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Happy Ending

December 24, 2023

by Dr. David Fialkoff, Editor / Publisher

Thunderball was released in 1965, which means I was seven years old when I saw it. Coming out of the theater having watched James Bond and his exploits, the little kid that I was, I felt transformed. Standing there, with my older brother and a friend of his, between the tall columns of the covered entryway, the world seemed different.

It's happening again, now.

I'm towards the end of a World War Two spy novel, Night Soldiers, that my friend Richard, a connoisseur of music and literature, loaned me. In it the Russians are pushing the Germans out of Eastern Europe, and our protagonist, double and triple crossed, is on a desperate mission behind Russian lines to save an old friend, also a spy.

Just as at seven with Thunderball, now close to ten times that age, I'm emotionally involved with the story. I hope there's a happy ending, but I'm preparing myself for ambiguity.

A funny thing, the mind.

I listened to the commentator's critique of a conservative journalist, who was hired by a progressive publication to provide a more diverse point of view. The commentator observed that, since his hiring, the perspective of this journalist has gradually drifted towards that of his progressive colleagues. The commentator used the case to illustrate the psychological phenomenon wherein one's perspective alters to match that of the company one keeps.

Later (I'm getting quite an education on Youtube), I listened to another discussion about consciousness, a favorite topic of mine. Iconoclast Rupert Sheldrake characterized Descartes', and so our Western world's conception, of self as a homunculus, a little person, sitting inside of our heads watching everything. He went on to say that, while most of us consider this observer self to be fixed, if not entirely objective, Buddhist thought insists that just as we put together a world, so, too, we construct a self.

The Webb Ciné

I myself for certain am a hodge-podge. I'm still that seven-year-old boy, standing outside the Webb Webb Ciné, wowed by the spectacle of Thunderball. Except that, very recently, I'm also floating down the Danube, through the hell-scape that was 1945 Europe. And, most commonly, I'm an old man, here in the mountains of Mexico, who carries the memory of every other fantasy, onscreen and off, that turned my head or made inroads into my heart.

When I was more actively doctoring, I would apologize before suggesting that a patient might change something as intimate as their diet, by gesturing to my open mouth and saying, "Your palate changes. If someone stops heavily salting their food, some things that were savory will seem too salty." Back in those days, before ubiquitous sushi bars, I would add, "If they dropped you in the middle of Tokyo, within a week you'd be eating raw fish."

I'm sure that our minds were designed to be as malleable as our palates. It's all what we get used to, and we can get used to most anything. I think the main point of it all is to not get attached to that which we've gotten used to.

My introduction to philosophy came while watching Gomer Pyle, USMC. Gomer was having a beer with Sarge, who picked a napkin off the table and observed, "Life is like a napkin..."

Gomer Pyle

One of my teachers of Chinese Medicine observed that chi, life-force, is like a tube of toothpaste: when we are young, we squeeze it out profligately; but when old, we can make the little bit that's still left in the tube last a long time.

I'm doing that with the spy novel, stretching it out. Now in the last seven pages, the chapters have gotten very, very short. Each is a whole story in itself; the author managing to tell in a handful of paragraphs, what took him a sheaf of pages earlier on. And lingering with each chapter, in no hurry to say goodbye to our hero, I read only one at each sitting, or while lying in bed. Or, rather, I read two, because each time I pick up the book, I reread the last chapter before reading the next.

And, indeed, my anticipating the unanticipated has proven wise. The author had, indeed, another card up his sleeve. There has been a twist in the plot, an ironic wrinkle in the story line.

My own tale is much tamer. My adventure is more internal. Here, close to seventy, I think I can see, at least in broad outlines, how it will all turn out. But, of course, I've been surprised before.

And recently, in terms of plot and who is who, I find myself more inclined towards author, not only character. Yes, I'm in the story, but I'm also writing the book. There still is a strong element of suspense, but we're moving towards a happy ending.


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