Saturday, April 25, 2009

Trout Fishing in America

I found out about this book through the strangest of circumstances:

1) I heard about a band that does kids music, named "Trout Fishing in America", on an NPR interview
2) Thinking this might be something I could get for my daughter, I looked them up online. In doing so, I found this book first, which was confusing.
3) As I looked at the book, the name Richard Brautigan seemed familiar -- and I realized that The Pill vs. The Springhill Mine Disaster was on my bookshelf, unread. I had bought it, on a whim, at a bookshop, some months ago.
4) This provoked me to read that book. I liked it so well, that I ordered this book.
5) I also ordered a CD of the kids band. I disliked it so much, I've never finished listening to it.

This feels like some strange paradox to me -- like somehow the book spawned itself. Okay, not quite that, but as if somehow, Richard Brautigan was clawing his way into my life. I mean, why did I buy that book of poems in the first place? When I was buying it, I had no idea, but it felt important. Something seemed important about the band on the radio, too, though I couldn't say why. But it was that that drove me to read "The Pill", which inspired me to create poems about everything important that ever happened to me.

So, I know I shouldn't write blog posts late at night, because they start to sound crazy. But I'm going to talk about this, because it has been much on my mind lately. What if future events have an impact on how we feel about the present? This explains so very much, I am having a hard time believing it is not true. The normal explanation of how things work is this...

A) You have an experience that strikes you as powerful, for reasons that are hard to explain... just "one of those things"
B) That powerful experience lodges in your memory, and changes your future actions, so that you bring that thing you first encountered into your life more and more often, thus setting up a life pattern.

An example from my life:
I was at a juggling convention in 1990. I was very hungry, but had little money, and there were very few food choices. I found some little shop or something -- maybe a vending machine? Where I bought a Zero bar... something I'd never seen before. I bought it for reasons I wasn't sure about. Eating it was a surreal experience -- like eating a photo negative of a candy bar. It felt like time was warping all around me as I ate it. This experience stuck with me, and I would think about Zero bars from time to time. One day in a candy store (which I visited for reasons I'm not sure about) I saw a metal container for Zero bars. A vision jumped into my head of carrying Zero bars at all times. Since then, I have carried two Zero bars at all times. I frequently share them with people, and have met some interesting people this way.

So, there is nothing too strange about that story, although it shows me to be slightly eccentric. But, what if there is another explanation?

What if, future events of import somehow propagate themselves backwards, to guide themselves into existence by manipulating past desires? This is like the idea of the selfish gene, or the selfish meme ... but much stranger. In fact, if that were possible, then many things start to make sense. What if future events "wrestle" for control of past desires, and through some kind of annealing process, bring themselves into existence?

So, in the case of the Zero bars, what if the many people I have met through sharing Zero bars end up changing my life in some important way, such that this Zero bar pattern actually does a great deal to define important events in my life. What if, what I felt that night when I first encountered the zero bar, was the collapsing of many temporal waves of desire, sent back in time to that moment, driving me to purchase, enjoy, and take special note of that experience? What if alternate realities also tried to send back waves, but these Zero bar waves "won out" somehow?

This is madness, of course. But as I look at so many things in my life, it makes sense... There is this feeling I get sometimes, and each time I get it, that person or thing associated with it ends up important in my life for reasons that end up surprising me. I wonder if this is how love at first sight works?

This hypothesis seems untestable. I will have to think about that.

Huh... I guess I should talk about the book. It is a bizarre masterpiece. It is strange to me that more people have not read it, and that more people have not imitated it. I have a hard time explaining it. I would have loved it in high school. It makes use of various repeating absurd structures to tell all kinds of stories -- bending reality, and grammar, and structure all to create a pointed effect.

I guess the reason that I am talking so much about "temporal desire waves" is that I have a strong feeling that Trout Fishing in America is some kind of linchpin that defines the existence of my timestream... or something. I can't explain it, but my guess is that something in the future (my guess is, the poems) ends up being tremendously important to me, which is why it send back temporal waves of desire to make me pay attention to NPR that day, and to buy that first Brautigan book. I wonder what that important thing will be? Oh! It's obvious, isn't it? My unravelling of temporal desire theory sent back waves to make me unravel it. Huh... I'm looking forward to that, I guess?

Good lord -- this also explains my "time travel" movie obligation. As I've mentioned before, I have long felt an obligation to watch all time travel movies. Not a desire, but an obligation. Of course, I have to watch them, they prime the pump for me to unravel this idea. Tonight, for example, I watched Primer. Oh! And this must also be why I obsess about that idea for a movie that is completely backwards. I was thinking about it just today -- for the more I think about it, the more clear it is that time works equally well travelling forward or backwards, and thinking about that must somehow help me unravel the system of temporal desire waves. It's strange to know this in advance, but if the theory is true, then I must have known it in advance, right? It's why I started reading the book "On Desire" just yesterday, too, I bet! This blog entry is clearly one of those pivotal moments in my life. Why a blog entry? Why not in my personal journal? It must be so that someone else can read this, because it will be part of the unravelling. So, someone else out there in the future is part of this, too. It's obvious: the future brings the past into existence because it must do that to survive. There is no way that I'm the first person who has thought of this. The alternate universes battle it out. They all exist, probably, but the one that I am in leaves my consciousness with desires that guide this very universe. The other universes, where other things are important, leave those other me's with other desires, I guess? Yes! And that describes the strangeness of the feeling! The universe is peeling apart at that moment.

Good lord, I'm insane. If you actually read all this, I apologize!


  1. Jesse, you should definitely read Quarantine, by Greg Egan, if you haven't already. It gives a somewhat plausible explanation supporting your idea.

    Of course, it's also true that human minds are very adept at finding patterns in everything they encounter, even when patterns might not exist.

  2. The strangest thing about my reading this blog entry - long past the time when I should have been asleep, having eaten an odd meal on what is ostensibly the most significant day of my life - is that I know that you exist for a number of extremely strange and apparently unrelated reasons, which all seem to have converged on this one day.

    I would love to dismiss the enormity of the series of coincidences and paradoces which led to my perusing this entry in my Google Reader (having only added your blog to my feeds this evening, despite having had your webpage open in an unexamined tab for some months now) by claiming that the human mind is "adept at finding patterns in everything [it encounters], even when patterns might not exist," but my faculty for Reason is spent.

    The least plausible (and thus, if you have followed my train of thought thus far, the only) explanation for my typing this comment at this time is that I am destined to interact with you at some as-yet unknown date, time and place, wherein we shall (persumably) effect a philosophical movement of some magnitude.

    Having had time to ponder on this, I have become quite comfortable with the concept. Indeed, I look forward to sharing a Zero bar with you. My only question for you, Jesse, is this:

    Knowing of this eventuality, as we do, prior to its actual happening, do we alter what might otherwise be the inexorable result of our final, climactic meeting? Does some Heisenberg-esque paradox occur? Be being aware of the event, do we thus become an intrinsic part of it? Is there any hope at this point that we will not become our own sons?

    I leave this matter in your hands. As you noted, you are existentially obliged to watch all time-travel trash movies. Who could be more qualified than yourself to deal with the sublime, reality-altering truths I have relayed tonight?

  3. Hard to know, Spencer! I guess we'll have to use the force, and see where the divergences take us! :)