My job as a writer of fiction is to look at reality and say, "Maybe it isn't exactly that way. Maybe it's different. In order to be a good writer, I can't lie. I have to be telling the truth when I write fiction. For me, that comes particularly easy since I have an awful memory. I can't remember facts, and like Gimpel the Fool in the story by Yitzchak Bashevis Singer, I believe everything I am told because, if you hang around long enough, it will probably happen somewhere sometime. And I have recently found scientific proof to support that.
I have become fascinated by the studies of memory. What is memory? There is surprisingly little proof that it is a biological process that writes onto your brain cells. Science has yet to directly confront the question of what is consciousness. Elizabeth Loftus has studied memory in the context of the legal system and has discovered that memory is an incredibly malleable phenomenon. People will swear to things, be absolutely sure something occurred, list details, and the statistics show that the majority of instances, people are mistaken. It would seem that memory is fallible in the extreme.
I have a gift. I collect facts and theories from vastly separated sources and like Magister Ludi in Herman Hesse's Glass bead Game, I bring them all together. But Herman Hesses was not a Deadhead from New Jersey with a history of chemical abuse. The facts stayed straight. With me, it becomes this massive mixed up Sunday morning stew made up of crazy left-overs that should never have been put in the pot together. When I discovered how fallible our memories are, I thought immediately of the Dancing Wu-li masters and what it taught me about the multiple-universe theory. I think that our memories are one-hundred percent accurate. Let me explain.
If time is a line, then what is the study of history? When many lines come together, the result is not a line. The result is a net. But my line is separate from yours. It could be that I remember something differently than you, not because one of us is wrong, but because both of us are right, but we exist on separate lines. I am standing on a different time line than you. My facts are right for my line, and your facts are right for yours. Both histories, both lines of the past, actually existed. And at one point we came together.
That all being said, and maybe it would have been better that it hadn't, but it was, so here we are. I am going to make a premise, and my facts could all be wrong, but I believe my theory is correct nonetheless.
I am wondering what it means to be an American Jew. I don't care to discuss our psychology or values. I even feel that the history of the Jews in America would not answer my questions. If history was a story, and our nation was a single character, what would he be? Even stranger, given the character's wandering in foreign lands, his short but productive stay in America, now that our character lives in Israel, what part does he play in the story of mankind?
It has been said that when Tolkein wrote the Hobbit, the dwarves were his interpretation of the Jews, longing for the kingdom under the mountain, overly fond of gold, greedy yet honorable in their mission, hunted by the evil dragon.
If we were to write the story of American Jews coming back to Israel, what would it be? If we were writing a fiction based on history, not on facts, but on the essence of what we learned from history, what would our story be?