I signed up for Google Life Recorder when i was in high school because I was thinking of becoming a writer and I thought it would be useful to be able to go back and review every moment of my life. It was. I was able to write much better things about my first heartbreak when I looked back and relived the first time she and I met, kissed, slept together, fought, broke up. And I was able to write much better things about the formation of my self-consciousness when I was able to go back and re-experience the first time I went back and looked at my first heartbreak.
I never thought my son of eighteen years would stand before me and ask me for my Lifetape. But why wouldn’t he? He wanted to write as I had wanted to write. He wanted to know himself as I wanted to know myself. He needed to get clear what hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations, sexual fantasies and religious yearnings within him came from him and which came from his old Pa.
We met in the office a month later. “There’s a lot I have problems with.” he said.
“Tell” said me.
“I don’t like the way you backstabbed people at work in your 20s.”
“Neither do i, but thanks for bringing it to my attention.”
“You eat too much, masturbate too much, and have fantasies about killing and eating Mom way too much.”
“I’m sorry. But thoughts come unbidden.”
“Fair enough, Dad. But I did not like, really did not like the way you forced yourself on Mom and fucked her.”
“Well I get that but you see if that had never happened, where would you be?”
“I see but I don’t like it.”
I took my son to the Hall of Documents to read something his great grandfather had written. Grandpa Eddie had among his other accomplishments (silver medal track star, mafia lawyer, teller of tales in children’s nursery schools) been the discoverer and translator of a lost manuscript by the Norse poet Snorri Sturluson. Snorri was the poet of the old gods — Thor and Odin and the Fenr Wolf — although he wrote the eddas at a time when Christianity was supplanting the old religion. (Snorri, as it happens gave JRR Tolkien the names for his dwarves in The Hobbit).
Grandpa Eddie had translated the following
DIALOGUE BETWEEN MAN AND THE ALLFATHER
Man: Allfather. I wish to read your book. The book of your lives and where you came from and what you are about.
Man: (Having read) Why did you make man to suffer? From plague and earthquake and war? Why make a being for pain.
Allfather: Good question. When the giants stormed Valhalla and caused much rapine and suffering and pain they wished for something that would wipe away their gigantic guilt. The only thing I could do was to create a world where they could suffer. For their vainglory they learned to be low. For their brutality they learned fragilty. For their egotism they learned love.
Man: Okay, but why did you make giants lusty for storming Valhalla
Allfather: What kind of question is that?
Man: What do you mean?
Allfather: Who would even think to make a world without giants?
My son said “I think you wrote that.”
I said “I did not, but you are close.”
My son: Who?
I said: You.
You wrote it without paying attention to it but it is in your handwriting. You are writing so many things that you don’t even understand yet. Brilliant things. Wonderful things. I’m so proud of you. I’d do a milion more brutal shameful things to give you something to be ashamed of and something to write about.
My son: But how did I write it? Why isn’t it in my Google Life Record?
I said: That old thing? You are rewriting the rules of your language every moment to make your past tell the story you want to tell.