Friday, November 21, 2008

Frog-Pot Stories

"The Frog-Pot story" is what Tyler Dupree, the protagonist/narrator of SF epic, Spin (Robert Charles Wilson) utilizes to illustrate the experience of witnessing the beginning of the event known as "The Spin". One night, the stars and moon vanish from the sky, switched off like a screen. The earthlings are taken aback, but no cataclysm occurs, and life continues on as normal. The reality that beyond the Earth, time is passing at eons per second, the sun threatening to swallow the earth in decades, goes unnoticed. Like the frog placed in warm, gradually heating water, who fails to notice the lethal temperature and dies as the water boils.

It seems a fair extrapolation, that this particular koan, this epigram of the 21st century encompassing the difficulty of the human consciousness to grasp and act to avoid threats on larger-than-human scales, would become so "mundane" as to become a figure of speech, a part of "official" language. "The 'ol Frog-Pot story". First, the pot of our climate, in which we are literally and figuratively cooking. Secondly, global poverty and over population. And most recent and famously, the financial meltdown occurring as a result of decades of book-cooking and short-sided luxuriating in the bubbly sauna of credit/debt based false prosperity and thievery. As the sun's aging is set to a human-scale clock, humanity itself is thrown into the pot, realizing the mortality of the sun and by extension all human life. From there, a millennial, Cold War mentality takes hold of the planet. Dozens of religions and end-of-the-world cults spring up, scientists go mad, obsessed with trying to discern the purpose of the Spin, China fires a nuclear missile at The Spin objects and generally the world goes through the terror and ecstasy of impending total extinction.

This week has been another Frog-Pot story for me, on the relationship side, but with a better outcome than appears to be turning out for the like of the global economy. My girlfriend and I have been flying high on the rich, blossoming emotions of our relatively young relationship, caught up in the sweeping (and potentially distorting) bubble of the heart. All night phone conversations, two honeymoon-like meat elopements (we're long distance currently), images and video through the net in a sort of co-celebritization, the coverboy-girl without the documentary.

The first crack happened Tuesday night. As her dad found and handed her passport over, he said he did not want her to fly to Hawaii to see me, because he did not want her to continue down the road with someone she might not be able to be happy with in the long run. That first rising to the surface of toxic love-debt popped the bubble and cascaded into a full blown romancial crisis that night. There was a problem of confidence with a lack of transparency at the heart of the problem, and so the Twilite Minotaur and Green Robot masks came all the way off to reveal the raw Chris and Haly. We put all our dreams and out on the table; family, child rearing, religion, locational, vocational and financial, and did an all-night Skype triage to decide whether the relationship could survive or if we were underwater. The heat was on, but in the end we pulled through.

There was just one more step to fully avoid systemic meltdown and that was having the Meet The Parents talk un-edited version with her dad that we should've had while I was up in Canada. My head was spinning, my blood pressure boiling as I mentally paced for most of the day, playing out all the possible scenarios in my head, "What if he doesn't trust me? What if he says no? What if he wants me to join a cult? What if he has a shotgun?" It was the single most anxiety-filled experience I've ever had. When the moment of truth came, as I stared at the little green Skype phone-icon "call" button, her home phone selected, index finger hovering over the left mouse, I could've sworn I saw a white flash in my field of vision, then my life flashing.

Once I pressed call and her dad's friendly Canadian voice, like a cartoon bear came on, the tension sort of cut in half, and I noticed he actually seemed as or more frightened of the call than I, unsure of what to say, and so I kind of took the initiative to get the conversation going. There were a few concerns. Whether I realized and was ok with her desire to have a more traditional, family-centric household, how I was going to deal with the fact of our separation physically by an ocean and politically by the 49th parallel. But it was infinitely easier than I anticipated, and once I reassured him that I had her best interests in mind and was up to the job, the heaviness evaporated and it was actually a rather enjoyable conversation. He had only good things to say. And with that final injection of relational capital, trust between parties was restored, collapse was averted, and she and I are growing in our relationship. (When I jokingly brought up my shotgun scenario, he jokingly mentioned that several of his friends offered to loan him their shotgun, and we further joked about his prison-shank collection which he'd showed me during my stay.)


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