Sunday, June 28, 2009

An evening stroll on Lakeside Drive

On your evening walk around the lake, you see that eerie blue light emanating from the otherwise dark homes of your fellow citizens, the fatigued and diseased, the lotus-eaters, the burnt-out cases. Staring at their televisions, keeping whatever watch they keep. Neither out far, nor in deep, as the poet declaimed. When somebody dies they stir a little, the way they do when someone hits a home run or scores a touchdown. Occasionally they text someone. They are the true believers, those who sit there in that blue light, night after night, flipping channels, zoning in, zoning out.

They believe in The Future, that something good will happen to them, that Fortuna will smile on them, even if the old girl's missing a few teeth these days. They believe what they watch, the agony of actors, the prophecies of journalists, the sincerity of performers. They believe in sex. They believe in the freedom of the road and the certainty of an afterlife. They elected Ronald Reagan President twice. They just spent 200 million dollars in five days to watch giant automatons brawl on The Big Screen. They use stuffed teddy bears to commemorate dead souls. They think cell phones keep people 'connected'. They believe in their government, though they talk as if they despise it.

The fact that they are hip to product placement doesn't mean a thing -- they choose to buy what marketers want them to buy. The fact that they can log onto the Internet doesn't mean a thing -- they're there for the slogans and images and products. They're buying things. Og Mandino and Zig Ziglar. They believe Jesus was the greatest salesman. They learned to comparison shop when they were young children, to find the best deal, to read the ads, whether they were buying food or clothes or religion. They believe the way things are now is the way things will stay. The sky, the water, the earth. They believe the church is there when they need it, like a foxhole, or a painkiller.

They are so tired at the end of the day. For their lives are hard, traveling to and from work, shopping, driving, worrying about the bills. Trying to stay ahead of the game. You cannot blame them for their fatigue, or for burrowing into a fantastic alternate reality every night, a soft, safe place in which they can finally, utterly
let go and believe.

Yes, even up here where little brown bats skitter through the air under a darkening sky and frogs cheep in the rushes, where coyote and bear wander under cover of darkness, and, as the monk wrote,
the moon speaks clearly to the hill, even up here, after a hard day, the blue lights come on and still the beating hearts of my fellow citizens.

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