Being There

At work one day this week I launched the web browser and found I still had not changed the default homepage, even after working there since July.

For a brief moment I saw the headlines that come across MSNBC’s home page; the font was small, but the content screamed like any tabloid spied in the supermarket checkout. The stories were these and my reactions were this:

1.) Meet the newest richest person in the world (I’m sure he’s quite happy, but no thanks)
2.) Athlete who overdosed on drugs while at a brothel is doing better (I’m glad…he needs to pick better hobbies, like puzzles)
3.) Man who shot kid accidentally in road rage incident has hearing (please angry New Jersey drivers who crowd my bumper, just leave me be until I get home from work)

The headlines are picked to shock or cause sensation. My reactions were undoubtedly a bit cynical…there are distinct moments, however, when I am running on empty, and feel like just never leaving the house except for essential activities.

On the best films I have ever seen is called Being there, staring Peter Sellers. It fascinates me, the idea of a man who is educated entirely through television (and, putting the film into a 21st Century sense, someone who could be educated entirely from Twitter or Facebook); and also that a man with little contact with the outside world, except for media, when he comes into contact with the outside world, is viewed as wise, his simplistic statements takes as being full of metaphor…so much so he is chosen to be a presidential candidate.

Chancey Gardener was a cinematic political outsider.

It doesn’t take a life lived outside the world to feel like an outsider, though. Life, though (like the film states in the final scene) is indeed a state of mind, and it seems feeling like an outsider only magnifies evidence that seems to suggest you are.

After my accident, I am more aware of what is going on with cars around me, and the people who drive them.

I am driving and notice a car swerving in front of me; I try to switch lanes, but find I can’t…cars all around me. The car in front of me swerves again, causing a cacophony of honking…I notice the inside of the car through the window, see a couple arguing..the woman is the passenger, and has her finger right up to the male driver’s nose, and she is screaming..I just see the back of his head, he is facing the road, he’s acting like he doesn’t hear her screaming, but the swerving indicates he is not focusing on driving. Suddenly, the car stops…I stop, and find myself honking…the man is now screaming back, and she hasn’t changed position..my honking only causes an arm to emit from outside the window, telling me to go around…the highway is now their arena, to argue..

Driving in New Jersey is indeed a contact sport, and my refusal to go over the speed limit causes those behind me to honk, and flash their lights. The police are out there, though, everywhere…so I restrain myself from speeding.

These small things compound: I don’t care too much about the richest man in the world; or a famous athlete’s drug problems; and I don’t want to speed. I come home, and make tea, and begin to plan my sojourn…Thoreau was perhaps right to decide society had it all wrong, and that (relative) exile and a solitary life were the ways to be. His writing was best when he considered species who could not speak with him, who did not have habits like drinking coffee and beer, and that seem to be inherent to some natural order.

My dog chews things when anxious; she can’t really tell me why she does this, but I have my suspicions (loneliness, being afraid of being left alone)…she chewed my magazine with Hilary Clinton on the cover (I am ending up rooting for Bernie Sanders) and the edges of my Carl Jung book (which I decided was interesting, but I could not understand the astrology). She may be prescient, and is a great companion…she sleeps, she plays, she always wants a hug…

My favorite thing to do is to hike…and in the woods I can go for miles; much like running, I like the feeling of outdoors, and more space ahead of me than I can cover; I used to run through the woods, leaping over fallen logs, branches…

I can’t though, leave myself just to the woods, and a wily animal…I find myself being in the world…of course there is work, but there is family too. I have been in the circumstance of not having a close family; so I have no natural obligations to anyone. Yet, I form connections…this week Ana, the girl I am adopting, showed me a math test she did not do as well as she would have liked to, and began crying…I reassure her, and tell her it’s all okay…that we do not arrive at where we want to be instantly…that life is iteration…life is a state of mind…

That advice seems pat, like new age meaninglessness. However, when I went to a meditation retreat a few years ago, detachment was emphasized…it was a path, the teachers explained: attachment, resentment, feeling bad, arguments…it made some sense, but did not seem practical..how could one practice loving kindness and be detached?

I want to believe that attachment matters; that knowing things matters; that public fights on highways, and blaring mindless media were indeed on the outside, that the heart of the matter of life was more than that…that one could share a life with others, or another person, and that the more than, that is what made up life.

You say that this is too simplistic, or impossible…look around: horns blaring, news about the dull and loud of the world, it’s all about money or power, that’s the message; academia, knowledge, it’s all a waste, about who is smart, right, but it has no street value, man! I insistent this cannot be…I read, I write, I work with color, and work with clients…I believe it all matters…and for moments, many moments, I do believe it…and on a Monday morning, when my dog pounces on the bed to declare it will be the best day ever (through her wagging tail, and happy stretches), I pet her and say, yes it will.