From Whence They Came
Rocky Mountain Sunset by Michael McPeak
What happened to simplicity?
It’s not that it no longer exists, simply that I’m no longer capable of grasping it. I remember times as a child, days spent lying in the grass watching clouds go by, evenings spent sitting on a porch listening to the thunder roll in and seeing the lightning crash against the horizon, and nights filled with darkness, the soft whistle of the wind, and dreams of jackalopes hiding among the chirping crickets in the rushes.
My free moments now are rarely spent in quiet contemplation or awestruck appreciation.
I’ve heard many people speak of the human connection to nature. Hikes and camping elicit nostalgic throes that mimic out-of-body experiences. That utter feeling of oneness with the universe, that perfect moment, perches precipitously on reality and is gone as quickly as it arrives, interrupted by others, by thought, or simply by ending.
But those moments are rare and out of the way. Instead, I find my spare moments planning, thinking, diving into other pursuits. I drink, or cook, or talk, or play, and those rare moments of sedateness have become moments of awkward silence and lost inactivity.
Working at a summer camp, it’s immediately apparent that imagination is only the most prominent mental function I’ve lost to adulthood. The children climb and crawl and hang upon us like macrobiotic symbiotes. We function at once as separate yet intrinsically connected, joined in purpose and in aimlessness. When time breaks down and slows to a crawl during the in between moments, I can see the separation grow.
“I’m bored,” I hear, my mind busy contemplating the next filler, lesson, or game. And if we are not fast enough, the field devolves, the children finding ways of coping of which I can no longer conceive.
Some derive their own games, create their own projects. The writers write, even if only in their heads, their eyes distant and focused beyond this world. The actors act, roles and props appearing out of thin air as only Pan’s lost boys could mimic when in control of their marbles. The thinkers think, falling away to the edges of the field, moving slowly and purposefully so their mind can wander along with their extremities, or plunking themselves down with a view and letting their thoughts run free without tripping their corporeal limbs.
In them, I recognize minutes, hours and days spent lolligagging in a temporal haze. I envy it. I watch with longing and interest. And yet it’s beyond me.
The other day, my friends and I lazed by a pool, the moments of silence punctuated by awkward uncertainties that children cannot experience. Perhaps this, more than nudity or sin, right or wrong, was the curse of Eden’s fruit, the loss of connection, of instant comfort and entrancement, dividing youth from adulthood.
There’s a knowledge at work, and understanding of social cues and the way of the world that binds us to a path. No longer can I easily meander through life, stopping to smell flowers and enjoy diversions that sweep me from my yellow brick road.
I only wish I knew what my mind seems to understand. If I did, I might be able to roll back and logic away the social shackles that locked away innocence and naivete to make way for maturity and responsibility. I might be able to find simplicity once more.