In the same letter, the friend who told me about the Gombrowicz diary mentioned seeing deer in the quieter, more secluded areas of the campus of the college where he works, and how those lovely creatures live in their own version of time. He meant it in a philosophical way, but it’s also true in the scientific sense. Every species on earth experiences time differently than we do, and sees objects move at a slower or faster pace, depending on how they are wired and made. And as I pointed out to him in my reply — after telling him I’d already found and purchased a lightly used copy of the diary, because the price was so low I couldn’t resist — the same can be said, philosophically, at least, for ourselves at various ages and in various circumstances. The idea is an intriguing one.
Every now and then, I wonder if I am already dead, and if what I am thinking at the moment is my brain’s last attempt to communicate and understand before it finally expires. I might be stretched out on the ground, or in my bed, murdered, the victim of an accident or a heart attack, bleeding on the pavement, surrounded by strangers, loved ones, or friends — or as yet unnoticed and alone, the unfortunate task of the first person who finds me.
It’s funny, in a way: Here I am, dead, and yet I think I am alive, and that I am writing about wondering if I am dead — just after, or perhaps even during, the event of my death.
One day after school when I was in the fourth grade, my mother was waiting in our dingy-brown 1961 Chevrolet Impala in front of the building to take me to my piano lesson. As luck would have it, I was running on the sidewalk, then I slipped, fell, and momentarily lost consciousness just a few feet from the car. While I was out, my mind kept working. I saw myself climb into the car next to my mother, then I saw her pull away and start down the road, and then I saw us driving through the country to the white two-story house where my piano teacher lived.
When I opened my eyes, I was completely surprised to find myself still at school, and to learn that something that had happened had not happened.
Well. Apparently I am still alive, for I have been sitting here for some time. Or have I? Years ago, in a matter of just a few seconds, my brain created an entire trip down a country road. It is also known that long, complicated dreams can take place within mere moments of so-called “real time.”
Maybe this is a dream. Or, maybe you are the one who is dreaming. It might even be that we are dreaming together, that we are living inside each other’s dreams, and that those dreams are being lived inside an even larger dream — one that is infinite in its complexity and cosmic unimportance.
Yes, yes. I know. I could go on like this all day. Or, maybe I already have. . . .
Songs and Letters, April 6, 2006