Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Remember the nights

Learning to help things grow
(A lot more pictures of my garden are here.)

I’m sitting on a blanket on the grass at my local park. I’ve never been here before, and I don’t know why. There are children playing in the creek with buckets and pails. Why do we bring children to parks to play and never take ourselves? I don’t know if I’ve laid out a blanket on the grass, listened to music, read, and wrote, since I was in college. Why do college students deserve this sensory fulfillment any more than adults do? Why don’t we treat ourselves as well as we do our children?

Maybe this decision is the one I’ve been making since I dropped out of society five years ago to hike the Appalachian Trail. I decided then that I wanted to experience every moment of every day fully, not from inside of a computer in a cubicle. I’d rather suffer with holey clothes and cheap haircuts and a basement apartment than cage myself eight hours a day. It’s a decision that has not been met with great approval by family and friends, nor society at large. I believe in what I’m doing, even if everyone else seems to believe it self-indulgent nonsense.

My next adventure, I’ve more or less decided, is to buy a little piece of land, probably in Alabama. There I’ll build my own house, with my own back and brawn and hands. I have no construction experience and very little aptitude. Still. Would I rather lock myself up from dawn to dusk (at least for six months of the year, when sunlight appears after eight and disappears before five) and pay someone else to do something I can learn to do myself? I’d rather heft the beams in my own arms. Heck, I’d rather pour my own concrete.

I’ve never had a job--paid, at least--where I was rewarded for creating something with my own hands. I envy people who get paid for building things. Marx was right. He said that human beings are fundamentally divided between the proletariat, who see the results of their labor--at the end of the day, the ditch is dug, the stones are in a pile--and the bourgeoisie, who use their minds but are divorced from what they produce. He said, and I concur, that those two halves, intellectual and physical, are only fulfilled in the pursuit of art. Is it any wonder we use the term creativity? Something new is created. Something new takes form.

How many Americans, I wonder--seventy percent? Ninety?--spend their days moving paper from one stack to another? No wonder our economy is destroyed. We don’t make anything. We earn our livings making nothing. Then we spend all the money we earn on cheap plastic nothing we buy at Wal-mart. This cycle is patently insane, and yet we all continue in it. Why? Because we’re ashamed not to. We’re ashamed to say that the emperor has no clothes. And we like our cheap plastic crap, our fried chicken, our garbage bags, our splinter-board furniture.

I learned recently that a coworker of a friend, an executive assistant at a financial company, makes $80,000 a year. She shuffles paper for a living. She has a $300 key-chain. What does that say about us as a nation? As people? As Christians?

I can’t say I won’t give up, that I won’t take one of those jobs eventually. I like fried chicken, too. The battle may exhaust me. I may lose. I may go hungry, at least metaphorically. I may fail. At the end of my life, though, at least I’ll be able to say I had this afternoon on the grass, in the sun, watching ants crawl on clover.


Magrat said...

Might I offer my morning coffee in a toast to blankets on grass, music-listening, walking barefoot on the beach, breathing, dancing, savoring :)

Melissa said...

Thanks! I'll drink to that...