“Time is the fire in which we all burn”
From: Soren (Malcolm McDowell) to Captain Picard in Star Trek: Generations.
The original on which it is based is:
“Time is the fire in which we burn” from:
I’ve bolded the first occurrence:
Delmore Schwartz – Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day
Calmly we walk through this April’s day,
Metropolitan poetry here and there,
In the park sit pauper and rentier,
The screaming children, the motor-car
Fugitive about us, running away,
Between the worker and the millionaire
Number provides all distances,
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,
Many great dears are taken away,
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn…)
Besides the photo and the memory?
(…that time is the fire in which we burn.)
(This is the school in which we learn…)
What is the self amid this blaze?
What am I now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again,
The theodicy I wrote in my high school days
Restored all life from infancy,
The children shouting are bright as they run
(This is the school in which they learn . . .)
Ravished entirely in their passing play!
(…that time is the fire in which they burn.)
Avid its rush, that reeling blaze!
Where is my father and Eleanor?
Not where are they now, dead seven years,
But what they were then?
No more? No more?
From Nineteen-Fourteen to the present day,
Bert Spira and Rhoda consume, consume
Not where they are now (where are they now?)
But what they were then, both beautiful;
Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.
Why this? Why Now?
The Internet is many things, but one only dimly perceived by most is that it is a cruel fire in which we find friends, Soul Mates even, just to discover they are long burned.
Now you can make the case that this is no different from finding Plato, or Keynes, or Einstein in a football movie comedy; but they are different. You know when you see a black and white film that the person is long gone (yet the essence…) You know when you pick up an old book, the odds are strong that they too have crisp become. (Yet the essence remains…) But a blog page is New! Fresh!! NOW!!!
They have a smiling photo.
They have a crisp mind with kindred spirit.
They talk of things current to life today.
Oh Joy, you think, a new person to know and perhaps befriend.
Yet “Time is the fire in which we burn.”, if not yet me, sometimes, them… (One has hopes for the essence…)
I was looking up things. Economic things. Things far divorced from thoughts of the frailty of life, the rarity of special people. Time and space and destiny. I was looking up information about economic downturns and collapse. (To finish that promised “China Unwind #2” posting before it becomes “The HISTORY of the China Unwind”…) I found an interesting posting:
Deutsche Bank FC Problems and Revenge of the Nerd
by Tanta on 11/14/2007 09:30:00 AM
I have been asked literally dozens of times in comments of this blog, in emails, and even in posts on other blogs, to comment on this post on I am Facing Foreclosure.Com regarding the dismissal of a foreclosure suit filed by Deutsche Bank.
“Nerd” is usually used in the context of computer programmers and hacker types… But deep down in their soul, the Economists and Accountants of the world know it applies to them as well. Never mentioned in polite company, they “know the drill”. Unloved but necessary. Doing something everyone utterly depends upon, does not understand, and wishes would just go away. Uninterested in anything to do with the workings of it at all. THE fastest way to stop an interesting “other” from exploring a bit more who you are and what might make you an interesting person is to answer the question: “So what do you do?” with any of “Computer geek”, “Accountant”, or “Economist”. Suddenly you will find that they need a ‘freshener’ for their completely full drink. So it goes.
Cops often have a similar response, so rarely mention what they really do at parties. But at least they have the “risk” and “physicality” angles working for them. And yes, as a trained Economist who was a Law Enforcement Eagle Scout, who works in Computer Geek land (especially “computer security”) I’m a “3-fer” at parties… So I usually say “I’m a consultant”… ;-)
Yet here was a “money person” calling herself a “Nerd”. I was entranced.
I read the article. It is biting and incisive. It covers the key points Very Well. Lingers over the way that “The Manager In Charge” doesn’t like it when you say “Excuse me, but what you are about to do will hurt you and I think you ought to reconsider.”
A profoundly “Career Limiting Move” (as I’ve found out more than once…) though I also found how to deliver the message in such a way that The Messenger could escape first… “consulting” helps… Much like ancient Barber-Surgeons had the “Itinerant Surgeon” who would come to town, do the risky surgery, and move on quickly before the Rabble decided to Lynch The Messenger that their favorite was about to die no matter what. The Accountant, the Computer Geek, and the Economist (who often gets to inform TPTB that their polices are crap, and their country is doomed economically) are most comfortable with a nice jet airplane near to hand and a ticket to safer ground…
One rapidly either “gives up” and becomes a sycophant “yes man” saying whatever the client wants to hear (in such a way so that you are not to blame), or you become the “Itinerant Expert Consultant” who delivers the bad news and hits the tarmac at the jetway before dinner…
You might recognize the “yes man” behaviour in present “Climate Science” which is really just “Tell me the size of the Grant and I’ll tell you how many decimal points of agreement my finding will match to your policy; and how ‘robust’ it will be labeled.” You may, if you think about it, recognize the Nerd-dissing behaviour in how skeptics are treated. Nobody hates The Truth more than those who have been paid to deliver The Really Good Yarn… and have not yet left town.
Some snippets (bold mine):
Until then, I intend to amuse you (or perhaps just myself) with a story. The first point of this little exercise is to convince you that sometimes things happen because somebody screwed up a bit of paperwork; it is not always a case of things happening because of Organized Predatory Conspiracy to Defraud mortgagors. The second point is to indulge myself in a few minutes of childish vindication of my years spent as Detail Obssessed Literal-Minded Small Picture Pain in the Ass Who Doesn’t Play Ball. To everyone who has ever jumped my personal case in the last 20 years about my habit of making a big deal over “technicalities,” I have a message to send. Via Deutsche Bank’s foreclosure department.
As a fellow “Detail Obsessed Literal-Minded Small Picture Pain In The Ass Who Doesn’t Play Ball”, I was in love with this soul.
That she got “vindication” was just honey pecan sauce on the whole sad affair.
(For those unfamiliar with my position, I have a posting somewhere in history here where I did a ‘causality dive’ and found that the CRA Community Redevelopment Act signed by Clinton was the ‘root cause’ of the whole financial debacle. Not the banks. They just found a way to third party the (required by law) excessive risks. Talk about being a “financial nerd”, just point out that the CRA was the root cause at a Democrat Dominated event and prepare to be roasted – without waiting for time to light the fire…)
Further down, we have:
Aha! You say. That Tanta: she single-handedly brought down a major banking fraud ring! She blew the whistle on a big name bank who tried to pass off millions of dollars worth of someone else’s loans as its own, for ill-gotten gains! How exciting! Will Julia Roberts play Tanta in the movie version?
Hardly. As a matter of fact I knew perfectly well, as did everyone else involved, that Bank of the Country had merged with Bank of the Region, and was legally its successor in interest to these mortgage loans. That wasn’t a secret; it had been in the newspapers. The problem was that some dweeb had failed to write the endorsement correctly (it should have been Bank of the Country, successor in interest to Bank of the Region, to Bank of the Nation. Or perhaps someone should have used one of Bank of the Region’s old stamps to endorse the note from Region to Country on the same day that it endorsed it from Country to Nation).
and the “end game”:
On the one hand, mistakes just do get made, in any business. On the other hand, the mortgage industry’s back room got incredibly sloppy during the boom. You had experienced closing and post-closing staff laid off and replaced by temps who don’t know an endorsement from a box of Wheaties, you had loans being sold by brand-new entrants into the business with no experience in these legal transactions, you had gigantic pressures to move loans through the pipeline into a security as fast as possible and paperwork be damned, you had a business too comfortable working on reps and warranties and indemnifications–on a promise to make it good if it ever blows up rather than fixing it now. You had regulators of big depositories that were sound asleep when it came to such operational “trivia.”
And this kind of thing with Deutsche Bank and the foreclosure mess is the result. And when Wall Street analysts stand up and demand that companies beef up back rooms, pay veteran employees rather than outsourcing, and slow the hell down so that things are done right the first time, I’ll eat every promissory note I’ve ever endorsed. For every little Tanta with her hands on her hips demanding competent but expensive operations, there’s some Chainsaw Al out there “streamlining” the company.
Do read the whole posting. Taking a couple of paragraphs out of the middle is NOT doing justice to the flow of it, or the sense of the person.
For me, the basis was set. I loved this person. A “fellow traveler” in life. Caught between the demands of El Patron for “my way or the highway” and the demands of morality and what is right. Cast out for telling folks that what they are asking for is a cup of hemlock, and that while I’m quite able to create it (or a dozen other more effective and less unpleasant potions) perhaps they ought to consider a more appropriate potion, like just a year or two in the county jail or even just a small reduction in their bonus this year…
Such is life. But at least I had “Tanta” as a new “Friend to be”.
But Wait, there’s more!
A bit of looking found this:
In Memoriam: Doris “Tanta” Dungey
by Bill McBride on 12/08/2008 12:43:00 AM
From December 2006, until she passed away from ovarian cancer on Nov 30, 2008, Tanta was my co-blogger. Tanta worked as a mortgage banker for 20 years, and we started chatting in early 2005 about the housing bubble and the changes in lending practices. In 2006, Tanta was diagnosed with late stage cancer, and she took an extended medical leave while undergoing treatment. While on medical leave she wrote for this blog, and her writings received widespread attention and acclaim.
With that, I found I was enamored of Juliet, but she was long gone… and the great script writer had a tragedy in mine, not a comedy and certainly not a romance. Heck, not even a docudrama or a documentary…
Thus, this posting.
One hopes the Internet keeps Tanta alive and well in cyberspace long enough for many folks to come to “know” her. (The French and Spanish have two words for “know”. One means basically “be acquainted with” the other “to understand fully”. Conocer and saber. It is at times like this that I miss the distinction…)
So here I sit, mildly despondent over the loss of someone ( 8 years ago ) that I’ve never known, who I can never know, who I very much would like to know. Such is the cruelty of time, space, and the Internet. In a larger sense:
The cruelty of time, and writing.
So many great people through so much of time. So many interesting souls, lost. A few semi-preserved in a small subset of writings. Like the burnings of the Library of Alexandria. Lost to the fires of time.
Farewell Tanta! I hope to become your friend in the coming years and perhaps even come to know you. Even if it is a one sided relationship. Perhaps we can work something out… in time.