I was one time in the country of Cameroon, but before I arrived there, I expressed to a man on the way to the Chicago airport that “rarely am I ever living where I am actually living.” This was a reference to the recent phenomenon at the time which has unfortunately blossomed into a societal norm known as ‘texting.’ I was then a late bloomer as I usually am with technology and found it odd that, though I would be attempting a conversation with someone directly in front of me, my thoughts were often on a person nowhere near my physical presence. Thus the effects of too much technology. I look back on this now with not a little irony as today I could very well say the same of myself. For this process is always taking place. One of the creeds that we literary people live by is that “all is literary.” Due to such, my mind is often in the clouds or if not there, in some other world I create which allows for such freedom I will coin as a “literary freeway”: the freedom to see all as potential literature.
This blog post will unfortunately not be a book review as I am struggling as any modern would through the Canterbury Tales, and though much there is to say about that long poem, I can only bemoan and say as one of Chaucer’s characters might, “Welaway!” For I must finish certain tales before I can justifiably comment on them, and frankly I have lately been far too worn out from my current work life to have much energy for writing. Not because I work too much but because I am far too weak. This creates frustration for any writer because as much as I love simple regurgitation, I do not believe that doing so onto a computer screen is ever justified. Though most regurgitation is actually beneficial for the body as many things that enter the stomach were not intended to be inserted there, the mere vomiting of one’s thoughts should always be kept at a minimum. In short, we should have some sort of boundary or safeguard. Today, I am removing a boundary that is literature. I trust you will bear with me as this naturally opens up another side of myself. But in the spirit of this blog, I always promote looking at things from much different angles than one would naturally do even if that requires suspending rationality for the time being.
Write and regurgitate I must for musicians keep playing and artists keep drawing despite not being in the correct humour to do so. I have decided then to get a little philosophical today as most musing is when not connected with anything but our thoughts. My job requiring far too much driving for my liking, I find that most of my thoughts are “engendred” while I partake in the act, mostly while listening to the lyrics of Samuel Beam. As I earlier stated, “all is literary.” For each of us perceives directly or indirectly that we are a part of a story. And like Dustin Hoffman’s character rightly explained in Stranger Than Fiction we are either a part of a comedy or tragedy. Or both. Each of us would look back on life and see much comedy and much tragedy sprinkled throughout, and I would perhaps not be the first to say that much of my past has seemed to be an epic farce. I am Don Quixote or a far less noble Samuel Pickwick believing myself to be much grander than I actually am which leads to my imminent downfall. Pride cometh before a fall just about sums it up for me.
I recently was speaking about my job with my now former periodontist who is also literary. She recommended to me Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 in which a certain character decides he wants to have a long life and in the pursuit of such decides to take the most mind-numbingly boring jobs offered, thus “prolonging” his life. This is very funny to anyone who has every had one of these jobs. I have not had the time to read the novel, but I explained to her that most of my thoughts during work are focused on potential novels which will probably never materialize. “I don’t belong here, I am only observing” were her words of advice which are frighteningly true for me.
As awful as it might sound, most of my thoughts while driving the interstate to work are focused on observing human nature while we drive (not on safety or avoiding Missourians or anything practical like that). What happens, for example, when we all literally run out of gas? Perhaps we all are already symbolically “out of gas” with the American dream (or joke) as I am. But in a dystopian fantasy, what occurs when our most cherished natural resource dries up and we are left with the job in the inner city and the house in the burbs (I speak in ignorance and merely hypothetically). The routine of life is so ingrained in us that we continue heading to the freeway only on our feet. The automobiles are abandoned in the streets and garages but our inner being cannot leave off our desire for more Washington’s and off to work we head out of sheer condition to do so. We observe that nothing changes though when we strip down our present day actions we realize that is exactly what our clogged interstates are: people running, walking, chugging along to different exits in the global pursuit of wealth. We notice the overworked businessman to our left, with briefcase in hand and coffee in another, this man has his phone attached (may as well be surgically) to his face to free up another for the act of driving, yet in our fantasy there is no car just a man in an overpriced suit with a briefcase running very quickly out of mere routine. This is perhaps the first person we notice not because of his uniqueness but because there are many of these suit-wearers noticeable on the freeway. Though they are more chained than free, most flock to that far left lane sprinting with all their might cursing their brethren who decide to take things a bit more cautiously. Our businessman we notice decidedly “bites his thumb” at us for jogging just a tad slower than he is sprinting, and humorously this leads to the spilling of either his coffee or briefcase. He swears and curses us as if we are the problem. If we were to leave the car behind would our fellow man still behave in such a barbaric temper? Is he sticking up his middle finger at us or our car? For we often forget as people that it is people inside the car beside us which is screaming down the highway looking out for number one.
We may step back a bit and continue to notice something else that takes place on the freeway: the avoidance of any type of conversation between individuals. In forgetting that the fellow in the car next to us is human, we take to the interstate on our feet and continue down the same path, switching lanes, bellowing out lyrics to the sea-shells in our ears and ignoring everything else. Superman lifts the sun into the sky, and we curse the gods for raising Phoebus and causing us to put our shades on. We observe many have forgotten their shades in their transportation machines and continue running along the highway with arms raised to block out the brightness. Meanwhile an older gentleman in overalls and a cap has apparently been taking this road one too many days and has reduced his speed from what used to be a sprint to a slow walk. The lady behind him has three children close with her sprinting quickly as she enters the interstate. It is too bad that she chose to turn around and scream at her kids while she was running and ran right into the old gentleman who was knocked out of his little stupor. The kids are shaken up a bit but are fine, and we witness a quarrel over who was at fault for this slight tragedy. The lady holds that the man was walking too slow but clearly we all ask why was she so intent on screaming at her children?
For some unknown reason, the teenager is on the road at this time of the day. He too is sprinting like the businessman, only he luckily has nothing in his hands only his sea shells in his ears as he has tuned out to the world. His tactic this morning is to run as closely as he can to his fellow man without actually ramming into him. He is not distracted, he is merely an idiot. We all take a deep breath as he sprints by us and pretends to be racing in the Indy 500. There, of course, are those on the highway this morning who cannot be categorized as anything but “untalented.” They neither sprint nor walk, they are not altogether cautious nor are they like the teenager in their demeanor. But we cannot help to notice that these men and women are changing lanes at the absolutely worst possible time one could change a lane. They do so out of either stupidity or forgetfulness, but they are oh so consistent in their process. Though they would naturally never use a blinker, because they are now without a car they feel the need to flap either their left arm or right arm as if they are planning a takeoff only to never actually follow through with any consistent action. One flaps his right arm and is in the right lane and continues flapping that arm as if some spasm causes him to do so. A lady in the middle lane, where the natural observer is, flaps both arms as she drops her coffee but continues to chat frantically on her headset. And in the far left lane a man is actually flapping his right arm but apparently does not see the sprinting business man right next to him as the arms smacks the sprinter in the face and an altercation breaks out among five people who are involved in a pile up.
We dodge this bullet and notice a good sized line forming up ahead of us and our jog must unfortunately come to a screeching halt. There are too many people on this interstate this morning. This actually happens nearly every morning, but lo and behold the man next to us still pretends as if it has sprung anew and swears vehemently at the man in front of him who has his sea shells in his ears and his humming along to a tune completely unaware that his co-worker behind him is cursing his existence. Despite being all huddled up together now we still find no grounds whatsoever to imbibe ourselves with conversation. It has been ingrained into our heads that everyone else on the highway is our enemy, and we all stare straight ahead as tiny ants marching to the end of our existence. One simple act of taking a step back (minding there is no one in our way) and imagining a far greater event taking place is helpful. For the car is gone, but we must also remove the tent, the body of the soul. For every bodily person on this planet is just that, a soul. And as we take an elongated step backwards we focus our attention on something happening above each person. A soul is residing, resting, longing to wake from his stupor, to be awoken. But alas, welaway!, it too is chained. We cannot see it, and because of this it does not exist in our minds. The irony of city life is one in which millions of souls can be huddle together but no two souls seem to have the interaction that Donne described. “Magical things are happening in the world… while we keep on living like monkeys.”
Perhaps this is a good thing that no one actually thinks about these things. Nevertheless, I find myself often thinking in such ways whether it be for the good or not. I do hope this did not come across as me giving off frustrations about city driving. I do enjoy driving a bit, though I cannot help but day dream about a future existence in which no driving ever occurs. I merely felt a dry spell had taken place in my writing on this epic blog, and one must not stop writing. If it was far to cynical and negative, I apologize. I feel in a cynical mood at the present in any case. Cynicism defines too much of who I am. Surely I offended more than one driver who falls into an above category, but in doing so I also told a rather large joke about myself who is depicted in each person. Anyhow, I hope to get back to the books in the very near future. And maybe, in a far more distant future, the last scene will be made into a nice novella, edited and published to perfection unlike my driving skills.