Last week on my way to some half-ass short-lived job I saw the same bum on the corner. He picked the perfect spot – at the traffic light just off the freeway exit leading to the city. He could barely walk to make his hopeless stumble along the cars. His long dirty grey beard seemed to blend in and attach to the blanket wrapped around his body. I said something like this to my friend, “You know what? We are all not too far from ending up like this guy. If I didn’t have some support I could be right there along with him. I only hope that I would still have the sense of dignity and awareness to go up to the mountains for the long eternal rest. There is no way in hell he will ever be able to dig himself out of this hole. No one will ever hire this guy.”
I wondered what his story is and what events or decisions led him to where he is now. I began to reflect on my own situation. I grew up and lived a charmed life up until the age of about forty-one. Then the shit hit the fan. I can outline all the steps that led to where I am now and they are all mainly my own doing. This decision caused that and that decision caused this. The patterns of decision-making can be traced back to when I was a young boy and later a young man. More importantly, the thoughts and feelings behind those decisions have even more clairvoyant patterns. Although I can justify and stand by most of those decisions, thoughts, and feelings, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is how society views or interprets those decisions, thoughts, and feelings. If society doesn’t understand or agree, and you haven’t prepared for war with conviction and determination, eventually you will pay the price. During youth such decisions and society’s interpretation of those decisions carry fewer consequences for youth has inward and outward armor. But when one approaches the ripe old age of forty times around the sun, the outside armor begins to melt which exposes the inward armor.
The real test begins now. In the evening I walk among the streets and look into the restaurants I used to enjoy not so many years ago. I see the people in their nice clothes sipping on wine and enjoying a variety of dishes without any concern for the pending bill. All the various flavors permeate the city air. During the day I observe people rushing to and fro with a sense of purpose while I wander aimlessly and confused to my not so important destination. I worry about having enough money for a quarter tank of gas or a bus ride. I have to make decisions about whether or not to get a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon or some Top Ramen noodles. I don’t have the means to maintain my pride nor the humbleness to seek available assistance. My living conditions are despicable and uncomfortable.
Despite my plight, I realize there are millions and perhaps billions that are worse off than me. I understand that these same people may have never enjoyed the luxuries and simple pleasures I enjoyed for some forty orbits – pleasures and luxuries that I sold out for rather than endure the harder and more true course that my being called for. I also realize many of these people may not have the luxury or education for higher thoughts and dreams. And I envy these people who never knew such luxuries and pleasures to some degree. They are tougher, stronger, used to their daily struggle to simply survive. They aren’t concerned with dreams and visions or contemplations. I on the other hand, am like a helpless born baby with a dreamy grown up mind punted into the middle of the ocean without any diapers or a pacifier. I am like the guy in the Matrix that just had his chords ripped from his spine and can’t swim in the reject toilet bowl because the muscles in the body and mind suffer from atrophied.
The road ahead will be long and difficult – the comfortable middle ground no longer exists. I will see whether or not my inward armor is made of metal or just a bunch of hot air that simply needs to be released with a long disappointed sigh. This will be a very cold, lonely, and lean holiday season – a perfect time for some long thoughtful walks, reflection, and perhaps some laughter and tears of joy. I think it might be the perfect occasion to begin reading true works of art once again. Time to pick myself up a copy of Steppenwolf — somewhere during the last twenty orbits I lost my copy of this little golden nugget. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.