Mornings. Some people love them. I’ve pretty much always hated them. Whether it was being forced up for school or for church or some other thing, I just wanted to sleep a little more. Of course, at night when it was time to sleep (according to some people) all I wanted to do was do stuff. I’d spin around like a top: writing, listening to music, making music, playing games, smoking cigarettes… Probably that’s why I hated getting up… but why prefer late to early? Why are there such things as “night owls” and “early birds?” Sleep is sleep… shouldn’t we all want it at roughly the same time, being roughly biologically equal?
As you get older this changes, I’ve been told. It’s true, I can hardly sleep past 8 without conscious effort…and I do mean I really stuff my face into the pillow and will myself to sleep another hour. Mainly it’s my brain that just starts the treadmill of the day earlier than it used to. I wake up on my days off and sometimes its nothing but the worst. Fears, worries, anxieties… these seem to hit me in the morning. Maybe because I’m all hopped up on coffee, maybe because I’m sitting there reading facebook instead of starting the day in earnest. No, it’s not just the internet. Listening to the radio is maybe worse. It’s a litany of dead people, scandals and intrigue…over and over, repeated every hour on the hour. I work on the weekends so I never get those cutesy art & think pieces.
I wonder a lot about the increasing encroachment of the wider world’s many problems on my quiet little life. As I’m ever-more surrounded by information, all problems become my problem yet at the same time nothing is really my problem. My problem is that while I was staring into space, listening to the radio, I unthinkingly put the coffee mug upside down on the counter and poured hot coffee all over the kitchen and my feet.
When I finally get my cups in order and sit down, I get a big fat dose of impotence and helplessness. Syran Refugees, Brazillian Corruption, Global Warming, Floods, Disease, American scandals & Russian Threats. It’s all my problem. I should care! So says the internet. I do care, because I’m human and suffering and doom are of inherent, existential interest to me. But there is literally nothing I can do to stop them over my coffee in my quiet corner of North America on a Tuesday morning. So what do you do? You let it all pour over you… soaking you in the misery and inevitability of tragedy. Then you’re supposed to get up and get at it… “think locally… act globally” as the bumper sticker prompts.
I’m a pathological ‘doer’ … nothing bothers me more than idleness. To be idle is torture for me. My wife constantly tries to get me to stop moving for a minute and sit down… ‘relax! Play a game or something!’ I can’t. In fact, movement and doing calms me more than anything else. It’s a false sense of agency. If I go weed the garden or clean the bathroom I can focus on those things and how glad I am that I got them done. The satisfaction extends beyond the results: I’m happiest when doing… Instead of the bloated bodies of Syrian children washing up on Greek shores, I think, I should really fertilize these eggplants one more time before I harvest, they’re looking stunted. Action is a form of therapy for a manic like me.
But then, the internet. You sit down thinking, well, um I guess I’ll just check facebook real quick because that’s somehow become the default setting for everyone’s mind when they see a web browser. Suddenly, you’re bombarded with injustice and ardent cases for several very passionate causes. Also, cute cat videos. It used to be mindless pictures of your friend’s camping trip or your brother’s home-made dinner…now those posts are quaint. Facebook is where you display what is important…where you take a stand, where you comment valiantly on what you believe. I’m not judging… this is exactly what I do. But you look at your shared links and your comments and realize: you have not truly done anything. You’ve spectated, you’ve pontificated, but you’ve done nothing about anything. Maybe you increased “awareness,” in a vague sense. This drives me crazy.
The root of it is that I want to be diving into the Aegean sea, rescuing people, or putting out wildfires or standing in front of a bulldozer… but I’m not. I’m trapped in a feed full of noise, watering my eggplants. Sure I could walk out the door and do one of those things. At great personal sacrifice… that would probably mark the difference between me and someone like Dr. King. He would be willing to leave a job, a house, a family and go act… and he did. I’m torn between moral obligation and very real everyday obligations to survive & pay rent.
I am like an overripe peach… I look wonderful in the bowl – bright and whole… but upon inspection, I’m easily bruised and inside its just flavorless mush. The sugars have broken down and rot has begun. Flies have laid countless eggs in the skin. At the core of me is this hard nugget – pitted and blackened. Taste it and it’s bitter, sickening. Give it the right conditions, though, and this hardened shell will pop open and provide the genesis of countless more peaches and peach trees.
Consider the peach: find the right conditions… the place and time at which you can strip away the bruised, rotted buffer and crack open the hard, black shell at the center and something great can happen. The pit at the center of me asks me, every day, “Now?” Someday, I’ll answer, “Yes.”