Chapter 15 - At the Center of Things
Creative Writing Assignment #3- Man at the Center
Humans are creatures who inhabit the great middle of things. We are caught between the macrocosm and the microcosm, the finite and the infinite, and existence and nonexistence. Many great artists and thinkers alike view this meeting place of opposites not as an vacuum existing in between transcendence and banality, but rather as the area where they mingle.
Your writing assignment is to convey this idea in an short essay. Be creative.
Road Kill Lines the Roads to Heaven
Road 42 that leads east and then north out of Concord is dangerous for dogs. I know this because of the two dead canines I've seen lying moldering on the side of the road within a few hundred yards of each other, forgotten pets whose only value now is to remind those who pass by of both the transitory nature of existence and the lethal character of four wheel vehicles moving at high speeds.
I've also seen a dead skunk right before Concord Cemetery on the road that turns into Road 48 and another dog where 220 leads into Bel Vista. So maybe I should say the road to Bel Vista is rough on animals in general.
There is also dead possum about a mile south of where 42 meets highway 220. It is located after you cross through the intersection of 138 and 42, a place where I was rear ended at a stop sign a few weeks ago. One of my dad's family nicknames was Possum. I like to think that the possum was placed there for that reason, to remind me of my father, who use to hunt possums when he was young.
Lot of people would think that this is weird thinking, but not me. I think of my dad every time I see that tiny dead possum curled up on the side of the road, so why would it be weird? The possum is dead and my dad is also dead. My dad was called Possum and the possum was too.
One night I was home watching TV and a classic GEICO commercial comes on telling the story of a man who gave his children a possum instead of a puppy or cat, and the possum played dead. The possum playing dead in the ad was a spitting image of the possum on the side of the road leading me to think that the ad just happened to show up at that moment to, wait for it . . . . remind me of my dad.
Maybe, it was there to remind me that my dad may be actually playing possum too. He would certainly know a thing or two about their wily ways having hunted them as a youth. I don't know, those kinds of questions are above my pay grade. I would have to be paid a lot more than I am to think about that stuff all of the time. I do a lot of volunteer work in that regard, but I also have other things to do.
I have come to regard the intersection of 138 and 42 about a mile north of Peter's Market as the crossing into the other world, the subconscious one. This type of crossing can actually be anywhere as we carry it around on the inside of us. Most of us cross over and back several times a day. It is actually the natural order of all things as we constantly conceive of a thing in our minds and then turn into some kind of reality.
It is also manifested in the structure of our brain with its two hemispheres, one side trying to grasp the big picture and the other trying to analyze the smallest detail. The corpus callosum is the road that bisects the hemispheres, the interface if you will. The interface is very important as it enables the two halves to function together as one.
I have crossed over the line in a big way about three times in life and each time it was a life-changing event. The first time I was working for Barnwell Co. digging ditches with a dragline. It was tedious work and to help time pass I would read something then contemplate about what I had read while I swinging back and forth scooping up and then emptying buckets of dirt.
That particular day I had read a short passage about Moses and the Red Sea. It said something like the sea parted when Moses and the Hebrews took their first steps forward. I don't know how Biblically correct that is, but I suddenly felt my body tingling as I understood to the very fiber of my being what that meant. It affected me greatly; I have never felt anything near it in intensity. I decided at that exact moment that I would go back to school and become a teacher.
That step forward represents the will to change. Will is everything in life. My life choices up to that point had brought me to the lowest part of the valley digging dirt because crap as the old saying goes, "flows downhill." I had ceased to do things that would change my life for the better.
I have discovered that another factor in such moments was that you usually are feeling down, depressed, curious or conflicted as being in such states sometimes weakens the wall between this world and the other. It has also been documented such moments have a way of occurring when the emotional state of the recipients are in very low condition or are thinking intently about a problem.
St. Paul's experience on the road to Damascus would be an example. The French scientist Rene Descartes brought the modern world into existence after a series of three dreams that were, "preceded by a state of intense concentration and agitation." There are many other examples.
The last time I had such an epiphany, I was driving north on 99 on my way to Fresno. My oldest daughter was contemplating moving to Portland as she was unhappy being in Fresno. I didn't know what to tell her; I didn't want her to live so far away, but I didn't want to chain her to Corcoran, the way my father's fears had done to me.
I had just left Concord and a couple minutes down the road, I had what can only be described as a brain rush. There was a feeling of energy surging through my body as before, and I knew answers to questions that I hadn't even asked. I knew the exact words to tell my daughter, "Don't move to Portland if you are going to take Freeport with you," meaning that her problems were not just going to go away because of a change of address.
I knew that this understanding was coming from somewhere else, somewhere deeper inside of me where I rarely go. The thing is it changed me. It led me to discover the secret of great literature and the true meaning of fiction, I understood the huge mistake that has led to modern culture, and the roots of the problem of our educational system.
By saying I knew, I don't mean I could explain it that well in empirical terminology, it was a sense of certainty, a type of knowledge that carries a burden that puts you on a path that you must travel from then on, uncovering even more secrets along the way
It marks you as something of a know-it-all that people tend to avoid. This may have been my purpose to begin with as I can remember some kids didn't like playing with me because I had a knack for taking over and stage managing our play and making it relate to whatever what I was reading at the time.
We didn't just play army, we played 300 Spartans. I didn't try to impose things, I just let it out that it was more interesting resisting the tyranny of the Persian Empire than running around with sticks shouting bang, bang.
Looking back, I realize it was the reading. My imagination was a bit wider and deeper because I read a lot. I have never pretended to be any smarter or better than anyone else; I just read, and when you stuff a lot of words, images, ideas, and visions into the small space occupied by your brain, they have tendency to mingle with other words, thoughts, and ideas and then try to leak back out through your mouth.
Maybe sometimes, many words and ideas come crashing together with such great force they come rushing out into your consciousness with the power of a lightning bolt, something like that satisfying little rush that is so addicting in the video game Candy Crush.
I have learned that a long time ago people knew a lot more about lines and angles and numbers. Geometry was not just used to measure things the way that we us it now. It was also a system for the metaphysical understanding of existence.
It was the same with numbers. Pythagoras didn't just teach counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and division. He used math to teach the mysteries of life.
Take, for example, the number one. It is the number that reminds us that all things are actually only one thing. In the old days, they used to think about what that wholeness meant. Nowadays only a few think like that, as most people think of one dollar, one car, first downs, or number one on the charts.
The number two is a number that expresses differentiation of something that shouldn't really exist being that all things are really one thing. It is the same with nouns in grammar. They denote difference like the number two says rather stridently, "I exist, I am different." There is a ton of hidden meaning to be found in the relationship between the number one and the number two. Sadly, we have neglected the mystery of the number two in favor of its ability to divide, as in gender, politics, race, and religion.
Three however is the most mysterious number of them all. When there are two things, a third magically appears. It is the interface between the two. Like I said, the corpus callosum makes the brain function efficiently. It is the mystery of how things work; it is the surface of a lake, the present between the old and the new, the period just before the sun rises above the horizon. It is the missing middle in American politics, and the middle ground that would help our schools function far better than they do today.
Our ancient ancestors knew this information, studied it, and put it forward in their myths. They knew that an intersection of lines represents something far more than a mere road crossing. I found this knowledge hidden in a lot of the stories that I read and I taught.
There is a reason that in the young adult novel Tuck Everlasting, the wizened Angus Tuck takes Winnie Foster out on the lake to talk about the meaning of life. There is also reason for the strange forest containing the magical water being next door to her house. Crossing the distance between her house and the forest is the same as the act of will I mentioned in the story of Moses and the Red Sea.
The interface is important, maybe the most important thing of all. It is not all that strange that I can see an intersection like Road 42 and Road 138 as being a place full of magic. Behind me at that intersection is the known world that I have inhabited for all 66 years of my existence, a world of lines, angles, people, history and buildings.
Before me though is the mysterious future, the hope, the dreams, the unknown world where I seek to find something new before I end up residing for eternity in Concord Cemetery on the side of the road leading east and north out of town. Gone and soon forgotten, useless except as a reminder to those who drive by of both the transitory nature of life and the danger of fast moving vehicles.
In the meantime, give your pets a heads up.