"The sooner you leave, the sooner you come back."
--Jim, to Jeff, on Sunday night
--Jim, to Jeff, on Sunday night
Buddhism teaches us to meditate on impermanence. But what is there to meditate about? What is the goal of it, or is that so missing the point that I should stop now and rewrite this introduction?
Those who live in transient communities know too well about impermanence. There are two times we really feel it: those non-essential moments when one of us lets slip a phrase about graduate school, or "missing the States," or something even more nebulous like "future plans," and memories of our ambition pinches us like a syringe; and those other times when one of us, against the odds, actually chooses to leave, usually to pursue endeavors that strike us as inconsequential, unworldly, foreign. And suddenly everything about our reality is cast in stark relief: what is actually inconsequential? And what is actually foreign?
Perhaps I should say something about the transience of existence, but I swore off Buddhism a little earlier in this post.
You may know by now that Jeff Orcutt, after seven-odd years in this country, is leaving us to participate, in all things, a political campaign. One in Chicago. One in which he does not know which side he'll be assigned to. Yes, I said assigned to. The asininity of this decision is so beyond most people's modesties that I hesitate to say more, except I fear I've already been drawn in as by a black hole -- that void in the center of all established politicians and those who willingly gravitate to it. (See, Jeff, I've given you an out: I said willingly; God forbid you're doing this by your free will.)
Those who choose to enter the political machine will eventually find themselves surrounded by power and the means by which to attain it, and such power will inevitably lead to the pursuit of more power. I'm not talking abstractly. I mean connections, influence, invitations to parties, seats closer to courtside or the third-base line, and, to an extent, money. This is the great failure of government, and if you were to actually believe in it -- HOPE for it -- you're no better than those "corrupt" politicians who play the game for personal gain, as if it weren't a game, as if moral law weren't an invention and somewhat of a crock, as if the opinions of the righteous actually mattered.
I'm reminded of a commercial I saw a few years back, a recruitment ad for the army (or air force or some branch of the military). A young man with a buzz cut stands in the backyard drinking beers with his old buddies, from high school or something. And the condescension in the military guy's posture, and tone, and eyes, is so flagrant that you're left wondering how a nation of supposed nonconformists like America could allow such unabashed propaganda, and wonder how the creator of the ad could have missed the irony here: a man broken down by the system returns to reality -- a backyard, summertime barbeque with friends -- and thinks less of his friends because, what, they've never held a gun? Or is he spiteful that they've never lost grasp on reality? (It's actually much simpler: he simply belongs to a different circle, and he's been brainwashed to believe that circle is somehow superior.)
Or does he distrust those who have never considered death? We'll all stride up to that edge and live on the fringe between worlds, and you claim military training prepares you better for the plunge but I say, Fuck that, I want my full mental acuity while in the liberating illusion of flight.
Jeff did not have much to say when it was his turn to propose a toast, and that's completely okay. "You've been like my family these years," he said. We understand. In the end, we understand why he's leaving. The exigencies of the heart command unassailable power, stronger than any that exist in the world of politicians and men.
Early Thanksgiving / Jeff's goodbye dinner:
Thanks to Ken Dry and Baby Girl for deep-frying the turkey.