Jul 8, 2006

American Pie

It has been nearly three weeks since we returned from the Maghreb, since the customs clerk said, "welcome back." Which seemed such a revelation at the time, such a sign that we were re-entering our real 'home', the home of ancestors and where we belonged. But what to do with the ambivalence now... what to do with the sensation of being caught in a Sea of Sargossa, in the doldrums between one home and another.

I've always found solace and succor on the flights between places but never in the places themselves.

Now as time bends and memory becomes like so much landfill, the other place, on the shoulder of the volcano, seems more like home. I had forgotten that home is always the place you're trying to get to and never can. It's a memory of origination never anything more. And so here we are and Here seems particularly foreign and strange — if only because absolutely nothing has changed. Not a hair is out of place. The people look identical to how I last saw them. The neurotic quality of the city, the flinches and ticks I remember so well, are just as they were. Which leads to the sensation that these places we've been in lately are all so ephemeral, so not our home at all.

Back in America, you are back in MindVille. Back in the future, back to Pythagorean Theorem and the safety of intellect. And so here's an alleyway I've gone down lately: If one's world is the sum of 'formal' ideas, long held beliefs, and the mind's odd lot renderings then why not judge a place by the ideas behind it, rather than what you see. There's a difference after all. In America, for example, where car is more than ever king, not less as I had imagined, as you drive along you fall under the spell once more of all the makes and models, of design, of the importance of shapes which in turn reflects the need for individuality, as well as mobility. A curving fender, a rounded bumper, it all becomes provocative and demands critique and comparison, and finally the sense, would I want that or not.

And so if you spend hours in a car every day, then you become caught up in the intellectual world of car makers and oil drillers and the imperial armies of maketeers, and by extension their concerns, their personal histories, their dreams as kids. And then it's just hop skip and a jump to the absurd, to the neurotically infantilism of John Gregory Dunne's notion that men are ultimately divided into two groups, those that look in the toilet after they shit and those that don't.

I say all this because in my winding desire to return to Buddhist principles I've been struck by this notion of realizing emptinessness and how it demands such detachment, such an ability see the 'nothingness' in all things. Yet I can see that now, now and then, and just for an instant, the way you might notice something down a street as you drive quickly by, out of one eye. And you think, 'what was that? I want to see it again.'

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