A follow-up appointment with my primary care physician’s office. An initial appointment with an orthopedist. A follow-up visit with the thoracic surgeon. A therapeutic massage. Scheduling appointments with a cardiologist, a urologist, a pulmonologist, and God knows who else. The upcoming week is a sharp reminder of the fragility of human fitness. Either that or evidence that fear of failing health or injury rules our lives to a much greater extent than it should. Whatever these plans and appointments mean, they are taking place during a time in which we regularly are reminded that mortality and physical dangers are very real “things.” Tony Sirico, the actor who played Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri on The Sopranos died on Friday. Japan’s former Prime Minster, Shinzo Abe, was assassinated on Friday. Seven people were killed and 46 wounded in Highland Park, Illinois on July 4 when a gunman opened fire from a rooftop. Coincidentally, mi novia and I have been watching The Sopranos for several weeks, getting acquainted with a culture of both violence and intense love and devotion. Perhaps the reason The Sopranos was and is so popular is that it normalized violence in a familial setting. Or that it normalized almost unshakable familial bonds in a setting in which violence is as commonplace as breathing. The Sopranos is not escape entertainment any more than the murder of innocent victims and political figures is a departure from reality television. We live (as long as we can) with challenges to the stability of our health and with reminders of the brutality of the human condition.
He who despairs of the human condition is a coward, but he who has hope for it is a fool.
~ Albert Camus ~
One must wonder whether—not in the eyes of some imaginary god but in the eyes of his human contemporaries—redemption for past behaviors is deserved or even possible. That question is what prompts an exploration of what others have said. That issue is what claws at one’s self-esteem, at one’s sense of worth. At what point does there exist a fine line between excusable or tolerable and inexcusable or intolerable? If one had the ability to selectively erase one’s memory, I think the memories erased would be the ones in which selfishness and lack of compassion are on full display. Whether past behaviors are intolerable or not, some memories may be so shameful and painful that only erasure could cure them. The fact that erasure is not possible seems to support the idea that memory is the way the universe exacts revenge. Even on the road to redemption, no penance is ever enough.
The good man is the man who, no matter how morally unworthy he has been, is moving to become better.
~ John Deway ~
For some reason, this morning I vacillate between modest happiness and deep sadness. No matter how I try, I cannot focus my attention on the positive aspects of my experience; I slip back into…something. It’s not despair, but I think it must be despair’s cousin. I asked mi novia, yesterday or the day before, what is anxiety? Is it depression? Is it worry, coupled with the doldrums? Perhaps I’m taking too damn many pills. Pills for blood pressure, cholesterol, nerve pain, thinning of the blood, improvement of Vitamin B12 in my bloodstream, prostate issues, breathing issues, etc., etc., etc. All those damn pills must collectively be clogging my brain, keeping me from experiencing ongoing normalcy. This dull unpleasantness is not normal. Or, at least, it did not used to be. Water. They tell me to drink more water. Get more hydrated. Flood my body with liquid. More electrolytes. I’ll try it. No reason not to.