Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

There are times, on your late evening walk when you can see beyond the summery cloud cover.  Stars, planets, and the ever present bustle of jet planes add their personality to that vast expanse we alternately call sky and space.  

On such times, your thoughts range outward, to thoughts of travel, of colonization, of life and purpose out there well beyond the life and purpose already out there.  In some of your more political frames of mind, you imagine colonization and many of the accompanying  aspects we've come to think of as Imperialism.

In direct and indirect ways, you are thinking thoughts and imagining scenarios such memorable authors as Heinlein, Bradbury, Leinster, Bester, and Dick wanted us to be concerned with.  By imagining your own conspiracy theories, you are thinking through variations on the basic theme of humanity, wherever it finds itself.  

There is comfort in this kind of evening walk, comfort in the certainty that writers of all political visions and persuasions--Bradbury and Heinlein, for example, are near polar opposites, but you've heard each speak of the other with a respect not always evident among more mainstream writers.

There are other times when your evening walk is not open to your vision of the cloud cover.  There are no jets, racing from one romantic destination to another or even racing from one rather staid location to another of similar nature.  

There are no breaks in the cloud cover to allow visions of Venus or Jupiter, no windows through which innumerable constellations may be seen.  On such nights, if you were looking for such celestial grandeur, you'd do better to regard features in The National Geographic or your own iPhone application, purporting to be a map of the heavens.

On such nights, you're reminded of those who came well before you, whose lives would at one point, intersect to provide the circumstances from which you achieved your being.  Many of these ancients were limited to travel only in terms of their ability to see a shore line or other relevant vantage point by which they mark their way.

Some ancients were able to stray well beyond sight of landfall, deft in their ability to use stars, planets, and other distant markets as their reference points.  Such abilities are often validated by archaeological logic in which a cutting tool, hewn from some element such as obsidian, may be found hundreds if not thousands of miles away from recognizable deposits of obsidian.  How did it get there?  Who brought it?  What did he trade for in return?  

In her remarkable novel--all of her novels are remarkable--The Master Butcher's Singing Club, Louise Erdrich writes of an immigrant, arriving in the North American Midwest, having paid his way by the contents of his suitcase, which contained superb sausage.  Your own maternal grandfather ran up a fortune from the sale of knitting and sewing needles, scissors, ribbons, and scraps of cloth which he carried with him as a back pack.

All of us, whether professional salespersons or purveyors of other things such as poetry, recipes for alcoholic beverages, songs, stories, yeasty starter dough, carry our wares with us on dark and shiny nights, many of us away from the sight lines of home, reliant instead on the skyline and artifact of places well beyond what is home.

You know your way home; your evening walks are no act of bravery to adventure.  You walk with one hundred percent certainty you will find your way.  Even when you were new to this neighborhood, there was no thought you would be lost or need the navigation devices on your iPhone, nor require instructions from some well-meaning stranger.

There is another kind of journey, more often than not undertaken under the equivalent of a cloudy sky, where there are no landmarks against which you may plot your course, navigate your way home, negotiate your sense of direction from an indifferent reality that has no care whatsoever if you do return home.

This is the journey of a new project, one you've experienced enough recognition from to understand that you will take this voice, if only to see where it will lead you.  The more you are of this frame of mind, the more attractive the journey will seem and the greater the likelihood that at some point in the journey, you will have the incredible sense of loss you associate with having the metaphoric broken heart.

You've had this broken heart experience often enough to know it is a common thread to your existence and to your survival.  A person you care for dies.  An animal you care for dies.  A dream you've put forth some effort to steer into the garage of reality turns to dust before your eyes or comes apart in your hands.  A story that led you to some incredible vantage point has run off on you, without leaving so much as a farewell note.

This intense rush of feeling has nothing to do with envy or jealousy.  The feeling is the irrevocable sense of loss you feel when your heart is broken.

Starting out on the voyage of a new project puts you in the immediate risk of being drawn beyond the coast line, which you understand and accept.  The project will begin talking to you in direct proportion to the distance you are away from any landmark.  The project may grow tired of your fumbling along the way, tell you to go fuck yourself, then be gone.  The project may ask you in a voice loud enough for you to fear everyone about you being able to hear.  What were you thinking? the voice asks.

You have developed an answer to that.  I was told to believe, you tell it, that there would be some delivered understanding or knowledge at the end of this project.

And you fucking believed those assurances?

You are on such a project now, neither fearful nor confident, for a certainty neither under nor over confident.  You are far enough now from the shore line. You see one little blob of light against the overcast, a blob you take to be your own enthusiasm for the project.

You've been in this business long enough to understand how you might get your heart broken.  With every new sentence, you hear voices, variously saying yay or asking if you are out of your fucking mind.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, you say, then you read back to the last sentence where you heard the voice offering you a note of encouragement.

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