Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Some folks still think of life in the old-fashioned way, as a river flowing to a majestic sea, or as a long open highway leading to a wondrous destination, and either metaphor can still capture in a sort of word-amber what is becoming an increasingly packaged process. I can't help it; even though I don't commute much anymore, I still tend to get systematic.

I realize now that back in my commuter days, after commuting for only a short while I subconsciously began to view life, modern life, modern urban life, ok, my modern urban life, as more like a loop line. There was something manically repetitive about it, something worryingly cookiecutteresque, and every day I felt more and more like a cookie but it wasn't my recipe.

There was an unfamiliar aroma to my future, an artificial flavor I couldn't help sensing when I crowded onto the line and began my daily loop, soon falling asleep from the carbon dioxide level and waking up to look out the window only for the name of the station to see if this was where I was supposed to go, it was only a name I was supposed to go to, could have been any name on the line, depended on where the corporation was.

For a while it was one name, then I changed offices and it was a different name, there was something accumulatively deweydecimal about it, a catalog of places into which I was filing my numbered days, all linked by a macrocosmic infrastructure that took me where I had to be and then took me home again, whichever way I went.

It can take a lifetime to leave the loop line, if you ever get to want to. Lives lived in a standard place (however eclectic) at a standard pace (however frenetic) acquire a virtual quality, the buildup of habit and pattern and repetition forming layer upon layer of time after time slipping by, chronically laminating over the actual life until it resembles a sculpture standing on a platform waiting for a streetcar.

Time isn't as big as we think. Fortunately I didn't set out on this career thing until rather late in life, so I only commuted for a comparatively brief while until I departed for the countryside and the joys of actual solitude, part of which joy is talking aloud to yourself, finding out what kind of a conversationalist you really are, confronting the vast secrets to which you carry the keys. It can only happen off the loop line, where you wake into a morning like when you were born, and go out into the fresh new world with true destinations in your eyes.

(Mostly as published in Kyoto Journal #49)


Tabor said...

I pretty much felt that way and that is why I retired early. I am still in stasis mode enjoying having no obligations...perhaps I will move into a small cookie cutter pattern in the future, but it will be my cookies recipe after all.

Anonymous said...

so true so honest so elegant
so impartial so beyond the stains and pains of what school systems broadcast versus what is received . . .

how wonderful to know that lacquer can be removed by sudden friction to reveal our vulnerable now or slowly and surely by a patina envoking stream of time lived fully and beyond the next station . . .

thank you to the cosmic radio's insight and inspiration the writer's soul tunes into and is fiercely faithful to

these words have the power to change worlds within and without!

Jason said...

Such rich prose, I read it three times, each time finding something new to appreciate.
I especially like that there is almost no sense of anger and regret. You seem to have captured a reflection on your earlier life that you've come to understand as part of who you are that had to have been. If that makes sense.
thank you for the entry.

tracy said...

Robert, you are a good book! I always know why I miss this place upon return, when I fail for whatever earthly reason, to make it over here for a visit.

Also, I love the pictures on your sidebar. Some I'd seen before, but some others look new to me...