Things that might have happened

May 10, 2006

A old friend of mine told me he had a crush on me in 1977. Shit. I had a crush on him too. I didn’t try hard enough — nor did he. He said he had a girlfriend. I believed him.

We both were taken aback speculating what MIGHT have happened had we become lovers. I would have stayed on the East Coast, or would I? We could have become a prominent queer couple in Boston [is that possible?]. I might be working now at Boston University, or Harvard, or MIT, or… maybe I’d be dead from AIDS, or maybe we would have broken up after I took a job in North Dakota.

Trying to fathom things that might have happened is such a slippery and unsettling temptation. When Ram Das (Richard Alpert) entreats us to “be here now,” it is these futile loops that drive home the importance of living completely in the present.

T. S. Eliot sings of “the still point of the turning world.” That present yet mercurial moment can allow these kinds of fantasies to occur only as daydreams in the present, and ultimately only live on as an imprint in one’s own memory.

T. S. Eliot refers to this existential ticklishness in the opening section of “Four Quartets:”

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

T. S. Eliot


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