Saturday, November 18, 2017

Passing Through

I haven't written much this year. Or last year, for that matter. When this site was initially created four years ago, a different set of circumstances had defined my situation. I was fresh out of a relationship, overworked, struggling with abusively long workdays, a grueling commute, and weekend work that stretched on for many months at a time. And though intermittently dating - and getting my fair share of female affection - I felt terribly and unrelentingly alone. Writing became a necessary outlet, a companion. Since then, things have changed considerably, leaving me muzzled by contentedness. Work life balance has improved to near perfection. My job allows me more than ample vacation time, reasonable hours, and a generous degree of autonomy in my day-to-day responsibilities. For the first time in a long time, I'm relatively unencumbered. Life is good. Money is not a concern, and there is very little to worry about in the way of material needs.

But now, more than anything else, boredom proliferates. It's been said that tedium is the fault of those who feel it, that each moment is rife with completeness and we need only to accept this as fact to revel in the euphoric mindfulness of now. While there is some truth to this idea, generally, it is not quite as simple. Most of us lack the requisite monkish disposition to indulge this sort of aphorism, but of those celebrated ascetics able to employ such stoic frugality, how many mistake monotony for serenity? To them, what is the difference between boredom and bliss? For to empty oneself of desire, of need or want, to sever completely the link between a person and one's passions, is to achieve the coveted nothing-state of nirvana. But at what cost? After all, what is a person without passion? Surely a certain fanaticism is needed to maintain a zest for life; it is the most powerful weapon we have at our disposal to combat the quotidian drudgeries of routine. More importantly, why pursue a state of nothingness while alive? There is all of eternity for that.

Everything is a matter of perspective though, isn't it? At every moment we have the choice to see the splendid or the stodgy. Each day the sun predictably rises, and then falls, a shining opal moon swims up out of the sea, ascending to its rightful place at the centerpiece of the night sky's twinkling sapphire-studded tiara. Each year seasons breathe in with a blush of color and hold the pose until the sweaty fervor of summer is cooled by a long, slow, autumnal exhale that cuts the color from the trees and hangs, instead of leaves, icicles on the arms of skeletal branches. This process, to a tired observer, loses its wonder and appears not so much as an act of magic, but as mere repetition, the flicking on and off of a light. Outside forces seldom change; only our responses to them. But sometimes, if you change your environment, you change your perspective.

For me, it is time for such a change. I am likely leaving here, and sooner than I think. When I moved to San Francisco nearly seven years ago, I was certain I'd live here until they were putting me in the ground. Never had the thought crossed my mind that my stay here might be temporary. However, I do remember saying that if I were to leave San Francisco it would be for Europe. Now that the reality of it is setting in, there are feelings of uncertainty and sadness to attend to. Feelings of excitement and possibility, too. Starting anew in this way is rarely easy, and nothing worthwhile ever is, but it provides a unique challenge, an opportunity for growth and a richness of experience that can be gained in no other way; living in a foreign country, learning a new language not just of words and phrases, but of ideas, culture, histories, ways of living. Life, if nothing else, is an exercise in exploration. We should pursue it both in our internal struggles and also in the world around us, not because it is good to do so, or because it is just, but because we must. We're here only briefly, there is little time and much to see and do.

Passing through, passing through
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue
Glad that I ran into you;
Tell the people that you saw me passing through

I saw Adam leave the garden
With an apple in his hand
I said, "Now you're out
What are you gonna do?
Plant some crops and pray for rain
Maybe raise a little Cain
I'm an orphan and I'm only passing through."

I saw Jesus on the cross
On that hill called Calvary
"Do you hate mankind for what they've done to you?"
He said, "Speak of love, not hate
Things to do, it's getting late
I've so little time and I'm just passing through."

I shivered with George Washington
One night at Valley Forge
"Why do the soldiers freeze here like they do?"
He said, "Men will suffer, fight
Even die for what is right
Even though they know they're only passing through."

I was at Franklin Roosevelt's side
Just a while before he died
He said, "One world must come out of World War Two
Yankee, Russian, white or tan
Lord, a man is just a man
We're all brothers and we're only passing through."