On Image and Reality

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A bit hippie-freestyle. Pics are all from December.

The continued popularity of internet memes – pictures of Boromir and the by now well-known “crying girl” notwithstanding – is related to do with the fact that, on some level, they touch a deep current of truth. What I think about myself is necessarily, and often comically, different than what a diversity of others think of me. While I – working a full-time job, living by myself in what, for New York, would be an embarrassingly large apartment and (due to circumstances) not often going out – see myself as somewhat of a middle-aged homebody (albeit one who, when shaved, appears to be twelve years old), others at home seem to see me as an intrepid explorer, bravely leaping up skyscraping peaks to visit meditating lamas, traveling at breakneck pace as if Moses parting the waves upon waves of mountains that make up the Plateau, quadrilingually (and fluently so) annihilating all barriers which stand before me, Teacher of Adorably Disadvantaged Minority Youth-Man, ready to take on all that comes.

That, I imagine, would be pretty sweet. The reality, however, is a good deal more humble (except for those occasional flights of mental fancy, of course…I’m not an egotist, I swear…). I get up. I go to school and teach. I come home. I go running. I attempt a shower. I work. I cook dinner. I go to school and teach again. I come home and go to bed.

And yet, living here in the one of the most most worthwhile nowheres imaginable, even the most mundane activities do tend to take on a certain mythic quality. Even if not attaining full mythic status, elements of my daily life – even those as simple as shopping for vegetables in town – often become intriguing enough that they at least reach a certain degree of storybook-quality fascination (this is completely separate from the Mother Goose fable-esque randomness and lack of coherence of my present life, which is often alluded to in my posts). Every so often, walking down the street, head tilted down to protect my eyes from the fiercely pulsating rays of the sun, seemingly jumping onto my back, literally burning themselves into my skin (do you think I got a sunburn today?); every so often, I look up and, in an instant, everything around me, all these apparently familiar contexts and surroundings which I’ve walked past daily for two years, everything and everyone and the entire relentlessly whirling globe re-becomes magical, new, a place of limitless wonder and possibility. I look and stare and gape and gasp as if I’ve never seen anything before, a baby fresh from the womb. And never do I express the horror of Plato’s chained prisoners who, suddenly freed from their cave and allowed to approach the sunlight outside, recoil in horror; for me, instead, everything is unbelievably beautiful and fulfilling. The town is dusty and filthy and disgusting, full of noxious fumes and odors and unknown sidewalk stains and gutter substances, but it is romantically so; it is one of the more romantically dirty places I’ve ever been privileged to find myself in. The main street is chaotic and cacophonically loud and obnoxious and filled with black diesel fumes and ice slicks and wailing naked pissing babies and rambunctiously hollering teenagers and grumblingly reticent old men, but it is symphonically so, all parts adding to the majestically overpowering whole. I walk down the street, dodging cars and bikes and puddles of piss and compost and donkeys and curious onlookers, and think that – despite the oncoming sunburn – there’s no place in the world I’d rather be than here, at this particular moment, absorbing and collecting and participating in the magnificent chaos of life that surrounds me.

My journey down the street to buy vegetables becomes, as such, a journey of myth, an Odyssey of experiences both known and unknown, a voyage in which I spread my consciousness octopuslike over the surroundings and squeeze and suck in as much of the surrounding Everything as I can. I don’t need to understand everything; no Why has to be answered, as I am only here for the experience.

A seeming lifetime of trials and tribulations and Odyssean tasks later, I find myself at some kind of destination – here, in front of a vegetable stall. But this is only the first destination of many, the beginning of a sequence of movement and experience that will continue endlessly. And I think: how could hatred, nihilism or depression exist on such a world as this, a world of boundless opportunity, potentiality, wonder?

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