I have an entire bookshelf looking over my right shoulder, and I don’t think any of them approve.
No matter, they don’t have to watch TV.
I have a friend that reminds me that I’m just a monkey. She doesn’t introduce it inorganically into a conversation, like saying, “Hey, you’re just a monkey” but she’ll sneak it sideways, with just the right amount of irony and subtly, like an inside joke.
We’re all just monkeys, and it dissipates all my anxiety and frustration at the world around me when I remember to remember. Monkeys with overdeveloped frontal lobes, with overdeveloped senses of self-consciousness and awareness. With this thought, everything makes sense again and I don’t feel a murderous rage toward Fox News and that drunk girl over there, I just feel a vague belly laugh mixed with a bemused bafflement. Sometimes though, all I can feel is disgust.
Change the world? Address overpopulation and the steady destruction of our environment? Solve epidemics and poverty and immigration? Why? Everything is constantly changing, yet everything stays the same. History repeats itself. People never change.
The rolling stone gathers no moss.
Look at that protester over there. Doesn’t he look happy? Doesn’t he look like he’s working to better the world for himself and his fellow human beings? No? You’re right. He’s spitting at the camera like a snake and shaking his sign covered in hate-filled references and imperative statements. I can’t look at those people. It’s probably the most disgusting and ugly sight I’ve ever seen.
What then. How does one live with the constant grating nature of one’s fellow monkeys? We’re smart. Look at where our goddamn frontal lobes have gotten us. There must be some redeeming quality we can rely on, when the fight is on over bamboo or healthcare or transfat or toxic mud flooding the ocean and killing every living thing that crosses its path.
I tell you, in these times, in all this chaos and disaster whirling, you must find the pillars, the people who are sane, who still remember how to feel and walk with their eyes open. People who, as the world is falling down around us, can smile and talk as if nothing is going on, who can shrink or expand the world as necessary to banish the chaos for those brief periods, to restore order, to connect. To ground and re-establish some sort of meaning, direction, order. The ones that remind you that you are just a monkey, that we are all just monkeys.
‘You and I, we are here, and I don’t know what the hell is going on over there, but let’s just sit here and talk awhile. Or just sit and be silent. Two under the sky. Six under the sky. We find each other and there is a great settling, a vast peace in one tiny part of this universe unto itself inside my head.’
And then it’s time for work or dinner or I’m bored or you’re tired and drunk and we break rank to join our disparate orbits, to dive deep into the cold dark sea. Our paths will cross again and it will be like coming up for air.
I have a recurring dream since childhood, the same scenario repeated a hundred different ways. I’m in a swimming pool, just below the surface, looking up into the refracting light and I realize I need to breathe. I start swimming to the surface, push off the concrete bottom with water rushing in my ears but I can’t reach the surface. It hovers a static distance above me. I begin to panic, my lungs ache and scream and the water around me turns dark and at some point I say, this is it. I make the decision to breathe in the water. There is no time or space for compromise or haggling, I know my lungs will simply breathe in for me and I might as well be on board.
I breathe and my lungs fill with water and a warmth like my mother's womb fills my chest: I can breathe water.
I can breathe water.