Thursday, October 12, 2006

beau ideal

When you realise that every place is the same, you will invariably be called home. When the mountains fall out of sight, when the ocean’s magic dries up, when the trees collapse away into the back of your mind, home is where you’ll want to be. So just let go. Freefall. You’ve a safety net right below.

When the present falls away, when that carpet is ripped out from under you, where else is there to go? Most will wind up plummeting to the past, pulled down by the desire for familiarity, tempted by ease, beckoned home by nostalgia. Others will step off that carpet on sensing the slightest tug. Step off to somewhere new. Step off to start all over again – only to find that it’s all the same.

Wherever you go, you are doomed to follow the pattern you laid out at home. Your body is little more than simple machinery intended to carry around your brain which is little more than complex machinery designed to reset to default. So that’s how it is that you, plunged into a new chaotic environment, will inevitably slip back to old orderliness, condemned by a sequence of habits, sentenced to sameness by your own system. It’s more than fate – it’s design.

“But this time’s going to be different,” the kid whinges. “I’m going to plunge myself into a totally alien setting. Someplace where I don’t speak the language. Someplace where I don’t understand the culture. A tiny place filled with the strangest of strangers, a small town in the middle of nowhere—”

Then you will find the least strange stranger of the bunch – or he or she will find you. You will naturally seek the one place in that town where you feel the safest, the most comfortable, the most, yes, at home. And from that point, it’s all downhill. You’ll be falling into pattern even while taking in your surroundings, learning the language, immersing yourself in the culture. And soon you’ll be nothing more than yourself in another place.

“I’ll leave everything at home,” the kid cries, “everything which reminds me of home will be left there. I’ll pack light, you’ll see. Everything I need, I’ll find in my new home—”

But there are things you’ll bring along with you that don’t quite fit into a suitcase; things like memory, nostalgia, and yearning. Things you’ll bring along with you that you don’t need to sneak past the watchful eyes of airport security; things like regret, doubt, and worry. These are the things which conspire against change. These are the switches which will force you to reset to default.

How soon before you realise that every place is the same? Perhaps when you’re sitting, alone, at the bar of the most comfortable watering hole in your new town. Perhaps when you lift that first pint to your lips. Perhaps when the waitress smiles that same smile she smiles all around the world. Perhaps then you’ll realise that you’re not anywhere new, that you’re not doing anything different.

The barstool will quaver slightly with the realisation, and you’ll look down to ensure that the floor beneath is still sound. What if the floorboards were to suddenly fall away? What if they fall away, and you fall with them into the void below – where will you be? Freefalling in the darkness. Tumbling through the air. Plummeting home.

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