The Weight of the World. Shoulder it. Drop it. Either way, the world continues, likely in a form very near to that in which it appeared prior to the decision.
The pressure of carrying the weight of the world may well crush one’s spirit. The guilt born of sloughing it can be emotionally corosive as well. The understanding that no one is born capable of managing such a burden is omitted from the Standard Operating Manual for Human Consciousness. Struggle, blame, shame, regret, recrimination all take center stage when someone decides there is “hell to pay!” Of course, there are also those who care nothing for the world or the others in it, but that topic is for another time.
So precious this opportunity to exist. And yet preciousness is, um, well, hmm, born of personal perspective. Once we’ve had the good fortune of life we will all in turn have the good fortune of passing beyond this time of living, to rest. How much will acute concerns about the pressing issues of the day matter in that eternal light?
It was bound to happen. History shows us that it is inevitable. Thankfully we are further along now than the poor souls who faced the Spanish Flu or the Bubonic Plague. We know what to do, what must be done. Self-imposed isolation is the selfless choice, whether we like it or not.
Social distancing is no stranger to this house. In fact, it is our de facto natural state. Anyone who follows my social feeds sees picture after picture of solitary moments captured in the wilderness. My sons occasionally join me on these ventures into humanlessness. However, left to their own devices, they tend to interact with their world virtually. This is not always my favorite, but for now, I am grateful for that proclivity.
Except for the complete lack of income that accompanies a worldwide economic shutdown, not much has changed here. Well, not much except that I am pinching pennies like a leprechaun pinching the greenless on St. Patty’s day. That and the fact that I suddenly find myself qualmless about gratefully consuming slightly expired foodstuffs. The house is cleaner than it has been in a decade. Oh, and I’m torturing Netflix incessantly with my indecisiveness about best viewing options.
Thanks to the tireless work of our healthcare, transportation, and food supply communities, most of us will survive this, bearing away little more than a story to tell our grandchildren. The silver lining will be that despite the best efforts of those who would wish us divided, we may finally come to see ourselves as part of an indivisible, global community.
Please be smart, be safe, be well. Please think of others before you act. We who carry on will have much to be thankful for, much to have learned, and much to share from our time here in the era of social distancing.
Broken things, some we are quick to cast aside, some are not so easily released.A Van Gogh, a toy doll, a locket, a person; all come into existence with the sheen of shiny fresh brand new ‘here I am.”Over time that bit fades, ultimately replaced by the thing that most often happens to things that persist in the act of existence,some sort of brokenness.A locket or pocket watch have sentiment on their side.If these become broken a fix of some sort is possible if the owner is sufficiently motivated by emotional attachment.What of broken people?As I glance to my left wrist, I see my great grandfather’s watch. He, a broken thing that ultimately could not be “fixed’ left this working timepiece as a memory.
Hearts are regularly broken; so are bonds of friendship, vows, and refrigerators.The casting aside and replacing of broken things happens when we lose faith, often rightly so, in the possibility of repair.Other times we simply must do the work of restoration or so parish, as with our hearts.I have a sentimental streak that has caused a light hoarding behavior at times.I hold onto my collection of five old runner sleds even as the warming of the earth no longer offers winter in my part of the world.The sleds aren’t broken.However, their usefulness is but a memory.Still, like a locket bearing the picture of a loved one, in my case winter, they hold value, hope, promise, or nostalgia, that I am reluctant to release.
I’ve walked some of my days with a broken heart, many adult humans do.Fill in the blank as to the details with your own experiences, and we will likely be in understanding of one another.It is a scar, or a badge, or a shitty outcome that clings to the soul like a limpet to the hull of a sailing vessel.It by itself will not plot the course of a journey though it may slow the runnings.So it goes with we who have minds made of chains that rattle and dance each morning when we decide to once again rise and face the day.
I learned yesterday that my best friend of thirty-eight years, Dr. David, (mentioned in a previous Random Fiction blog post “Free Fall,” irony included) has acute leukemia. He has passed, at least temporarily from the realm of shiny new things into that of the broken.He wore a brave face Thursday as he entered a month of hospitalized solitude to face down his indiscriminate adversary in a firestorm of chemotherapy.
Interestingly, several months ago, before this category 5 shit-storm reared its ugly head, Dave and I spent a weekend visiting the college town where he and I met. Our in the moment state of unbrokenness found us commenting that we both felt as though we were still the same boys that had made acquaintance there those many years ago.Alas, as some friend of Anne Lamott’s said, “we are all born astride the grave.”Acknowledging that fact is ultimately both a curse and a relief… at least for me.That said, I will give any and all of my time, money, and bone marrow to fix this particular broken thing.Love to you my dearest friend.My heart is with you all the way.
Night fell hours ago.As dusk settled over the barren desert landscape, I switched on the headlights.The hum of the engine seems to drum in rhythm with the broken white lines that define the two sides of this strip of desolate highway.Darkness envelopes the world leaving only that which is directly before me to consider.The interior lighting of the console wraps me in a soft amber glow.The high beams offer about one hundred yards of insight into my future; my immediate future to be specific.I drive on in what I believe to be relative safety; confident in the precept that, though I cannot see my destination I will, in ever forward moving hundred yard increments, ultimately reach it.
In truth, though night fell years ago, decades ago, a lifetime ago, metaphorically speaking.The droning of the engine is comforting here in the desert, a white noise lullaby.One of my favorite memories from childhood, prior to the wise institution of seatbelt laws, was be to curled up on the bench back seat of my parents’ station wagon on the way home from some night time gathering.There in the darkness, I’d find comfort in the purr of the Dodge Polara engine and the gentle pitch and sway the given roadway afforded.The gatherings themselves were sometimes fun, sometimes awkward, these were my parents’ friends, who often happened to have children around my age.Regardless of how the evening went, whether I enjoyed it or simply endured it; I always looked forward to the comfort of the slow strobe of street lights reflecting off the vinyl upholstery. I would bury my face in the seam between the seat and backrest, welcoming the warm decent into dream state.
The white lines whip past me, ticking my journey off in nanoseconds.I see little more than these in my given hundred yards of illumination.An occasional signage alerts me to a coming lonely intersection, or town if one could call a desert gas station and closed motel a town, but that is about all I know of my next few minutes.So it has been with the daylight of my life as well.Many of us take life day by day, week by week or month by month.I count myself among that number.I drive through life using the throw of metaphorical headlights to see just far enough down the road to keep my foot on the accelerator.This approach has gotten me here, now, halfway across the southern border Joshua Tree National Park eastbound on U.S. Interstate 10 in the dead of night; speeding I might add, 95 in a 70mph zone.
What if instead of headlights I had searchlights?Of course, mounting searchlights to the roof of my car and plowing through the night might be perceived as incredibly inconsiderate by oncoming drivers, and likely more illegal than my 95 in a 70.But I think as I fly by another desolate rest stop, what would my life be like if I used searchlights to illuminate the future?How would my understanding of this present moment change?Hundreds of miles of possibilities, opportunities and choices would suddenly be illuminated in the space that was once a desert of impenetrable darkness.Some have done so, or we wouldn’t have electric lights at all.
Right now I am not…in the company of chaos that is. If I choose that the boundaries of my home are the ends of the universe all seems to stand in a state of relative calm. However, should I venture into the realm of online news, social media, or wander into the wrong place at the wrong time I find myself in a veritable shit storm of well…chaos.
As a rule, I choose peace. Am I in the minority? More and more it would seem that whether chosen or not, some manner of war is the order of the day. Why? Why stir things up? Why choose a harsh word, or a bullet instead of lending a hand, or kind word? Why indeed? Why choose to inflict harm, be it physical or psychological, instead of help or even, as a commitment to the possible benefits of non-action, resort to silence?
Human drama, a sport, a whim, perhaps a necessary evil? Is it evil? To me, it feels that way, but I have been most fortunate in my life to always have Maslow’s hierarchy met, so who am I to say. Some in my same situation seem to feel more alive taking stands on behalf of those who sell division as a commodity. Ego is a tempestuous mistress. I feel more alive when more people have the chance to join me in that act; the act of feeling alive that is, and at peace.
Balance is ancient. Historically, balance seems to be the adversarial antidote to chaos. Chaos in turn, seems to be a human psychologically supported virus of sorts. A virus by nature identifies, attacks and overtakes its host in order to survive. Curiously when the virus has accomplished its goal the host is ultimately brought down, and so comes to an end. ‘The virus’ having attained its goal of domination ensures by its success its own demise. Chaos, if viral at its core is calling to the “Dionysian Being” in all those who will listen. We cannot live in chaos for long, pursuing chaos we ensure only our own temporary fix of adrenaline, followed then by our unavoidable ruin.
Does the desperate need for meaning lead to this ‘run of the lemmings’ in our human species? Some behavior I’ve witnessed would lend credence to this hypothesis. Could the need for meaning instead lead to a reach for calm, peace, perspective…a pause? One would certainly hope so. But where would we get our precious drama?
It is easy to imagine solutions when not under fire. Corrections or right answers seem so obvious in the tranquility of a placid, comfortable familiar repose. Many people struggle in ways I cannot fathom. Others live opulent lifestyles afforded them by hard work, commitment and no small turn of good fortune, for which they most likely take full credit. I’m not saying these beings don’t work for what they have but are we not all members of this world, and so potentially capable of perspective, empathy, and humility? Be these situations as they may, chaos stirs, in and around us all.
Do we look, or look away? Hiding our heads as long as we presume ourselves safe. If the floodgates that have until now kept chaos in check finally burst, there will be no hiding from its faceless wrath. What then? What solutions will we wish we had committed to when we had the chance. What sacrifices will we wish we had made. What courage will we muster when the gun barrel finds us, be we armed, or empty-handed?
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!
He reached into his lab coat and produced a flask and two plastic shot glasses, “Cheers!”
“Ha, we’re celebrating my terminal diagnosis?” I said with a hastily shaken tone cocktail of irony, indignation and false bravery.
“We all have a terminal diagnosis, my friend. I love you, and this shot is to celebrate your life. The life behind you, that left before you, and most importantly this moment, when we here together face the inevitable; the heartache, the confusion, the freedom, and the truth, that we all try so desperately to ignore.”
I found myself smiling in spite of the dour news, “I love you, man.”
Doctor James had been my college roommate freshman year, and my best friend for the last thirty years of my now seemingly bookended life. Together we had surfed the waves off the Santa Barbara coast, chased the same woman at parties and fought over the outcome, ridden a motorcycle through the courtyard of a dormitory with frantic RAs chasing us. This was the man who knew me better than anyone on the planet. He had supported me every step of the way. He knew when to say “I’m sorry,” and he knew how to forgive. He was the perfect person the usher me onto the crowded tarmac for those awaiting passage to the hereafter.
“So by ‘no’ you mean there’s no cure?” I asked.
He looked me in the eye, raised his plastic shot glass to offer a toast, I obliged with a shaky reciprocal gesture.
“There is only one cure for life, and as mortals, we will all one day be cured. May you rock the fuck out of the days, months, or years left to you. May you know that I love you like a brother with all my heart and will ride this last wave with you wherever it may take us.” He held his glass and my gaze.
Damn him; the fucking bitch made me tear up. I killed the shot and immediately put my cup out for a second.
“How long?” I asked.
“I don’t fucking know…six months, six years, it’s so fucking random. Let’s see, no sugar diets, kale, and on the uh-oh side, hidden guilt, self-hatred, or an emerging heretofore unseen badass extreme will to live. I could tell you some number, but then that number enters your reality and who the fuck am I to shape your perspective on something like this? I’m just a doctor.” James laughed as he filled our little plastic shot cups.
“Let’s go to the mountains and hike.” He said. “I’ll clear my schedule; we’ll go to my place in the Sierras, spend a couple of days and let this percolate.”
“Are you coming on to me?” My super thin, false bravado wavering.
“Ha, fuck you, I’ll bring coffee, be ready by 8 am.” Doctor J. hissed with a shit-eating grin.
“Thanks?” I had to laugh. Hiking would be good!
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!