Walking into the so called “home” an unsettling feeling can come across those with high sensitivity to energy (positive or negative.) The first thing noticeable is that everything appears immaculate, as no dirt, dust, or even dog fur is evident, even at close inspection. This is a house with a variety of well kept surfaces, and the observer would have the impression the façade was intentional. But this dwelling was not meant to be a humble presence for the average visitor, let alone a member of the family. The space is not set up for casual or deep conversation. And to be honest in some ways the inhabitants are vacant of this ability as well. You can come here and have a plethora of surface comforts that will no doubt keep you entertained for your entire stay. Whether you partake in the seemingly unavoidable blare of the television volume and programming, there is a plush couch. Don’t worry, the rules are not so stringent that you can’t put your feet up and enjoy some horizontal relaxation. If the lure of Fox News wares on your persona, feel free to go downstairs where you could play X-Box live with the boys. Looking at the vacant stares onto the giant screen, it is evident Microsoft and the US military have invested their finances well into the interest of today’s youth. If there are any moments of silence in the house, you may catch the cycle of one of the smoke detector warning beeps for low battery… Oh wait; there are many things that seem a little out of place in this physical space. Suddenly the visitor’s head starts to spin at the reality of place their feet now reside, the intention of the hosts, and the real dust that exists beyond the surfaces, beyond the visible eye. Can happiness really be faked through decoration and cleanliness, or will the mask eventually slip off the face of denial only to have further dramatic results for the average onlooker (and if they are lucky) the inhabitants themselves.
Perhaps if the day of awakening comes, the dust will settle and begin to accumulate. The inhabitants and the guests will pay no mind as they greet each other with love and full attention once again. Eye contact tends to distract them from such small details. The little box on the field can finally be called home….
Although humans rely less on circadian rhythms of the nature in the reproductive cycle, it seems to be an inspiring sight to see the newborns of all species, spring or not. Families come together to bare shiny, colorful toys and to oh and ah over that chubby little being adding to the population of this earth. What an exciting time. Often we have so many distractions and the events in our modern life tend to revolve around weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and funerals, get up and do it again. The cycle will never stop.
Yet it does not make it any easier when someone of the elder class becomes even slightly less functional. For so many of us, it is so gradual it is less evident to all around. But in the time elapsed nature of the outside family and friend, it can be appallingly sudden.
The day he changed… Reaching into the rafters of a small storage shed for a small item, suddenly his face looked perplexed. He looked around and staggered slightly. I was standing right there. I heard someone yelp behind me as he started to fall. Instinct sprung into action, and I held my arms out breaking his fall. I won’t forget for the rest of my life the bird-like structure of his body. So light and frail. Only decades ago that body moved heavy machinery carried his daughters vigorously and gently. Lifted piles of wood split by the force of his arms’ momentum and carried them a great distance. Now he lies there looking up into my eyes as if to say, “where did all of that time go?” As we left that afternoon everyone was satisfied with the conclusion that grandfather had merely experienced a head rush and a mild fainting spell. It never does help when someone is so stubborn that they will not consider going to the doctor’s office on a weekend having to foot a higher co-pay bill for what seems to be nothing wrong.
The next day there was something very different in grandfather’s disposition. He asked so many questions over and over. He seemed delirious. I alerted some of the few that might keep a watch, and felt beyond my control because, again, things are looked at by means of practicality and financially. If it doesn’t seem to be an emergency, then we wait it out. What did we know about massive strokes anyway?
Suddenly the man, who could tell stories for hours, remembering even the minutest detail, was mute. Within his head lies all of the wisdom of 80 years, trapped. Every encounter with this wise man reminds me of the days he sat calmly reciting a litany of detailed accounts of childhood, of parenthood, of the workforce. Now they seem as echoes that will never find one solid voice for the audible ear.
But what happens when those prisons become one person per cell? What happens when the “prisoner” has elected to walk in turn around, slam the gated bars with a metallic clatter, engage the lock, and never look back? The first few days, weeks, the so-called prisoner might use denial tactics and various reasons to justify their choice to be here. “It’s not so bad.” “At least I know what I can expect, there will never be any surprises here.” “I am comfortable.” Does that resolve erode over time, or does it get stronger? That depends on the individual. Perhaps one inhabitant has purchased a flat screen television, Direct TV, a plush Lazy boy chair, all the accessories of luxury to view the world through entertainment. They can chuckle at the absurdities of the people on reality shows, cheer for their favorite “Idol” as she sings her next cover song to the world. Weep when the Johnsons are offered a gigantic, brand new house after the long list of misfortunes.
But what about the apathetic inmate who finds all of those things initially to be adequate and comfortable, but starts to wonder? There is a gnawing question in the back of his head. Somehow it is as if he has split personalities. Initially he is able to quell the feeling when he sees his physician who quickly medicates him with the ability to forego these thoughts of “what if?” “Is this what I was meant to do?” Doctor Jones said there is a new drug on the market that can ease these anxiety attacks you are feeling. Don’t worry, they are perfectly safe. So the meds are able to drift the prisoner back to the state of ignorant bliss watching his daily/nightly programming behind the security of his four barred walls… And then a curious thing happens. The electricity goes out due to a severe storm. He panics. He reaches to the meds and takes twice the recommended dosage. Standing with the bottle in his hand he waits for either the electricity to come back or the medicine induced mellow to come, soon “damn it!” He is almost irate after 4 minutes. “Come on! These are supposed to work, and what the hell is wrong with the utility company!?” The sweat pours down his forehead. His heart beats four times the regular rate. He decided (for the first time) to look out the window and see what is happening out there. By now the wind, lightening and thunder has subsided. The only thing he sees is a dozen small children running and splashing in the puddles. Diving into the muddy reservoirs of water left by embankments of highways. The glee and laughter is almost deafening. No doubt their power is also out. He thinks, “what simple joy? There is no need for electronic devices, no need for security of the indoors, just uninhibited enjoyment.” Not realizing the smile on his face has grown from ear to ear in an almost childlike appearance “I remember that!”
Suddenly the lights flicker with a metallic sound as fluorescent overhead lights turn on and the familiar glow of screen returns. He walks back to his resting place and flips the channel to the news. Certainly his favorite weather man can offer some information about what is going on outside!”
Everything around us from consumerism to the current state of the public education, the airwaves, etc has served to build an institution that guides humans along a path of expected norms of behavior and conduct. No one growing up in America is completely unaware of those expectations unless they willingly rebel or they are mentally challenged. So we have a perimeter that surrounds a high security facility. That facility is governed by closer monitors ranging from religious institutions, local and state governments of members who were elected by the general populace to “represent” us all in our values and norms that are already ingrained every time we look at that perimeter barbed-wire fence. Even though we may complain about a few of the lost freedoms, we are safe knowing that fence sis there and it appears impenetrable. Once inside the main walls guarded by our civil servants at each corner tower, the humans began to self regulate. It becomes less necessary for the ground patrol to use any course of force to keep the norms in line. We find comforts in routine and we also find a sense of relief from the safety of not having to make too many of our own decisions, just follow rules and keep everything in order. Here is where we move our families, our communities, and ourselves into the cells. We move indoors into a feeling of even more “gated community” this because, the intuition that surrounds us has often tried, but to no avail to keep our ranks homogeneous and familiar to us all. But some have entered. Perhaps they are simply from another sector of the very religion we have adopted. Perhaps they have a totally unfamiliar means of celebrating life and god. Maybe they are from another place on the planet. They eat differently, speak differently; their customs are foreign and intimidating. Therefore we will move our micro communities into a smaller habitat. Although the comforts of open air are lost, the rooms with bars offer us a sense of peace. A warm feeling that we have controlled that which surrounds us, and if anything or anyone dares to enter, they will have to enter our trust first before we unlock the barred doors that we recently decided to shut for most hours of the day unless there is absolute need to gather supplies or to move freely for a few moments. Otherwise, you can witness the relief on the faces of all within the bars when the loud clank of the lock indicates that we are again secure…. In our familiar surroundings…
The life of luxury was bestowed upon me. Not riches beyond comprehension, but comforts that were never put into question. Two years of traveling freely as a tourist, many years of higher education, more years yet of consumerism with limits stopping short of the extravagant. Has my soul grown? Have my interactions with other humans remained consistently fulfilling to both parties? The answer to both is no, it has reached a plateau. Complacency could keep me on this even surface forever if I let it. But I cannot. Something is pulling me, a force within and from elsewhere. As a white, American woman, how can I best use the leverage of privilege “granted” to me (without my consent,) to help others?
And what in our memory exists of mortality? Has this disappeared with the ease of modern day comforts? Is it really that simple to let something so inevitable slip from our collective unconsciousness? When we fret for possible unlikely occurrences like theft of our possessions, fear for our vane obsession of fashion and makeup, or the next American Idol, have we lost a sense of the value of our spent time? Look around you if your body inhabits a space of multiple other homo sapiens. What would you say the percentage of this species is engaged in some electronic means of time killing? How many are having real conversations, eye to eye with another member of this community we would like to call humanity? No judgment is passed in these words, just questions. After all where do these sentences form but on the illuminated screen designed by a multi-billion dollar company and Steve Jobs as the front man.
How do we live without dead time in the modern age?
Traversing through California via planes, trains, and automobiles, the disparity becomes more evident the less aerial the view. Ground level, it is apparent where the lines are drawn. Everything is sectioned, and every behavior is accepted within those boundaries. Anyone “above” the ground slightly has learned quickly how to see through the dwellers that remain two feet planted on the soil. No matter if their heels are centimeters from the largest ant, no matter if their height is temporarily suspended with a spring jump, they socialize into the downward visual impairment. What happens with the vertical climb? Moving to the common, but decreasing numbers of humans sitting at eye level, there are many things happening. It can be observed that those at this level have diverted their attention from anything below. Many here live in a dream state of what lies above their heads. They can imagine the life without struggle. They can taste luxury from the spoon of the entertainment business and some may have even been so inclined to lick the utensil using plastic debt to achieve moment s of those so-called pleasures. Was the sweetness what they anticipated? Was there desire for more? Withdrawals once reality pulled the icing away? Did their lives improved from the momentary pursuit of “the sweet life?”
Perhaps we should ask those who have a consistently ample supply of resources how can this world forever feed their greedy sweet tooth?