9 October 2010 § Leave a comment
I need to practice this writing thing again. Last week I started a novel. I wrote more in four hours than I ever have in my life. It was believable and real and fun. I never want to read it again. University is sucking the love from my wordridden heart and making me display it on a rusty platter – the sort that was once a goldish silver but now is sort of green and brown and you wouldn’t want to play cards on it, let alone eat off it or put a heart that was once on it back in your chest.
Once I saw a documentary about a guy who lived with wolves for a time and to gain the pack’s respect he had to go out for a kill and bring back the carcass and eat the heart – but before he came back, he cooked the heart and put it back in the carcass and put on a show for the wolves. He was an actor, playing his role for the audience that he so very much wanted to accept him. For elsewise they would kill him. We fellow humans would rather pity him, or at worst boo him from his wildland stage and throw tomatoes or rotten and slimy Brussels sprouts at him. He wouldn’t like that, and might have preferred to be torn apart by wolves. The consequences are greater out there.
Okay. Speaking of that. Let’s suppose you and I are standing on the edge of a very tall cliff, and below us is not just air and void but also sharp spires and ledges that would, from our height, mean certain death. What do we have with us? All the knives and quickdrying pants in the world won’t save us. Fear of accidentally falling, right? Gravity would have a field day with that one. We also have the option of stepping off that ledge. More importantly, we have a motivation behind this choice – that nothing in the known universe could stop us. We are unstoppable, you and I. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Let’s find out, shall we?
There is freedom in there, somewhere. The truest kind – the sort that American politicians seem to think every human wants more than anything, that every one of us can handle, the kind that would make us happy. Yes, yes, with freedom comes great responsibility. Let’s get those out of the way now, so that we can find something that is not so obvious. Freedom doesn’t take happiness into account, does it? It frees beings from the burden of consequence, of the instinct to look into the future – which separates us from the animals, etc. – and if we care more for our values than for consequence – and act accordingly – we can achieve something that is greater than that which humans have come up with so far in their ‘ideal’ world. Surely, someone must think that this is Utopia, this is what will degenerate into the world of Weena and the Eloi, for why else would it exist? We exist, and there must be a purpose to it – be it 42, Dust, some conspiracy of chaos theory, God, to procreate like the salmon and the bears – I’m beginning to think that it isn’t so important. We’re here already, and it’s perfectly healthy to ask Why? but at some point one must think – hey, I’m here – what am I going to do about it? What can I do about it?
Let’s get some more bullshit out of the way: we think we’re at the top of the food chain, that we have no natural predators (because we kill the lions and tigers and bears that wander into our villages), so there’s really no need to look up anymore. Perhaps someone got the bright idea to not look to the sides anymore either, but that verdict is still out. For now, we still have moments of awe, and the neck must move side to side for this. Otherwise, rearview mirrors and cameras and television screens play their part in our insanely busy lives, where no one has time anymore to do anything, not even look behind them. That new evolutionary chart that goes from Ardipithecus ramidus to anatomically modern humans to the guy sitting at the desk on the computer – well, now that computer is in his pocket, and soon it’ll be in his wrist.
Remember the cliff? Surely the iPod will have the answer: to jump or not to jump, to be or not to be – this isn’t suicide, kids – remember that. This is existence, and the question isn’t always Why? – it sometimes sleeps within us until we’ve failed so miserably at Being Something that the only consolation comes in dreams, and detonating a nuclear (that’s NU-CLEAR, not NU-CU-LER, dimwits) bomb just won’t help the World of the Awake so much. It’ll piss someone off, and gain the attention of some group of unstable religious fanatics who will riot at the very idea. Don’t burn their book – the title page looks a little different from yours, motherfucker. Don’t judge a book by the cover! Yes, at least they believe in something. Good for them, but are they accomplishing anything with their fervent display of pissed-off-ness? Let us pray that they are. All to the same god, now. Bow your heads. Kneel before me, says he. Clowns and all.
Let’s dig some more. Where are we going with this? The core of our existence, our nature to care for ourselves or others – the givers and takers of life. Livers of life. Slightly burgundy, like a good chianti. Sear it first. Not the wine. What kind of cynicism lands someone in this spot? It must be something. Think, Sean. Think. It’s not enough to defy another’s ideals, not enough to banish the actions of someone who holds values different from our own. Fear is not an excuse. Loathing is a cop out. I’m sorry, Hunter, but the reason it never got weird enough for you might have been because you didn’t look hard enough. But you get an A for effort.
Damnit, let’s go with another, perhaps older one this time: Sisyphus. I read about him in a poem recently. He was sort of out of place there, but the idea was intact. He knew his death was near, and he was kind of mad at his wife for not taking care of him. So mad that he convinced the gods to let him out to punish her! But then, life was so good this time around that he wouldn’t return to Hades, so they made him push a boulder up a mountainside for all of eternity. The first time he did it – victory, right? The second time, absolute devastation. The boulder rolled back down the mountain each time. But one of those times, he must have watched very calmly, very composed of himself and maybe he even smiled at the rolling boulder. How fast it tumbles. Oh, look at it bounce off that ledge! Sweet. Then he’d go chase after it.
Something clicked. I walk up a snowcovered mountain just so I can ride back down again. And then I walk back up. The trip down is worth the trip up. I would make that trip for all of eternity if the snow didn’t melt, amongst other small considerations of physics. Sisyphus accepted his fate at some point, and made the best of it. Saw the value in it. Kept at it. Looked forward to it, this punishment bestowed upon him. He would freely push the stone up the hill, because in his mind, that’s what he did, regardless of what the gods or passersby had to say about it. Imprisoned to his fate, he was free.
Perhaps we could learn a lesson from that.