Saturday, March 6, 2010

A closed system

In the quiet of the morning I stare into this screen. Nothing. Blank. Numberless scattered thoughts and impressions whirling around inside my skull. Synapses firing in a network of electro-chemical energy that one can "see" with the right equipment. Maybe I am an effin gadget after all. I get scared, I sweat. I drink too much, I get dry. I walk around the city and my skin burns, one big sensory organ. I see a pretty girl, I get excited. I smell bacon cooking, I salivate. I'll tell you one thing: I'm no Buddhist, and I'm nobody's disciple. Call it a lack of discipline.

I go down the escalator at the Port Authority. These people are in control of their lives, aren't they? The fact that they are here, at this hour, in these dark clothes, on their way to those mind-numbing jobs, it's all volitional, isn't it? You know, acts of free will. Or is free will just a line of bullshit that's meant to keep us on track even as we come to realize how the system screws us each and every day?

I'm talking about the system inside our heads, not some worldwide neo-con fantasy or left-wing hallucination. The way we're built, the way we turn food into flesh, then turn flesh into shite. The biological system, the evolutionary procession. I saw a bum yesterday sitting in a pool of his own piss on a stoop in front of a sidewalk grate on 32nd Street between Broadway and Fifth, his red face turned to the sun, surrounded by his things, neatly bundled. The son-of-a-bitch was smiling. I guess not everyone is seeking answers to impossible questions.

A while ago, I was on the C train heading toward Brooklyn. I saw a terribly fat man -- he took up three seats -- reading a paperback book titled
What Does it Mean to be a Man? You could hear each breath he took as he read silently to himself, thoroughly engrossed, sweat pouring down the sides of his face. I remember he was wearing old-fashioned leather slippers, his feet too swollen for socks. His whole body jiggled when the train braked. I wondered how he got up and down the subway station stairs and whether or not he could actually fit through the turnstile. Maybe he had to enter and exit through the emergency door. It's hard to tell the age of someone that heavy, but he couldn't have been more than thirty, thirty-five, this man holding the world at bay with his bulk, trying to figure things out. Maybe he was on to something.

The human being is not a closed system, no matter how hard we may try to be. We take in the world and make something of it. I go over to the east-facing window to see how far the sun has risen. It's March already and it appears the whole world is waking up. Dirty mounds of snow live on in the shade but the rest of the yard is mud. For a moment I forget myself. It feels great to be alive.

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