Having a creeping, degenerating neuromuscular problem (let’s call it an illness for convenience sake) will make you think about a few things, many things, too many things…among them, “life, living, death and dying” do come to mind. And it is in that simple dualism that I’ll focus the question of the day.
This world is a mess, everyone seems to know that. But it is the world, our world, or we’re its progeny. It is our basis for experience of the body, the senses, of life as we live it.
We dream, but we don’t know where those come from. We don’t remember what we were before we got here; we don’t know what might be after. We might think of our version of a great beyond, but we’re dreamers after all; fantasizing the afterworld is easy for us to do, and impossible for us to really know. (Perhaps those who have died for a moment and come back have some lessons for us, but people love to debate all things, so who knows.)
This world is one that we abuse, deride, shit all over, shit in, on and upon; we dig it up, burn it, explode it, experiment with it, drain it, eat it, and pollute it. We also sleep on it, dream on it, travel its expanse, marvel at its size and sublimity. It enraptures us when we let it, we fill it with smoke and chemical ruin; but it still is our home. And the thought of leaving it causes some very appropriate reflection.
What would I miss if I left this place? What would I be very glad to part ways with?
Here’s a partial list of pluses and minuses of human civilization at present, in my estimation, year 2016, in no particular order…(to be continued as thoughts arise)
1. Traffic. Cars. Pollution from cars. The ever presence of highways and roads. People sitting in their cars running their engines filling an area with carbon monoxide. People driving by in their noisy tricked out cars with explosive sounds coming from the engine screaming at passers by. The dislocation of people from their homes, neighborhoods, towns and environments by the metal demons that make us strangers to each other in our localities. And of course, small women driving monster trucks blaring the worst music ever created – country pop – nearly running you over as they circle a parking lot, chattering into their cell phone (pressed tightly against their head), absentmindedly looking for a space large enough to fit their two ton trucks.
Not miss. Not at all. Or, maybe for the jokes, but no, that’s a secondary benefit from a terrible situation. Oh, sure, it’s fun to go places on a whim. But…it’s also more deeply fun to live in a place where you invest time, energy, art, commerce, love, relationships, farming, growing, making, creating…
Solutions? Well, we should have loved our trains more. More civilized, more human scaled. But, we had oil, and we like to burn stuff. So, cars, if I am to go, I will not miss the way our cars (our roads and oil) have scattered our lives.
2. Movies. The pleasure of disappearing into an experience lovingly created by others to resemble the lives of others; it’s the American version of therapy. We let ourselves dream into lives not our own so as to enlarge our perspective, to dislocate our worries from self to other; to try on a new perspective; to hear a point of view we’d not otherwise know; to experience it as though it were our own. Movies.
Or, that’s what they can do, what they are able to do, when made by hearts and minds intent on turning the dream machinery that churns our souls.
But then there is Michael Bay. Marvel comics. Iron men and super cars, and the other kind of churning machine of endless droning noise (much like the music industry) that overwhelms sensibility, eradicates fine tuning, and, like the gladiatorial battles of yore, soaks us in enough blood and guts that we simply lose interest in thought and feeling altogether.
I used to love movies because movies used to be less shiny but more deep. Without computers to smooth all material into fantasy, it was the drama of people and living that had to excite our senses when we stared at the screen. But today, we just like to see Iron Man’s new suit, and watch the Hulk smash something, which is fun – and nothing’s wrong with fun. But we did better when we had to rely on the human psyche for kicks.
Occasionally someone still makes something beautiful, sublime, or so devastatingly and deeply observed that it moves our interior landscapes, or reflects our deepest hopes and fears, so that we come into contact with the hidden aspects of our selves and souls. And I like those movies; but we lost a lot of soulful quality in the digital and internet age. For example, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is truer in any single scene than all of the
Avengers” movies combined – and it’s funnier, too.
If I get to stick around, I’ll be interested to see what happens to this illuminated theater of the 20th Century. Does it stick around? Do we go back to cheapies shot at a quick pace to entertain a demoralized, impoverished nation? Or do we go back to theater, readings and local performances of the texts we salvage from burning things to stay warm (that the church hasn’t banned)?
I like movies, I always have. Who doesn’t? They’ve been a place to dream in groups; to see with our eyes what is not quite real, and to allow ourselves to feel openly; to laugh, to cry, to be more entirely human than daylight allows. They’ve been a place to hold hands, to kiss, to lean and be close for long periods of time.
Most of all, they’ve been a source of discovery, travel and adventure of the mind and soul.
Perhaps the other world is the best movie of all. Who knows. To be discovered…
Movies: will miss.
3. Travel. The movement of self and that ‘cannot do without’ collection of things, stuff, articles, accessories, grooming products, pills, vitamins, sprays, socks, underwear, photos, a few cards from friends stuffed into the smaller pockets of the big suitcase…
Movement on trains, boats, in buses and on horrible airplanes (but airplanes deserve another entry). That streaming, slipping, parading by of the world through small windows and large, or on open decks; of people’s lives, houses, pools, farms, fields, poverty, wealth, excess and ruin – like clothes on a line – hung out for the traveler to witness, to judge, to take in, to reflect upon.
I’ve been a traveler for, well…I think all of my life. My time here has been marked by very regular movement. I’ve lived in a dozen states, visited ten more, lived in five or six locations in some states over the years; stayed for visits in a dozen countries, and for prolonged periods in three or five on three continents, a few island chains – in short, I’ve traveled a bit.
My mother moved us as I grew up – which I did not enjoy in many ways. She did so as her work profile improved as she worked her way up in the medical field – which neither of us really enjoyed. I was in too many schools by the time I finished high school. That was awfully disrupting and stressful. And my father lived in another state (one I preferred by far to where I was forced to live – which was confusing because my father was a less reliable parent) so I lived always in a few places. Which made me flexible, my needs – but insecure in that deeper sense of really knowing a place as a native. I missed friends too often, and eventually tired of having to make new ones (though given enough time, I always did). But it also made me neurotic and insecure.
Is that part of travel? I suppose it’s part of not having a steady home as a child.
So, mixed bag. I love being in new places; more organic, more alive places, with large open food and produce markets streaming in from local fields and farmers. Asia, Europe, the world is better at this than America (though we’ll remember how to do it soon). I love traveler’s tales, the informal camaraderie of the hostel or traveler’s hotel lobby; stories exchanged, destinations compared, and new friends made.
But then, there’s nothing like loving where you are – hard to do in our cookie-cutter suburban landscape where nothing is really useful and nothing is real. But, we’ll remember how to make things useful and real again.
Travel. There is always more to see… but then there’s no place like a good home.
Hard to say. I’d miss travel. I often do miss it. But then there’s the mind, which can take us anywhere.
So, that’s a start. I’ll do a part two when a few items come to me.
I’m writing a bit, perhaps daily, we’ll see, as I have to deal with the struggles of this new phase or chapter, this pain and illness. I’m grateful to the pauses when things aren’t as hard or as bad, and I’m deeply grateful for the special and precious loved ones who are close to me now and who make living possible.
Given the problems that arise these days for me, I’m less able to respond to individual notes; I read them when I can, and I’ll try to respond in writing, but it may be that I publish an essay here or there to answer thoughts and share.
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