The automatic life
Learning is forever reducing, diminishing, winnowing, because it is animated by wonder, and wonder is the courageous capacity to test and prod the very ground under one’s feet in the name of determining how it all might have come to be as it is, and whether it will continue to bear you. And this is the very ground of divination. — Stephen Jenkinson, Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble (p. 96)
Thankfully, I've been able to put the light on in the kitchen, in our wee flat in Padstow, to aid the typing of today's post. This is because Daughter #2 and the BF have gone home and so there's a bit more room; she'll return again on Wednesday, so it will be a full house again.
Today, well, it's going to be (for me I hope) another day of walking, reading and, hopefully, my first sea swim since I arrived. The water's looked very tempting but I've not yet braved the Cornish seas.
As to the title, I'm sure you know what's coming but it's true. We nearly always or are expressed to act on automatic across so many areas of our life. It's almost like (if we're not careful) we go to sleep and wake up, and yell:
"Holy sh*t, where did my life go...?"
But, as usual, I'm exaggerating my message to get your attention. As if.
No, I'm deadly serious. As I look back across the empty spaces of my life — there haven't been many, given my obsession with doing — I see how little time I've spent to pause for reflection, let alone to question what it's all about.
Even now, I'm drawn to be troubled out loud — for what reason, I'm not sure. I'm sure in closed circles — i.e. my wife and I — it's positively yawn-worthy. Surely, it's better, rather than vacillating on what might have been, to get on with it — life that is.
Truth is, and I don't say this to be tendentious, my life is like yours or at least like so many people I know.
I was born (I had no choice in the matter), I went to school, studied a load of meaningless stuff, knew a bit but learnt sweet FA about myself, got a job — a few actually — and then, well I started to get with the work/life/money programme. Always the damn money.
And I've been at it ever since.
Is there an instead?
It's hard to know. Culturally, so much of my experience appears tainted by what other people thought would be good for me or I should be doing. Oh sure, I've railed here and there, made a ruckus on occasion but in the main I've fallen into line because the alternative, the deeply transcendent alternative is, well, too fearful to contemplate. It's like I've been the servant to certainty or the junior partner in an enterprise that has made sure I didn't break the chains to yesterday.
You might think I'm depressed by my situation, I'm not — not in a Black Dog sense — but I do wonder, always, what life might look like if I could take off the cloak of conformity, to do as I'm told (or at least answer to that sneaky little so-and-so in my head that lassos me back to a life of certainty) and go on the wander without a care in the world. Perhaps this all sounds too wishy-washy, not ordered and without purpose. Quite possibly. But just once in a while, I'd love to know what it means to be up close and personal with nature to the point where I'm living off my more primitive instincts and not one ordered by consumption and/or greed for a better life?
I've told you a few times about my expected road trip but even that's looking a bit suspect given how many people are following another well-worn, marketing trope. Even yesterday, as I walked up the Camel Trail towards Wadebridge, I spied at least six or seven pukka looking VW Transporter vans. I practically sighed thinking how commercial it all looked. Sorry, I realise that makes me sound very judgmental but since when did we lose the ability to free ourselves from the scheming brand experts and think for ourselves? I'll be honest, I'm rapidly going off the whole idea of a camper van and feel more disposed to walking with a rucksack and a little tent. I don't know. Let's see what happens in the next few years but certainly, I need to consider what exactly I'm trying to discover about myself by wandering far and wide that I might not do closer to home?
And, as for work, I'm not going to bore your rigid expounding on our love affair with (inter alia) the money, titles, climbing the ladder and all the rest of the malarky that I at least previously swallowed hook, line and sinker. I know things are going to be sketchy apropos Covid19 for a few years, but there's still this overriding sense that unless we're shackled to the loom (so to speak), we can't possibly support ourselves to the point of providing (even) a plain and ordinary life. I get it, honestly I do, but it wasn't that long ago that we lived very differently. Oh sure, it was hard, real hard and a lifespan of 60 years would have been a good innings but I'm convinced that we lost more than we've gained in the process of industrialisation and our obsession with stuff.
See, I told you I could be a bit of misanthrope but the truth is, at least on my watch, we don't want to engage in a different conversation to what makes for a good life, save to the extent that we should have no less than our forebears and in a lot of cases a great deal more. Imagine it. A conversation with my kids' generation premised on the notion that they have to live with 50% less than mine. I know there's a decent debate to be had about pensions but what about all the rest?
I don't know. I just wish, once in a nascent while, we'd engage in a proper conversation about why, at least to my suspect eyes, we appear intent on following such a well-worn, automatic path. I don't mean to suggest that we should adorn some New Age philosophy, but, if we're going to tread more lightly on this planet, it's clear that our current modus operandi won't, I'm afraid, cut it and we'll end up wringing the neck of something so beautiful as to be haunted for all our days about what might have been.
Anyhow, tis time to get this show on the road. I'm going to take the pooch for a walk. Where, I'm not sure, but, hopefully, this time where he can't attempt to drown himself by swimming out to sea in search of a few seagulls:
"Bad dog, bad dog, Alfie."
Blessings and much love, Ju
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