Reflections From The Front Porch
Written by Darrell Anderson.
Because of my early childhood and how my basic personality was formed in those years, I tend to be a pessimist by nature. Yet through the years I have learned to compensate somewhat by being pragmatic. A pragmatic approach helps me because I tend not to raise my hopes too high, which means fewer disappointments, which means less pessimism. Not no pessimism, just less. I also tend to be existential about life, which helps discourage me from embracing various worldviews that provide only illusions.
Unlike many people, I “gulched” myself 10 years ago. I use the term “gulch” based upon the novel Atlas Shrugged. I claim no amazing foresight or reason for my situation, I simply did not like urban life and headed for the boonies. I have no regrets, although if I don’t find meaningful employment one of these days I’m likely to starve. That might not be a Bad Thing — most of the time I truly don’t care for this world anymore.
I find that my demeanor is easily the most stable when I avoid knowing what is going on in this world. When I busy myself around the house, read my books, scribble essays to myself, or simply sit on my front porch, I find a tremendous amount of peace. The moment I get online and read the headlines and start following links I feel myself sinking back into the pessimism I learned at a young age.
There are times when I have considered simply unplugging the computer and forgetting about life “out there.” I’m unsure if that would be a wise decision in the long run, but as John Maynard Keynes so eloquently once quipped, “In the long run we’re all dead.” So perhaps unplugging is not such a bad idea after all.
This afternoon I spent a few hours cutting firewood for the upcoming winter season. My firewood stock is almost complete and already I have enough to get me through the bulk of the winter. Thus, I need not hurry with the remaining trees I felled in early spring. We’re still experiencing warmer weather around here than is usual and, despite working in the shading of the woods, in no time my T-shirt had familiar wet spots under my arms, on my chest, and down the middle of my back. The sweat band on my hard hat was drenched and my water supply dwindled faster than normal. Having grown up in the 20th century pampered by modern conveniences, I am not fond of physical labor, but I also do not shy away from what needs to be done. Still, as the sweat flowed from my body I had a subconscious awareness that I was alive.
As always, time seems to stop when I’m in the woods. While in the woods I never can guess the time. When I hop back into the pick-up truck, start the engine, I then notice the clock. No, I’m no wood cutting zealot, I only observe that when I’m in the woods I am disconnected with the outside world, except for the background noise of the occasional car, truck, or ATV whipping down the rural road near where I call home. Usually I see some form of wildlife while I’m in the woods and often I stop to observe. Time does indeed seem to stop during those hours.
Often I try to imagine what my ancestors’ life must have been like before computers, radios, stereos, TV, DVDs, VCRs, etc. Life was physically more demanding and I do not easily dismiss that part of their life. Still, physical labor was all they knew, and thus, from their perspective, that kind of life was status quo. They did not have all of the things that we have to compare to. They knew nothing else. Life today does have some wonderful conveniences, but I wonder at what price? If I unplugged, I’d have no need to get online, no need to check email, no need to check headlines, no need to check the clock. There would be no spin doctors in my life to annoy or irritate me. All of those distractions and nuisances would disappear. All that would remain is living the day.
As I age I notice I have changed through the years. Hardly surprising, but the change is that I no longer want to fight. I’ve lost my taste for spit and vinegar. I now have lived in the woods long enough to notice that young bucks like to fight — they love a territorial challenge. Older bucks just want to be left alone. I seem to have acquired the same nature. I simply want to be left alone to live a quiet and peaceable life. I don’t want to be famous or rich, but I want a vocation that allows me some sense of purpose and meaning for my remaining days. I want to look forward to my work each day and not just “work for the man” or to pay bills. I want to keep in my pocket what is mine and not be expected to have everybody else’s hands in my pockets. If I am going to live then I want to live, not just exist. But that life seems to allude me.
Even more challenging for me is that after years of self-study, and deriving some ideas about why the modern social system is so upside down, I have developed plausible solutions to return some sanity to the world. Unfortunately I live far away from the mainstream of life, tucked into the woods, possess no “intellectual” or “glamour” credentials and thus, who will listen to me? Who am I kidding anyway?
And so, often, I struggle to rise from bed, knowing that nothing has changed or if anything has changed, things have gotten worse. Yet, someone long, long ago once asked a profound question about life itself: “Why am I here?” The simple answer is that I want to be. But what happens when I no longer want to be here on this planet? Often I think I don’t want to be here because of the insane world I see around me filled with willful ignorance.
I don’t expect to be remembered in any textbooks or encyclopedias. I don’t expect to leave behind me any kind of legacy. On most days when I’m not full of myself I realize that I really don’t matter a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things. I’m just one human out of more than 6 billion — and the 4 billion or so who came before me. Mathematically speaking, nobody will miss me when I’m gone. Yet, at the end of each day I somehow manage to once again crawl into bed. Another day behind me. I’m another day older. I’m another moment closer to my final breath. In essence then I realize that this is life — we are born, we live, and then we die. Nobody ever promised me a rose garden.
There are days when I think I have answers. There are days when I don’t. I haven’t yet surrendered, but I’m pragmatic and existential. Tomorrow I might just surrender. Then again, I might not.
Next: The Smell of Autumn