Apr 23, 2016

The Real World

Poway, California;
The Department of Motor Vehicles.

I've got ticket number B70.  They just called B45.  The "B" prefix indicates that I'm here to address a registration issue. More specifically, my car registration expired last March, and I'm playing a dangerous game by driving at all given the status of my license (that story is for a different blog...). I make one bad move on the road and/or an observant cop notices my Camry's broken side mirror and last years stickers and the consequences would be dire by anyone's standards

I have nowhere to be. I have yet to even begin looking for a job.
Waiting it is then. 

Image: Photograph Art: Graffiti Sign by a Park.
Limits Besmirched.
From my Instagram Account

Oh, it's all just so banal.

But that's what life is when you're back from the trail.
Mundane.  Difficult only in its utter ease.

   Have you seen the movie Cast Away?  There's a scene where the long-suffering character played by Tom Hanks, having just returned from his marooning, walks down the standard produce aisle of a grocery store. Fresh fruits and vegetables shine brilliantly; their skins glistening from the gentle mist provided by dozens of tiny irrigation jets. Ironically, the character is not at all overwhelmed, nor does he betray a sense of gratitude or awe in the scene. Quite the opposite.  It's a credit to Hanks' acting that he's able to perfectly describe something so complex with just his facial expression. 

   What he's portraying is melancholy, and slight incredulity.  A realization of that which he has lost by returning to civilization. He is adjusting to a new reality.  One filled with fast technology, quick gratification, and wasteful abundance.  You want an apple? There's one right there.  Doritos?  Aisle 3. Cadbury cream eggs are by the cashier.  It's all here for you.  It's all so very very easy.  I'm sure that, in that moment Hanks' is recalling how imperative and difficult to earn each morsel of food seemed when he was stranded. He's contrasting that recollection with his current situation. Two different worlds, perhaps even two different people.

   The immensity and importance of the scene can perhaps be lost on an audience incapable of suspending its disbelief, but not on one that has experienced the same thing. Probed deeply enough it questions the very nature of civilization, and our individual happiness within such a system.  Before storming the ivory-towered world of vastly complex ideas that have brought us as a species to that moment in the grocery store, I submit that a more effective means of examination is available by asking ourselves a simple question: which food tasted better? Was it the fish and coconuts he had to hunt, scrape, and fight for; or the grocery store food readily available at any given moment.

You already know the answer. 

    We tend to glorify our own suffering sometimes. We use it, not just to craft our identity, but in many ways to elevate ourselves above others. We equate suffering with experience and wisdom.  "I know more or am more aware because I have suffered more than you have," goes the thought. You see this in teenagers and young adults comparing their sufferings, usually emotional, and attempting to one-up each other in terms of pain endured.  
  After a point however, we grow up and cease the comparing our suffering out loud. Truth is, no-one wants to hear how your daddy never bought you that pony, or that your girlfriend cheated on you.  Pity is an ignoble form of empathy, and while most of us don't permit its use by or upon others, I suspect we yet reserve its application for ourselves.
     Some people however, finding no pity externally, hide their woes and, like the rest of society,  move along without complaint. We say this is good. Maturity teaches us to think little upon our pain.  But deep down, this special portion of folk keep their suffering at close length.  They stoke it at times and warm themselves by the burn it causes upon their psyche. They make themselves more special that way.

    Their secret pain becomes who they are: that which divides them from others, and validates their existence. This is the height (or depth) of egotism and is truly the most dangerous form of self-alienation I'm aware of.  I have remind myself of this form foolishness constantly, in order not to fall into the same mental trap.  In truth, it's better to be honestly grateful for our suffering and what we've been through. Agony doesn't define us.  It only widens our view and allows us to see just how small life's little hiccups really are in greater perspective. 
If you can be grateful, that is.

  I see very little patience here. I look around at the faces and see annoyance, distraction, and apathy.  They're immersed in all this.  Only a few of the people I come across have the thoughtful look of an interested and interesting individual, that I used to come across so often when hiking.  This adds to the loneliness I feel sometimes.  
   I can't communicate with people in a real way.  I don't know where to begin.  I'm sure everyone feels like that to a certain extent, but this feels different than it used to before I left. 
  People look at you differently.  Rather, more apt to say, they don't look at you at all.  Everyone is in a rush.  They're caught up in their lives and don't have the time or ability to perceive others the way they should.  Community is hard to come by. 

  I've been back in civilization for a month and a half now, and, as I sit in this bleak building, I know that it's time I address the issue of my reintegration. 


Just Bruce said...

The best description yet of my yearly retoxification process if that make any sense.

JustinArn said...

It does, indeed. I appreciate it, and hope to see you out there this year.