this house is a bass drum

response to “never in step,” below


We are always drawn to ponder circumstances that differ from our present situation.  It is somehow fundamental, in this historical moment, to imagine other existences, to wonder how the world–or one’s own life–might have been different, or might someday be.  Sometimes the thought even reveals its meta-imaginary character:  it comes as the blatant realization of a new a priori, that what is was never meant to be, it only just happens to be.  Only upon reflection does it appear that the universe has a “plan” for any of us; this idea is imposed on our perception of “the future” only after it has had its historical genesis in the minds of humans, not the other way around.  Freed of this basic constraint upon imagination–namely, the tendency to fail to imagine the world differently–we arrive at what philosophers call arbitrariness, which is at the heart of all fiction in that it allows the mind to identify, reduce and manipulate basic components of everyday-reality-as-perceived-by-human-beings.  Civilization itself, in all of its constituent dimensions–material, infrastructural, political, relational, mythological–is free to be designed from the ground up (or the top down, or both, or in some other possible manner of architecture).  Once mind has the building blocks of the world at its creative disposal, imagination comes to be defined by its pregnancy with other, possible, worlds.  This is why, for example, so much of (what I’d call) the truly exciting philosophical thinking of the twentieth century occurred in the primarily “literary” genre of science fiction.

But I digress…

Matthew describes the house well.  If there are two things we never lack at Sugar Grove, they are 1) places to sleep, and 2) messes to remind us of who has recently slept there.  The last six months can be mapped in reverse by noting the presence or absence and the relative location of certain objects:  blankets, pillows, futons, couches, clothing, dishes, chairs, tables, tools, sizable outdoor structures.  Our transience is writ quite large upon the whole scene, really.  The house is littered with other people’s stuff.

Random tokens continuously evoke their owner’s presence in a crowded sort of way.  Some people think of ghosts as a kind of memory, but a memory held by the material, physical reality of a certain space.  Our rooms are like that–containers of space-time within which the events that transpired between their walls still exist, playing out in subfolds of our universe, or in imperceptible dimensions, or in some such real yet distant place.  The past is always with you here because it was just like the present, and because the future will soon be the same way as the past is now, which is…there, but transient.  Present, but fleeting, but present.  In this house, everything seems to happen once–and again and again forever as a result.

It is true; the effect can be dizzying.

It is also true that this frenzied, madness-fueled existence is enormously appealing to me at this point in my life.  There are all sorts of reasons for this; it’s just so god-damned much fun, for one thing.  But it also seems befitting of this time and place, of these people.  I am in between so many things…so, so many things.  I would say this house is what I’m doing in the meantime, but the meantime is all I really have at the moment.  I am simply in the meantime.

The trouble is, the life I currently lead can be made to appear alternately heroic or tragic, bohemian or disappointing, poetic or pitiful.  It all depends on what your ethos happens to be on any given day. Are you in a fuck-all, nihilistic hedonism kind of mood?  What great souls, then, have you stumbled upon!  (The secret to the revolution was always sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, anyway.)  If, on the other hand, you’re in a nose-to-the-grindstone, deep-focus, get shit done kind of mood, then I regret to inform you that no great plans are currently being hatched at headquarters; the would-be leaders are on an extended vacation.  Work will resume when the hangovers subside.

That should be about four months from now, when the Great Move to Asheville finally happens.  That is when I have chosen to resume trying hard at life.  In the meantime, I work, I read, I party, I lie around and do nothing.  This house does not inspire me to do otherwise; this house is a bass drum.  It is life, day in and day out.  Wake, eat, work, sleep.  Who comes and goes?  Many, many.  And they are all loved when they are here, just as they are loved when they are not.  But it is difficult for the old adage, “out of sight, out of mind” not to ring true in this context.

I think that’s perfectly fine.  I don’t often wonder about how things might have gone differently (if I’d chosen to leave Boone a year ago, for instance) because I have a good idea of what’s coming in the next phase of my life. I was talking with a friend the other day about commitment and I was reminded of these thoughts.  He asked if I saw myself as the kind of person who has a problem committing to things, or to people.  He said he thought that I was.  I can see that being both true and false.  It is absolutely true that I am not the kind of person who seeks exotic adventure for the sake of the thrill, and in that sense I am most at home simply being at home.  I like roots.  On the other hand, the things to which I’ve really, truly committed myself in the past–relationships, long-term projects or goals, ideas and ideals I’ve tried to embody or enact in the world around me–have received my full attention and all of my energy, when I’ve been in the position to knowingly, calculatingly devote myself to them.

I rationalize not engaging in the what-if game by telling myself that nothing I haven’t done yet is impossible for me to do later.  The corollary to that sentiment is this notion I have of waiting for the “right time” to do a certain thing.  This is a sad way to live, on one account, and I recognize the validity of the criticisms that friends have often made of it.  But I never sit around and do nothing; I have yet to travel outside of the country, for instance, but I have road-tripped my way around the U.S. many times and have had a hell of a time doing it, amassing a very respectable cache of experience(s) in the process.  When I have the resources and the window of opportunity, I’ll get the fuck out of here and see what I know I need to see elsewhere on the planet.  I’ll have a purpose in mind and I’ll make the most of it.  I don’t want to “just go,” much as I’ve been told–almost ordered, at times–to do so.

Even now, as I’m sitting around doing nothing, I am not sitting around doing nothing.  I am continuing to build relationships where my roots already lie.  I am making my peace with my time here and saying a long goodbye to this phase of my life.  It’s hard to describe how I feel about this place…there is no way to articulate the degree to which I love it here, no hope of communicating how important Boone has been in the development of the person I am right now.  I am allowing myself to settle by living to the steady beat of a bass drum.  Before they go into the studio to record a certain song, some drummers will sleep with a metronome clicking away in their ear in hopes that they will go into the next day’s session with the song’s tempo literally burned into their brain.  I’d like to think that what I’m doing right now, in my life, has something of the same degree of intentionality.

I would also like to say that we have responsibly embraced our transience here, and I think that’s true.  We have developed the capacity for meaningfulness and elasticity alike to characterize our relationships to significant others of every sort.  This has been a lesson in and of itself.  I should hope that it proves a fruitful endeavor in the long run.  I believe that it will.  But, like Matt says, the dust never settles, and only time will tell.

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