What is the best way to adapt to this planet? Keep in mind, it is not the same planet as the planet upon which the Beatles came into prominence fifty years ago singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” What a singular sentiment. What a great song. I thought it was stupid when it first came out. But now, fifty years later, I love it. I can’t get enough of it. But is it the song, or a strong case of nostalgia? Could be a little of both. But one thing is sure: it is not the same planet. On January 9th, 2014, Niagara Falls froze. Fucking froze. And all those honeymooners, did they freeze too?
Imagine a sky painted by Cézanne. That was one hell of a planet back then. Those delicious skies that hung over Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, that intense blue, that inconceivable ultramarine, a crazy Mediterranean light full of absurdly bright blues and sunset reds and greens, a miscellany of color combined in a mercurial plenitude, a chromatic cornucopia, like a single sound made by many voices and instruments.
Now the sky looks problematical. As if it could fall at any minute and shatter into a million pieces. Nobody wants to see reality. Reality is too raw, too indecorous. I wouldn’t recommend a quest for reality as a successful adaption to the planet. This planet. The one upon which Niagara Falls froze. And the temperature rose to 107 degrees Fahrenheit in Melbourne, suspending the Australian Open tennis tournament. And world superpowers jockey for access to oil and minerals as the Arctic ice rapidly melts and the oceans die and drought and deluge destroy towns and cities and disrupted hydrological cycles result in larger and stronger hurricanes and tornados.
Here are some preferred methods for adapting to the new planet Earth: drugs. Vicodin, Valium, Xanax, Klonipin, heroin, marijuana, booze. However, some of these substances used immoderately do cause addiction, as do Facebook and pornography, so use with caution.
Books. Books are wonderful. You can get completely absorbed. But it requires effort. Effort on your part. You, the reader. The mind is wild and will take you anywhere you want to go. But you need to pay attention. I would take that cell phone in your hand, or pocket or purse, and crush it.
Same with Kindle. Kindle is not a book. Crush it. Smash it. Destroy it utterly.
Here’s another idea: become a mollusk. Look how calm clams are. How tranquil the mussels, how serene the oysters are in their shells, their lovely nacreous shells. No legs, no arms, no eyes, no ears, not much to worry about except catching food particles in the water or scratching algae from the rocks with a busy little radula.
Movies are always a good source of escape. Unless it’s a movie with a surplus of reality like Zombieland or Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Most importantly, support your local artist. Artists work hard at seeing reality so that you don’t have to see reality. Or, if you see reality through the reality the artist has revealed, it has been altered enough so that you won’t get dizzy and faint or fall to the floor in an agony of convulsive recognition of the truth of things.
Artists, poets especially, have a tough row to hoe, as they say. The role of the artist is always in crisis, always uncertain in a mercantile industrial society. I mean, what the fuck are they doing? A lot of the time they’re just sitting around getting drunk. Or staring out the window.
An idea of pain is not the same thing as having a pain. This is crucial. A pivotal thing to know. If you can convert a pain into the idea of a pain, you’ve got a big part of the problem, the pain problem, licked.
Clean as a proverbial whistle.
If you’ve exhausted the previous options (drugs, books, poetry, art, alcohol, movies, etc.), then try this: go into a windowless room and turn off the light. There it is: the essence of what is real. That blackness, that nothingness made visible, that dark matter in which you find yourself immersed, is the infinite in the kitchen drawer, the infinite in the blackberry vines, the infinite in last night’s sunset and this morning’s morning light, it was there all along, throbbing, pulsing, swarming a tree branch with blossom, filling a paragraph with description, crackling in a bonfire on the beach, stirring in the ocean like a giant metaphysical magnet, the pull of the unknown.
Is it possible to experience hope without despair? What would hope without despair feel like? Would it feel real? Would it feel like anything at all? Or would it just be empty, vacuous sensation, like sitting in a dentist’s office leafing through a People magazine?
There’s a mop in the closet and a moral in the air. The mop is old and stiff and the moral is obvious as the burners on a stove singing a chorus of heat. We stew in our complexities on a slow simmer until one day the prodigality of snow shoulders the awkward sky and helps it to the horizon where it slides to the other side of the world and illumines whatever it is the people on the other side of the world do when the people on this side of the planet are sleeping or reading or fucking or gazing through telescopes or watching a movie.
Watching, say, Gravity, which isn’t yet out on DVD. I liked it. I thought it was a great movie. But there are those, there will always be those, who insist on literality, on nitpicking, as if they were NASA scientists, annoyed and betrayed by every little departure from reality, which brings us, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to planet earth, which continues in its orbit as it always has, but is not the same planet upon which, fifty years ago today, Bob Dylan first sang “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” and after five repeated attempts, I finally got my driver’s license.