What was becomes what isn’t, in an instant. Like sand castles we labor over as children, the waves come, eventually, and wash everything away.
We learn this young and throughout our lives, bitterly: from the broken toy that no one can repair, to the ice cream cone dropped on a summer sidewalk, and, eventually, to the fractured friendship that can’t be mended, the marriage that shatters, the life’s dreams that pass, and the loves we lose to death. Oh, how well we know the storm; oh, how much we come to fear each fresh approaching.
We have all known loss, but each new one is a surprise. We seem to be wired that way.
I’m sitting out on the beach this morning getting a head start on the weekend as I type these words, and a storm is fast approaching. Years ago, I sat out here with a girl I was dating; we watched the storm roll in, let the rainfall drench us to our skins, went back to my apartment, shed our wet clothes, and tried with all our might to shut out the more metaphorical storm our relationship was engulfed in. It did not work.
We were over within weeks. All we both gave didn’t add up to anything that either of us really had.
You may not be aware of this — it’s been sort of buried in the news — but there is a presidential election about to be held in the United States. A few days ago, back home, I sat in an assembly, listening to a speaker from Washington D.C. make the least controversial prediction I’ve heard in this election cycle — namely, that someone unpopular was going to win.
There have been more words written on this election than on any other subject in recent memory; I have nothing to add to any commentary you have already read on the relative merits of any of the candidates. I have my own opinions, of course, based on the most reliable and complete information I can get as to what the state of the world actually is. In practice, people disagree on goals and priorities; on what has worked or will work; and even on what we might call “facts”. Politically motivated people have a tendency to present their particular facts in ways that omit any inconvenient other facts that might dissuade you from supporting their goals.
I too am human, as we all are — mostly — and I make choices as to who seems most trustworthy based on what I know and have seen personally. It’s a system that has inherent limits, of course, but I’d rather form my own opinions than buy them, no matter how many opinion wholesalers there might be on any given corner.
You may wonder what the two sections above have to do with each other: the first, a quasi-poetic reflection on the transience of life; the second, a brief commentary on contemporary political discussions. I discuss both here because, I’ve noticed the strange way we vacillate between awareness of our human limitations and acting as though we have none, depending on the type of discussion being held. Just yesterday, I heard two coworkers discussing the election, each holding wildly opposite positions on the truth about the two main candidates; within minutes, they were discussing instead the chili cook-off that had been held out in the park at lunchtime, and how subjective cooking contests really were – a point about which they were in complete agreement.
In politics, they each knew everything (although opposite things), on prosaic matters, they agreed that there might not be such a thing as knowledge.
Unlike my younger days, I’m not going to stay out here on the beach until the rain gets me (or my laptop) wet. How well I know the storm, indeed: it rains on the just and the unjust, as the book says – we will all feel it sooner or later.
All I can do, for now, is push it off a little later.
For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.