I’ve searched for a lot of things in my life. Some of them I found. Some, I realized I would never find and abandoned the search. Some searches changed course when I realized that what I was searching for wasn’t really what I was trying to find, but another path into the search. It’s kind of like mindless writing…the stuff I teach my writing students. It goes like this…you start writing about something, mindlessly, without thinking, without judging or revising or changing your mind about anything…just letting it all pour out in a pure state, the unadulterated truth because you don’t have enough time to lie to yourself…you have to keep writing whether or not you like what’s coming out.
“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “I tried mindless writing once.”
“How did that go?” I said.
“I learned a lot about myself,” said the fox.
“Like what?” I said.
“Like…you know…stuff,” said the fox.
“You revised stuff as you wrote, didn’t you, fox?” I said.
Well…” the fox tried to say.
“Whatever you got out of it, you really didn’t get out of it,” I said. “You censored the truth.”
“I’m a fox, Biff,” said the fox. “My truths are simple.”
“Tell me one of your truths,” I said.
“OK, Biff,” said the fox. “I exist.”
“How do you know that, fox?” I said.
Because you just asked me, Biff,” said the fox.
“Confirming your existence through me is existence on pretty shaky ground, fox,” I said.
“Back atcha on that one,” said the fox.
“Sometimes you talk too much,” I said.
“I call it mindless talking, Biff,” said the fox.
For once, the fox made me laugh. But I think this talk of mindlessness could be the next portal in my search because, to a degree, we all tend to lead our lives mindlessly, some more than others, maybe to the extent that they never have a clear thought throughout their lives. And I wonder about this…where it comes from…why we do it…where it’s taking us. I remember listening to a woman talking at an environmental meeting years ago, telling us how we need to be more mindful of the things we do that pollute the air, the land and the water. She made some interesting points, like separating our garbage so that it could be…you know…when company comes over they can see how environmentally correct you are and run home immediately to separate their own garbage. She talked about composting, car pooling, eating local produce and all sorts of neat shit that made us all want to do the right thing and save the world. After the meeting, I was standing outside with some friends talking about how we were all really impressed and were going to start separating our garbage and buy hemp clothing. I saw her leave the building looking so earth-friendly that my heart burst like breaking water as she walked to the parking lot where she got into the biggest most gas-guzzling SUV I’d ever seen and drove into a brighter future for all of us.
This is what we do. On the one hand, we talk fervently about things we believe in; on the other, we do what we are. And we don’t even notice. We do just enough of the things we believe in to keep ourselves convinced that we are who we think we are and ignore the rest. It’s like ordering our lives in a cafeteria: “Let’s see…I’ll take three helpings of compost, a ladle of phosphate-free dish soap, a side of bicycle for riding to work, the marinated extra large anti-fracking sign and, for desert, the latest lithium-powered cell phone…with an extra helping of shrink wrap, please.”
“Hey, Biff,” said the fox.
“Yeah, fox?” I said.
“What does all this have to do with searching for peace?” said the fox.
“It’s the search for the search, fox,” I said.
“You mean…mindlessly writing about mindless stuff?” said the fox.
“Bingo,” I said.
“You play Bingo?” said the fox.
“No, fox, I knit,” I said. “Now…if you don’t mind…”
When it comes to our beliefs, we partial package ourselves, but there are people living the full package out there. I know a few of them. They live in the woods. They generate their own electricity. The use handsaws and dowels to build their homes. They grow their own food. They trade with neighbors for things they need and can’t make. They watch stars instead of television.
“Sounds like a good way to live, Biff,” said the fox.
“I suppose it would be,” I said. “Let’s take a walk.”
“Where to now, Biff?” said the fox.
“One of the craziest places on earth,” I said.
So the fox and I spent the next month walking through barely snowed provinces and states and into places hot enough to barbeque a snowman and finally arrived in Texas, home of the coal rollers.
“What’s a coal roller, Biff?” said the fox.
“Just look over there, fox,” I said.
The fox looked in the direction I pointed, at a half ton truck with what looked like two small chimney stacks rising from the bed. A blue Prius approached from behind, closing in on the truck. When the Prius was about twenty feet from the truck, two huge black plumes spewed out of the chimneys, covering the little car in a thick black cloud of smoke. The Prius swerved madly with brakes screeching and pulled over to the side of the road as the truck continued down the highway, the sound of crazy laugher rolling out of the windows.
“Biff?” said the fox.
“Yes, fox?” I said.
“What was that?” said the fox.
“That was coal roller, fox,” I said.
“You mean that was deliberate?” said the fox.
“’Fraid so,” I said.
Coal rollers…our latest expression of a world doomed by the things we don’t want to see, the package with last year’s expiry date. They’ve declared war against the environment and anyone who’s trying to save it. There are thousands of them. Thousands.
“Not much peace here, Biff,” said the fox, dodging a bullet from a 45 sticking out the passenger side of a passing truck.
“Close call, fox,” I said.
“Why I’m a fox,” said the fox.
Damn animal made me laugh again.
(To be continued. Somewhere else.)
So, Biff,” said the fox. “You really knit?”
“No, fox, I don’t knit,” I said.
“Didn’t think so.”