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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 02/06/2006
Vol. 2, #182

The Other Side of the Story

I've been out of the picture for a while. Or more precisely, as I'm about to explain today, I've been on the other side of the picture for quite some weeks now. You didn't know a picture has two sides? But everything does, it seems. Or, more precisely, exists in two states. Some of my readers with a taste for quantum physics will know what I mean when I refer to "the cat state", which is derived simply from the experiment by Erwin Schrodinger in which a deadly poison is either released or not released as the result of an observation. The theory is that this happens or doesn't happen as the result of said observation. In quantum physics, everything is in all possible states (I'll make it as simple as that) until an observation is made. So, this cat in a cage with the deadly poison is neither dead nor alive until an observation is made in which the poison is released or not released, in which case, the cat either lives or dies. So if you're in "a cat state", then you're, so to speak, nowhere. Similarly, all states, types of being, including pictures, knitting needles and fish-heads, are essentially nowhere, nonexistent or perhaps indefinable until an observer takes a look, and immediately, out of all possible states, the observed object settles into a single state. Now I'm sure most of you have heard this before and it's old hat, or one of those quantum things you don't want to waste your time on. At one point, even Einstein thought it was silly. But I'm bringing it up today because it tells us something interesting even about our specialty-- superheroes, especially the really super ones who can do virtually anything, defying all the known laws of physics, like fly faster than light and be in two places at once, live in two different personalities, turn time backwards or forwards.

What I'm trying to say here, no one has put it quite this way before, is that Superman, our Superman is in "a cat state." I realized this as a result of my years long struggle to deal with things like pain, unhappiness, mortality, despair, all the dark stuff that sometimes seems to make life so mysteriously meaningless while at the same time exhibiting everywhere an order, a structure and a definite, if elusive meaning, that I've got to try to ferret out.

As you know, strange things have happened to me, I've been in some impossible places and situations, I've met most uncommon beings, dipped into unknown realities and experienced magical turnabouts that transformed some of my worst experiences into my best.

Now, with this prelude, I'll go to the other side of the picture. A few days ago, after experiencing a mysterious stomach ailment that kept me occupied for several weeks, I finally gave in and sent for an ambulance to deliver me to our local hospital in the nearby town of Winchester. During the examination, I mentioned a detail of the illness's behavior to the examining physician and, immediately, she threw up her hands and said I was suffering from a very likely bowel lesion or blockage of some kind in that area for which the only hope was extensive and difficult and protracted surgery. I'm 89 now. I've watched stuff like this happen to a lot of people I've known over many years, like Will Eisner, like Saul Bellow and others in their late 80s. Hey, none of us lasts forever. I figured this time the bell was tolling for me. Instead of being sent home as I expected, I was shipped off to a big city hospital, The General, in Ottawa.

Now I won't waste your time with the grisly side of some patient's life in a hospital, and a well run at that. I had even more to deal with than my mortality, having already taken some steps on my own in that direction. This had to do with "choosing my day." I could submit to the situation and prepare for the worst of the possibilities, which I always used to do, until I learned, rather late in life, that events do not happen on a preordained schedule. Neither the worst nor the best is necessarily prefigured in any situation. It is indeed possible to shape your own outcome, which is what I mean by choosing my day.

In small ways, step by step, I have discovered this to be so. Yes, you can actually plan what is going to happen to you. No day ever really turns out the way you expect and, unfortunately, are prone, usually pessimistically to anticipate. You can, indeed, create another outcome.

And it seems that I did. But explaining all this is difficult for a beginner. I'm beginning to find my way around. I'm beginning to discover the miraculous potential that lies within each of us, but I'm a novice at explaining it all. I applied what I learned in this case, and I seem to be back, safe and sound and likely will be around to see Unlikely Prophet earn a second printing in mid-June and, immediately after that, in the fall, the sequel, A Gathering of Selves, will appear.

What I owe you, my readers, is a full explanation of what I mean by controlling what will happen to me. I need more time to organize my thoughts and experiences about this and hope that by next week I'll be able to explain a great deal more.

In the meantime, take the intervening time and see for yourselves what you can do about taking charge of your life, on a regular and daily basis, keeping in mind that every picture has two sides--that there's another side to the story. None of us will see it in quite the same way, so use the Round Table and let us have your version while I'm trying to reshape mine.


<< 11/28/2005 | 02/06/2006 | 04/10/2006 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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