A Matter of Perspective

I have recently had several conversations I thought would never happen. Nothing earth shattering, but perspective shifting. A die-hard packers fan able to accurately vociferate and argue a few good points, who picks up Gladwell on her own volition was surprising. As was the admittance that another coworker read this terrible little blog and cried when reading my Slammed entry. We see each other very, very thinly, in my case even after a year of shared employment. Despite my best efforts to probe deeper  into my surroundings I have failed to notice these aspects of humanity, as I had apparently failed to notice the ten ton boulders that littered Central Park that are obviously a different composition than the rock that surrounds them. Below I will offer a difference of perspective that has some more  compelling effects beyond the color of a rock or the fragments of personality:

 

I sit and play in the dirt. It is a relatively cool day, a wind wisps the sand around the desolate buildings. Despite their empty appearance the sound of children playing can be heard resonating through the narrow alleyways, my own voice adding to the vocal orchestra. Below me is a few scraps of some technological device, well beyond repair its bright colors are more amusement than the tanned and rusted grains of dirt around it. These scraps of a device give bring me such intense joy- my childish mind turns a solenoid into a ray-gun, a chip into intergalactic currency. Hours could have gone by, or maybe just minutes flittered past in this active mind. Heavy steps reverberate, and two pairs of heavy boots turn around the corner, two men in green notice my play. They do not smile, and when our eyes lock the do not see the joy in my eyes. Their progression halts, and immediately they begin yelling. Their voices are harsh, tone demanding but in my confusion I cannot understand them. My hands raise, I submit to their apparent demands, but instead of sedating the pair of wild men they become more belligerent. Their screams continue, my hands shake nervously. The toy I had been enjoying rattles loosely in my hand, body refusing to listen to my frightened commands. The men continue their onslaught, their eyes widen, fear present and shared between the three of us. Their hands rattle as mine do, but their do not rattle so invalidly above my head. One of their fingers shakes more violently than before and a pop emits from the device in their hands. I am pained, and my shaking hands begin to slow their fervor. The desert around me slowly fades, the heat loosing its grip allowing the cold to seep in.

Ben and I continue our route. It is hot, but not as oven-like as it has been in recent months. Sweat is omnipresent in this desert, and even this cool day is sweltering compared to the summers I spent in Minnesota as a child. Our patrol is fairly mundane today: no reports of IED’s in the area, no mortars landing near camp. We continue our vigilance regardless, these quiet days often lead to loud nights. Suddenly laughter breaks the still of the day- there are signs of life in this seemingly empty corridor. Another bend turned, and our route is another tenth completed. We round a sharp corner and we see something stir immediately in front of us. A boy, around 12 is tinkering in the dirt. I jab my partner, and halt our steps. His hands are moving in the sand, he is concealing something… explosive! Immediately I yell “STOP, BACK AWAY AND PUT YOUR HANDS UP” I haven’t yet learned the phrase that my sergent taught me, I hoped my tone would alert the child to stop his misdeeds. Instead his hands still move, shaking slightly. Our eyes lock, and for a moment I see fear, then anger. His right hand holds something cylindrical, with a silver trigger. As his hands begin to reach upward his thumb moves to the trigger. I continue to yell “STOP, DO NO MOVE! UNDERSTAND?” His dirty hands continue to move, he doesn’t succumb: I have only one option left. Exasperated I pull the trigger with my wobbling hand. A bullet flies, and this assassin in the dirt falls.

 

 

I’m sure these two viewpoints have been repeated before, but I find them a remarkable example of how a change in viewpoint, of perspective changes a situation entirely. Perspective is not understanding, and while I may try to offer my perspective in this blog I doubt there is the ability through these crude words to completely understand. After all, I only have my view: I pull the trigger. I do not know what lurks in the minds of you, my wonderful readers.

An enemy approached.

It had been a long day. His ragged form took the traveled path back to his home, a simple cot waiting to greet his battered form, a sheet to cover and comfort. His eyes glossed, contemplations and riddles muddling through his fatigued mind. A hot meal and that bed calling his name, he rounded the corner to his dwelling. The last corner turned and total exhaustion overwhelming his eyes were pulled down- lulled by the safety of the bright lights that dotted his home. His nightmarish toils of the past hours well behind him he stepped out and took his first step to the door. His unconscious mind jumped, something dark prickled his skin, bristling hairs and raising skin in alert. He froze, and gauged his surroundings. A few short paces ahead was a beast, coiled and black. It was a creature he hadn’t seen. The serpent form in front of him raised it’s triangular head in alert: This weary man would not go unnoticed.

Heart racing, he turned his lamp to the creature. Its skin appeared to absorb light, rather than reflect. A monster so dark light itself heeded and avoided it. Our weary man was not versed in the mythos of this beast, he darted quickly to the door not hindered by the blackness. Heart pounded in his chest, all enervation had been repressed. Who could know what this fiend was, and how it must be handled? The elders, they would know. Their wisdom far surpassed his own, decades of existence and a knowledge of this earth that bordered on omnipotence would surely hold the key to this apparitions autonym.

He reached out to the elders, fingers padding a code to hopefully gain his mind an audience. Trepidatious moments passed but finally he hears a voice in his ear. While their knowledge is vast, or perhaps because of it their voices were shaking, worry was palpable.

“Close your gate, fool! Don’t let the creature slither and find shelter in your keep.” Our tired worker follows their advice, the outer wall had been raised in anticipation of his arrival. The large door came to a grinding halt, magical power allowing the heavy metal plates be lowered with just the press of a small lever. Their next advice was to understand the nature of the basic creature. It would find its way away from his domicile, while hideous it would not harm unless its black form was molested. A pounding in his chest let him know he was still alive, and the danger of the moment had yet to pass. He held his breath, steadied his hand and waited. For what seemed like hours, this man hoped the serpent had fled. He peered out, then took a step in the brisk night air- the cold heightening his already extended senses. What he saw made his already cold limbs shiver deeply.

The adder had indeed attempted to shelter his form inside the gate. In its haste it had slipped through, but only part way before the plates came down to rest on earth. The creature existed in two reals: its tail end free in the night air. The blackness’ tail foamed and streaked attempting to free the rest of its form, bring its bifurcated body back to now windy night air. Exhaustion which had began again to creep into the heart of our worker quickly fled. The being of black was injured, and would not flee into the mysterious deepness of the night even if freed. It had to be… dealt with. It had to be extinguished so that it could not terrorize the soon approaching and inevitable dreams of the fatigued man.  It had to die, so that he may live.

Inside his wall, he saw the serpent head and curled body pinned to the gate. Survival was at stake, his mind knew what the inevitable held. The beast must become two, the head must be split from the coiled body. If the gods had any goodwill, his logic would be sound. His mind raced- he was no soldier, he had no weapons. No ax, no sword, no spear. He searched around him and found nothing…. well there was one thing… the gardeners tools left hidden in a corner looked promising. The blade of a shovel was neither refined or honed but it had to do. With any good grace the rusted blade would land and quell his fears.

Mercy was offered to the beast, pain and suffering was not the goal, but the quick release so both being and biped could travel on. One in this life, the other to the next. The dull blade was leveled. The creature turned, its form defiant despite its precarious situation. Shovel struck, blade striking, metal clashed with stone and beast. If there was luck to be had it was dead. But the flip of the coin had landed in favor of the adder, and it lived, furiously defensive. The fangs of the venomous  being stuck the attacking shovel its seething anger palpable. Damage had been done, and the attacker was shaken. He was taken in this moment with regret. Had the gate not closed atop his form there would be a life form still allowed to exist. Yet there it was spitting in furor, shocked. There was no other direction now, it was to die.

Clang. Clang. BAM! SLAP! A grunt leapt from the mans chest. He struck over and over again. Still the head held to the body. The two could not be mercifully separated. A pool of red liquid began to form around the weakened serpent. Still it lived, its black skin parting to show the fleshy internals. Our exasperated man gave it, and himself a rest from the assault. With any commiserate benevolence the battering creature would find its way and be released to the next life.

The dark night enveloped entirely- clouds had come to cover the once brilliant moon the fatigued man stumbled out to dispose of the corpse of the once haunting cretin. A sack was opened and with all care and apprehension the creature was prodded. No signs of life exuded from the bashed and bloodied, now pathetic figure. With the same offending shovel the limp form was transferred to the awaiting bag. With a lighter heart, the murderer turned to place his tool back in its hidden corner. Then with disbelieving hears, he heard a rustle. The beast lived! Was this just a spasm of a life once lived? No, its curled and struggled head protruded from its impromptu grave.

The shovel was already back in hand- its wooden grip no longer foreign this man knew what to do. He stood over the again limp form and spread his legs for proper posture for a devastation downward blow. With debilitating ferocity he struck. A solid blow, the snake wriggled. Another massive blow hit, and the loudest CLANG of hardened metal met stone for the last time. Panes of glass shook from the blow, and both the now two pieced beast and the executioner slumped down.

With finality, the encroaching blackness was removed to never been seen again. Restless sleep would take this overtly weak worker. The cot called, the sheet wrapped and consoled. Nightmares would come, and they passed. Another tiring day would follow the next for this man, for a lifetime yet.

The holidays are here! (part 2)

I left off abruptly, but my coffee was gone and refill already checked off the cup: it was time for me to leave. I ended with my perilous thoughts of consumerism, and how from my vantage it looked like people were buying just to buy. They bought their retail goods just to be part of the rush, to be included in the capitalist system this society of our prides itself on. The same system that leaves them with high interest credit cards and palatial homes with even more opulently styled ballon mortgages.

I hinted at what childhood Christmas was for myself, or what I remember it as being. Our big brains uniquely manipulate us into remembering only what we want to remember years, or even just minutes later. As a child I can remember getting a bow and arrow. Not a brightly colored little bow with suction cup tipped arrows, no this was Vermont. My parents (perhaps against their better judgement, and probably because of my constant nagging) bought me a compound bow, and although I cannot remember using them- a few arrows with sharpened tips. The gift was amazing, and I remember going outside, setting up a hay bale as a target, and letting loose a few arrows. A few more, more. It was Christmas in Vermont and it was cold, and knocking a bow is not easily done with thick weather gloves. To alleviate the inevitable frostbite from exposed fingers I moved into the garage shooting arrows out the backdoor towards my target.

I didn’t do this just one day, I went back. I remember the seasons change, wearing rubber boots while I sloshed back and forth to pluck the arrows from my target. That bow that was so hard to tension those years ago now rests against a closet wall. It is not forgotten, rather withdrawn because if I pulled it out, brought it to the backyard, set up a hay bale (if such a thing exists in the suburbs) and started shooting arrows out my porch I would see flashing lights and a stern man with a radio attached to his shoulder appear at my doorstep.

I pose this question then: do most others feel this way? Or do we find that the act of collecting is more enjoyable than the interaction we have with them. I have seen obsessive collection, just for the sake of having. I have seen it in all social groups, all income levels. The youthful poor pour money into a 1986 civic hatchback, the middle aged professional purchases the highest resolution TV and $400 HDMI cable , only to find a better one six months later. The specs of that next TV may be better, but our rods and cones cannot physiologically tell the difference. Or of clothing, a good I am regrettably linked with- where I see mothers extend themselves, pulling cards out, then others just to buy the newest lagging trend to reach their closest mall.

These are the extremes of course. But if I were to take the buying habits, and subsequent enjoyments of those goods and throw them into a blender, of the slurry that meshed together what could be determined? Collectively are we a nation of simple consumers, for no higher purpose than to buy our happiness, our love? I know it is not an ideal way to look at a culture, without excluding the statistically improbable, and muddling down humanity and culture in therms of consumption. Still, I have to wonder. Do these holidays bring out the worst (as I see them in a very retail oriented way) or do they show me the true essence of what we are: deluded consumerists think that we are practicing a holiday, and a mindset that encourages togetherness and happiness.

 

There are a lot of questions in these paragraphs, and I have no answers, just unasked questions to add to these paragraphs. All this said, I will still offer you a joyous season, hopefully devoid of many of these pitfalls of debt and shallow purchases. I do so as I sit in a dealership waiting room paying a large sum of money to make my fancy car continue to push forward. The profound hypocrisy is not lost on me.