On the 3rd of April, 2002, Michael receives an anonymous email. The woman feels awkward writing to him. She couldn’t help being curious about him. He is very active on the net. His writing is quite sharp. So there it is. She starts out by writing the first email to him. No, he did not know her, and she was not a fan of his. But Michael must trust her that there is no bad intention here. She is not as knowledgeable as Michael, but the curiosity has led her far in the path of life. And the experience of pain and joy made her even more curious. She likes the Samuel Beckett quote stuck under each of Michael’s Usenet posts ― “All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” She is not interested in discussing deep theories based on books. She wonders how Michael thinks about the simple questions. What does he think or like about life? Is he happy? Is chasing happiness the purpose of life? Is he in love now? How much does it mean to him to love and to be loved? She has a restless mind. Too much thought and too much feeling has exhausted her. She is not sure whether following the flow equals giving up or being wise. Is Michael just as lost as everyone? Is life a drama full of sorrow?
Michael is not in love at this time. Much of his own lasting puzzlement is due to trust misplaced in the wake of failed romance. All the same, he stakes his chances on the risk of personal betrayal, even when safety lies in petty mistrust. As Beckett says, repeat failure is a given; the challenge is to fail better each time. His problem with settling is that routine wear and tear make daily failure ever worse. So following the flow is not his strong suit. He is not sure whether to count himself as happy, but a lasting sense of integrity allows him to defer this question past the span of his petty sorrows. As the Greeks said, let no man be called happy in his lifetime. Maybe the legacy of his finest failure will suffice as the final answer.
Michael would like to continue this conversation. He asks the woman to tell him about her curious experiences.
Georges de La Tour, Woman Catching Fleas, 1630s
Oil on canvas, Musée Historique, Nancy, France