Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I found you, flightless bird

Imagine, if you will, a plane flight to Texas, banking above the desert after three weeks in ten square feet of my brother’s Acura. I’m recrossing the land driven by us on hours and hours in the car, hours and hours of listening to Iron & Wine, The Avett Brothers, Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash, and Highway 61 Revisited. At seven in the morning, driving through the corner of Minnesota, we tried to genuflect at the crossing of Bob Dylan’s favorite old highway. At a coal mine in West Virginia, we were told, “no f***ing pictures, you f***ing f***ot.” At the crossing of the Pacific Crest Trail, we trekked across sixteen feet of snow pack. We peed in pit toilets in the Nevada desert, learned colloquial Serbo-Croat in the long stretches of Nebraska, and drifted among water lilies in Wisconsin. It was an epic trip. It will go down in record books. Trust me on this one.

I’m being creative right now, even though I have two well-heeled and made-up Arizona women sitting beside me, talking about their Tiffany bangles and five-carat diamonds and the outfits they wear to their neighborhood Wine & Dine parties. It makes me uncomfortable. I asked my brother on our trip, whether or not he really believed the principle of no competition in yoga, a principle that I’ve begun to adapt to the rest of my life.

My brother made the point that competition, and desire, is probably what drove most successful people in the world. By the standards of the world, Buddha was not very successful. He was a penniless wanderer. As was Christ. And Saint Francis. By the standards of the world, none of them was successful, and it becomes a question of how we define success.

I am also a penniless wanderer, without success in the eyes of the world. I must be doing something right. I only aspire to follow in those footsteps, but I find it interesting that not only has almost every prophet in history chosen poverty, but each has also condemned wealth. Especially unexamined wealth.

It’s not that we’re wealthy, it’s that we have no idea how wealthy we are. We think this kind of wealth is normal. We think that it’s okay, that it’s sustainable. And it’s not. I imagine our grandchildren will be shocked that we jumped on planes at a whim, that we hopped in our cars and drove cross-country. We probably shouldn’t be doing these things that we’re doing. We probably shouldn’t be jumping in our cars or planes or trucks.

But what do we do? Turn down medical care and air conditioning and Coca-Cola? We probably should, but it’s not easy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have plenty of unexamined wealth worthy of examination... but I do feel good about the fact that we rarely turn on our AC, except for when company comes over. It's funny what things make you feel thrifty, while lavishing money on other things, like expensive dance lessons.