Here Thar Be Monsters!

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The Fragments I Have Shored

"LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats        5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….        10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

"In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo."
--The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T. S. Eliot

In an age of eternal turmoil, what can possibly remain important?  If every moment of every day is a new superlative, the world becomes devoid of comparatives.

I remember when the Guiness Book of World Records was a big deal.  Us boys bought the new edition every year and would faithfully memorize the most amazing facts we could find to regale our friends with factoids.  It was also fun to see which records had not fallen since the previous year.

Kids today don't seem to care.  Just waking up sets new records, or so it seems.  The world is in a constant state of flux, where extraordinary events are commonplace, and the commonplace is the most vile form of mundane and banal.

I briefly reminisced on Skype early this morning with a friend back in Texas.  We marveled for a moment at our ability to conduct business and have conversations in real time half a world apart.  In fact, those abilities were free, outside of the minimal monthly charge for internet access.  The stuff of wildly absurd science-fiction movies and books just 40 years ago are now expected, and even necessary to daily life.

What is even more amazing is the cavalier manner in which most of us accept the extraordinary as something expected and required.  No different, really, than the way my generation treated cars, which were to my parents and grandparents extraordinary new devices.

Eventually, the world gets away from us.  We reach an age in which the marvels are far too frequent and amazing to bother paying attention.  We relegate the responsibility to our kids and grandkids to keep up with it all, as we opt to stroll down familiar lanes and greet old experiences.

If you are under 40 and reading this, then the same thing will happen to you, far sooner than you would imagine possible, especially now as the marvels come faster and faster.  Eventually, you will cease to be amazed, even excited.  Eventually, you will throw up your hands and quit worrying about all of it and just be happy to sit and watch the clouds.

Just as the blacksmith gave way to the mechanic, and the mechanic will give way to self-repairing robots, we all become obsolete.  We all outlive our usefulness and even our desire to remain relevant to the extant culture.  After a while, it's enough to pluck a fresh tomato and bell pepper from the garden, make some homemade vinaigrette and enjoy a fresh salad for lunch with the taste of sunshine still in it.

It's not that the creative spark is spent, it's just that we cover it with dirt in the hopes of reviving the fire later in the day with some new catch to roast.

It's not that we no longer enjoy the race, it's just that we finally realize there is no winner - each wave is ultimately overtaken by the next.

The best part is reaching that point where we no longer give a high hoot what anyone else thinks, and just worry about what makes us happy.  You can set all the records you want, but at some point someone else will come along and erase all your efforts.

It's not a bad thing, really, to realize it's fairly pointless.  The memories make a fond companion, if we bothered in our youth to make them.  That, I suppose is the real crime of hte extant culture.  All memories come through a box now.  There is no adventure, no pitting one's self against the elements and being self-satisfied that we survived whatever the world could throw at us.

It is not the same to launch an app.  There is no sense of victory at overcoming time and space.  There is no Grand Battle to fight when we can simply send a robot to do a Man's work.  The only frontier left is the one inside, and precious few dare go there now.

I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

"Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach? 
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."

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