That Old Ideal

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From looking back these past few posts, perhaps now is as good a time as any to look ahead. Perhaps, considering all the signs of impending doom… it’s not a good time to look ahead.
Were I, however, to write this post from 2004, I would have seen a different picture. I had, at that time, thought I won the game. I was worth such-n-such, owned a certain amount, and while I worked hard and paid my bills just-in-time, it seemed that I had somehow tricked fate, Dame Fortune, into launching me one day into the life I would like. Some travel, a garden, time to study, time to write, sip wine here and there with a loved one, all those blessed things we want in college but most of us are smart enough to give up when we first join the Rat Race, make children with another Rat, and nest in whatever simple accommodation we can find, the dream of being a bohemian or academic we aspire to in our college years set aside along with all our dolls, Star Wars toys, and Legos. This giving up of childish things is written in the Bible and perhaps a few other places by those who long ago knew that life was a veil of tears – or to them it was, and they wanted everyone else to share their dismal world. Some of us just become adults later in life and by that I do not mean responsible, I mean wake up to the cold facts that water bills, heating bills, rent, is our life and perhaps we can only then steal some moments here and there to truly live. The sad thing is that those I knew back then were also optimistic too, but now I cannot count but a few people who are not struggling or just plodding along as best as they can. Albeit, my friends are not struggling like Gaza children wondering if they’re going to be bombed… Not African girls sold into slavery by rebels. Not Chinese workers choking on smog. But, by the standards of our nation, the people I know are just meeting their bills, have stagnated in their careers and their wages, are moving ever out of the center of some location that gets ever expensive as the Beautiful People move in and slither around with mouths open. Many acquaintances keep a stiff upper lip but most caught suspended in some funk. Maybe it is just the circles I had acquired. Creative people perhaps are useless after their twenties.
Meanwhile in Gothem, the city gets ever more expensive. The condos are tossed up and they are sold before they are finished. Trendy bars and cafes open up with $15 cocktails and these bars are full not only Friday night, but most nights of the week… What do these people do to afford this? I have traveled much of the world in the past decades and for this I have been to many trendy bars in several major cities… and most of them are almost empty on a good night. The economy in Gothem is inexplicable. Were I working in data, which I often am, I would then have to consider this an outlying data point.
But this writer digresses.
I am trying to look ahead and right now, perhaps it is fear that holds me back. Perhaps ineptitude of imagination. Rather than forecast and have some fun making insane predictions like some TeeVee politico, I can only look ahead and see the skull of the planet. Rather, I continue to think back to the person I was and wonder what I expected… did I think about a future? Not just the future of flying cars and the rise and fall of nations, but a personal and private future. I must have. I was married. I owned a house. I had a good friend network. I know that the world was to become ever harder, that the economy would become ever tighter the people of the future – of today – ever meaner and petty but I guess I thought I could ride that wave at the top and this would allow me and those about me to rise above it all. Allow us to write dumb poems and go to art shows and talk about politics and to take holidays in strange lands and to meet new people.
And to this, had I manged to do achieve my then dream, I would be just one more out-of-touch pontificator floating about like a balloon animal in a gentle summer day about the park, perhaps Central Park, maybe Boston Commons, perhaps Smith College, spewing name brand theories and sipping box wine trying to convince my friends it was as good as the shit in bottles or better because you could play slap the bag with this one.
The world has become ever harder and in some ways so have I. However, when I think back to the near distant past, I have to admit that I have maintained my ways even though not in the standards I had considered. Even though each day gets no simpler and with age ever harder in many other ways, that old ideal of gathering with friends for dinner, of keeping gardens and making home made whatever, of traveling to new places continue even if these activities take place in ever smaller stolen moments between work and work, and work. The world will get ever more difficult, and with the weather ever more moist, but perhaps there is something to be learned that only experience can provide although Pink Floyd seemed to have known this so long ago when he asked “did they get you to trade a walk on part in a war for a leading role in a cage.”
It is – perhaps – that to look ahead is to look with no set plan but to see if we can continue to live the live we seek no matter what the world may toss in our way. If we are inclined to pursue art, learning, and friendship it is no difficult thing to do so in the nursery of youth but it is perhaps a mark of some achievement for those who can continue this path and maintain their bills, rent, water bills, heat bills, and sundry other hallmarks of what passes for modern American adulthood.
We may look back in anger, but we can perhaps look ahead and storm, to somehow keep up our energy and never let, as they say, the bastards wear you down.

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