Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'm Going To Run Into The Street And End This

Every day. Every goddamn day.

We wake up. We sit here on our haunches by the side of the road while the rush hour clears out. Then after that last blue minivan passes we make a run for it. We eat some nuts, crap in the flower bed, freak a few neighbor dogs out... and tomorrow we're going to do exactly the same thing. I mate with females I don't even like. I have 36 kids I never see. Look at me, Jerry. I'm eight years old but I look ten. Ten, Jerry.

There is no point to any of this.

I'm not depressed. It goes deeper than that. For the longest time I'd lie there at night in my tree-hole and wonder about the purpose of my life. And then one morning it hit me: That's not even the question I should be asking. The real question, Jerry, is who am I? And I don't have an answer.

Some might say you're defined by what you do. You lose a chess piece, and you can easily replace it with a coin or a button. Because a chess piece isn't really a chunk of carved wood. It's a representation of an actor within a system of other actors and the rules of how they move. Look at it that way, and I'm just one of the guys who makes sure the old lady's bird feeder doesn't ever feed any birds. I'm doing a job, a cog in a great big machine nobody can understand. The fat guy with the Vietnam vet bumper sticker who yells at kids. The ice cream truck driver who deals a little pot to the teenagers. And me, chewing things and tearing up screen doors. Is that worth a life?

I've been thinking of the way Steve died when he jumped onto that power line. How all his hair fell out, and he kind of looked like a little baby squirrel. I remember staring at him and thinking: That's not Steve. That's what's left of him. But you know what? It also reminded me of Steve the baby -- I mean, we grew up together. And suddenly I realized that Steve the baby had died a long time ago and I didn't even know it. Steve the baby turned into Steve the young adult, who turned into Steve the guy with three legs after he tangled with that raccoon. Then came Steve the corpse.

You don't get it, do you Jerry? You're just an illusion to yourself. There's no single, permanent you at the center of all this running around and chattering at kids with BB guns. There's a brain and a body -- some chemicals, some electrical impulses. And all of it is constantly changing. And it's held together by this fantasy of some unitary personality that you are trying desperately to maintain. But someday the whole damn thing is gonna fly apart. For you it will be when you finally duck under that automatic garage door you seem obsessed with.

And behind this fantasy of ourselves? Fear. The fear of dying. Every car, every cat. The fear of dying is the cause and the effect of my own illusion that I'm real. They reinforce each other. Unless you just... let go.

The next time that blue Odyssey comes down the street I am darting out under the wheels. Don't try to talk me out of it. Don't you understand?! Camus said the primary philosophical problem was suicide. He didn't understand what I do. It's not a problem. That goddamn minivan is a solution.

Here comes that poor bastard driving his kids to preschool. Goodbye, Jerry. Don't mourn me. I feel sorry for the rest of you, gnawing on trees and running from strollers. Because I'm free.

(Photo by; Reprinted under Creative Commons 3.0 license)


  1. Somewhere, Nathan A. Scott, Jr. is reading this. He's probably going to let his cigarette burn down, pause meaningfully, and then allow something to the effect of, "Although somewhat disappointed by a certain imprecision of focus I have nevertheless adjudged the effort as a whole to be acceptable."

  2. I met his cousins the other day--2 of them, about 1/2 block apart. I was able to dodge both of them, although it was close...very close.

  3. Paul - of course you're not worthy. None of us are (is?) See - that's the crux of the problem. We don't feel worthy. But I do, Paul. I'm worthy. I just ran over a squirrel. I'm a superior life-form and I love it.

  4. You are wicked funny.

    I KNOW this guy:

    I'm doing a job, a cog in a great big machine nobody can understand. The fat guy with the Vietnam vet bumper sticker who yells at kids.

    None of us gets out alive, eh? But we can have a little fun whilst here.

  5. I know you wrote this years ago, but I could base an entire philosophy course on this. It's just brilliant. I'd prefer a bit more Schopenhauer. But you know squirrels.

    1. God bless, man. It is one of my favorite pieces. It is indeed hard for rodents to get formal education at an accredited institution.


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