Friday, August 31, 2012

Sublime or Mundane

I'm reading Peripheral Visions (Harpercollins, 1994) by Mary Catherine Bateson. She writes about how the doxa is all about entertainment. She describes the syndrome as an unending need for new experience and stuff. The youths get music and cars. We oldsters get doctors and meds.

Bateson posits how the whole thing fuels a superficial awareness that's blind to subtlety. By way of contrast she compares it (consumerism) to "practice." She points out how in the process of practicing, students become aware of subtle changes and nuances. She neglects to acknowledge the many who get bored, but her point is about attention to and appreciation of details.

I'm tempted to say, "Change is change! What difference does it make whether it's subtle or a two by four up side the head?" But one thing that's noteworthy is the difference between changes that occur within us and develop our understanding and empathy for others and changes in our behavior because we got a good nose-job or now feel superior because we got a new truck.

Each day as I pack and unpack Eggbert I notice things. (Remember the end of Eeyore's Birthday where he happily puts the limp rag of a balloon in and out the empty honey pot?) The experience, although not generally recognized (by me) as a practice, happens at least twice a day. Sometimes the packing creates more space (not a small thing....pun intended); sometimes the over-ripe garbage waiting for a dumpster detracts from the driving experience. Other changes are just plain interesting.

Speaking of over-ripe, the stove hose (image below) is a good example. Sticking out the way it does it's a problem. If it gets broken the stove won't work. I COULD detach it and stow it somewhere, but there's an o-ring inside the connector that's just waiting to get lost...and, as Grandfather was wont to ask of Peter, "And if the hunters hadn't come? What then?!!" So, it hangs there. And when I file it amongst the other stuff, I usually tuck the dangle into a corner or some such. During unloading it hangs up on stuff.

The other day as I was watching the grass grow, my gaze crossed the verdant expanse and saw that it (the stove hose) had tucked itself into a hole in the back (see image). This didn't result from practice and I'm a bit loathe to denote it as a subtlety, but I did notice it. I mean, I haven't bought any big trucks lately so to help me feel better about myself when stuff like this happens I pretend I'm watching a truck commercial on t.v. and think about how I'd feel if I saw MY truck there on the big screen (52 inches AT LEAST!!). I pump my elbow up and down, rotate my fist and imagine the envy of all the passersby if THEY knew how observant I am. And then I wondered....Would the envy of idiots enhance my self-esteem? Anyway, it just goes to show how you can benefit from doing something over and over (bbuuuurrrrrrp!).

Since then I've purposely placed it that way. It seems to be working. It'll be interesting to see if a sublimity will emerge.

So that brings us to mundane. I was raised on wine....with dinner. Around the age of sixteen I was hanging around with a family that had inherited five acres outside Cleveland (Ohio) and was doing the back-to-the-land thing. It was that era, you'll recall. As part of the "trip" he grew potatoes and made his own beer.

There was a rite of passage every time you came to visit. (Bateson is enamored of ritual too.) Upon entering the house you were handed a bottle of homebrew and a joint.

The weed was always good, but I wasn't a beer enthusiast. All I knew was it was so thick you could stand a spoon up in it. I'd coddle it all evening and when no one was looking, pour some into a plant.

Many beerless years later I found myself having to observe a Friday-after-work ritual that involved several six packs. I'd never "acquired" a taste for it, but that Lite was even worse than the dark stuff I'd had as a teenager. I practiced my coddling and between sets admired the office plants.

Then, in a subtle and nuanced moment; someone put a stout in front of me and said, "Try this."

I was trebucheted back to the days of beer and joints and heedless of consequence whupped out my silver cigarette case, extracted a thin one, lit up (inhaled!) and took another swig. I could do this!

Since then, more than 30 years have come & gone. (Yup, ah iz gettin' olde.) I've practiced with stouts and just for grins and the sake of change, porters. Yesterday I bought Obsidion Stout from Deshutes (Bend, OR) brewery. It's not bad but I like Sheaf Stout better.

It's the mundanities that keep us humping. We camped, Eggbert and I, last night in Malm Gulch about 40 miles West of Challis, Idaho. The steep, tawny-colored hills shined in the light of the full moon which rose out of nowhere, moved across a horizontal linearity and hours later disappeared behind a peak. The silence unsullied.

A lone bicyclist showed up this morning while I was fixing breakfast in my birthday suit. He said hello and went on. I donned my swim trunks. When he returned he allowed as how he and his wife hike nude and everyone goes skinny-dipping at the hot springs. So, no big deal.

Adventure through comparison. And my (formerly) fav cup
He then told of a petrified forest about a mile and a half up the road. I hiked in to see five, count 'em, five, chain-link-surrounded stumps on a hillside (see image). They vary from four to six feet in diameter and the tallest is about six feet. Not what I'd call a forest, but it COULD offer some relief from the mundanity....of the same old beer.

Jeez!! Fencing!
The vegetation is similar to the high desert of Wyoming and New Mexico (lots of sage), but with mountains. It was nice to be able to see a distance. And I appreciated not having trees whispering and soughing away.

The road up the Gulch only goes 1.9 miles from the highway....barely enough to get away from its noise. But traffic is light this time of year; school is back in session and the hills help block the sound. So three stars for Malm Gulch on highway 75 West of Challis, Idaho. Any more traffic though and I'd have had to give it a one.

And people ask, What do you DO out there?" I'm busy, I say. It's a circle after all, that encompasses the subtle, superficial and doesn't really have an Either or an Or. And although I'm enjoying Bateson I still consider Waiting For Godot the finest bit o' lit(erature) ever written.


jozien said...

and i am enjoying reading several posts here. And the grandeur does show in your pictures.
With interest i started reading this posts. I wonder if miss Bateson claims we all have this syndrome. I certainly have a case of it. And wonder if because i, and you too, give in to this 'need', if that is why we stay healthy and have no need for any kind of medication?

MFH said...

Hmmmm, interesting idea....that we give in. I suspect you're right.

Bateson DOES say nearly everyone has the syndrome. She says Americans in particular solve it by buying stuff. She says the rest of the world places more value on relationships and finds meaning in life through them. I think you and I have the additional advantage (Would you use that word?) of enjoying the great outdoors. And as you know, it offers everything from huge panoramas to wonderful flowers to keep us busy.