Station to Station
Cool air, clear skies, birds chirping in the trees, and distant church bells. I'm on the roof of our parking garage, pausing for a moment before I get into the car. It reminds me of Sunday mornings in Buffalo, sitting on the back deck of my grandparent's house eating breakfast. I can't be much older than 6 years old. We could hear train whistles in the distance sometimes.
"It makes me sad." My grandma would say, "That means someone's leaving."
"Or it means they're coming home." my mom would always counter.
Now, here in Phoenix, it's just the electric chiming of the Light Rail, a noise that's somehow neutralized, digital and exact. Two abrupt buzzes as it leaves a station, and heads to the next. It sounds exactly the same every time.
I like it though, it's just different.
Fighting change, good or bad, just change in general, will eat away at you. These moments pass through us, and are past. Never the same again, never the exact repetition or pattern. Complacency's a joke in the face of that. Put locks as big as you like on your doors, save, invest, insure, there's no safeguard against life, not one that's lasting or permanent anyway.
You can sit on your couch for hours, shun the outside world, eat snacks, and funnel every drop of conscious thought into binge watching shows on Netflix or Hulu, reality will always be in perpetual motion all around you. Enveloping and gravitating you with it's ceaseless succession of occurrence and alteration. You've never repeated a single day, you've only had days that feel similar in routine, as seasons drag on and years fall through you. It's even more extreme now, that we face unusual changes in weather, in technology, and in the once, at least apparently, sturdy mechanisms of government. Dynamics, and indeed whole paradigms, tilt and shift with flash-bulb llike speed in our brave new world. It's hard to keep up, to even cope with the information.
The Speed of Life, as Bowie once called it.
The trains roll in and out of our stations and platforms. In Phoenix they're like Stations of the Cross, one agonized visage to the next, pressed in unconsciousness against the passing windows. People shuffle in crowds off of the platforms, carrying Fry's grocery bags full of bunched up possessions and styrofoam Polar Pop cups from Circle K filled with fresh water at pit stops at various gas stations and convenience stores. I once saw someone peeing on the platform across street from my apartment complex. And the one at the intersection of 7th Avenue and Camelback, across from Charlie's, has police cars parked with lights flashing at regular intervals at certain hours of night, breaking up fights and dragging away drunks and drug addicts.
The public transit system is like the underground in broad daylight, conditions that would be the shame of other nations, the destitution of the ignored and the invisible, exists completely in the open here.
We don't care about our people, in a city where on Sunday mornings the air is filled with the sounds of chirping birds and church bells. We don't even care about ourselves oftentimes. We couldn't, to seal ourselves inside of a prison of our minds, to ignore these snapshots at each station, where Christ microcosms rest their crosses and experience routine agonies, economic lashings, social flogging. It's only fitting that a neglected and tortured savior would have his message perverted thousands of years later; for the purposes, mostly of the Republican party, to spoon-feed laws to the populace that will lead to incremental economic disenfranchisement and long-term disintegration of the social fabric. Policies that destroy the poor and stamp the meek under the boot-heel of power and gross capital.
I saw a billboard off of the US-60 today that proclaimed in bold letters "Jesus is Alive!" and the words hung there, hollow and meaningless. An empty platitude repeated by the religious with unquestioning assent, rather than considering it's meaning, really trying to understand the idea that a seed of enlightenment exists in all of us. That love inhabits our deepest nature like a living force that could change our lives and the world. But instead it hangs there, an empty proclamation, for religions, political identities, to be herded under for the purposes of poor decision making and self-destruction.
I've always had a lot of respect for Christ, even at the times where I was adamantly anti-religious. I guess that's one of the benefits of reading up on different religions, looking at them side by side, and basically assessing that they all, at the heart of things, indicate the same basic creeds and spiritual truths. Buddhism, Daoism, Shintoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism. Sure you have rules stacked upon ridiculous rules, obvious strokes of political and social propaganda, cultural window-dressing, but it's all basically the same essence. It also helps to take them completely seriously and yet not at all, myths and fables seeded with divine truths. That's what happens when classically eastern and western modes of thought really collide, to see Christ or the Hebrew God in the light of Hinduism, Buddhism, you become reasonable. But optimistic, hopeful, and even, sometimes, mindful.
I was sitting in the kitchen at Marzana's parent's house, having dinner with her and Brandon. She pulled some leftovers out of the refrigerator for us, chicken, steak, rice, and vegetables cooked Bengali style, to be heated up and mixed, eaten traditionally by hand. Though admittedly I used a fork today.
Her mother doesn't speak much English, but she puttered around the kitchen and living room, exchanging words with Marzana in Bengali, some bits and pieces of English here and there with Brandon, making sure we were enjoying the food, and attending to her father. Who lay in a hospice bed where the TV and entertainment center once were, heavily medicated, with screens and medical apparatus hooked up to him, only days left in his life. The battle with cancer, unfortunately, has been lost.
As we sat and eat, an Islamic prayer call sounded from a small wall-clock they have, with Arabic characters and times listed locally, back home, and in different religious centers. We got into a conversation about religion and she told me about how in Islam, it says in the Quran that if someone commits a murder of a single person, the sin is then multiplied in the judgement that will be stacked against the sinner by all of the precipitating violence that it inspires. And she said, in light of that, it's completely ridiculous that any of these extremist groups can possibly justify their own existence. A sin against one is, in affect, a sin against all, the universe itself.
I could hear her father in the other room at times. I could hear groaning, and more often crying, as he called out to her mother, to her, her sisters. In these last days experiencing the helplessness of an infant in the pain and the knowledge, that the end was coming. Being comforted by people who could have no idea what he was going through, no context or understanding, until they face it themselves. Trying their best to tell him it's okay. The knowledge of death, the deteriorated bitter end of change. Which sits almost unfathomably on the horizon for every one of us. And the struggle to look at it, to face it with any kind of honesty or integrity, is half the battle, our private pain which is in part to blame for avoidance of that of others. We can't look the Christs on the tracks in the eyes because of it, we just shut down, shut in, try and protect ourselves with ridiculous defense mechanisms.
Like the stockpiles of treasures and material affects Pharaohs would bury themselves in their tombs with for the afterlife. Getting bank accounts settled, retirement, the lives of our children on a firm college-educated, economically safe track. Which will be very hard to do, given that I read recently that by 2030, just a shade over ten years time, a whole third of the American workforce will have lost their jobs to automation. And the laws that we're putting into effect and the conditions that we are creating for the future will almost guarantee that these people will not get help transitioning, to finding new lives. So as a result they will have no lives, no hope. And I don't even want to imagine what it will be like to have a cross-section of the population that enormous feeling that way, to have and to have lost everything.
The basic point is this. We spend our entire lives avoiding it, but we need to change and we need to change quickly. A 180 degree pivot. If people don't start caring about each other, finally recognizing that we only have each other and our hope and our love, there will eventually be nothing left. In fact we will guarantee that end in our desperate attempts to avoid it. Obsessing over our own destruction in coveting the diametric opposites of it in fear, steering towards what we're most focused on.
I'm not telling you to find Jesus or religion at all, these things are symbols that have as much positive or negative meaning as you apply to them.
I'm just telling you to try and be fucking decent for a change. It's the only way any of us will ever make it.