August 9, 2013

What Dreams May Come

I spend a lot of time wondering what it is that people care about. It's an odd thing to wonder, maybe, what dreams are behind their eyes; and it's certainly not something you can ask about.

"Excuse me. I couldn't help but notice you're choosing a fuji apple. A fine choice. But I wonder, when you take your food home with you tonight, what will you do? Is their a spark of passion left in you, or is it doused? Do you whittle away the hours until the next day, merely to find a new piece of timber to carve into nothing? Do you care, really, about all of this, or even any of it?"

I wonder about these things because I want very much for them to answer in the affirmative. I want there to be a reason, something more to their lives than the perpetuity of mere existence. 

Not that there is anything wrong with survival. For the vast majority of history, humans and other creatures have been suitably challenged by that task, a challenge that continues well into the modern world, in many areas.

But today I sat behind a desk and the greatest and most momentous challenge I faced was a mislabeled figure caption, a chart titled "Fig. 12" when it was in fact "Fig. 11." I looked around and saw the same. I went to the grocery store and yes, bought a fuji apple, some iced tea, and a larabar. The man in line in front of me had three boxes of fish sticks, and 36 bottles of Pepsi. (This isn't me begrudging him his low quality food choices, either for their deleterious effects on the environment or his health. We were both buying luxury goods that we enjoy; our motivations merely differ.)

I want there to be more than that, for all of us, because it is desperately easy to argue in favor of the void, that there is nothing but an omnipresent absence, a wholly encompassing contradiction. It is easy to tear down, harder to build up. 

"Oh, you're really into running? Nice that your first world existence gives you the free time to train at your leisure, and the finances to replace however many calories you might recreationally burn. But please, continue with your artificial and contrived challenges, and let whatever success you enjoy inflate your ego, like you've done something more than get moderately fast and thin, like those things matter."

It's easy for me to write that paragraph, to say that those things don't matter, in the grand scheme. But what does that accomplish? Nothing. And it also operates under a rather dubious assumption that there is something like a grand scheme, like there is an objective scale on which we can judge pursuits as more and less worthwhile. 

Maybe the only scale that renders meaningful readings is internal. Maybe those things matter because they feel like they do, and there's no need for deeper introspection. 


Maybe, but I still feel like I need to ask, not "What is the meaning of life?", but rather, "What is the meaning of yours, and of mine?"; and to find that meaning where I find it, in Star Wars comic books, distance running, and reckless fruit consumption; and to indulge in those things guiltlessly; and to hope that behind the eyes of the man buying fishsticks is the knowledge of a passion and a meaning that he could not tell me of if I asked, such are its depths. 

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