Every once in a while when I wake up from appears to have been a dreamless sleep, I will be wondering where I am and then how I got here. It is an intense feeling, as though I were lost — or as though the last 28 years had never happened.
Perhaps I expect to see a little iridescent glass with a June wild rose on the dresser. But the dresser is no longer there, the rosebush is undoubtedly long since gone, and so am I — long since gone.
This thought of how and why I am here must prey on my subconscious. The answer itself is easy; I came here out of pride, and I stay here because of inertia.
If I would learn to drive, I might have more options elsewhere, but I shrink from the idea. I see a world enslaved by its unfocused restlessness, its cravings for more of things that do not satisfy, and the vehicles that move people and their goods on a never-ending journey to nowhere. I’ve seen beautiful stretches of mountainous countryside marred by roads, highways, “big box” stores, malls, strip malls, and even automobile graveyards. I see man-made ugliness where once there was natural beauty, and I see only indifference where I feel a great loss.
I may fear contributing to and becoming part of that culture, the culture of the car, the culture on the move, more than I fear being behind the wheel on a Chicago expressway.
Like it or not, though, I am part of this culture that I feel powerless to change. My clothes, food, books, household goods, everything, have been shipped untold miles using untold resources that are gone for good. That’s just for me — one individual among 6+ billion. Many live more lightly on the land than I do; many live less.
Our culture is not going to change until it has to, until the real price of cheap, fast, global transportation and shipping has been paid by the future in some way we can’t imagine. My actions or inactions aren’t going to make any difference; it takes a world to change a world.
I would be happier, much happier, elsewhere, I think. I have not connected to anything here — urban living, the people, the cultural life, the social life, the way of thinking and being. I am nearly as reclusive as if I lived in the Irish cave I used to fantasize about. I go to work, and I sleep and dream and think of being somewhere else — where, I don’t know. Somewhere with fewer buildings, less infrastructure, less self-importance, fewer examples of arrogance and futility — but that would require me to learn how to drive.
In my heart I may know that there is no such place. The only place in which I can feel free is in my imagination.
Or perhaps I don’t want to find out that, even in the perfect world I imagine, surrounded by trees, brooks, animals, sun, and moon, I still could not be happy.
In my sleep, off guard, I know that I would at least be less miserable and more connected to something important, and so it is then that I ask myself how I arrived here and why.
Yet here I am. Still.