The Past

“Whisky, by the way, circulates more freely in Westport than is altogether safe in a place where every man carries a loaded pistol in his pocket.”

-Francis Parkman, Jr., 1846

Westport is where I have done a great deal of my drinking.  At the end of our education program, a classmate and I had whiskey on a Westport patio.  He ordered the second-most-expensive one on the menu.  I had a sip.  We generally vacated Westport before midnight, preferably before 10, because in the later hours, people tend to shoot at one another.  Still.  (The difference now is, Westport is now part of a city, and a lot more people are killed when guns are on the loose.  My least favorite part of being in the midwest instead of New York City.)

The past isn’t over.  In case you hadn’t heard, it’s not even past. After five months of living with my parents, I flew into a fury and was angry about everything I had been angry about twenty-five years ago.

Being angry at your parents is one of the “wrestling the tofu” moves.  You won’t get anywhere, and you’ll probably punch yourself in the gut or pull a muscle in the process.

We had a divorce and a remarriage, and everyone had reason to be scared, angry, betrayed.  Over the years, I learned that all the other (then) kids (there are six of us) felt scared, angry, betrayed, overlooked.  In between these feelings, we developed relationships that are tender.

As someone who does not have a spouse, that is especially important to me.

This time it took me about 72 hours to feel my old anger was out of my body.  That we all have been hurt, that I have hurt other people, and that’s a normal state of affairs.

No matter what I do, I will periodically revisit these items:

  • no one cares what I think
  • no one values what I do
  • I will never get it together
  • evil men will triumph
  • so fuck it

And all these things are, to some extent, true.  What I think isn’t that important, in the scheme of eternity.  Capitalism doesn’t value art or education, and it never will.  I will always be the kind of person who will not hang up her clothes or do her dishes after eating, and who is late, while swearing mightily that she will stop doing these things because come on, Liz.

Evil men will triumph, and I keep thinking to myself that I should spend some time with Ecclesiastes, two ancient pieces of literature which harp on these themes at length.  (I didn’t get around to this until today, though.)

So.  Fuck it?

So, let people take care of you when you are upset.  So buy a giant unicorn and go to a unicorn party for a 7-year-old.  So write the daily messages to your Congressmen, and no matter how you feel about it, that’s the right thing to do.

Sartre would be like, thumbs up.  Were Sartre the sort of guy who gave people a thumbs-up, I am sure he was not.

Among [the emigrants] are some of the vilest outcasts in the country.  I have often perplexed myself to divine the various motives that that give impulse to this strange migration; but whatever they may be, whether whether an insane hope of a better condition of life, or a desire of shaking off restraints of law and society, or mere restlessness, certain it is, that multitudes bitterly repent the journey, and after they have reached the land of promise are, happy enough to escape from it.

I grew up with the statue of the pioneer family frozen on the front lawn of our Pizza Hut.  They were going somewhere.  We were not.  They were scrubbed and pale and virtuous and adventurous.  They were going west, which made no sense to me, as I had always wanted to be east.  People then found them vile and restless?  History written by the victors, the people who who were happy with their move west?

I hadn’t thought about it, but the Ingalls family, who taught many of us everything we know about Going West, ran out of money and moved again and again, and never really got their shit together.  Somehow it all seemed cleaner and nicer than that when you read the books as a kid.

The adult version, the mature version: messes, spiral repeats of the same hurt, staunchly walking away and then returning to what and who one loves.

No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.  – Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes ends with a clearly a tacked-on explanation, one which has no relationship to the honesty it has previously displayed.  You should follow the rules because they are important.  Right.

It’s interesting to try to comprehend what goes on under the sun, though.  It is interesting.  And sometimes our attempts to comprehend it, or even merely represent it, are lovely.

Image: Westport Road and Pennsylvania, 1885, Kansas City Public Library/Missouri Valley Special Collection, via Midtown KC Post

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