A Little Too Slow

It’s raining, been raining, since, like, last March. Seems that way anyhow. It’s been okay, here, going for hikes, catching the sun no matter the temperature, sitting out near the bay or walking the trails along the Potomac an hour or so north of here. Yeah, it’s been fine.

But honestly, it would be easier without all the endless streams of information, contradictory, negative, often inflammatory, soul-killing information. The most common conversations carried out on social media and mainstream media and alternative media is what is wrong with everyone else, what rules others are not following, and some of it focuses on someone else’s lies and some of it is lying to begin with, or making personal attacks, and violating absolutely every single fallacy professors dutifully instruct students NOT to do. Then we have to explain to them why politicians, analysts, talking heads, and others are guilty of what we preach is wrong.

It is no longer the case that all the information is being evaluated closely and disseminated widely by scrutinizing professionals, and only then do various factions disagree with how to handle the information. No. Now, each party has its own source, all different from each other, all verifying (or not verifying) their own information with their own “experts” and disseminating that information to their own followers, and anyone who disagrees isn’t watching the same media-flow to begin with, like separate cultures studying separate languages with separate definitions who try to communicate and, well, can’t.

And ten years ago, even five years ago….hell, last year, I’d have allowed myself to get worked up about it and head down to the college and take advantage of my position in front of literally a captive audience and preach about the rampant hypocrisy and childish behavior. I’d have lectured about those fallacies and the need to have a complete understanding of all the information before passing judgement—and that even then you don’t have a right to do so anyway, only certified experts should do that, and I’d leave feeling satisfied even if they didn’t get it.

Now, well, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about who’s saying what about whom and who’s lying and who’s on the prowl. I’m over it. Tired of it doesn’t begin to explain how tired of it I am. Maybe it is because I’m frustrated like everyone else. I no longer have the outlet of doing gigs which satisfied my life emotionally, financially, and professionally, but it is more than that. It is an overwhelming sense that the water has risen too high to ever again recede enough to see those placid and amicable shores. They’re gone. Just gone.

So what do we do? Learn to swim? See, I think that’s been my problem. When the waters of ridicule and childish bantering so common in the world rose higher and higher, I’ve been trying to keep up, at the very least tread water. Wow was that a bad idea.

I was at the river earlier. It is raining today, all day, a steady downpour which seems like hasn’t occurred since I was young and spent Saturdays on the couch watching old black and white westerns on television because it was too wet to go out and play. That kind of rain, where being inside is easy because being outside is simply not pleasant. It would be okay if the temperature was mild, but it is not. I know we’re lucky here not to have the ice and snow and power-outages so much of the country is currently suffering. Very lucky, indeed. But here we are, stagnant, overly complacent, and feeling submerged like never before.

Then the river, and a heron landed nearby, looked at me for a moment as if she had been dozing and only then realized, “Oh, crap, a human,” and took off for the other side of the pond. I looked out at the bay, felt the rain on my hood and my face and back, and remembered when things were, well, simpler.

Maybe not politically or socially; I really couldn’t tell you. Because back then I made conscious choices for things to be simpler. I worked, of course—always have—but I also took my time, didn’t listen to anything that brought me down if I couldn’t do anything about it anyway. I didn’t so much have my head in the sand as much as I did in the clouds, above the minutia of meaningless banter and complicated nonsense.

I’m no longer interested in confrontation, have no need for discussions about masks—literal and metaphorical—and so-called experts and excuses. We live in a world of blame without evidence, of judgement without inquiry, of ridicule without recognition how the other person might feel. We’ve lost the ability to make excuses for other people, and we long ago fell out of fashion with the idea of being brutally honest with each other, no matter the cost, in spite of the gain. Maybe that’s why love seems so lacking of late in the world, and dreams. And the softness of memory and hope.

I’ve always been aware of what’s around me, proud of the fact I can adjust to just about any situation in which I find myself—streetwise we used to call it. But truth be told, and to rip from a JT song for a second, I’m not nearly smart enough for the life I have led for the past thirty years, not fast enough for the times in which I find myself.

And the anxiety I often feel comes from trying to keep pace. That’s it. Oh how that thought today when I was standing there in the downpour, that my anxiety comes from trying to keep pace in a world that’s going too fast for its own good, ripped into my memory so powerfully it was like a hologram appeared on the surface of the river before me, as if even the heron saw those people there, the ones at a health club I used to manage. People would come up to me after a workout, crying, wanting to quit, frustrated at the pace of others in the studio, and I would tell them, “Set your own pace! This isn’t a competition; your life is not their parlor game! It is yours! Play it how you want’ then you can’t lose!”  

Well that advice turned out to be way harder than it sounded. Or, should I say, it is way easier to tell others that than to live it myself. But today, when the heron realized I was there and took off, and I realized I was there and had an overwhelming desire to take off, that simplicity, that sense of my own right to set my own pace and no longer worry about how I’ve been judged, how I’ve judged others, and let it all go, awash in the river, like the water upstream, passing me now, heading out to the bay, and further, and farther still, reset my sense of self for the first time in a long time. I have no idea how I’m going to get from here to there, but like the humanists of long ago, I’m sure the answers can be found around me, out here in nature where objectivity exists, and truth, where one cannot make excuses, one cannot blame others, and the only survival technique needed is the oldest truism in nature: keep it simple.

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