from psymily on morguefile.com
When we were rocking on the porch, chatting, I felt at home. Young people faking elder people’s habits: it’s what we do until it’s authentic.
“Home” fleeted. As you know, Experience moves out and your new roommate is Memory. Well, Memory moved into my head with most of her furniture. I was young and lacked furnishings, so why not use these? I sat in Memory’s couch while I watched the evening news, uncomfortable as it was. I wrote my letters with Memory’s quill, even though it cracked. I sipped Memory’s gin until I realized it was poison. The light falling on everything I came from Memory’s lamp, until the bulbs died. Memory was a bicycle with a slow leak. It took me places, slowly, exhausting me until its condition required I dismount and find some other way around; at some point, you must.
Memories fade and baggage unravels when it is not maintained, like how demons starve when you don’t feed them. The sun rose and set a couple thousand times since Experience bid his adieu. I got new memories, new roommates to my head. I even figured out how to live in the present. Here I am. I am happy to forward to you my new address.
This home, now, feels empty. So much has happened. Nothing lasts forever, especially not a state of mind.
The tricky part is making sure I’m being wise with all this empty space.
Military Road in Kenmore, NY. December 9, 2016. My photo.
You’re not innocent.
Innocence is purity and purity sometimes happens in chemistry and never happens in people.
You’re not right.
Righteousness requires purity. We’ve already been over that.
You can make the world imperfectly better with imperfect strategies.
There’s no utility to guilt unless it includes accountability. Ideally, accountability comes on a sliding scale of severity. I am hearing from people a fear of being ostracized for things they do not understand, being condemned when they need to be educated. Not that this need is always recognized by anyone involved. We use the same words and speak different languages.
The need to be innocent is toxic. Rhetoric is too easy to tangle, too easy to manipulate, too easy to believe. It is too easy to rewrite the moral codes to include whatever you do. People do it all the time, when the worse thing they can imagine being is wrong.
Demanding total innocence from others is violent. Obviously, right? We’re human. Purity never happens in people.
I have found greater peace accepting that the world I live in, the world I came form, the world that gave me every molecule of my being, is primarily made of dirt. With that starting point, I can just be. I can just do. I can evaluate the best I can do from a stance unthreatened by the fact I’m never actually the best.
I am nearsighted; the far-away blurs. I work on what I know. There are close-by puzzles to be solved. Yet. We drink the water that falls from the sky after traveling from far away, flowed through a far-off river before becoming part of the lake, or that we pumped out of ground we share with everyone else. I fear I am parochial, worrying about the local water infrastructure when the water itself is becoming poisoned.
All of this is hard and none of us know what we are doing. Our neat and tidy history books lie, depicting people doing clear-cut right and wrong things using their white paper and black letters when the experiences were, I suspect, I hear, more likely smoky gray.
Already I notice change within me. I find, more than usual, I am looking to ascertain the boundaries of what I can trust and not. I trust strangers less than I used to. I know this distrusting orientation, when held en masse, permits the dissolution of norms of liberty, which require norms of trust. The society I belong to keeps choosing the mirage of safety over being free.
I am hesitant to join with my neighbors. There are ideals of universal love, and life teaches me that they are ideals. It is so easy for the sense of what could be to be choked by the understanding of what actually is. And maybe that is the point – we aspire to ideals and do better in the process. You cannot become better without trying, right? I fear my country started to believe we actually were our aspiration. We were too lost in the mirage to look and see how we were venturing away from it. We stopped choosing its pursuit.
I truly only have influence in small groups of people. Small groups that I am not completely sure how to assess to make an impact on a problem larger than all of us. What to do? I want certainty where there is none. I want safety though it has never existed. I want superhuman levels of reliability. Understanding the empirical fact of being human feels like a grieving process. I take the risk of being wrong for a shot at doing right. I take a risk of being hurt for a shot at being effective. I take a risk that being vulnerable might help someone understand that they are not alone. Trust feels like it should be the platonic form of being human. The platonic form is not the empirical fact: I have failed and I have been failed. I still grieve every broken relationship and lost faith. I lament lost possibility of what would have been if none of us were the people we actually are. What we actually are is, alas, what I have to work with. People just are, you know. That is what you have to work with.
The day after my country voted to elect a political neophyte to its highest office, whose campaign platform was essentially fascism and nostalgia, my area’s symbol of the past burst into flames. The steel plant that was once was the economic engine of the region caught fire as everyone was hearing the results. The fire was huge. I should not be using past tense; it’s still burning as I write this.
The smoke was so intense, it looked like a storm on radar, following the path of the wind. Yesterday, my spouse, who works 20 miles northeast of the site, smelled burning rubber and plastic.
My photo from Buffalo’s City Hall observation deck of the smoke, after it had turned white.
I thought it was abandoned. Turns out that it was housing a bunch of small businesses with far fewer employees than the steel mill needed, and it’s weatherworn appearance was simply, well, the result of weather. The local fire departments are collaborating in efforts to extinguish it. They have to disassemble the structure as they work. One report likened the building to legos, with lots of smaller compartments that the water of the firefighters just will not touch without demolition.
The smoke sent toxins into the air and the mayor declared a state of emergency in the adjacent neighborhoods and asked residents to evacuate. Some did. Some refused.
The rage of the fire is dying down, though it’s being stubborn and remains. Diligent, capable, and brave people are continuing to calmly work, to contain it, to extinguish it, to ensure the fire does not hurt others.
Comforting words bounce off me like tennis balls to a shield. I did not mean to pick it up, but there I am, holding it. I watch them bob away with autumn leaves. My vision is blurred, but I saw this. I swear I saw it. I feel nothing.
I feel like I exhale the air everyone else is just now starting to breathe. I breathe it too; we forget it has a scent. I pulled my sword out and let the blade cut my hands. I do not know what to do.
I want to join the cold wind, give you a hug, and tell you that I do not like it either.
I grieve every time I re-learn that we are not better than we are.