*** I’m looking for a beginning. One of the reasons I’m looking, again, is that I did not commit myself seriously to the last beginning. I can’t remember what the last beginning was. The one before this one, this Blog. This suggests a scattered consciousness, one that is not committed to high achievement, that in some important way is not serious, and not serious about itself. I am reminded again that I have long found the weaknesses in my character to be interesting, while I find no particular strengths in it. I also repeat myself a lot.
A couple weeks ago I was driving back to Mexico after being interviewed in head-and-neck surgery at the VA hospital in La Jolla. The surgeon had decided that he did not yet understand the full extent of the cancer and decided against surgery to remove the malignant lymph gland in my throat. He referred me to hematology/oncology. I would have to drive back up to La Jolla the following week.
Now I was driving south toward Baja with my wife, who usually chatters on with an attractive enthusiasm, but was quiet this afternoon. I found myself thinking, not about the cancer itself, not what it would mean for me in the coming months, but how I would write about it. What perspective, what angle would I take with telling the story? There was no anxiety. I wasn’t thinking about the future, about the bother of what was coming or might be coming. I was thinking about the interesting story that, unasked, had come into my life and the literary issues associated with it. I liked thinking about it. When I write that I am not serious, this is something of what I mean.
*** I’ve had a number of new beginnings over the years, in the sense that every beginning is new by definition. Turning my thoughts to revisionism was a new beginning. But then, as we say, every day’s a new beginning. If we are going to be consistent with the new beginning concept, every moment is a new beginning. The problem here is that with the moment there is no beginning, no ending, only the moment itself. So the concept of a new beginning has us talking in circles.
Asking academics to provide, with proof, the name of one person who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz was a beginning, in the way we talk about beginnings. I see it as one. It’s a serious question. To not answer the question implies that academics who forward the Auschwitz story are not serious. Can an academic be serious about other things in our current world and not be serious about Auschwitz? What would it mean for an academic to be serious about Auschwitz? It would mean that she would be willing to participate in a civil conversation with those who do not believe everything she believes about Auschwitz.
*** In the bathroom, dressing, I put my coffee cup on the flat edge of the face bowl. I was putting on my shirt when the coffee cup began to move to the left. I reached out quickly to catch it before it fell, but it stopped moving. It all happened in an instant. Actually, the cup hadn’t moved. What point was there for the brain to see that it had?
*** Spent the morning at the VA Hospital in La Jolla with my oncologist, Dr. Go. Chinese, maybe forty years old. Dr. Go, learning how quickly the gland has grown, brought in his “boss” and the three of us had a talk. The result is that in two days I will go back to La Jolla to get a bone marrow biopsy, and the first of next week I will go to Balboa Military Hospital where those folk will do a Pet (full-body) scan. Six days after that I will return to La Jolla and based on this additional information Dr. Go will begin treatment. And so it goes.
I noticed that Dr. Go has a PhD in addition to being a M.D. I asked him what he got his PhD in.
“Immunology,” he said, laughing happily. “You’re in luck.”
I had been told to take all my medicines with me for this appointment. I explained that I do not use drugs, but that I do use supplements. I was advised to take those. I did. In the event, Dr. Go had no interest in them. Except that he did ask to see what I was taking for the prostrate issue I have. He read the label attentively and returned the bottle to me without comment. I haven’t used drugs for the prostrate in maybe six years. Only supplements. No problem.
*** I have an ethical issue with this cancer business that has a wonderful irony about it. I am about to ask my supporters to help fund a revisionist advertisement to run in campus newspapers in September. If I tell my supporters – and some of them have been with me ten and fifteen years – that I have lymphoma and that it is starting to become a burden on my energy, some may feel hesitant to support the project. What if I take a turn for the worse? What if my energy begins to fail and I cannot follow up with the project to the maximum extent that it requires? What if, essentially, they risk throwing their money down a well? How much funding will I lose?
The answer to this one is easy. I do not have to mention the cancer to my supporters at this stage of the game. I am still moving around pretty well. I can promote the project with as much enthusiasm and good sense as possible. Build a convincing picture of my confidence that the project is going to produce press, and that it will bring in new people, some of whom in turn will become contributors. I can let the cancer issue slide until after the contributions have come in and I am set to initiate and carry off the project.
Ironically, shamefully maybe, I have written many times about how this or that academic will not encourage an open debate on the Holocaust question because he fears that if he does he will place at risk his career, his future, his income. I have looked down my nose at professors for years because they will not risk everything for the ideal of intellectual freedom. And now here I was, I knew what I was honor bound to do, but I was contemplating the benefits of keeping my mouth closed about an issue that might cost me substantial funding.
I decided to run the dilemma past my wife. She said I should tell my supporters the truth and live with whatever happens. She asked me why I thought I should not. I asked the question of one of my primary associates via email. His response read: “We tell the truth.”