Thursday, January 17, 2019

Driving Out of the Moment

It's always a bit odd to do something you feel completely competent in after a short hiatus from the activity. For example, driving an automobile yesterday after spending two weeks in Peru where the only transportation I was in command of were my feet and a motor-scooter (for one day). We encounter "different" experiences all of the time however, our societal recalcitrance allow the experiences to push us back into our comfort zone before learning anything - unless that comfort zone has been shredded like a Banksy painting.

As I headed out to the chiropractor to get some of the hours spent sleeping in diminutive beds and airplane seats released, I noticed a stark contrast between my current mental state vs when I was navigating the roads and traffic in Peru on the scooter. No, shit Sherlock, right? It's a mini-van vs a 150cc scooter, of course it's a different experience; however, while related with the type of vehicle being operated, there were also the traffic flow and road surfaces that made the experience different. The "Western world" has gone above and beyond in the pursuit of comfort and ease. Just watch a car commercial and you'll see the intangibles they are peddling - power, safety, comfort, freedom, prestige. Externals filling in the gaps perceived in the wall of our personal fortress against the outside world. Switchfoot has a great line in the song Gone - "outside of our convenient Lexus cages", a quite accurate depiction of our mentality. Societally, we have accepted that we are all separate entities milling about this "third rock from the sun", each trying to create an all encompassing garrison wherein "things" can stay just as we like them. However, the walls that are supposed to keep us safe can just as easily be a prison. 

When you are driving down a potholed dirt road littered with puddles of unknown depths or through traffic with little regard for lighted signals and none for stop signs, you have to become hyper-focused. Obviously it's not the same level as Formula One racing but I felt a glimmer of the description I had once read of the occupation - a complete immersion and presence with the road and vehicle as if "you" and "they" (the road, elements, vehicle etc) are one. There is no thinking about what is for dinner later, the bank account balance, whether or not your relationship is going to work - it is only single minded focus on the data screaming through you that must be traversed to reach the destination that was the focus the entire time. Operating a fully enclosed tin / plastic can in the United States stuck me as very much the opposite of this fully immersed experience. Even our expectation of others following traffic laws is another way we hide from the present. This is not to imply that traffic laws should be chucked but because they are in place, many drivers feel that they can detach from monitoring the pulse of the moment to run away into something else "more productive - formulating a plan for the future, listening to a podcast, talking on the phone etc. 

Much of the "necessities of life" are considered drudgery to "civilized folks" so our "technologically advanced" society has, to quote many advertising schemes over the years, "we've worked hard so that you won't have to". Of course you end up paying your hard earned money so that you won't have to keep working hard, only to then have a new problem - what to do with yourself. These days filling "empty" time is as easy as flipping on a device and binging some online streaming content or hanging out at a bar for hours to watch other people do things on the television. None of this is meant to imply that these activities are wrong but merely to point out the fact that we do things we don't enjoy to procure money that is supposed to then create the space of ease or more accurately - allow us to be a version of present, where our sense are overloaded with input that overwhelms the foreboding fallacy we call the Future. Ironically, we want to do nothing and have attempted to create a world devoid of labor yet when we have nothing to do we become anxious and desire to fill that space. 

Instead of driving out of the present moment we can each embrace the wonder that is contained in being. In this state you aren't striving for ideas of perfection but instead are doing whatever comes naturally in that flow. Doing not for the sake of a "outcome" but purely out of interest and excitement in what you are doing. I imagine that if bees have thoughts like us there are some that see everyday of pollen gathering as a horrible grind, while others might see it as an exciting treasure hunt to tasty treats traversed on the marvelous mechanics of their wings. Everything is a choice of perspective - there is surrender or there is not. The lack of surrender is where all the cacophony of opinions clashing in the world are derived from. As a friend put it "having an opinion is not a skill". Opinions are entirely a mental construction formulated through one's ego stating it's belief on how it can best self preserve hoping to gain energy, and therefore "security", through swaying others to see the world as it does.

Denzel Washington in Equalizer 2 has a fantastic scene where he's cleaning graffiti off a wall in his apartment complex and has a conversation with a young man who tells Mr. McCall "someone else should be doing that". Robert (McCall), responds with one of the most direct and powerful monologues I've seen. I don't have the exact quote but the bones of it is "all the time people spend talking about what 'should' happen, they could have been doing something about it". The sign in front of a plant has no bearing on what it is going to become and is really only potentially confusing to those who have to read signs to "know".