At some point in a person’s life there has to be a reconciliation between the way reality has been presented to them by the various cultural institutions and the way life actually is. For the most part, I think a lot of people go through their lives as actors in a play. They are supposed to believe so they pretend to believe. They are supposed to be good parents so they do those things other people think will be considered good parenting. They are supposed to watch the same television programs as their friends do so they can have something to talk about whenever they’re alone together and realize they have nothing to talk about.
A friend of mine died recently. At age fifty-eight he ran away from his old life, his family, his children, and everyone who knew him. He had met a woman online, told her that he was looking to get away from himself and she let him move in with her, a thousand miles away from all he had ever known. He moved to a town where he was no one to anyone, a stranger among strangers, and he took a job stocking shelves in a retail store at night. He returned to his one true love, drinking, and in the space of just six months drank himself into ill health, and finally, to death.
The woman he had moved in with wasn’t entirely happy with his death but it was a relief to her. She didn’t claim his body so he was cremated and the ashes were simply dumped at a site near a lake where a local church provides a ceremony for those people without a circle of family and friends who show concern for the final curtain’s fall. The audience had walked out a long time ago.
The woman knew his name and knew where he was from and through social media discovered his oldest daughter. “Hi, I’m from a thousand miles away and I think the guy I shacked up with was your father. He’s dead. His ashes were tossed out of a paper box into a lake were the fishing is really great.” Add friend/ ignore.
The wonderful thing about social media is a person can either become part of a larger whole or become who they really are, and maybe both, and maybe even both at the same time. It’s a place a person can make peace with their madness. Or go to war with it.
I went to a yard sale last Saturday in an upscale neighborhood that has its own security and its rules about yard sales, too. Once a year, they permit people to sell stuff from their yards and it’s an odd thing; there are million dollar homes there and tiny yards. Everything is tidy. Everything is neat. All the grass is the same height in all the tiny lawns and all the domesticated plants that flower at the same time are trimmed back to the same degree. The squirrels have the same haircut and even the birds fly in formation. And this is exactly what I talking about here; none of this stuff found in the nice neighborhood is real. None of it exists without the idea that this is how things are supposed to be, as agreed to, by everyone willing to live like this.
Not that there’s anything wrong with living like this, if you can live like this.
Perhaps, and I am more than willing to concede this point, it is better to not make peace with your madness but to pave over it. Maybe it’s better to medicate it, to simply bore it to death, and play your part in the theater of the grass grown the same height and the children all dressed in the same clothes, and the tidy tiny trimmed lawns. If a pine cone hits the ground, dash out and collect it for the garbage truck so it can be taken to a landfill somewhere. Trees now produce trash that is to be picked up in plastic bags, all on a certain day of the week.
Is it any wonder there are no polymaths produced in this environment? In the dizzying array of white noise and sameness how could anything greater than this be grown here? The better part of each family’s effort and treasure is sunken deep into the idea that this is the end all to living. Is it any wonder that at age fifty-eight, a man might run away from his sanity to discover his own madness waiting for him at the edge of life?
You think this fatalistic? Do you consider my words fey? Is it death to rail against the white noise and static of sameness in life or is it death to accept this monochromatic world without risk of the lawn covenant’s palette? Can the human mind prosper in a world where everything is decided within a narrow range of possibilities?
The choking fog of society cannot be lived without. We must have doctors and builders and those who produce food, and as we make acceptations for those who are deeply sane we move further and further away from those who are trying not to make peace with their madness, but rather are trying to mount it, and ride the upon it on the wind. The abstract artist who is also a landlord cannot speak of the world of swirled colors or violently splattered paint to a tenant whose job it is to keep all plants butchered at the same elevation. The man who oversees a construction project cannot speak of his work with a pen to a man whose life is happily spent operating a shovel. There is a distance between the worlds that neither side can comprehend.
I will also concede, happily, that I might be wrong about this, also.
No matter which way the pressure lies; you cannot receive the anesthesia of the world where pine cones are trash any more than you can surrender to the bottle or the pill, for neither is a good substitute for living. Find a place to live and let others do the same.
Make peace with your madness. In the end, it is the only thing that is truly yours.