Skip to main content

Mutatis mutandis


The path to the top of the hill could have been better. True, there were no impediments to him, per se, not any people to disturb him in his thoughts, not anything else at all apart from the trees – so very many trees! – and the sounds of birds, too, along with something else, insects, probably, and then there was the air, which was always the same air and always comfortable.

And so much light, light full to bursting with what his mother once called illimitable fecundity.

Still, something nagged at him, in his thoughts, at the very back of his thoughts, every time without fail. It could all be so much better.

At the top of the hill – which he thought of as his hill and which was not a tall hill, really – he could look out and he could see it all. Every single thing he knew of. Illimitable fecundity. With nothing to disturb his thoughts, he could look out and see everything that could have been better.

This hill, for starters. Yes, the hill was flawed. It should have been taller, and instead of earth and grass and flowers, too, it should have been cold and it should have been hard, with many sharp-edged corners. He should have been inside of it, looking out, instead of standing out here feeling the cool breeze upon his face.

That could be how it could be. How it would be. Someday.

And if the Conductor had only conducted properly, right from the get-go, there wouldn’t be all these trees. Something hard and grey and flat instead, then, bitter in the winters, overheated to melting in the summers, with nary a blade of grass to be found upon it anywhere.

It would be better.

Other things would dot the hard, grey surface. Shorter than his new and improved hill. More like his leather living hut only harder and colder and posseting up thick, floating tendrils of black that would make him cough. He could do with a good cough.

And once the ground was hard and nothing could grow and no animals came anymore, his family would have their food brought in to them from faraway places. The food would just be poison, basically, and it would take more energy to get it to them than the food contained.

There’d also have to be a lot more people. Though most of these people would live far away, they would spend their days making the thick tendrils of black, and they would sit inside of claustrophobic wheeled boxes – which would also spit out thick tendrils of black for many hours on end to get here and then to leave. His friends and his neighbors would work in cold hard huts as well, only not the ones here, but rather ones very far away, for which they’d get inside of claustrophobic wheeled boxes, too.

No one would know anyone else’s names. Even family would be strangers and who’d want to get to know a coughing, poisoned stranger, anyway?

He knew that clear fishing stream there, over off to the left of him, would have to go. Too much illimitable fecundity there entirely.

This web of roots and branches and rains and pollen, of flowing and growing and merging and pupating things, would be broken. And no one would have any sense of the sun or the moon or the seasons, the solstice or the stars. And though this would make them frantic and empty, they would not know it was why they felt frantic and empty and in their franticness and emptiness, they would blame each other for their franticness and emptiness. But they’d keep right on going.

All greys and no greens.

That surely would be better than this, he thought.

He looked out onto the Conductor’s missteps.

If only…

Comments

  1. I love this - the message, the writing. And so very true. Just curious: did mother! inspire this? I know that (seemingly) this film's been on your mind a lot lately.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably without my realizing it, it did.

      I was walking across downtown Houston the other day trying to sort out how I'd convince an ancient acestor living on a Pacific island or somewhere how this society I live in is an improvement on things. Then this happened.

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! I had some difficulty with the whole should/could/would thing in there and I'm still not entirely sure it reads right, but I believe I got the idea across.

      Delete
  3. Sounds to me like we're already there and no...it's not better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could write it from the other end, too, though: Longer life spans, a lowered likelihood of getting certain diseases or being eaten by a bear, theoretically more ability to follow one's bliss, etc.

      But I don't seem to DO bright and optimistic much these days.

      Delete
    2. It's getting harder and harder to be optomistic.

      Delete
    3. I agree completely. I seem to swing wildly from a childlike ignorant bliss to pure pitch black cynicism. I don't believe that's a chemical imbalance or mental issue - just a reaction to the way things are going.

      Delete
  4. I realize this is a jab at cities, the great urban overtaking, loss of nature and the plague of "modern living". But I can't keep myself from reading this more literally, like a Creator displeased at the lack of suffering his world so desperately needs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always like it when people can take what I write different ways. If I can learn how to write in a way where people can project their own thoughts onto it, it will be a huge step forward.

      Delete
  5. Being in a remote area without friends and family around isn't very pleasant (I say as I sit in a remote box farthest away from the elevator or stairs).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Cal. I've been thinking about you. Hope all is well, and thanks for being the one to break the last couple months' silence.

      Delete
  6. Finished up the book, "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" and the author comes out as says the Agricultural Revolution was a sham. Of course his reasoning is more nuanced but instead of small bands of humans happily roaming the earth forging and hunting we settled down into dirty and diseased settlements struggling to grow enough crops hoping too much rain or drought doesn't destroy the harvest. In short, the initial steps into the process we call 'progress' was a joke.

    I've read enough to know you can seriously fall down into a spiraling philosophical rabbit hole debating the pros and cons of civilization. Personally, I lean towards the idea civilization is good but I have serious doubts that our current incarnation with its hyper-capitalism and callous disregard of the individual in favor of profit will survive.

    Great writing as always!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have read a few anarcho-primitivist books (like the one that dinthebeast mentions, below), and I'm not sure I'd want to wipe civilization away.

      But every time I sit in traffic in Houston, I wonder whether this is the only way to do it. The Police have a song called called "Synchronicity 2" that has a line: "Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes / Contestants in a suicidal race." Hopefully, someday, we'll look back and wonder how anyone put up with the way things are.

      Delete
    2. LOL!!! Yes! I completely agree. I'd love to have just a few minutes with someone from Roman times to discuss what they thought of the crap they had to put up with. Hopefully, our descendants living in Musktown on Mars will be more advanced and have overcome our issues and develop their own.

      Delete
  7. every piece of the puzzle a struggle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm having a much better day than I was having yesterday when I wrote this. Today, I don't want to give my my air conditioning and wifi.

      Delete
  8. This could easily be a chapter in one of Daniel Quinn's books, and they are very fine books indeed.
    He also has some negative things to say about the agricultural revolution, and the way it devoured culture after culture, all of which had been evolving their ways of life from the beginning, and basically tried to replace those ways of living with stuff off of the top of their heads. Then wondered at the empty, dissatisfied feelings swirling around in people's lives.
    Perhaps tribal life would have lacked some of the comforts we have become used to, but trying to replace the cradle-to-grave security (even given a sooner grave) of the tribe that our species actually evolved to inhabit with the vagaries of capitalism was bound to create unforeseen difficulties that we haven't been quite able to catch up with yet.
    Mental illness, for example.
    And yes, the longing for a way of life we have never actually known is at the root of many of our modern... uh, what to call them? Idiosyncrasies. I'll go with idiosyncrasies.
    Still, in possession of that information, and also a background that included learning to live in the National Forest without most of those modern conveniences, I think I wouldn't want to live in a world that didn't have electric guitars, were I given such a choice.

    -Doug in Oakland

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, as I was telling Beach Bum above. I'm not sure it's the healthiest way of life, but then again, I'm not living the healthiest that even our civilization has to offer. I am fascinated by the whole anarcho-primitivist thing, though.

      Incidentally, Daniel Quinn lives in a townhouse about 4 blocks away from me. It's odd to think of him as living in the middle of Houston, but it's apparently true.

      Delete
    2. At this point I think I've owned and given away three, maybe four sets of the "Ishmael" books.

      -Doug in Oakland

      Delete
    3. Vote for me in the next election for Anarch! Oh wait...
      I actually used to sign my correspondence with a capital "A" with a circle around it, but it didn't have anything to do with anarchy, it was all about Mrs. Mace, my ninth grade English teacher, who was hell on wheels even after coming out of retirement to teach our class. While sizing my best friend Mark and I up over our sarcastic humor, she asked us "How am I supposed to tell you apart?" to which Mark replied "He's A and I'm B, right your "A"ness?" "Right, your "B" ness."
      So I started signing everything with that circled A before I even knew what anarchy was.

      -Doug in Oakland

      Delete
    4. I wanted this story to end with, "Then our classmate, Mikhail Bakunin, stole my signature A and a political movement was born."

      Delete
  9. I found this intensely depressing. The only cure for human beings is extinction, and I hope to see it start in my lifetime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you're depressed you can still feel, right? I feel increasingly numb to everything, which should concern me a little.

      I don't know how I feel about the prospect of dying just before The End comes. Might be worth seeing!

      Delete
  10. I was ten paragraphs in before I realized what was going on. Then I thought to myself, "You clever bastard you, Harry."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Debra. I sort of wish I'd put more time in on it before posting it, but it seems to have worked as is. I'm pleased with the responses!

      Delete
  11. This reminded me of the Rolling Stone song "Paint It Black" (hey I listen to lots of music).
    I see a red door and I want it painted black No colors anymore I want them to turn black

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can generally relate more with something I'm reading if I can relate to a song I've heard, too. or better yet, an album.

      Delete
  12. And when it's all been corrected, we'll call it a city.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I'll make cities sound as bad as can be, but here I am, spending 100% of my time in a huge one.

      Delete
  13. I have to admit Harry, I was kind of lost, when I first started reading this, but then everything started to click! A very nice piece! Well written!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'm glad it came together for you, Stacy.

      Delete
  14. This is heartbreaking. It would be terrible to live that way, not to be able to feel the changes in our bones (if the trees aren't there), to go through the world sick and sickened knowing no one... I would probably die if I couldn't stick my feet in dirt every now and again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are rare souls like you who have not been cut off from everything.

      Or maybe people in touch with the world are not rare. Maybe I've just got a skewed view of things because I live in the midst of the downtown area of the fourth largest city in the United States.

      I hope that's it.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for sharing, Harry. You have a way with the words and I'm glad I got to read them. Take care.

      Delete
    3. We humans carry in our being seeds that birth veins of life or seeds that are a venin. A friend who was a rabbi said he had a continuing bad dream that all of planet earth was covered layers deep in nano technology, alive but not living. You may have dreamed that too.

      Delete
    4. Thanks, Mr. Shife! I can't even remember the last time I wrote a post that wasn't in first person, so this was a little different for me.

      Delete
    5. Hi, Tom. Decades ago, I read a lot of stuff about the interconnectedness of all life and all that good stuff. Sometimes, it comes out in my writing when I'm not expecting it.

      Delete
    6. But I do love my claustrophobic wheeled box. It gives me freedom even if the tendrils of thick black are slowly killing everyone, including myself.

      Delete
    7. Hi, LL Cool Joe. Until last year, I pretty much always had a truck. Buying an actual car made me feel like I was lying on my back in a shoe box for about a year. But I like it now.

      Delete

Post a Comment