Einstein's Memento

For the first time in my life, I joined a Rotisserie baseball league with a few friends. Noam Chomsky talks about how we are conditioned from youth to talk seriously about sports, while completely ignoring fields like politics. Maybe he's right. I'll have to find that essay of his. For me, I think it's the math. The chance to use an understanding of statistics and the laws of math to fathom truths to which the overly enthusiastic fan (read: the other members in the Rotisserie league) is blind. It's the same appeal of gambling, the belief that a mathematically literate person can face the reality of the odds before him and act accordingly, regardless of the money involved.
Why, then, are so many gamblers superstitious? Either they are unable to face the odds, and cling to superstition in their insecurity, to convince themselves that their success or failure relies upon some arbitrary yet just process (Lady Luck, usually a cold mistress but sometimes receptive to bribes)...or they treat their superstitious habits as an example of the methodical routine to which they must assess each hand, each card they're dealt, each spin of the wheel.
Because I don't really gamble anymore, perhaps Roto is filling some gap in the role I've written for myself, the emotionally detached statistician, never acting on emotion or faith.
Interesting, isn't it, to watch Phil Jackson trying to work his magic out there in L.A. with the Lakers. Divorced his wife, started dating the owner's daughter (who once posed for Playboy), and now accusing Kobe of all sorts of selfishness in the press. He's coaching a pair of kids out there, and he's acting like one himself. Sad, because he gave off this aura of mystic knowledge when he was coaching the Bulls, and now he seems quite mortal. I have no idea whether or not that's true, it's just an observation from afar.
Duke won the Final Four. Lots of rumors going around that Duke gets all the calls. I've seen them play lots this year. Believe it. Intentional or not, they do. A good team. But they don't deserve those breaks. Dick Vitale is a buffoon.
I saw Memento last weekend. An entertaining film. I recommend watching it in the company of observant friends, so you can stand outside the theater and conjure explanations and theories as a group. I won't ruin the film for anyone, but I do want to reveal the basic premise of the film, so don't read the next paragraph if you want to go in fresh.
The film's scenes are shown in reverse chronological sequence. So the last scene of the film is showed first. Then the scene that occurs right before the last scene is shown, and it ends when it hits the beginning of the last scene. And then the next to next to last scene is shown...
It got me to thinking of perhaps another of Einstein's Dreams (if you don't know what I mean, then pick up and read the short but interesting Einstein's Dreams by physicist/writer Alan Lightman):
A man forced to live his life in reverse, while all other humans live life forward. His memory also works in reverse, so he can only recall the events from the future, and nothing of the past he travels into. Cause and effect also are reversed.
He begins alone, detached, and perhaps somewhat bitter. Follow him into his past, and he learns why he feels this way. The woman he loves (loved? he has yet to find out) is living with some other man. Perhaps she sends him a letter, a postcard. He doesn't know this other man yet, and is uncertain whether he has reason to dislike him, but he does. He recognizes her handwriting, even though he has never seen it before, and its familiarity evokes a sad, distant longing. He waits for more time to pass.
A period of time passes in which he doesn't think of her at all. And then, suddenly, one morning, he wakes up and senses the sorrow, the loss, faint, but unshakable. And it grows over the coming days, stronger. Each day details start to come to him, nagging questions to which he has no answer: why? why not? At first he does not care what the answers are, but soon he finds himself pondering them all the time, until he finds himself unable to sleep, or eat. He begins losing weight, hiding from the world. He is a wreck.
She shows up suddenly one day, trying to explain herself. He throws her out, angry over how she has left him (though he has no idea what she's done, exactly). She shows up again and again, calls and writes, and he finds himself softening for a while. Still, though, it is unclear to him why she's explaining herself to him.
Finally one day she tells him it's over between them, that she is leaving him for this other man, whom he's already met. He is heartbroken and yet he hasn't even spent much time with her. Beyond a few brief conversations, he barely knows her. She moves out.
But in the days to come, they do begin spending time together. He awakens one day and her things are all about the house. At first, she is aloof, somewhat quite, seeming pre-occupied. She stops in occasionally. Over time she becomes more and more cheerful, intimate, and communicative. He starts to learn more about her. One day he awakens and she is lying next to him, and in the days to come she becomes a permanent addition to his house, cooking, reading, working on her laptop, renting movies for them to watch. He falls in love with her, with the open and candid way she treats him.
And then, many days later, he realizes that she is withdrawing, becoming more and more cautious. Her things start disappearing from the house. He notes the strange excitement with which she regards events to which he has become accustomed. The preciousness with which she treats the occasional home-cooked meal, the night on the town. The new found pride in her voice as she introduces him to friends they've spent plenty of time with. Then the embarrassed blush the first time she spends the night, and the way his heart races as he lies in bed and remembers what it is like to hear the footsteps of a stranger in one's own home.
And then one day he wakes up alone.
In the coming days, he slowly realizes with some dread that she knows him a little less well each day, and he is becoming a stranger to her. And he realizes that he is losing her, that the day he has dreaded for so long is approaching. One day, as he cooks himself breakfast, he sees her phone number on a scrap of paper, affixed to the refrigerator with a magnet, no name, just a number. It is not a scrap of paper, it is the business card of local art store.
Two days later, he is out at a dinner party with friends, some of whom he knows, some whom he will meet once and forget forever. And then a friend introduces him to her, and he realizes that she has never met him before. And he realizes that this night will be the last time he ever spends any time with her. This is the night they meet. The next day, she will not even know him anymore.
Knowing this, he ponders for a moment saying hello and walking away, letting it all go. But he can't. He knows what she will become, what she will do to him, and yet he holds no grudges, just a sense of awe at the shy, cautious way she describes herself and the wonder with which she regards the things he reveals about himself, even though she has known all these things for years. He knows it, and so he speaks openly and without the usual embellishment to which men resort when first meeting women, or in the company of men.
They sit outside on the balcony all night, while the rest of the party carries on inside, and they joke and laugh, and it is the most memorable conversation of his life, because it is the last one they will ever have together, and for all the unhappiness behind him, they will end their time together on this moment, on the cusp of romance, drunk with an irrational sense of promise and possibility.
The party is over, and the host, wearing a silver pointed hat, covered in streamers and confetti, drunk with wine and giddy over the triumph of a successful party, comes outside to the balcony to shoo the two of them away. They walk out, and as they stand outside the front door, he shakes her hand and they part ways, headed in opposite directions. But halfway down the block, he turns and runs back towards her and flags her down. He would like her phone number, perhaps she'd like to go see this art exhibit that will be in town on Saturday. And she laughs and says of course, and pulls out her wallet, and oh she doesn't have any paper but ah! this business card will do. It is for the art store she buys her supplies from. She writes the number on the back and hands it to him.
As she walks away, he looks down at the card. He ponders for a moment the idea of spending time at the art store, waiting for her to come by so that he can meet her again, for the very first time, but realizes that he will not. Tomorrow the card will be gone, and he will not bother remembering the store name or address. Perhaps in time, he will even forget her phone number.
But still, he keeps the card, because for the few remaining hours until the sun rises, it will give him something to remember her by.