Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Early Wish

I forget which science fiction writer talked about time travel stories as an expression of that regretful wish of a child who’s done something wrong: “Make it didn’t happen!” Maybe Larry Niven, maybe Frederick Pohl, I read a lot of SF and can’t keep it straight any more. Anyway, I’m currently reading The Demon Under the Microscope and over and over I’m wishing for a time machine. Sometimes we fantasize about going back in time to get rich from some insider knowledge of the future (as, for example, in Replay) but this time I want to go back in time and tell the chemists at Massengill, “Holy cow, don’t use antifreeze in medicine that’s to be taken internally! You’ll kill people!”

Oh yeah, and I just finished reading The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler, a book whose subtitle reads like an SRL performance (e.g. “A Calculated Forecast of Ultimate Doom: Sickening Episodes of Widespread Devastation Accompanied by Sensations of Pleasurable Excitement”). That book, while also fascinating, has reset my context for the Nazis. I was thinking about that this morning when I read this story about the pope, comparing his resignation to Nixon’s. I mean, are these people serious? Nixon broke the law and tried to subvert the political process and then tried to cover it all up. The pope, as CEO of the Catholic Church, has certainly tried to keep the lid on scandals, but did he direct all the pedophile priests to go forth and molest? His Holiness doesn’t have a G. Gordon Liddy to do time for him. Will young Catholics be urging him to resume his role in fifteen years, wearing T-shirts emblazoned, “Benedict for Pope: He’s tan, rested, and ready!” I doubt it. He’s not like Nixon. And: the idiot you’re arguing with on the Internet? He’s not like Hitler, either.

Make Room for Love

I got an email from the Sundance Institute suggesting six films for Valentine’s Day. This is the marketing blurb from the email:

What better way to perpetuate the quixotic romantic desires that reside in our partners’ minds than by watching films that validate those delusions of love? This Valentine’s Day, we’re offering a short list of Sundance-supported love stories as a remedial to such lofty figments—unfortunately, the reality is not quite as attractive. From an idyllic summer love that concludes with an acerbic breakup in 500 Days of Summer to a lingering, albeit passionate romance that traverses drug abuse and other pitfalls in Keep the Lights On, these six stories of (not always mutual) affection will jolt even the most deluded lover from their reveries…

You know what? I think this is terrible. I reject, with blasphemous obscenity, this assertion that love is something to be destroyed. I get that there are single people out there who are unhappy that they are single and bitter about messages of love. I get that there are people who resent marketing messages telling them how to celebrate love (frankly, I’m one of them). I get that there are sad, angry, bitter people in the world, people who see romance and professions of love as things to mock, to deny, to tear down. I am telling you, though, that that is not the way to feel better. Anger, resentment, bitterness, and cynicism are not desirable states of being. They are instances of suffering. Don’t cling to suffering, relieve it. It’s one thing to feel hurt and betrayed and angry and sad because your life is not going the way you’d hoped; it’s another thing entirely to reach out to other people and suggest to them that they, too, ought to feel cynical and hurt and alone.

I want to reach out to people and say that hurt and anger and cynicism aren’t final states. You can move away from them. It’s okay to celebrate love. Love doesn’t make me want to belittle people, it makes me want to embrace people. Love is good. Stories about love are good stories.