Mark vs Cancer

Friday, April 28, 2006

An Unnatural Peace

I sat in my truck at a stoplight late this last Tuesday evening with basketball sweat still cooling on me, a soft breeze sifting through the open window, and had an epiphany of sorts.

I had just finished my weekly game of pickup ball at the church building and was now on my way home. I had played well--though not great--and was enjoying the increasingly familar muscle aches that my aging thirty-something body suffers after these games. I say "enjoy", because I have always liked the healthy exhaustion I feel after playing a good game of hoops, just like I used to relish the painful sting of floorburn on my knees in the shower after a high school game--a sign that I'm still alive and kickin'.

John Mayer was crooning "Why, Georgia, Why?" on the stereo, and my soul seemed oddly at ease. I found myself gently grooving to the beat as I scanned the nighttime scene: red stoplights, orange streetlamps, blue flashes of cars, bright autodealers, big box stores, chain restaurants and endless pavement. I was struck suddenly by how completely unnatural everything around me was, and yet simultaneously I felt at peace with it all.

Is it possible to feel at peace with modernity? I have always associated peace with nature: mountains, streams, oceans, clouds, sunsets. And I usually associate the trappings of modernism with frenzy, anxiety, worry, anger, and displacement.

Here, almost nothing I could see in any direction was "natural", except for the scraggly brown grass that crept along the highway. There were no trees, no animals, no rivers, no peaks. The wash of lights and signs shrouded away even the stars and the moon. Yet here I was, feeling just peachy in my modern groove. Was there anything wrong with that?

My train of thought then jumped track, and I envisioned how this same piece of earth, now buried beneath my truck and the pavement, would have looked four hundred years ago. I imagined a fierce Lakota warrior standing triumphantly over a slain buffalo, scooping out its liver and tasting of it, hot and bitter on his tongue, wolves howling into the starlight of the high plains, the smell of sage and blood, the cool dust under his bare feet. Would he have felt a similar--but more organic--sensation of being alive and enveloped by his environment, a warrior's peaceful, easy feeling, so to speak?

The light jumps to green and my truck roars into gear. The wind flaps more fervently through the window, and I correspondingly turn up the volume to match it. I accelerate towards home into an endless sea of suburbia.

The fierce warrior has intruded upon my thoughts, and I sense a familiar post-modern guilt creeping in. But I push it away. This is how I live. This is who I am. Should I feel guilty for feeling at peace with myself and my environment? Not tonight, I convince myself.

Tonight, nothing but props to the modern man.

Here's to you.


Angie said...

Love it. Your writing is so entertain ing. I'd still like to hear your take on the poetry of basketball...

Matthew said...

A warrior on the steppe at the stoplight? What have you been smoking?


Tyler said...

I think your thoughts are profound and your prose is in line with your usual eloquence.

I don't know if I feel comfortable giving modern man all of my props, but if it was just for one night and you got a warm feeling in your heart, then maybe he can have a few of them, just for the one night.

I'll give him a larger portion of my props when he can start cleaning up some of the terrible messes he's made...


Wendi said...

To me, it sounds rather Zen -- sorta "being in the moment" and all. I look forward to reading of your next moment of spontaneous enlightenment. :-)

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