I wandered out of my neighborhood proper this evening for my regular walk, out of the familiar realm and into another, past the new-ish houses that line and dot the area and into the older parts, the more ancient, if that is not too exaggerated of a word for the homes and hearths that rest and belong in this other area. I walked past houses with fireplaces lit and burning and the myriad smells of different woods burned and smoking and was cast back into my childhood with the smoky meat and sausages of German towns and cobbled streets and gutters, wood-burning stoves lit and burning and casting their familiar aromas into those long-ago icy nights, snowflakes falling past slated roofs and through the beams of yellowed street lights. I was there in moments and out again as I beheld the gorgeous and modern houses that lined other streets, an elementary school with the shining SUVs and minivans leaving the parking lot with raised and lifted and monstrously-tired trucks as they left the evening conferences or whatever, pulled out of the parking lot and made their way and ways to their various houses…anyway, down those dimly lit roads that went to those other neighborhoods, not mine, but away.
I walked those miles and then, and came to the cemented ribbons of commerce and travel, that freeway beltway that circles the town and valley. On this side is the neighborhood, on the other are the stores and restaurants filled with people spending their time and money doing whatever it is they’re doing, shopping and eating and being and not wondering at what I was doing out there on the middle of the pedestrian-bridge those twenty-some and thirty feet above the freeway looking down at the passing cars and trucks and minivans, some of which might have just left the evening’s activities at a local elementary school, some of which might be passing homeward, so late, from their working days, or heading back, or to work as I stood there and looked at them passing so. My gloved hands slid their fingers through the chain link arched fence that covered the bridge and hung loosely there as those semi trucks and full and midsized pickup trucks and whatnot sped along.
I wondered at peace and how it could be found there, wondered if it was there, not just there to be found, but could it be there, suspended so high above those cemented passageways, four and six lanes heading their separate ways, four and six lanes times east and west, so eight and twelve lanes in their coming and going. Would it be possible to sit there above the traffic, suspended there above those passing vehicles and people, and have the hum of tires and motors become a relaxing and whitened noise that might calm a troubled soul? Standing there in that odd place, that suspended place that caused my steady soul to wonder at the fastness of the cement pillars and pilings, the metal rods that must be deep inside those cemented somethings, and the architectural skills and engineering genius that must have been utilized to allow for sway and movement and the natural jostling of wind and the shifting of potential liquefaction of the substrate and the contracting and expanding of freezing and warming concrete in their seasons and other things…it did wonder, my steady soul.
It wondered, too, at the darkness that must reside, I would say live, but that would seem to involve an effort to do so, to live, that is, but to reside could be equated to existing and that, it would seem, might not take too much effort…but I wondered, anyway, at the darkness that must reside in the hearts of other people, in their souls maybe, such seemingly impenetrable blackness that would cause them to join me on this midair walkway and look for ways to violate and pass-through the chain-link and then hurl themselves onto those concrete ribbons and under all of those passing vehicles that I mentioned and didn’t, just above in those earlier lines.
My mind wandered back, too, to an earlier life and an earlier occupation that was occupied, was occupied, indeed, so to speak, with concerns, with others’ concerns and our own concerns, mine and my co-workers, with those troubled souls and darkened hearts that found themselves up on those suspended places over the rushing traffic. I wondered how they could have come to that place in their lives, and so near their deaths, that they sought the heights so they could soar up and out from their own inner depths and fly and fall into a light that meant release from so many torments. I wondered what happened to that last loved one or friend, the last one of either, whose patience ran out, whose loving words finally failed that other one on the pedestrian-bridge. Were they scorned by lover or friend, by their oldest child or youngest child or their mate of one or two years, of two or three decades, or was it failing health or lost dreams or used-to-be’s? What did they lose…to find themselves there? It could be anything, I suppose…or everything, too. Their equilibrium, purpose, drive, meaning, orientation, world-view, or whatever…they might suddenly be in a place where nothing makes sense, where things aren’t where they used to be, where even the light is different than it’s supposed to be in their world, or in the place in their world that they used to occupy, maybe. Maybe if their shoes were on my feet, maybe, I might understand more than I do or can, maybe I would understand what it’s like to be them, if I could understand such a thing, but I don’t know. I didn’t walk in their steps, didn’t share their heartbeats, didn’t lay my head on a pillow next to theirs at night, maybe, or didn’t lose what they lost, or suffer the abuses from monsters’ hands like they did, or might have…I didn’t feel those things, maybe I didn’t, so I can only try to understand, as I might.
So, I wondered about all of that and some, and more, as I stood there and listened to those tires and motors speed away from beyond and beneath me as I looked eastward in the darkened night and beheld the lighted forms of the mountains sitting there and understood and knew that they offered perspective to some people’s lives, but not others, that some problems are bigger even than mountains, or seem to be, and therefore are, and that comfort and peace might only come to some at the end of a brief flight from a pedestrian-bridge. Not my personal choice, mind you, and nothing that I condone…but I do understand…in as much as I am able.
In the age-old conversation about work and life, are you one of those lucky or fortunate ones who stumbled upon or pursued and captured the job that drives your passions, or is driven by your passions? Did you have that childhood dream become a reality, and now, in your adulthood, you wake each day and can’t wait to get to your job because you just absolutely love it…because it so fulfills you, rewards you, or gives you the satisfaction at the end of the day in knowing that you participated in something that was so much bigger than yourself, or that you touched at least one life in a way that will be felt positively by that one life for their life’s duration? Or did you wake in the night and rise to embrace your creative dream and not stop until you were famished and your strength gone as you beheld the object of your creation and were able to say “Yes, I did that, I made that, I created that…and the world, or my own corner of it anyway, is all the better because I did so”? Is that you? Is that me? Or are we in the middle of a muddle where we just get up everyday and go to our jobs, walk the walk, go through the motions and maybe even have moments where we actually care about what we’re doing, maybe only to be rewarded every other Friday with a few more bones, or many more bones in our checking account? Or worse, are you in a job or place that you can’t stand, but you’re too numbed by your personally dissociated indifference to do anything about it? Is your job killing your sense of who you are or want to be? Have you resigned yourself to the daily grind and live only for the paydays that finance your weekends and postponed or neglected dreams? How do you live then? How do you do that? How do you surrender yourself so completely to someone else’s bidding? For the money only? Are we whores, then, when we resign ourselves to such a life, sacrificing our bodies, health, our minds, dreams, or our very souls, for that paycheck? What would we trade or willingly sacrifice, to have a job that we love, so that it is no longer work, but actively living and flourishing in ourselves and our dreams as we participate in that “making a living?” What would we sacrifice so that we don’t have to surrender…and what do we become if we don’t?
Where do you live? Where do you find yourself being completed as a person, as an individual, as a soul, as yourself? Are you consumed by your work, by your home life with spouse and kids, or is it school, pursuing that higher education that may or may not bring you a measure of happiness or accomplishment or higher paying job or satisfaction with yourself? Maybe it’s your hobbies or sports that fill your time and your thoughts and take your monies and weekends, or maybe it’s your religion. Maybe you have placed your god in the forefront of your life and all your pursuits, thoughts, time, and energy surround him or her, or maybe it’s simply being outdoors, you work so you can earn the cash to spend your free-time outside, camping, hiking, bike-riding, running marathons, vacationing across the country and taking photos of the natural splendor in all those outdoorsy kind of locations that are so stirring when we behold them. Or maybe you work as much as you can, over-time, and more work, on this shift and that shift, so that you can pay for your child to dance…for your beautiful daughter to dance beautifully…and that fulfills your life, completes you, gives you a reason to go on and on and on…when life is fading away….
I’ve examined my life and desires and yearnings and then compared them to other people’s and have wondered at the passions that they have…the things that drive them, consume their energies, efforts, and resources…and I wonder. How is it that some are born with these drives and passions and others aren’t? I wonder if it’s related somehow to our exposure to things or events in our childhoods…somehow. The little girl whose heart was touched at seeing other children picked-on and who knows how ‘different’ feels may grow into a person who is driven to become someone who can advocate for kids, and doing so, tries to heal her own childhood injuries and bruises. The little boy who visits a museum and becomes fascinated by the dioramas and exhibits of native peoples may have that interest sharpened and supported by loving parents who encourage his passions and ensure that he continues to have opportunities for exposure to, or participation in activities that harness and stimulate this interest…one day becoming a renowned scholar and icon himself in certain realms. Another child grows-up in utter depravity and only finds escape in reading anything and everything that he can find. This boy grows into a man who is consumed with learning and wants to be a teacher, someone who can gently educate and lead other children to find happiness in learning or seeking knowledge. Still other people find a calling when they have a child born with a particular challenge or disability, or if their mother or favorite aunt develops a certain type of cancer…or if they return from a war and see all of their buddies struggling in their civilian lives to deal with the effects of seeing and enduring untold horrors or injuries…they may be consumed to help however they can, sometimes going to school while working part-time at a VA facility, graduating and coming back full-time to spend their lives developing and leading programs to help and heal their friends and others from their earlier warrior lives and pursuits…or a child who sees her family and loved ones fall victim to disease and starvation and chooses a life in medicine so she can save other children and parents from similar tragedies, symbolically saving her own loved-ones as an adult when she couldn’t do so as a child.
How do these people decide they are going to live their lives in such a manner? What thing or something was indelibly stamped on their beings, their core, or yes, their soul that they could become so possessed to live for and through their pursuits? And if someone wasn’t born with or didn’t acquire this stamp early in their lives, or at some other point, how do they get it? How do the otherwise unimpassioned develop a passion…by exposure to different things, different people, different places, experiences, reading, watching the Discovery Channel on television, going to school, having a family member born with a certain condition or disease, or killed in a certain manner, or…what? Or are some people destined to just float along on the sea of life, going with the currents wherever they’re taken, experiencing whatever their new or different or the same surroundings ‘offer’ them? Are some people ‘meant’ to simply exist? And do they know they just exist, or is that a judgment to even suggest it? Maybe they think they’re really ‘living’ in their daily grind, or maybe not.
And then what does this even mean, to be living? How is it that you live? What does it mean when you say that falling through the sky after jumping out of an airplane makes you feel so alive? How does that translate somehow into rewarding or satisfying, or great and inspiring? What is ok, or mediocre, or lousy? What really sucks or is horrible? What clicks inside of us or inside of some other people when they/we decide that we’re not going to live a certain way anymore? How do we suddenly get fed-up with the crap and decide to do something different? And how exactly do our crap-thresholds change? We lived a certain way for years and now we don’t want to…and we might take drastic steps to live differently. How does passion change? How does one develop that emotion or drive when it didn’t exist yesterday, or even five minutes ago? Was it an accumulation of things or an instantaneous thing?
How can some people do the same job at the same place with mostly the same people for 20 and 30 and 40 years and keep getting up each morning to do it all over again? If it’s not a passion that drives us, how do we do it? Did we simply resign ourselves to do so…did we sacrifice ourselves on some altar somewhere to become content with what we have, to be content with the daily grind, with the same bullshit day-in and day-out? Is it really and completely all about perspective and trade-offs? Stocking shelves and moving boxes in the warehouse is better than digging ditches; rolling burritos or flipping burgers is better than cleaning someone else’s toilets every day; taking a significant pay-cut to be a police-aide with the mounted equine-unit is more rewarding than being a police-dispatcher and 9-1-1 operator if you really love horses; or you get out of the rank and file of military life halfway through the tenure needed to collect retirement benefits so you can live as a civilian for the first time in your life; or you stay at your job that isn’t very fulfilling or challenging, but pays well and has great benefits and your family is in town, or you can choose to leave town and your grown kids and the secure job to go and live somewhere else just because you want to live there and maybe want to change careers again…and you’re caught in a dilemma, to go or stay, to stay or go? Do you give up your wishes for someone else or a group of precious someone elses…and then look to other pursuits for satisfaction, stimulation, fulfillment…?
Do you follow your head or your heart when choosing how to live your life; do you intellectually choose the risk and the excitement of the unknown or do you choose the continuing rewards of the known and the precious and dear and relish in those people and things and then bring meaning to the other parts of your life as you are able? Trade-offs, perspective, rewards, love, companionship, sharing of life and lives…what and who we live our lives for, and sometimes through…compromise, sacrifice, love…surrender…what we worship or hold dear…those loved ones who become our god or gods…to whom we give and dedicate our all…on the altar of love….
Yes…we work and live and love and give, whatever that means…so she can dance beautifully.
Thank you, Pazzie…they are worth every bit of it…and so much more….