Monday, August 18, 2008

On the Human Response to a Recent Tragic Event

The morbidity of human nature can be alarming. I recently read that at least 12% of the reduction in traffic speed at the site of an accident is directly attributable to people slowing down simply to stare at the carnage. Two days ago, there was a terrible head-on collision almost directly in front of my place of employment. The front parking lot and the main road that runs past the store were blockaded by emergency personnel, and the eerie scene that was presented whenever one stole a glance out the window was that of flashing lights, reflective vests, and uncountable pieces of vehicle detritus strewn across the landscape.

The only talk that occurred within the store regarded the accident. People asked what happened, were the victims local, how badly were they injured, did you hear it, did you see it? They commented on the tragedy of car accidents, on the foolishness of modern drivers, on the proliferation of accidents in recent weeks, on the unsafe road and the types of individuals that take advantage of it. No one really had any answers and no single person had any better connection to the events than the rest of the people that milled about the store. Rumors that someone died surged in and out of circulation on that day and in the days since, and still no one really knows besides the rescue workers, who aren't obliged to share any information. At times people became visibly agitated when their claims of a fatality were met with skepticism, as though being robbed of the ability to drop such weight on the less-informed was a tragedy in itself. Anyone who claimed to have information was in a position of power, and the occasional struggles between those with conflicting stories were both pathetic and alarming.

What is it about the misfortune of others that piques our interest so? Upon finding out that the accident involved no one they knew, people either launched into even more prodding lines of questioning or seemed to completely lose interest in the event all together, even as it continually threatened to usurp one's attention, unfolding mere yards outside the door. It was as if one type of person were requesting permission to further explore their morbid curiosity, and another type of person found the anonymity of the event not nearly morbid enough. Either way, it seemed as though very few people had a reaction that seemed entirely appropriate.

But who am I to judge the proper response to such an event? I was the one who spent the day chiming in time and time again, answering the questions as they entered the highly charged air.

Friday, August 15, 2008

There's Nowhere You Can Be That Isn't Where You're Meant To Be. It's Easy.

It seems likely that a person would be nauseated if they could be presented with a physical collection of all that has been written about human partnerships since the inception of language. Such a collection would constitute a small-scale Library of Babel, and if one could ever read every tome that lined the shelves of its lengthy halls, they wouldn't have any better understanding of love or commitment or partnership or humanity itself than they did before they undertook such an epic task. It's a terrible irony that we can spend our whole lives looking for something we are unable to define, and that given as many chances as we are to try to satisfy our desires, we often die without knowing whether what we had during our lives is what we had intended to gain all that time.

It is a law of the universe that people are irrevocably social beings. Though general ideas of love and happiness have changed drastically over time and across cultures, people need to be with people. It is one of the true blessings of our existence, and it is also one of the most painful things we must endure.

And having sampled the highs and lows of love and commitment, which should a person let win out in the inner battle that ensues when it's time to start over: the steely, jaded mind or the leaping, idealistic heart? And which does a person usually end up following? What terrible games we must play with our souls.

What do you do when you feel close to another person? Do you pursue romance, so that intimacy can be amplified to lovely, dizzing heights, or do you maintain some form of distance, so that you never have to be afraid of crashing from those highs, of damaging your bond and opening a rift that might never be bridged? How does one ever know which is the right answer? And how frustrating is it that we can never really know whether our gamble paid off, because we can never see what lies down the other road once we've passed the fork?

And time, it's always fleeting. What do we do about time? It often feels like it spends us with cold indifference, and there is so little of us to spend. How painful it is to feel as though you might never be satisfied with the amount of time you have left to spend with someone you care about, be it weeks or years or your whole natural life. But paradoxically, how wonderful it feels to have someone who so strongly stirs your emotion.

I've had to catch myself, because this all seems nearly pessimistic. It's not hopelessness or negativity, though, just thoughtful consideration. I don't know that I could ever be convinced that it isn't worth it to give yourself over to someone you care about. I know that I'm always at my happiest when I have someone close to share experience with. I merely struggle with finding ways that seem sufficient to let them know how important they truly are.

Sometimes it seems an impossible bit to swallow, but it's true: all you need is love. And at times, maybe a little patience, too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Following the Stream of Consciousness

Prior to 1668, it was generally accepted that maggots "spontaneously generated" from rotting meat. If you left your steak laying out on the counter, you'd better believe it would give birth to a healthy assemblage of lovely, wiggling rice-lings. After the 17th century, people smartened up a smidge and realized that maggots don't arise from decomposing flesh. No; they arise from the waxed cardboard boxes that meat products are shipped in! The incredulous need only to take a gander at the cardboard dumpster behind my local grocery store. The meat cutters threw a bunch of empty cardboard boxes in early in the day, and by nightfall, the whole perimeter of the dumpster was crawling with infantile insects! And the dumpster for garbage? Not a single squirming maggot. If that doesn't prove my hypothesis, let me remind you that evolution is only a theory, and for that matter, so is gravity. Suck on that, Francesco Redi!

Take a moment to imagine: A dirty old man, pants pulled up to his man-breasts and suspendered securely in place, with an enormous chunk of chocolatey waffle cone stuck to the front of his t-shirt collar, just hanging out, obscured from his geriatric awareness and skills of detection, screaming out to the rest of the world like some cruel joke at the expense of the elderly, probably at one point delicious, likely to fall off at some future moment, doubtlessly right before he slowly eases into his chair, now mashed messily into the ass of his pants, where it will be seen by an all new group of snickering people when he goes out tomorrow.

You know what's disgusting? Bezoars. Apparently a good way to form one is to either eat your hair on a daily basis, or eat way too many over-ripe persimmons, which turn into a disgusting, gluey substance when exposed to stomach acidity. Personally, I prefer the second option, because it allows you to create a bezoar out of whatever materials you'd like. Just eat a sizeable quantity of your sculpting material before you eat persimmons and you'll get the bezoar of your dreams (after coming out of surgery, of course). Anything goes: your collection of movie ticket stubs, handfuls of paperclips, or all that beautiful, smooth sea-glass you laboriously collected on your vacation last summer.

It's currently raining. Many people will claim that their favorite smell is the earthy scent that fills the air after a brief rain. Almost none of those people know that the name of that smell is petrichor.

Combos are the official cheese-filled snack of NASCAR. It seems to me that they could have had the entire "Official NASCAR snack" market cornered, but they screwed up by electing to be very specific. Hypothetically, at any moment there could be a massive proliferation of various snack-types that NASCAR could sanction, and the official cheese-filled snack would be lost among a sea of official creme-filled, official lightly salted, official kettle-cooked, official hand-molded, and official whatever snacks ad infinitum ad absurdum. Really, it's too bad, because Combos are pretty gross, and while NASCAR fans are pretty indiscriminant about what they shovel into their sweatpants-straining paunches, this character trait will also work against Combos when additional official snack-types begin to crowd the stage.

And what the heck? I thought Batman Begins was supposed to be good.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Past 24 Hours as a Brief Series of Vignettes

  • A modern tragedy, though hardly of Grecian proportions: Gritty Baguette, or Did The Goddamn Filling On My Chipped Tooth Just Fall Out Again, performed recently as a monologue in Panera Bread.

  • A man with a long, hooked stick, having just delicately placed letters on the marquee beneath the Senator Inn's bold road-side sign, packing up his materials and walking off, the words "INQUIE'R WITHIN" emblazoned in red for all to see (or be oblivious to). Me, dying of an aneurysm at a remarkably young age.

  • An over-ripe banana with a pinched wound in its flesh, spewing countless fruit flies like blood cells, or tiny benign hornets wrested from their hive by some awful, instinctual compulsion.