narrative. "A story is a logical form: a representation of a series of events that result in a significant transformation. A narrative is a representation of the confrontation of somebody who wants something with a threat and/or promise of a transformation that he or she struggles to bring about or prevent or both.
"Why struggle for/against transformation? The answer may lie close to the anxiety produced by the paradox that however much we are tempted by transformation we may lose ourselves in that transformation. Or maybe it lies closer to the terror of absolute erosion --- it's the loss of the self that we are struggling against. Noise --- the growing disorder that affects all ordered systems over time. The frictional forces that reduce all directed energies to forms of disorder given enough time
"Time does strange things to you. It's a bit like the ocean. Mostly is takes things away but it also casts things up on the beach. New things or old ones from different places, now looking very different. Every bit of disorder contributes to the formation of a new order, usually worse but sometimes better.
"You lose a lot and you may win a few. Maybe in the end you lose it all, but meanwhile some disorder may be good for you even if you don't know it."
Now, done reading for the moment, having come downstairs for breakfast, I help Tika to stand up so she can go outside. And that's the sad connection of this narrative---she has a hard time getting up on her own. Upon returning from California we noticed her limping when taking her and Suni for their favorite walk to city creek. We took Tika to the vet on Saturday (we had to reschedule our original Thursday/Friday appointments because we both had a strange late-Spring flu). We expected the vet to say she is having a problem with her leg related to her Tibea Plateau Leveling Osteotomy she had two years ago. But not so lucky.
He took x-rays. Tika has cancer in her leg that is so severe it is most likely in her internal organs also. It's advance too far to do anything. And, at her age, 13 1/2 years, it would be difficult, even if possible.
So we have her at home, loving her, celebrating our life with her, dreading the upcoming decline. The vet gives her one month to live.