There will come a day when most of what you are witnessing will be dismissed as being frivolous and of little consequence.
I am no prophet. I sit and try with my best intentions to gaze out into the future. The future in 1999 was just as black as it is today. As much as I thought all of the lights would go out, I didn’t quite believe it enough to do anything about it. The only lights going out in the future that I can be sure about are my own.
I wish I could find the face that I am speaking to. I will never know you, at least I think that’s true. Maybe we will come to know each other on some distant, timeless plain.
The isolation required by this human form is maddening. People treasure their privacy like nothing else. After all of the layers are stripped away, you are left wondering what someone was so carefully hanging onto. It is easy to see a future kingdom of heaven on earth as being highly social and communal, but it is hard to immerse myself in social things. The more fragmented the conversation becomes, the higher the noise to signal ratio. Of course, some signals are hiding behind coherence brought about by the right overlapping noise waves. If you are always focused on seeking out the signal, you might only catch a few trivial signals and miss many more significant ones gleaned by those who toughed it out in the arenas of conversation.
Or, you might perfect the only few signals you ever really needed to know.
There is an instinct to get home. There is no home, but simply shards of what home used to be. I could go visit the places I once called home, and I could attempt to return myself to the state I was in when I metaphysically left home, but it only does some good. It does good in that there are little pieces to be found that I’d forgotten and can’t describe succinctly.
If life was a jigsaw puzzle, it would be a jigsaw puzzle numbering in pieces approaching the hundreds of thousands. The picture on the box would be blacked out, and too many of the areas of the puzzle would look similar and unvaried. I’ve gotten the edge pieces all in place, and I’ve more or less grouped everything by color, but I am still trying to figure out how these different areas of similar pattern and color go together. If life was a jigsaw puzzle, for all I know, I could be about to put in the last piece or I could still have tens of thousands of pieces to go. I just don’t know. Of course, I could run the metaphor into the ground, and talk about how I should be getting more help putting the pieces together while helping others put their pieces together. I could even assert that all of the pieces are already in place, or that the picture on the box has always been there, and it’s simply my own stupid desire to be putting fragments back together that enables the picture to look fragmented.
The urge has been to find a talisman–something to touch and hold that would set off a million memories and insights. But then, the will is also to get away from things, as things tend to clog everything up and make it hard to breathe and do something new.
When trying to jump spontaneously into just any memory, or remembering a random dream, I find myself in the backyard of the house in which I did most of my growing up. Sometimes it’s dark, sometimes light. Sometimes I am young, or my present age. Other times it’s winter, fall, spring, summer…or the backyard has become mostly unrecognizable as a dream place.
Perhaps I assigned some kind of psychic ownership to this place. I wandered around in it more than anyone else in my family did, as far as I know. I longed to uncover something magical about it–an old Civil War relic, a Native American artifact, a precious gem, a portal to another world. Alas, the back yard yielded only what its previous owners had left in it–garbage buried everywhere, a shack we eventually tore down, the remains of fry daddies, salon equipment, an engine block from a ‘74 Plymouth, tons of old boards covered in wire from the electric fences they had tacked up for their horses. There was nothing magical there–only the remains of a marriage and business partnership that had gone south.
But, it was also my retreat from the horrors of junior high and high school. It was a place to dream and pretend that I was going to be transformed in a few short months. My older brother had rarely gone back there, and only went back there to smoke when he returned home from boot camp. My little brother had yet to develop a curiosity about the outdoors. My parents worked and went about their adult lives, only occasionally going back there to tend to the garden, mow, trim brush and tear down the old shack.
While I never consciously claimed it as my own particular place, that’s what it became for me. It was a place that belonged primarily to me. Others were allowed to venture there, but they never went during my prime time hours of before/after school and summer weekdays. My neighbor friend across the street generally insisted on doing something when he hung out with me, and so wandering around a trashy, weedy back yard wasn’t really his idea of fun.
Maybe this is what every human needs: an acre patch on earth that he or she can all their own. It doesn’t have to hold any intrinsic worth–the mineral rights can be possessed by others, but that might defeat some of the purpose of getting to have full ownership. If each person was guaranteed a single acre to live and die and be buried, then they might not be as inclined to fight for particular patches of dirt in the Middle East. What makes a patch of dirt so special is the psychic shine you put into it.
I don’t mean anything terribly mystical or voodoolike, either. Just psychic shine in the sense of how you spend so many hours there, focused on it as your land and nobody else’s, during various seasons. You become attached to it not because it is beautiful or yields rare gems and treasures–you become attached to it because it is a significant enough amount of physical space you can claim as your own and nobody else’s. In your mind, you can erect anything you want to on this land.
Maybe it’s not for everyone. Some people have done amazing things while living out entire lives in cramped, urban spaces. Many people have done nothing with millions of acres of land. But, if you were given one unremarkable acre of land, what would you do with it? Would you try to farm it? Build on it? Put in a swimming area and create a fake beach? Start a business? Make a parking lot? Find as much native vegetation as possible to fill all but a tiny middle patch of it where a little green lawn and gazebo sit?
Obviously, the mind wants to turn this into a metaphor for the physical self. If you are given such-and-such body and brain–not terribly smart, sexy or strong but not especially stupid, unattractive and weak, either–what do you do with it? Most people abuse their little acres for the first part of their adult lives, and then become hyper-conscious of how little time they have left to maintain their acre and therefore begin obsessing about perfecting the acre: it gets it all–a garden, a business, a parking lot, a swimming pool, a home, a chapel. But, none of these are cultivated especially well, and the owner of the acre spends only so much time developing each one. No one is there to help them, because each of us have our own little acre we are working on. Perhaps two of us join our acres together, and attempt to bring forth another acre or two from the joining–and we quickly realize that we don’t own any of the other acres but the original one that was assigned to us.
And really, what is there you can do with one acre of land that would impact the rest of the world when you die? You could plant a bunch of trees, but they might get cut down for timber. You could erect a library and fill it with uplifting books, but what if no one comes to read them? You might install a windmill or two, or some solar panels and generate a few kilowatts of electricity–drops in the bucket.
Or, you can do what any younger person would wish to do, as they pay no heed to buried power and gas lines or mounds of dirt falling in upon them–they start to dig.
You dig, and you dig and you dig. Occasionally, you come back to the top to see just how far you’ve dug, and to make a note of how the soil looks much the same at 30m as it does at 330m. Sometimes you hit water, sometimes oil. But, you insist on digging until you can dig no more. Someone says you’ll get to the earth’s molten core, others claim that you’ll run into Indonesia, and a few think that you’ll reach the weird land of the hollow earth people who see down as up and up as down and get their light from an unknown source near the center of the earth.
Too many people to count have urged you to stop digging, as your hole runs so deep that the earth will surely collapse in upon you and crush you during your efforts. But for you, the only way to obtain anything approaching a happy ending is to keep digging until you can dig no more.