Point of View: Wow!

You do wonder where thoughts come from

Helen Rattray, our publisher, confessed as she went to open The Star’s side door the other day that she had forgotten whether she’d driven down here from her house up Edwards Lane, or whether she’d left her car at home.

I told her “not to worry,” that I’d read in The Times that very morning — her delivery had been curtailed, I’d learned from her column of the week before — that they’d discovered a promising Alzheimer’s drug, and that, moreover, Italian scientists had discovered a 12-mile-wide lake on Mars, under a mile of ice, but nevertheless. “There may have been life on Mars, maybe there are microbes there now,” I said.

She walked, I thought, with a lighter step on being vouchsafed that news, the best I can recall reading lately in these best-forgotten times.

I had written recently that the president didn’t know his own mind, and then I read in one of the late Lewis Thomas’s elegant essays that he didn’t know his own mind either, that it was pretty much of a jumble, and that the mind, to his mind, still remained a mystery, not to mention the brain. 

You do wonder where thoughts come from. “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day,” Fitzgerald wrote. But why so bleak? I find my most eureka moments — and this may be telling — occur at just about three o’clock in the morning, well, nearer to four, as I sit, head in hands, on the pot. Things come to you, is all I’m saying, out of the blue it seems, which is why Mary always says when I’m stumped by a crossword puzzle that I should forget about it for a while and that in so doing the answer(s) will come. And she’s usually right. Don’t forget to forget; that way you’ll remember.

Yes, it’s usually at around four in the morning when the answers to whatever it is I’ve been mulling over come. Which brings to mind what Val Schaffner once told some labor investigators who came to The Star — I hope I’m remembering this correctly, but anyway — to wit, that we were working around the clock, not just from 9 to 5 — a 168-hour workweek. Dreamtime’s not downtime — it counts. On the subject, I’ve pretty much given up remembering my dreams in detail — Mary’s, which tend to be far more novelistic, sagas sometimes, being the more interesting ones — but I am astounded by their range. And though there are the habitual ones of clinging against steeply pitched, rain-slicked slate roofs, slogging, belly first, through endless muck, or punching and punching without effect, there are others, such as I’ve been having lately, in which I can run, sprint even — utterly at odds with the sober facts. The farthest I’ve run — pant, pant — lately was maybe 100 yards to give Kenny Dodge his credit card, which he’d dropped on leaving the office.

It’s all a mystery, isn’t it, from nucleated cells on, Mary, of course, being my favorite multicellular organism. When she was away not long ago, far away, ministering to babies — I’ll cotton to them when they begin throwing balls — I kept thinking of the character in “Amarcord” who, squatting on a tree limb, shouts, “Voglio una donna! Voglio una donna!” I want a woman! I want a woman! Isabel played it for me on her phone. O’en’s tone, and meaning too, is similar when he goes “OWooooh, OWooooh.”

Isabel runs with him then, or I walk with him. He needs exercise to take his mind off these best-forgotten times. We try to reassure him, we try to reassure ourselves. 

Lewis Thomas thought we tended toward symbiosis, rather than toward predation. I would like to think he’s right when he says, “If we can stay alive, my guess is that we will someday amaze ourselves by what we can become as a species.”

A drug for Alzheimer’s, there may be or may have been life on Mars. Wow!