“Wherever you go there you are.” Dang it. Here I am. Even on vacation, at work, running up the mountain, lying in a hospital bed, reading a book, writing, whatever. There I am in that moment. I used to love an altered state because, though I’d sometimes spend lots of time trying to bend the people, places and things around me to various and often sordid views of ‘perfection,’ in the end it didn’t matter. A closed room, curtains drawn, okay, no problem. Sitting on hill, mountains in front me, blue skies overhead, same thing. Didn’t matter. The outer world was never so fundamentally important as an altered inner one.
Why do I bring this up? I don’t know. I guess I have been struck lately with beautiful Colorado. Its so green. Am I just now seeing this? Or snapping out of that? Maybe its the new glasses. No. It occurs to me how many times, having lived here 20 years, I have failed to notice the undeniable, almost unbearable at times truth about CO. Taking it for granted, driving underneath the shadow of the majestic Rockies I am often way, waay, waaaaay too preoccupied to notice. And in thinking about that I am struck with the truth, at least for me, that it matters only a little where I call home. Its where I’m “living” that’s important.
Growing up I had this idea that there were the beautiful places and then there were the hairy armpits, the spidery places. I remember hearing about a river in Cleveland that caught fire, like 20 times or something. Yeah a major tributary, you know with like water and maybe some fish. That stretch of unlovely was in fact so polluted there were no underwater citizens swimming in it. Only fires living on top of it. Those two, fire and water, don’t make a great combo meal. Flaming h2o, scorching waves, and burning waters definitely constitute an armpit worthy designation. Pour me a glass. Not.
The irony is/was I wound up spending a year there as a freshmen in College. And you know Cleveland was a beautiful place. Been to Pittsburgh too. Steel mills and all, fricking gorgeous. Sitting in the backyard in Bracknell, UK (a place not known for being lovely) and paradise found. Turns out there are amazing places everywhere, even miles behind the enemy lines of an armpit. I am sure the same could be said of many other locales suffering the same perceptions- Baltimore, Detroit, Yo Momma (kidding), other.
A guy named Jimmy Hodges used to say in a meeting that he could live in a dumpster and be happy, that the ability to do so was his true freedom. He’d also say that he was a frequent flier to the most spectacular places imaginable by virtue of closing his eyes. I wanted him to break me off a piece of that particular kit-kat bar. But he couldn’t. What Jimmy claimed to have he got not by muttering the right incantation or even living in a dumpster in some sick, twisted turn/Vulcan mind trick on the nature of beauty. It was how he lived his life, paradoxically, on the outside that made his inside idyllic. That takes work and not the kind of involved with purchasing a plane ticket to go on vacation or, heaven forbid, the grave and inherently serious stresses involved in picking the right shade of paint for the study or right material for the kitchen counter top…
There was a documentary produced around four or five years ago called “Happy” that seemed to confirm these vary same kinds of assertions. The film discussed how outer conditions and circumstances only accounted for ten percent of a person’s total happiness. Places, along with possessions, had little impact on happiness. In fact going after happiness made the thing that much harder to catch, like trying to lay hold of a big, bright fish only to have it squirm from your hands. At the same time a guy pulling a rickshaw from a slum in India, raw sewage flowing by his front door (likely not fireproof), could claim to be the luckiest man on earth. What the why? Truly happy people (and I think in general the US, the richest country in the world, was rated 27th on the happy populous scale) have people to love and be loved by. Instead of seeking the elusive Big Happy, guys like the rickshaw driver seek to help others, to get the hay out of the house and pack a little something into the stream of life. As the Roko Belic, the filmmaker behind the documentary said, “The greatest lesson I learned while making this film is that my pursuit of happiness is not about me. Its about our relationships and how we help each other. Its about us.”
Okay, everybody hug it out. Right now.