Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Sitting in the Shade of a Palm Tree - Boat Drink in Hand

"Life is short & uncertain. Why are we not doing everything possible to spend every day on the beaches of St. Croix?"

That was the text message I received in the middle of the night from him.

Shit.

I don't know.

That's not the kind of philosophical life question I can answer when I'm scarcely conscious at 2 a.m. on a week night.

Apparently however, that is the kind of question that keeps me awake for an hour while I lie there and ponder it. Apparently, that is the kind of question that stirs my desire for a cigarette...at 2 a.m. without pants or socks on when it's 35° outside. Apparently, that is the kind of question to ask me somewhere between sweet dreams and full coherence.

I just wanted to check the time. Really.

But he always seems to know what questions to ask to force me to think. Even if he's asking in the middle of the night. Even if he's asking via text and the answer isn't text answerable (like Twitter, text has it's character limitations I find stifling and claustrophobic...although, perhaps those are My character limitations). Even if he knows the question is rhetorical. He wants to know my honest, thoughtful answer.

And so I think about it.

Social conditioning?  That's the easy answer and, of course, the first one to pop in my head. American society (and maybe others...I have no ability to ponder the social structures of other societies outside my own at 2 a.m. on a week night) dictates normalcy and sets expectation in its children. Go to school, grow up, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a big house, live in the suburbs, spend, spend, spend, hurry up and save, retire, and THEN go live on the beach if you're so inclined. But you've got to work hard and toil the best years of your life away first. If you're not infirm by then.

If you're not dead.

But wait.

I'm not on that path to "normalcy". Oh sure, I went to school (sometimes), I grew up (mostly), I got a job (and then another and then another)...but I somehow took an unmapped turn somewhere in the middle of Normal and headed south across the border between Acceptable and Are You Fucking Kidding Me.

So social conditioning isn't really the answer. At least not for me. Probably not for him either...

Or is it?

What is it then? What is keeping us from those "beaches"?

Complacence? Doing what we do because it's easy and safe and doesn't take much effort? Because it's just what we do without requiring self-awareness? Because somehow we decided along the way that life was somehow supposed to be this...this...this...mundane? Social conditioning.

Is it fear? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of going hungry? Fear of living simply, frugally, without cable and internet (*gasp*) and smartphones? And still...fear is a social condition. Fear is a reaction to potential consequences from acting somehow "wrong". What's wrong about living a life less ordinary? Silly fear. I laugh in the face of you. Ha!

Is it out of a sense of obligation? To whom? To what? What obligations do we have that are unending? Duty to family and friends beyond loving them - near or far? Duty to employers beyond a two-week notice? Duty to creditors and mortgage lenders beyond paying off that debt starting today? Social conditioning.

Or is it fear of finding ourselves entirely alone? No friends, no family, no familiar loved faces around to provide comfort and caresses when we fall down and go BOOM or to tell us, to show us we are valued and loved. And even though I ultimately believe we are, each of us, always alone, being by myself on a beach on St. Croix doesn't sound as though there is much distraction from the aloneness of myself. That is not lone. That is ALONE. It sounds...peaceful, at first, then lonely. Social conditioning.

So social conditioning is my answer. Isn't the first answer usually right? However, I believe we have the capacity to break free from social conditioning...at least to an extent. So...

I'll go...if you do.

"Let's go. Let's stop waiting for an ambiguous and uncertain future and make it happen. There's never enough time for it all so shouldn't we put our efforts toward joy now?"

A year ago: If You Loved Me...
                  The Daily Shower Thought

2 comments:

Diva said...

Materiality affords comfort. Plus, I do think the beach would get awfully boring eventually. And what did I have to do to get that drink....? (Don't answer that.)

Franklin said...

The sentiment of spending life on a beach in St. Croix is appreciated, and at the same time, there's a lot to be said for living passionately in the moment, wherever you are. I also wonder if the St. Croix beach experience is made more wonderful by the contrasting experience of the warp and woof of life. To everything there is a season...and a season of ease would be very nice about now.