The view from the floor

Right now I’m typing into a closet. I have no furniture except for a broken chair. I’ve placed my computer at the foot of my closet, which is about three feet from the floor. The ledge of my closet is now my desk, where I sit in a broken, backless chair and type into my macbook computer.

It is a saturday night and I’m burnt out on beer. My feet stink and my back hurts. I must be tired but I don’t feel it. I’ve slept little the last few nights. But when you’re not working you don’t need as much sleep because there’s no work to rob you of energy. You get by on less.

Dc isn’t so bad when you don’t have a job. At least for a couple days. Having fewer things and more space has made me monkish. I sit still on the hard floor and free myself from possessions and attachments. I attain freedom from ownership, from desire for control. I’m unburdened.

And then those things come back. Last night I talked to some people in a bar about psychedelics. They were on the subject of sensory deprivation chambers and I brought up mushrooms. And then they asked me something I had no idea about but I answered them anyway. And I seemed to answer the question.

That’s what academic training does for you. I remember stalling at first and thinking that I didn’t know what to say. This happens when I allude to knowledge I don’t have and then someone wants to know more. I panic and then try to spin sense out of nothing. Sometimes it’s convincing.

I’d live in this city for another six months if I didn’t have to work and I could wander around all day and then come home and sleep on a floor. If I had nothing and received money for food and transportation. My pants are disintegrating so I should get another pair of those as well.

If you gave me money for food and pants and I could sleep on the floor and not take care of anything then I could stay here longer. See a few more monuments, go to a few more museums. Take a few more train rides and hang out with a few pigeons.

There are no pigeons back home. But I’ll enjoy our birds. We have good birds and I don’t want to waste valuable country bird watching time missing the pigeons of the city. I hope I’m not caught in a cycle of wanting to be wherever I’m not. What if home is attractive now because I’m not there? Once it loses the charm of distance I won’t want to be there anymore.

I miss my family until I can’t get away from them and then I want to be somewhere else. My history is a choppy flight from the actual. I’ve dissolved relationships, jobs, places, hobbies and talents. I’m a practiced quitter, a seasoned deserter.

But for the last six months I’ve been thinking about what it means to stay, to put down roots and grow into a solid, enduring self. To fit into a place and time. And as I’ve thought about this rooted, other directed existence, I’ve become steadily more disgusted with selfish, impulsive and irresponsible behavior.

I was ready to go home. The only problem is that right now I’m in a bare room, sleeping on the floor and my habitual aversion is rising up again. It’s telling me to run away from responsibility.

I need to remember that my last week in DC has been an illusion, an illustrious impossibility. I have just enough money to eat until I rent a car on wednesday morning. So I’ve been reading and thinking and writing without working, an ideal condition I wouldn’t be able to maintain. Because dc is mostly working and serving a kind of person I don’t like and then living among another kind of person I also don’t like.

Here’s what I’m wondering with all this time and open space and unyielding floor to sit on and punish my ass bones with: have I translated my general contempt for humanity, my diffuse apathy and aloofness into a more pointed racism and bigotry to compensate for deeper character flaws? I didn’t even know that black people annoyed me until I became a minority in their lands. I didn’t care about gays until I shared a home with them and lived next to a gay couple. My hometown is gayer than the average midwestern town but it’s nothing compared to dc.

Do I only hate what’s nearby regardless of who or what it is? When blacks and gays surround me then I have a problem with blacks and gays. And I think sweet thoughts about my far off family. My hope is that I’ve matured enough by now to make good decisions and understand myself well enough to do the right thing.

For the last six months I’ve wanted to do more for others but in this moment I feel alone and self absorbed. Carnally preoccupied and shiftless, as though I could continue living without engagement and occupation indefinitely. I hear that age doesn’t matter, that people delay and prolong phases of life, and that we’re no longer bound by the old rules. We live longer and have so many choices in where we live and who we spend our time with that we don’t have to nail ourselves to one place or set of people.

The modern era is marked by acceleration and dislocation. Fluid relations predominate and identity is provisional. Reality is subject to continuous redefinition; narrative and interpretation determine truth.

So I can tell any story I want to make myself feel better about what I choose to do. I can break myself down into little pieces and scatter them everywhere. There are so many places I’ve never been and people I’ve never met and there’s no reason to chain myself to a location because I happened to be born there. There’s no abiding reason, only the rationalizations of an evolved, accidental organism.

Modern life is hauntingly arbitrary, episodic and ambiguous. Chaotic and uncertain, abandoned by the eternal and delivered to the temporary, left to risk and probability. An upstart enlightenment has discredited the dictums of God. Authority has been transferred from the transcendent to the impersonal collective, a permanently plugged in consensus manufacturing machine.

It’s a cascade of calculations, an algorithmic whirlwind, an ongoing experiment without design and intention. My modern soul was tempered in the fires of a roaring ambivalence. And now I’m seesawing in the interim of time and place, teetering on the brink of inconsistency. I’m an obsolete reader and writer, an organic, disorganized intelligence in an age of automated thought and optimization.

I can’t let this final stretch of solitude undermine my resolve. Here’s to the hope that change has a direction, that I’m getting closer to the essential.

Author: The Empty Subject

Born curmudgeon

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