Hello and good morning. It’s Thursday, the day of the week on which I wrote my blog post even when I was writing fiction every other day of the week—well, apart from Sundays and the Saturdays when I didn’t work. I have not been writing any fiction recently.
I toyed with the idea the other day, but there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for the notion, which I suppose is mirrored by my own lack of energy, or perhaps has its source in my lack of energy. Or maybe they come from disparate but merely coincidentally parallel sources. I don’t know, and though it’s mildly interesting, I don’t have energy or interest enough to try to figure it out.
I did work a bit on a new song yesterday, the one for which I had jotted down some lyrics a while back. I have lost utterly the original tune, but I worked out a new one of sorts, and it seems okay. I then worked out some chords for the first stanza, including some relatively sophisticated major sevenths and then major sixths of a minor chord that sounded nice, and which made me at least feel that I really have learned a little bit about guitar chords. Then I figured out at least the chords I want for the chorus, which, among other things, throw a little dissonance in briefly, which is nice to up the tension.
I don’t know if I’ll get any further with it or not; I may just stop and let it lie. It’s only perhaps the third time I’ve even picked up the guitar in months. I was at least able to show myself that I can still play Julia, and Wish You Were Here, and Pigs on the Wing. I had to fiddle a little to remind myself how to play Blackbird, but after a brief time I was able to bring it back, too.
So, it’s not all atrophied. And I can still play the opening riff to my own song, Catechism, which I think is my best stand-alone riff. My other guitar solos are mainly just recapitulations of the melody of the verse or chorus in their respective songs, but the one for Catechism is a separate little melody.
Actually, it occurs to me that I initially did a voice recording of the lyrics to the newish song as I thought of them, and when I did, I probably sang a bit of the tune that had come to my head. Maybe I should listen to that and see if I like that melody better than the new one I came up with. That would be a bit funny, if after the effort from yesterday to do a melody and chords I remembered the old one and just threw the new one away.
I suppose it really doesn’t matter much. Even if I were to work out and record the song, and do accompanying parts and all that stuff, and publish it, I don’t think anyone is likely ever to listen to it much. Maybe someday in the distant future, some equivalent of an archaeologist who unearths things lost in the web and internet will find the lost traces of my books or music or something, and they’ll be catalogued in some future equivalent of a virtual museum, among trillions of other collections of data that are recorded on line, but which will never seen by anyone for whom they might mean anything at all.
People sometimes say things like “what happens online is forever”, but as I’ve discussed before (I think), even if it’s true that things stored online remain and avoid simple deterioration of data thanks to the redundancy in the system, it doesn’t matter. In principle, the sound of every tree falling in every wood has left its trace in the vibrational patterns of the world, and according to quantum mechanics, quantum information is never permanently lost, even if things fall into black holes*.
But of course, all that is irrelevant in practice, and comes back to collide with the nature of entropy and the degree to which most large-scale descriptions of a system are indistinguishable. That picture of you with a funny face at that event years ago, which you tried to have a friend take down, but which had already been shared to a few other people, may in principle always be out there in the archives of Facebook or Twitter or whatever, but it doesn’t matter. No one will ever notice it or probably even see it among the deluge of petabytes of data whipping around cyberspace every second. You might as well worry about people being able to reconstruct the sound waves from when you sang Happy Birthday out of tune at your nephew’s fifth birthday party from the information left over in the state of all the atoms and molecules upon which the sound waves impinged.
It’s one of those seemingly paradoxical situations, rather like being in Manhattan. There are very few places in New York City, and particularly in Manhattan, where one can actually be alone—even most apartments are tiny, and have windows that look out into dozens to hundreds of other people’s windows. And yet, in a way, you are more or less always alone in Manhattan, or at least you are unobserved, because you are just one of an incomprehensible mass of indistinguishable humans.
Even “celebrities” and political figures, so-called leaders and statespeople, will all fade from memory with astonishing rapidity. When was the last time you thought about Tip O’Neill? And yet, for a while, he was prominent in the news more or less every day. Do you remember where you were when William McKinley was assassinated? No, because you were nowhere. None of you existed in any sense when that happened, let alone when, for instance, Julius Caesar was murdered.
And what of the many millions of other people in the world at the time of McKinley or Caesar or Cyrus the Great or Ramses II? We know nothing whatsoever of them as individuals. Even the famous names I’m mentioning are really just names for most people. There’s no real awareness of identity or contributions, especially for the ones who existed before any current people were born.
Last Thursday, I wrote “RIP John Lennon” and put a picture of him up on the board on which we post ongoing sales and the like. The youngest member of our group, who is in his twenties, asked, “Who is John Lennon?”
He was not joking.
If John Lennon can be unknown to members of a generation less than fifty years after his death, what are the odds that anything any of us does will ever be remembered?
Kansas (the group, not the state) had it right: “All we are is dust in the wind. Everything is dust in the wind.” The only bit they missed was that even the Earth will not last forever, and as for the sky…well, that depends on what you mean by the sky, I suppose. The blue sky of the Earth, made so by light scattering off Nitrogen and Oxygen molecules, will not outlast the Earth, though there may be other blue skies on other planets. But planets will not always exist.
As for the black night sky of space, well, that may well last “forever”, for what it’s worth. But it will not contain anything worth seeing.
*Leonard Susskind famously convinced Stephen Hawking that this was the case—and even won a bet in the process—though other luminaries were of course involved, including Kip Thorne, I believe, one of the masters of General Relativity.