The Walking Body

Is this really it?  Is living really just looking for work?  Is the measure of our lives defined by our ability to sustain a job that pays the rent, puts gas in the car, puts cheap food in the freezer, pays loans that accrue interest faster than we can pay?  Must we really dedicate two thirds of the day doing things we care little about because if we don’t do something, if we don’t bring in the money somehow, the lights will go out, the internet will cut out, the car will get repossessed, and slowly out clothes will crumble away and we’ll sit out on the street without pockets to put our hands in?

I’m not really asking.  Those aren’t really questions.  Maybe I’m just angry, or tired, or it could be dehydration or a tumor in the brain or I could be coming down with a virus.

I just wanted more from life.  I guess, in the end, I”m disappointed in the whole process of human living.  I knew adulthood would be challenging, hard, tiring, stressful.  But I always thought the challenge and stress would amount to something meaningful.  I thought the work itself would matter.  I wasn’t — I’m not willing — to concede that the work is only a means to an end.  So we can buy stuff and not be homeless.

So now what?  I left religion because it left me feeling empty.  And now, feeling the old vacancies again, I find I have nothing left to leave — except life itself.  Not suicide.  Not death.  I love life too much (it may not seem that way, and my writing may seem contradictory.  So be it).  Occasionally I think about death and my next life as a salamander or turtle or Japanese widow who lives with her mother.  But most of the time I imagine leaving the apartment.  Leaving everything behind.  I’ll never actually do it, but I imagine.  I imagine shutting this computer and removing my ring and walking out the door with nothing but a pair of shoes, a shirt and glue crusted pants.

Often, my imagining begins with a scene from the movie Forest Gump where Forest runs several times across the country.  He’d lost everything.  The world made no sense.  He was sitting on the porch with his good red sneakers, and just stood up and started running.  He ran down the gravel driveway onto the main road into town and just kept going and going, all the way to California.  Then he turned around and ran back the other way.  He went back and forth across the country I think three times.  And people felt inspired and started running with him and made T-shirts and it was all over the news this amazing man running across the country they couldn’t fathom why and it was so inspiring.

In the end — somewhere in Arizona I think — Forest just stopped running and went home.  He was done.  No one understood why.  You could hear them murmuring “what does it mean?” “wait he’s going to say something”.  But it didn’t mean anything.  It had purpose, but it didn’t mean anything.  If that makes any sense.  And of course, no on understood what was really happening.  Their feelings of inspiration, their admiration for this now heavily bearded running man, was unfounded.  Ignorant.  Gump wasn’t running to support cancer or raise awareness of poor living conditions in Cambodia or the atrocities committed against endangered indigenous Amazonian tribes.  His running had no meaning.  And when he stopped running, he stopped with a similar lack of meaning.  He was just done, he said.  He wanted to go home.

Those really bad days, I begin my leaving with Forest Gump.  But I have no real interest in running across the country.  So Gump quickly vanishes around the corner and out of sight.  I don’t run.  I walk.  I imagine myself heading south towards, but not through, Las Vegas.  I imagine having no cell phone and no iPad and no address and by I reach the Nevada state line, I’ve already forgotten my social security number and the purpose of keys.  Sometimes that is enough and I stop and come back home.  Other times, like today, I make the turn east along the edge of the Pahrump Valley Wilderness and cross into  Arizona where I forget what a bicycle looks like and how to turn on the lights.  At this point there is no going back.  At this point I can’t stop and go home, but have to make it through New Mexico where I forget my name, and continue into Texas a few miles from Muleshoe where I finally forget my gender, and wouldn’t recognize the word if I saw it.  Then I can stop and go home.  Go home as nothing more than a body walking.  There would be no one trailing behind.  No news stories, no inspirational T-shirts, no one waiting for the walking body to speak.  Nothing at all.  Because walking is a lonely thing.  It has its purpose, but a walking body has no audience.  No one cares about a body walking.  Maybe a man walking.  Maybe a cancer survivor walking.  Maybe a grieving brother walking.  But not a body.  The walking body is completely free.  Lonely in the most sublime sense.

It is also a figment of my imagination.  A pleasant figment.  A savior in a way.  An idea I cling to on days like today.  Days when I decide not to go to work, and fail to fix my wife’s road bike, because it won’t sell for more than a few hundred dollars.  I become the walking body on these nothing-days.  Days I slump forward in a pink second or third-hand chair and stare at the goldfish.  The second batch of goldfish, because the first batch died off within two days.

Give-up-days.  Red-pen-days.  Unplug the toaster and toss out the vacuum days.  The walking body comes to me.  He she it raises a shoe with a hole the sole, as if to prove its genuine Walking-Body presence.  And we go walking.  We go as far as we need to.  Alone in the bedroom listening to music on YouTube.  We go walking.

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2 thoughts on “The Walking Body

  1. I once heard a man talk about how we look to heroes, movie stars, famous people, noble prize winners and think our ordinary and mundane lives have no meaning. But he suggested that it was all those people doing the ordinary, mundane, everyday tasks that kept the world functioning. They do have meaning. Amidst all the drudgery of everyday living, I believe reaching out to others, helping in whatever manner we can brings real satisfaction to the otherwise meaningless tasks. Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective. I rode a city tram line in Boston and couldn’t believe how much fun that driver made it for all of us passengers during his very repetitious and routine route. He talked over the intercom making jokes at those who didn’t get on fast enough or were too slow getting off. I don’t even remember all the funny things he said but it was evident that he was enjoying the ride along with the rest of us. I never experienced that again on any tram ride in Boston or any other city. It was the driver that made the difference not the job.

  2. Don’t settle for “norms” that leave most people to be a hollow frame with meat hung over it. Courage is what distinguishes the followers of the easy dead beaten path and the explorers of the breathing wilderness.

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