Skepticism? I have none of that.
20 January, 2002 :: 5:05 a.m.
There's a passage in the book High Fidelity where the main character, Rob, is talking about a picture of himself when he was younger. He's looking at this picture of himself still a child, still full of dreams, still filled with hope and enthusiasm. He says he feels like he owes that kid an apology for turning into the man he has. I can really relate to that. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever read because I can feel exactly what he is saying.
I look at the pictures of me when I was younger. I always had a smile on my face; I was always finding something new and exciting that made life seem full of wonder and possibility. I always had to climb and explore. Pictures of me climbing on the coffee table when I could barely walk, climbing the speakers at my grandparents house, dressed as my hero--Spider-Man, playing with my dog...always happy. Everything was a joy.
Spider-Man was more than a character in a comic book--if we could put men in space, surely it wasn't unreasonable to think a man could have the powers of a spider; dragons existed; there was a place like in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? where all the toons lived because they were real, just wonderfully different; movies were done with actors, I knew that, but they must be telling real stories of things that could happen, yes? There must be a galaxy far, far away where Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker battled; Dracula and any other monster I saw, they existed too and, sure, it was scary, but it also made the world a much more interesting place. Nothing was impossible.
I look at pictures as I got older...fewer smiles and the ones that were there usually seem fake. Some I remember and I know damn well were fake. Maybe the family vacation was miserable, but damn if we don't smile in the pictures so we can look back and pretend we were having fun. I hardly even try to smile anymore. There isn't much that seems worth smiling for. Good conversations with good friends, that's about it for bringing a smile to my face. I still watch television and try to believe that in the future, it'll be like Star Trek; it'd be great to think that there is a place I could visit where Homer Simpson really lives; I still try to convince myself that we haven't explored every bit of this planet so maybe Bigfoot and other weird and scary and wonderful creatures exist, but it's hard to do. I read Tolkien and it'd be great to think that once there was a time like that with tons of different creatures, good and bad, all living in a magical world where anything is possible. It just doesn't seem real anymore like it did when I was a child.
You get older and you lose that sense of wonder. The world isn't filled with exciting possibility, it's filled with depressing reality. We're bombing a nation of people that we really know nothing about other than they're different from us and a guy that brought into everyone's conscious mind the fears we all hid deep down, the proof of how terrible human beings can be, might be hiding out. So we're no different. He had his soldiers to attack people that he didn't know shit about, we have ours. Innocent people die every day in horrible, disgusting ways and that's the real world; that's reality. George Orwell summed things up pretty well in 1984--no one can trust anyone because any person that you talk to could be spying on you or have a hidden agenda, our government tells us who is evil and we smile and accept it. We go to work for the "good of the state," the tell us they'll help provide for us and we accept that. People are dying in this country everyday from starvation or lack of health care or because the can't afford a decent place to live that will shelter them from the weather...but hey, we've got tons of money to build bombs and did you see all those pretty explosions on the news? that proves our country is a truly great nation. The tests for the missile defense system were like $100 million a pop, but we can't afford a national health care system, we can't make sure there are enough jobs for everyone who needs and wants one, we can't make sure kids in school have text books that tell them who the presidents since Richard Nixon have been, people live in areas that are toxic due to the chemicals giant corporations have dumped into the environment...great fucking country, great time to be alive.
I remember when that kid in the photographs died. I don't remember all of the events that led up to his death, but I remember the moment he was snuffed out of existence entirely. Seventh grade, life science (why wasn't it called biology? I dunno.) The teacher is talking about simple life forms...insects, worms, whatever else and he laughs...I can still remember the cockiness in that laugh...he says something to the effect of "Eat, produce waste and reproduce to carry on the species and die, that's all these creatures do." And a voice shot into my head..."yeah, so? that's what humans do too...we just have video games and television and a million other things to occupy the time in between those basic activities." You can write a book, make the greatest film of all time, paint the Mona Lisa, watch 500,000 hours of television (maybe a slight exaggeration there), drive across the country and photograph people...you're still just here as a link in the chain...you were produced so that you can reproduce...so that the species lives on. It's a race between species, and we're winning baby. The one that gets to the end of the world and is the last one standing wins. We've wiped out tons of species already, but those damn cockroaches are going to give us a run for our money. It's not as easy as it sounds to win this game. You have to selectively kill off the other species. Careful, not too many trees too soon or we don't have oxygen to breath, pollute the water to kill off anything in there, but keep in mind we need some to drink, we have to have something to eat too. Maybe that's what the space station is for...as long as there are a few humans up there, we can destroy the entire earth and there's still a few of our species left alive, if only briefly, so we win! But wait! It's a vast universe...are we only playing this game on a planetary level, or are we supposed to compete with other worlds? Somebody better check the rule book again.
So I look back at those pictures and I'm envious of that kid that I was. I'd love to live in a world where half of what he believed could exist really did exist. I shed a tear for all that has happened that turned him into me.