Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wandering/Seeing Notes

There is a remarkable draw to the open road that I have sensed just about all my life. Certainly for the whole of my adult life, and perhaps in childhood as well – as we moved from town to town. There has certainly been nothing like permanence, or even stability in my life, ever. Keep moving, don’t get overly comfortable anywhere, and above all, don’t get comfortable with people.

This is the ideal itinerant American life, I guess. Keep us moving, so that the only constants left in our lives is The System. Everywhere are McDonalds and Wal-Marts, so you can get a fair amount of your expectations addressed and mollified at any time – same uniforms, same behaviors, just different faces. But this isn’t the open road – it is just town life, every town just the same, another mile marker down the road.

The road is going somewhere – towards a big horizon. Deep forest is no help – going here is to essentially hide yourself away, which may suit some people well. No, it is the big open skies of the American Plains and West that beckons. From West Texas north and east to Minnesota, then west to Eastern Washington, down to Southern California, and back across Arizona and New Mexico. Big open spaces, some flat, some vertical, but just about everywhere, you can get out of your vehicle and look around you, and usually see for miles and miles in at least one direction.

All religions will pass, but this will remain: simply sitting in a chair and looking in the distance. - V.V. Rozanov

What is it about looking into the distance, at horizons, clouds, faraway mountains, from high across wide plains, out onto a featureless ocean? Is there some physiological comfort in letting the eye lenses relax into long-distance focus? Is it the transcendence of looking past your immediate surroundings off to some future location in time, represented by some distance point to be reached after simple, concentrated effort? Can we in this way escape the cares of ourselves, by looking beyond our small spheres of petty concerns? To lose focus on oneself is to forget oneself. To expand our focus to far distances is to take in all in between, and to expand ourselves out that far.

What is to be actually done out on the road? So many of us travel a distance each day to our jobs, but it is the same old route, the same old jostling for lanes and paths, the same old commanding intersections impeding our progress, the same old destination. Out on the road, the real new and, to us, unknown road, all is new. Some familiar landmarks perhaps, yet another Dairy Queen or Denny’s, but also new and unknown retail, different churches, different fronts but the same old liquor store adds for Budweiser and Bud Lite, odd shaped houses with unusual landscaping. Between towns, the same yellow and white stripes, concrete or asphalt or gravel, telephone and fence poles flashing by.

We don’t go anywhere. Going someplace is for squares. We just go. - Marlon Brando in
The Wild Ones

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