The Examined Life

How are things in your world, friendos? Is your life a lark, or a long daze journey into fright? Happy with the job? Have no job? Is the family close-knit and cozy and comforting, or nit-wits and disconcerting? No family at all? Pets? You know, those critters that, unlike humanoids, are non-judgmental and generally easy to please. They even lower blood pressure, say some studies. I’m talking about domesticated pets. Beware of letting Scout or Buddy out, lest they encounter the encroaching wolf, who will dispatch your furry best friend, even if it’s sizeable with a snarling junk yard disposition . Your cat? Oh, please! That critter would be a quick appetizer for the feral, hungry badass wolf,  who shares about 98% of the DNA of its canine cousins. But do beware that last, vicious, predatory 2% difference.

Are you some Master of the Universe?  Do you command the Corridors of  Corporate Power? Or maybe at least a mid-ranking officer?  Maybe you settle for just being master of your own domain, and the corporate  halls you skittishly stroll can be found at soon-to-be off-shored Acme Widget, Inc.; but you’re just looking for the new 13th floor bathroom (which recently went transgender and you’re either cool with that or not).

We’re all a work-in-progress, on a journey that, inexorably, will reach the terminus: the path to your fixed purpose is laid with iron rails upon which your soul is grooved to run (and a tip of the hat to Herman Melville). The best we can hope for is a final destination that does not require the least bit of self-awareness or toil. Maybe some friendly dogs or cats. Or that “nothingness” Wallace Stevens alluded to: it takes a heart of winter to see the nothingness that is not there and the nothingness that is. Last stop: Nadaville.

Anyway, whatever the essential mojo that encapsulates one’s life on our mortal coil, be it one that permits life on Park Avenue or the Mag Mile, expense accounts and limos or places you on Desolation Row or the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, dumpster diving and panhandling at the top of the expressway off-ramp (metaphor!) each soul must depend wholly on itself (said Elizabeth Cady Stanton) and know that the unexamined life is a life not worth living (kudos to Socrates).

Make of those quotes what you will. Look inward. There’s plenty to consider as we speak our lines and act upon the world’s stage. If you feel your character in this somber drama, dramedy, this farce, satire, parody,  screwball comedy, thriller, non-linear puzzler, spoof, this epic saga of life, is hard to pin down, perhaps you are the ideal dining patron for “New Gatherer” restaurant, in Chicago. There you can fill your belly with menu items especially crafted to fit some pop culture narrative such as Game of Thrones. Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia. Just for a while, you can recalibrate your self-image into one those fantasies (as a mighty force of noble justice!) and find momentary purpose and meaning with each molecule of delicately prepared mutton vapor that you breathe in. Maybe even find something on the plate that resembles food, rather than a goddam art project. But Enjoy! You can only live once (but don’t tell that to the Hindus!) Yeah vapor and vapid circuses. You’re living large…

Until the check comes…

Keep in mind, places like Gatherer is one of those uber trendy places that attracts diners mostly who possess fat wallets and upscale tastes. So, if you are not of the manner born maybe you recently hit the Mega Millions jackpot, or saved up for a few years to celebrate that expected promotion you figure to be announced by the next time Halley’s Comet comes cruising around the cosmic bend (but I hate to tell you, it isn’t going to happen because your company is closing shop here and moving operations to Bangladesh. That announcement will be posted on your Facebook  and Linked-in pages). Sorry, those iron rails carrying us to our fixed purpose cannot be found on any rail map, and so who knows what twists and turns, both gratifying or demoralizing, exhilarating or terrifying, lie ahead?

What the hell, though. Why would anyone want to pay through the nose to eat absurdly small portions of food, which most of those haute cuisine establishments have as their elite business model. You’re better off not trying to be a hipster. Stay grounded. Be practical. Don’t let the emotions betray you, your appetite or your bottom line. You can always go to Planet Hollywood or Johnny Rockets and lose yourself in their themed nonsense for a relative pittance. Or just eat at home, cooking sensible, sustainably produced food, organic grub, gluten-free feasts.  If that’s too exhausting, microwave a single serve pack of Pad Thai; if none of the above appeals, there’s a Jimmie Johns or Papa Johns that’ll deliver. Call em.  Then wait for the doorbell to ring. You’ve made your choice. You are in command.

Until that buzzer sounds, noting the fulfillment of your momentary greatest need,  sit back, pet the pooch or fluffy, or the spouse equivalent, call uncle Louie or aunt Sally, or your good times that used to be, or don’t. Pop in season five of “Thrones” or the dvd for “Narnia” or “Rings” and use that imagination as you chow down on that delivery. New Gatherer?  I’m so sure! Let those rails take you away…and away…and assume your journey is one for the ages.

I’ll leave you with one more quote, from Steven Wright: I have an existential map; it has you are here written all over it. But no rail lines…

 

 

 

 

 

About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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