[Previously on Wonderers: Don’t they ever tire, these lathered masters of ceremony, shoving their way down the roads more traveled? Don’t they waste away on the paths everyone takes, which everyone before them has taken?]
Don’t they ask themselves, How are we different from our forebears, I mean, really, truly different from them? In what way have we changed the script, made something of our lives to stand apart from the people before us?
The need to advance and make something more out of the human condition, is it there, or is it dormant in us, lost?
I believe it is, utterly lost and unknown to most people, everyone acting and machinating in the same way as their forebears. Their scripted and four-hundred-generation-stale raison d’être, their precious MO, their self-appointed noble cause for living, breathing, existing and propagating, if you look at it with open eyes and really think about it, it’s the same as it was ages ago, instinctual, proto-mammalian, and my question is, Doesn’t it bore them to death? Depress them with its lack of development? So animalistic, so basic and unimaginative, doesn’t it flatten them?
So deeply constricted and ritualistic, and so banal, so unchanged over the millennia, tangled in its primordial stirrings, echoing the needs of simple biology. Eat, drink, fuck, make babies, grow old and fuck off, letting the next generation take over and do the same. That simple!
I guess that’s why we have customs and conventions and etiquette: to keep ourselves busy and distracted from the mind-numbing boredom that constitutes civilization at large, a civilization that has become more sophisticated in terms of technology and information exchange, but not in terms of basic drives. Our undercurrent forces remain unchanged, all instinct and conformity, from grunts and wallops on the head to doublespeak and innuendo, performance and applause, courting the mate and making little mates — the epitome of life! they say, as if we’re neanderthals, clinging to those basic ‘pleasures,’ those simple-is-best escapes. Here you laugh, then point out the snag! It’s the easy way out, as hard as it seems to be when experiencing it. A convenient excuse to not transcend our limitations, stay put, fall back on the most unfresh way of actualizing ourselves. Click-click-click go the culture machines, propagating simple needs on the backdrop of new technology, ‘advanced’ mindsets, all on the altar of social convention, all of it driven by basic biology and assimilation, shiny on the outside, progressive, they say, if that, but ultimately, even in the most progressive of cases, vestigial, undeveloped and undifferentiated from the ancient drives. Tribal to the core, to the tiniest bone, and progress — real progress! — be damned.
We are Nth-generation primates with derivative appearances, pretending our ways are the stuff of the future when we’re clearly hooked on instincts rooted in primalism, our souls overly dependent on eating, sleeping, congregating and propagating ourselves, all the banalities that stem from these processes, we’re subject to them.
Hence the need for the charades, the song and dance. Elaborate rituals with which to fill in those endless moments spent toiling down the predictable, somebody-shoot-me-before-I-shoot-somebody road.
I turned thirty-five three days ago. People celebrated my age. They didn’t celebrate an idea or accomplishment of mine, something great I did lately, which I did — I finished writing a book, enrolled myself in a charity called St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters supporting twenty-five locations in the New York area, and helped my children plant their first tree sapling, one of many, I trust. Great deeds, all of them, at least I think so, but all my friends celebrated the other day was my goddamn age, their minds fixated on the ritual of cheering the passing years. No questions asked, end of story. People love celebrating the years. Present them with anniversaries and commemorations dealing with the passage of time, afford them the chance to throw a party or two, to eat together, drink, feast and cheer the occasion of someone getting older, wiser, whatever. They love such simple opportunities, their effortless, instinctive immediacy, so straightforward and accessible, stuff they can relate to, like the fact that someone they know went thirty-five times round the sun.
Big deal, apparently.
It is, but not enough to eclipse everything else — all the events that add meaning to one’s life. Without them, a birthday celebration means nothing.
And yet, here they are, the majority of people, always ready to shine a light on my age, in the shadow of which they eclipse all that matters. The empty, meaningless wishes delivered on the backdrop of a dry and dated manner of relating to one another. The ritual taking over, pushing the substance aside, making a mockery out of all well-wishing.
I sound like an ass, but some truths are impossible to sweep under the rug.
Watch this space for Part 5