When one stands at an overlook among the Kiamichi Mountains in Oklahoma, the vistas are neither so far away as to be obscure, nor so close as to be commonplace. They're just shimmering places, off in the distance. They're like the art exhibit I keep meaning to see but never do--a short drive away, and yet an eternity in distance from a remote perspective.
I have little sense of direction. I can get turned around quite easily, and walk in circles. I suspect this may serve some evolutionary purpose, as a counterbalance between genetic susceptibilities towards weight issues. Wandering in circles is the new pilates.
I suppose that makes it asynchronous that my favorite form of driving is what I call "directional driving". It's not so important to have a map, nor even the google "driving directions", meticulously printed out and placed in my meeting or hearing notebook. It's important to know a general direction of travel, and to have the time in which to err.
I like that way that a distant vista seems to shimmer, when viewed from a proper angle. I heard someone theorize that the ground of reality is in that shimmer, and in the moments in which dusk turn into night. It's a merging into a unity. It's a place in which it is too dark to read the program, and nobody knows which performer appears next.
Mr. Krishnamurti, a kind of ad hoc expert on false messiahs, said that "truth is a pathless land". I think that the one river of what is real appears to us all as countless tributaries. Mr. Krishnamurti expresses a truth, however, when he suggests that an easy reliance upon a received answer may lead one to err. Sometimes the program omits a significant change in the show. Sometimes the map lags behind new developments.
I lived in a home on Rancho Drive in Mesquite whose address did not appear in the giant Mapsco map book. Rather like those train station stops that are at one-half addresses in fantasy novels, my home failed to exist because the address book failed to recognize its existence.
Sometimes the touchstones appear to one based on experience. Today I lacked a program in church, through one of those situations in which the choir appeared to stand in the lobby as if their purpose was to repel intruders rather than ornately grace their entry at the opening of the religious service. I grew up in this denomination, though,and know that if one can but recognize the hymn, one can look up its page in the hymnal through a handy "first line" index in the back of the hymnbook. It is the simplest truth that "Shall we gather at the river?" is located in a different place than "Come, thou long expected". I hear three chords from an organ,
imagine five words from a song, and suddenly, I have a place and time.
I like the verse in a song in which a mortal chorus is implored to join a chorus begun by the morning stars. Venus, often a morning star, now shines in the cold evening, extruding phases like a Play Dough factory. The European satellite is mapping Mars now, which turns out to be filled with dust to dust, with no ashes as yet discovered. My own view has been that once the right lander is on the right space at the right time, then the right fossils of the right long-disappeared life-forms will be discovered, changing the human mindset irrevocably.
Mortal Martians, if any, apparently joined a mighty chorus many hundreds of thousands of years ago, my theory runs. I'd rather like to live long enough to see that discovery occur, for the same reasons that I want
sea serpents to appear in Loch Ness and I want "Guy Noir, Private Eye" to turn out to be a cruel hoax on NPR listeners.
I believe in mapping and categorizing. This, to me, falls under the head of "important work". Its importance arises entirely because only a culture that can put aside for five or ten minutes the social anarchy of routine existence can afford to address this issue. A culture which can outline and organize its thoughts has some hope of decreasing infant mortality and reducing violent crime. Along the ocean floor, cities lie buried, waiting to be found. Telescopes scanning the moon help experts name countless craters with arcane names.
In Vietnam, a stringed instrument is called a "moon lute". I believe that the term refers to the full-moon shape of the resonator. I do not know. I looked into buying a moon lute once, but my correspondence in Ho Chi Minh city seemed to run out of English once we got past "let us know your interest and we can send you a quote". I have a
t'rung xylophone, a curious bamboo instrument, coming by mail from a website with a name like hippy.com. I'm not interested in playing it in the conventional sense. I do not wish to have a musical map to how it works. I just want to strike it and tape the sounds, which I hope will be as unique as mp3s of them sound.
My reading indicates that the moon lute requires years upon years of learning to play correctly. Yesterday, when I was eating pho at a Vietnamese restaurant, I realized that in this city of two million souls, someone proficient in the moon lute must reside. That fact is of no importance, but it set me thinking about how we all wish to find a novel or a poem, but around us are thousands upon thousands of stories to read and write.
We spend years trying to learn to play the moon lute--when we could sing a capella from the songbook at hand.
That's the danger in maps. They lull us into seeing only the straight line from point A to point B. This is quite impressive when time and graphing are at stake. But what lies off the path? More importantly, I think, who lies off the beaten path? Contrary to Mr. Springsteen's exuberant pronouncement (surely the next best anthem beside the "Star Spangled Banner"), I am not sure that it is the highways jammed with broken heroes upon which we must focus, but instead those strewn about the roadsides.
Yet absent action, it all dissolves into inanity. I imagine a xylophone constructed from flatware from Good Will, and then I imagine world peace. Visualize world peace--and then visualize a fork-o-phone.
The wind howls outside, as the temperature plunges again from temperate to chilled. An entire television channel maps out the progress of the gales. Somewhere a great blue whale emits a song that none of us hear. We do not know what the song might mean even if we could hear it. We're caught up, aren't we? A swatch straps onto a shapely wrist. A cigar grinds out in a coffee cup over poker. Someone disembarks from a Greyhound bus, and faces
a new city, without a map.