Just Another Thing

Hilariously powerless, but eminently free. This was a stark realization of mine on Australia day, 2017.

I often think and speak about great change in the world as if I play any role in enacting it. The plain reality is that I don’t. Not now. Not while I’m living so rootlessly. All I can do now is build an honest outlook on the world at large.

And when I’m not learning of peoples in far foreign lands, you might catch me on a beach at night. A summer storm has blacked out the moon. Lightning streaks the sky in wide, lasting arcs. Rain falls light and steady, as if pacing itself for a long spill. The sand feels soft on my toes. Warm sea-foam laps my feet. There’s an umbrella in my hand and a speaker in my pocket. I’m running childlike happy.

My mood elevates into one of total peace. Danger doesn’t loom behind the tree line. Need doesn’t beckon urgently. Even Want, ever insatiable, is laid silent by the moment. The world feels perfect and safe.

If eternity can be captured in a few minutes time. If infinity can be bound to a stretch of beach. And if perfection sees fit to join. Then those who happen upon such a meeting may be spared all sin and sorrow. For even as the scene evaporates, perfection excludes all woe, and infinity admits no other.

Then I returned to my little white van, my capsule of safety. I stripped down, toweled off, and fell asleep. So my day ended.

It began with a boring coffee and muesli breakfast. $4.20 totaled my expenses for the day. I drove into Evans Head, parked near the beach, and had a surf. The waves were messy, but fine enough to me. I can still reap a substantial dose of thrill and skill from mediocre conditions. In the worst of conditions, my body is still strengthened and cleansed. So surfing is always a go.

After, I packed up for the Library, but it was closed on this national holiday. Australia day. What a funny holiday. Not dressed up or overtly embroidered. It’s not alleged to some lofty tradition, nor devoted to solemn remembrance. Not Independence Day, or Bastille Day, or Veterans day. Just Australia day. Just because. I love it.

So I schmoozed with heavy-set Australians camped by the estuary. They had their collapsible sunshade tents set, their colorful inflatable rafts blown, their black-bowled barbecues lit. Rows of sleek caravans bordered the park. The smell of grilling meat floated into the air and mixed with the innocent shouts of children splashing in the water.

Some guys were passing a rugby ball. Some girls were tanning on the grass. Some people were sitting at picnic tables eating chips. There were parents on bikes following their children on scooters. It was the whole family holiday scene; cut, copy, paste anywhere in the world. As a day, it’s great. As something to validate long stretches of unsatisfying work, it’s terrifying.

Externalizing oneself to the machinations of society is a long, gradual process. But I’ve devoted persistent effort to that end. Now I find myself so completely disparate that I don’t even judge these rituals anymore.

Take for example the morbidly obese father who clamors out of the water like a whale learning to walk. He drags his pasty, porkly children to a fried feeding trough. Mother waddles out of the wings with a greasy box of chips in one hand. Her other arm swings almost violently to propel her behemoth mass over the strained arches of her feet. With pure impassivity I look straight at that father’s hairy ass crack peaking up over sagging boardies. I don’t lament the obese fate of those poor children. I don’t cringe at the blatant poor health on shameless exhibition. I’m so distant in mentality that blemish and beauty melt together. Just another fat family having a fat family time. It’s just another thing.

Call this a judgement if you want, dear readers, but believe that there’s no condescension intended. Because I’ve spent a day with a fat family. They’ve got their fun kicks too. And I’ve spent a day with angry drunks in the park. And with prematurely enlightened neo-hippies who spout off about energies, crystals, and other pseudo-scientific nonsense. And with wealthy folks who’ve let their financial success validate other eccentric, racist notions within them. I’ve enjoyed all of these peoples’ companies.

I can’t fault people their ignobilities. I believe too resolutely in, and understand too deeply, the influence of environment on a person. Every single one of these people is a inevitable expression of a knowable world.

At the exact same time every single one of those people is a human creature with predictable, inherent characteristics. Innocent characteristics of primal heart. Ones we could reasonably found mutual brotherhood on if everyone could see past the facade of societal influence. Ah well… in a perfect world.

I’m blessed to have traipsed so far out of orbit that I can see these layers of influence for what they are. Or put differently, I’m just the sorry sucker who’s stripped off the warmth of those layers to subsist now on cold, objective substance. Just a mammal being a mammal.  Just another thing.

So with the locals I chatted about the weather, the surf, Donald Trump, and the day’s plans with my fellow picnickers. I injected snarky wit here and there for a cheap laugh. I took folks sideways with impetuous comments. And occasionally I flexed the old intellect and brought up a controversial topic; served with uncomfortable facts and a deviant reconciliation.  I like to shake the classic moral boat from time to time.

I’ve come to develop an understanding of fundamentals.  I know the mechanisms at work that motivate a human’s actions. Food, safety, community, sex, etc. These fundamental pursuits lie at the heart of the vast majority of the unknowable specifics of each person’s life. The rest is just style.

Folks drive to and fro to live their lives. They work to support themselves and their families. Young people exert themselves to get fucked and get high, to explore the deviant edges of experience. Poor people strive to get by. Rich people strive to augment their wealth. Everyone enacts the cultural stories they’ve been told in an effort to harmonize their lives with the world in which they’re living. It’s wonderfully sensical.

With these fundamentals in mind, I pretend I know people. To some extent I do.

I bear witness to it all from my little perch of hard-earned knowledge and hard-fought understanding. Cold and rational, isolated and detached, yet elegant and undeniable.

I show up.  See.  And vanish.

Happy Australia Day!

Thank you for reading.


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