For others when they seem to sit, as Dogs, Cats, or Lions, doe make unto their spine acute angles with their thigh, and acute to the thigh with their shank. — Sir T. Browne
The world is so small it consists merely of the self. Two cars were stuck at a green light this past week. Yes, I say “stuck” for they were certainly not stopped by any physical means or moral obligations. As a companion and I stood on the corner of 11th and Bluemont Avenue, we observed how dreadfully long the crosswalk was taking. After witnessing the light cycle through, it eventually occurred to us that the two cars on the west side of the intersection remained dormant despite the green light opposite them encouraging their progression. Ten seconds passed. No movement. Twenty seconds passed. Nothing. Thirty seconds passed, and (finally) the old man behind the northernmost car laid on his horn, shocking the two dead boys back to life as my friend and I both laughed at the boys and groaned at the whole situation. For after about ten seconds into the debacle we noticed that the reason neither boy pressed on the gas after the light turned green was because both heads were bowed in holy reverence and submission to their phones; their minds were so far removed from their present scenarios that their eyeballs may as well have been turned inwards so they could see nothing but themselves.
The phone is a monstrosity. It is a barbaric monstrosity. The surest way to know that a man is devolving is to look at the hundreds of undergrads on college campuses who lack more culture than any caveman with a club who would at least grunt, snort, or draw a picture. But too commonly the new barbarian will, with head down at his phone, fly into a pole or get hit by a bus before any sign of life is found. And the phone destroys culture because it makes the world very small. But, of course any sensible man knows that before the world can be big again it must be small. We cannot merely disregard towns, cities, states, and provinces before we wish the world to be big. Better if Buffalo, Wyoming is as big as Buffalo, New York than if the latter were nothing but an afterthought. If my 5-year-old self could make ten measly trees the size of Boise National Forest, imagine what that boy could do with Boise National Forest.
That crosswalk eventually lit our way onward, and we continued on to a park. Our mission was to go spy on a few houses we secretly envied for their quaintness, when suddenly the noise of a blaring trombone, crashing symbols and whirling wind instruments stirred in us no little curiosity. Toward the noise we headed, and we joined a good sized crowd with an average age of about sixty listening intently to the noise performed by a traveling army band. It was perhaps a tad warm, but yet pleasant for a July evening in the central plains region. So we sat and listened as the band played songs that once made men giddy to rush off into war and face the music. An interlude of sorts graced the crowd with three jazz tunes. A man gave a delightful trombone solo during the first song, and he got so worked up, I wondered for half a second if he would meet the same fate as the unfortunate Mr. Krook of Dickens’ Bleak House.
The whole band returned, and we were again blessed with rousing songs that took the soul out of the body and placed it in a country, a community. I knew but one person in that crowd, but we were, at that moment, reflecting on one of the most spiritual of things, nationalism. It may be true that nationalism leads to conflict and competition. It may also be true that a lack of nationalism leads to one nation under self. If no respect or honor is left for a country by its inhabitants, the only sensible thing to do is to abolish it as a nation altogether. If no standards or culture exists within that nation, a lack of respect and honor will certainly follow, for a man must have an ideal to fight for, and it is just that ideal that is vanishing in the hoards of plugged in millenials who haunt our streets and shopping malls.
If it is to be supposed that a smaller world is necessarily a better world, it is to be supposed that smaller things are necessarily to be disregarded. A man from Ladysmith, Wisconsin has very little to do with any Ladies or Smiths in his town if he is mentally residing in Hollywood or New York. It is, of course, not an evil to imagine oneself somewhere else. The entire concept of planning is founded on the notion of “being elsewhere.” But the evil exists in Ladysmith looking more like Hollywood, and the Ladies and Smiths from Ladysmith looking more and more like Beyoncés and Biebers. That “every town in America is exactly the same” is certainly not true, but it is becoming more true. It is becoming more likely that a man can be at the exact same diner whether he is in Americus, Georgia or Americus, Kansas.
And a one world government would be about as desirable as having nothing but Beyoncés and Biebers running around. The tendency in America is to do nothing but stress individuality until we have nothing but conformity. The problem, of course, is that the individuality crusade is preached on the false ideal that they are open to all opinions, and that any conformity at all is a horrid evil. But individuality that is absolutely open-minded is like anarchy; it is chaos, and it will last about thirteen minutes before someone sets a trend or a fad. And conformity is to be sought if conformity is the morally correct way to live. It should not be looked down upon; it should be embraced that, say, all ministers in Hawthorne, Nevada wear black veils across their face or that in Marked Tree, Arkansas all the trees have Rosalind’s name written on them.
Above all, the songs which brought me back to my childhood, when this cantankerous country was in my mind equally loved by all, also brought back the patriotism I once had but recently lost. “America the Beautiful” was played, and I could not help, in my cynicism, to comment on the way home that it is a shame America is no longer beautiful. My compatriot reminded me that it still is, one just cannot see it anymore. Indeed, she was right. There is beauty in this land, and it is not found in Hollywood or New York but in Valentine, Nebraska and Atoka, Tennessee. It is good and all that our country and states have a song, but I say our cities and towns should have a song. The problem with our world is that it is so small no one can have a proper adventure; it is so small only the big things matter, but when only the big things matter, they eventually become very small in size. What we need is for townspeople to go back to being townspeople — to walking up and down main street and talking about town as if it is the world. And these inhabitants may be unaware of the recent Hollywood divorce that has taken place, but they will be aware of the scandal across the street. Maybe when town rivalries grow so fierce; when the inhabitants of Henderson, Kentucky cross the Ohio and attack Mt. Vernon, Indiana; when the battle is at its bleakest, and Mt. Vernon’s flag is barely seen through the haze of smoke and darkening skies, that a lone lifer from Mt. Vernon will pen a song in its honor. When the battle is over and Mt. Vernon has their independence, sons will once again be named Vernon. And all will be right with the world, for it is found in Mt. Vernon.
Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Written at the Ole Midshipman,
Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Transcribed by Adam the Scribe,
Saturday, August 2nd, 2014
Painting: “A Battle”
By Jacques Courtois
Oil on Canvas, 1655-1670