Sunday, 10 July 2011

Uno Momento Por Favor

I can't put my finger on when exactly but sometime between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning my mood plunged lower than the Greek economy.

If I can't pinpoint when this happened I obviously have no hope of discerning the reasons why. Alls I know is that, all of a sudden, a gear grinds and I'm instantly out of step with the world.

As in; rack 'em up, let's play again.

Essentially, what happens is that the blood and squalor of life becomes more pronounced. A slightly crazed, nervous energy infiltrates my mise en scene; just the edges at first; before it seeps its way into the centre, by which point I am in the curious position of being both tightly wound and too tired for life.

I think less about football and more about Dick and Perry in the cornfields of Kansas, or unmarked vans and the words "It puts the lotion in the basket".

It is also times such as these that I start thinking in earnest about shopping centres, and blame them for many of the ills of society.When I start in on the shopping centre stuff I know my veneer of sanity may be slipping somewhat. Let the record show that I spent a significant portion of the night wrapped in a quilt and banging out a stream-of-consciousness diatribe about the Tyranny of the Mall.

Still, life goes on. I mean, I still take notice of what the footballers are up to, and who's bumped the Raiders back in to fifteenth spot on the ladder. I'm human, for chrissakes. I write down things like

"Ennis sees Thurston his grade-two media tear and raises him a bleeding lung",
"Gardiner has a tramp stamp",
"Fergz's SharkPark reception colder than a witch's tit", and
"Well, who wants to watch a high completion-rate game anyway? Zzzzzzzzzzz.... 12 from 21 in the first half from the fumble-happy Raiders -  Are you not entertained??", so I'm still lucid enough. Just.... unsettled. Uneasy.

And of course, I am infinitely indebted to football for insulating me, even a little, from the full force of the foul rag and bone shop of the heart. If there is a greater reason for being grateful to live in the 21th Century than football and the relief from real-life that it provides then I can't think of it.

A few years ago Australian novelist David Malouf wrote an essay examining our modern unease that caught hold of me in the way that interesting things do. He talked about our way of seeing the world: that we see it as too large, and the forces within it that govern our lives as too remote and too complex to grapple with. This hooked me, but it was when he went on to point out that this wasn't always so that he really reeled me in.

"For most of human history, the world as we had direct experience of it extended little further than an hour's walk would take us in any direction from where we lived, which was also, in most cases, where we were born.

For the majority, the world beyond their immediate view barely existed for them.

Soil, local weather patterns, seasonal fruits and harvests, the time for shooting birds or hunting wild boar, for gathering mushrooms or kindling - these were the conditions that made space, but also time, available.

Only at rare moments in history, when a city-state or nation acquired colonies - Rome after 100BC, Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland in modern times - did ordinary men and women have a sense of being connected to something more than the few streets of the town or village they had grown up in: through a son who was serving overseas, a neighbour who had emigrated or a business connection....

All of this is very different from the world as we see it now. The bit of it we deal with at first hand and move in daily (unless we are commuters) may be no larger than it ever was; but our consciousness of where we stand has enormously expanded."

Malouf goes on to talk about how we now see ourselves as inhabiting 'the planet', and of seeing ourselves as being part of, and in a small way responsible for it, and, on an even larger scale, 'the Environment' - a word that just fifty years ago would have been, in it's present state, puzzling or even meaningless.

There's something mystical and wonderous in all this for me. I am constantly struck, amid the various interactions and transactions that make up daily existence, with the flashing thought that I really was born in the wrong time. I know that sounds like I have Narcicissistic delusions of granduer but I'm not saying I was meant to be Cleopatra or something, only that I feel fundamentally out of step with almost every aspect of the world around me. It is for this very reason that the line "I - Wish I - Was born a thousand years ago" in Lou Reed's Heroin clenches my heart into a fist and squeezes my throat every damn time I hear it.

I love the notion of experiencing 'the world' only in so far as an hour's walk in any direction from where I lived would take me. This makes the whole 50km radius rule for local, seasonal produce trend gripping towns like Mogo and Maldon look very silly, too, which I enjoy. You can keep your 'citizen of the world' moniker; to me that is nothing more than  neurosis-generating nothing-speak. Now that our consciousness has extended further and further beyond the body's physical grasp and further and further from our geographical surrounds - now that we have gone global, in effect - we are more isolated than ever before.

I would like the certainty of living all my life in the village where I was born, where only the occassional peddlar or pilgim would pass through. I might die young of the plague, sure, but there would be no source of anxiety beyond my most immediate of concerns, and none of the anxious uncertainty of these times. When you have only one path set before you, you can generally feel confident that it is the correct path to take, if it even bears thinking about at all.

I mean, do you think these ducklings suffer nights darkened by existential questions, violent yearnings and inevitable miseries? The irony is that there's probably entire research facilities dedicated to answering this and even more foolish questions in the name of  man's progress.

Yuhhp. Rack 'em up.

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