From a Future Me

I decided I want to write a journal entry from a future me who is closer to where I want to be. I intentionally used hyperbole to show goal states.

I see myself waking up in a tiny home which looks like a cabin but on a flatbed trailer and easy to relocate. It sits towards the back of a grassy lot which I might buy or rent. On top are solar panels. Off to one side of the lot is an electric windmill.

Inside my home is a loft bed with lots of windows for natural light. The fire in the stove has long since died to embers. I wake up and climb down from the loft, ready to start my day. I step outside and through the garden to the chicken coop to recover the eggs which are waiting for me.

I make a nice omelette and boil the extras for lunch. I include lots of veggies from the garden and pack a salad for later, or maybe a sandwich with that new hummus I made.

I’m very proud of my garden. I use modern aquaponics to grow fish along side lots of vegetables in my greenhouse. I especially love having fresh tomatoes and cucumbers every morning and fresh fish or chicken for dinner.

After breakfast, I take my electric vehicle or maybe my bicycle if the weather is nice. I have a meeting with a new client before lunch. I am designing some kind of software or website for them.

It’s an exciting day for my main business. I run a fleet of mobile food vendors which empowers young entrepreneurs to develop business skills inside a safe, established model. Today, we are launching a new type of bicycle cart which allows our partners to sell coffee and tea with individually packaged donuts or cured meat sandwiches from their bicycle carts. It’s exciting to see so many young people working hard and learning how to start their own businesses.

Astral

When I became aware that I was conscious, I looked around and saw that all around me was a turbulence, a rushing; and it was made of stars and men. The turbulence made a sound. It was like the roaring of a thousand oceans, louder than ears could ever hear. 

I was floating and I was quite still in the middle of it all, just looking at it and taking it in.

I suddenly felt like I was not on the ground, and I looked down to see myself sleeping in my bed. 

A rather unsettling feeling came over me that I was seeing more than I was supposed to, but that I had been made to feel that way unnaturally. This was the way I had been supposed to feel all along. 

Fruit

I’m sitting on my balcony on a warm afternoon. I bought this table and chairs a few weeks ago but this is the first chance I’ve had to use it. It’s ironic because this is probably the last time I’ll use them. To me they were a symbol of a future I wanted to create. They sit next to the fruitless blueberries and tomatoes which I so carefully cultivated but which politely refuse to yield the most meager hint of a harvest.

An empty salad bowl and beer sit next to an old notebook full of almost-plans and half-baked ideas. I sift through it, wishing for the inspiration and drive i once had, even if unfulfilled.

Everything has a beginning and an end. Today seems to be the beginning of the end of a relationship that I’ve poured everything into for the last year. Things were done and said that can’t be taken back, and it’s time to go. I look around at all these things I so recently wanted and made for myself; these plants I grew from seeds that refuse to bear the fruit I sought; and all the furniture, the things, the lifestyle that I wanted.

I find myself once again full-circle; disappointed out of another relationship, another house, another town, another life. This one still had the new-car smell and excitement of an unlimited future which seemed so certain.

I watch the faces walking by on the street below, each one so different; so indifferent; and above all, so full of unlikely promise for the next tomorrow with a new balcony on a higher floor and this time all full of plants which don’t refuse to bear fruit. Next time, they promise; next time.

Commodification

I see a future not so far away. We want to build cities faster and farther; in space, on the moon. We need resources. We turn to machines to fabricate and construct. The world of men is made up of downloaded buildings constructed by generic self-replicating robots. We start to see memes in form and shape. Every possible idea has been invented. We joke about houses and cities made of designs literally copied and pasted from others. The human race spreads across the universe and we are just as dull and bored as we are today. The stars go out, the lights dim, entropy consumes all structure and order; all the energy in the universe is spent; all the potential exhausted.

The last man sits in a chair sipping some forgotten vintage and watching the end of the universe creep closer. He knows this will be the last idea. The last thought. And before he can formulate it, he sees that its realization was, in itself, its own end.

He laughs, and with that, the world neatly ends.

Frontiers

Years ago, I was working in a busy cafe with a man around 30 years old. We were talking about something involving math; he had been an engineering major who lost interest after he graduated and ended up slanging lattes for minimum wage with yours truly.

We were talking about a simple problem but neither of us could figure out the answer. I laughed about it and made a comment about how it must be true that knowledge is use it or lose it.

He stood there for a second and sort of gazed off, and then he said, “I hate feeling inept. I wish I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

At the time I was unsure how to react. My life consisted of parties and the odd shift at work to cover the cost. I had no context to understand how he felt. We both quickly went on to other tasks and it never came up again.

But as the months and years go by, I find myself feeling more and more like I imagine he did. The more I see, the less anything seems to matter. There’s no purpose to anything. No goals to accomplish other than getting by.

I wish I was sailing a little boat across the stars a few hundred years from now. Just me and the universe, alone with our thoughts. A purpose, a frontier to be explored and expanded on. I just feel like humanity is in a stagnant time. We are meant to grow and run free and explore, but all we do is slang lattes and ask if they want fries with that so we can take our pittance and have a drink.

I want a frontier of imagination.

I want the sky.

The Boy in the Forest

I walked through the forest with another boy from my tribe. We were looking for food and drink but mostly we hoped for adventure. We never expected to find a new friend among the trees. He was smiling when he greeted us and we talked for a while about the things we’d seen and done, we compared scars as all boys do.

We decided to share our fire with this new friend. We led him back with us and along the way found food and drink. We even managed to get some wine to relax us.

As we sat around the fire staring into it, listening to the sounds it made, we talked more about the adventures behind us and about what was to come. We talked about people we had met and how they had impacted us. The wine was good, and the food delicious.

Truly it was a great moment. A moment of zen. A moment that had been shared a billion times by members of our race since eons long forgotten. But everything was not as it seemed. This was an experience that pierced deep into human history and memory; boys sharing food and fire, and talking about the world and the journey of their existence.

Only as I looked up, the crackling fire we were all staring at had been replaced with a laptop softly playing music videos. I smiled. The function was the same. Something for us all to sit around and direct our attention at. The food and drink had improved somewhat. The wine was imported from a thousand miles away and cost only an hour’s worth of work to buy. The food was markouts from work, a free sack-full of delicious overpriced snacks. And the forest had been the city. The boy we met outside a cafe with a long night full of time to kill before a flight to a new adventure, looking for human connections and a bit of the life we’ve lost as we built this world of ours.

When the food and drink were gone and the music ran out, it was time for him to go. As I dropped him off for his flight to Chicago, he hugged me. I felt surprise at first, but then I realized that even though this was the first time we’d ever hung out, the connection we had built was an older thing. Steeped in the human spirit. Steeped in brotherhood and the desire we all have to love and be loved, without precondition. This perfect friend I had made who I would never see again, spoke more in silence than most people did in volumes.

I hugged back, and then he was gone.

I’ve been waiting a long time for a story that would let me express a specific, complex idea. I’ve tried writing it out more times than I can count. But it never quite worked. I want to explain briefly what I mean. I try to blog only with the intention of eliciting a specific emotional reaction or deductive conclusion. These specific points are typically only a single inference. Sometimes more than one. But never more than two. I’ve always had terrible luck communicating nested inferences. It’s difficult to lead someone to a set of conclusions when each successive conclusion is predicated on another which without room for subjective interpretation. This paragraph is a good example of a badly communicated idea. I’d like to call that ironic but I’m sure I’ve already lost whatever few people somehow ended up here reading this. So hopefully with some sensible introduction, here’s the story.

I work at one of the world’s busiest cafes in the middle of a dense urban center. Today at work I saw a boy who looked really familiar. He was dressed very nicely, all in trendy urban styles. Maybe about 20 years old, very well groomed, with slicked back hair, perfectly styled. This is a popular look in Portland these days. The look he gave me said he knew me, but I couldn’t place him in my memory. I thought some more about it and continued my tasks. I looked up again a few minutes later and he waved at me and smiled. He was sitting in a corner, half-way reclining against the floor-to-ceiling windows that made up the walls of the cafe. Behind him were blocks and blocks of street lights and sleepy skyscrapers, half-illuminated with twilight turning to dusk on the horizon. Suddenly I remembered; he was here a few weeks ago asking if I knew of any backpacker hostels. He and his brother were traveling and needed a place to stay. His appearance was very different. His hair had been long, his dress less urban.

I remember thinking I wish I had my new apartment set up. I would gladly have offered a couch after what conversation we had at first meeting. We had that cosmic traveler’s connection. That feeling which when experienced makes you wish it’s how all people felt about each other. Just a pure feeling of community and common altruistic purpose between people looking to experience life just for the joy of doing so. No other motives, no social contract.

At the exact moment when I realized who he was, I was asked to perform a task which meant I would have to walk out to the lobby and stand next to him for several minutes. If I hadn’t experienced so much odd, hilarious serendipity in my life, I would have laughed.

I said, “Hi,” and asked how they were doing and if they had found a hostel. He said “Yes,” that they had found a place to stay. He was excited to be starting a ballet program soon. He has always worked as a waiter but ballet has been his life’s passion.

I asked where they had come from. “Nashville,” he said. They backpacked over 2,300 miles. And did it just for the adventure, not sure what they would be doing next. I shared that I had just come half-a-thousand miles myself, from Sacramento, and that it’s been years since I’ve lived anywhere for over six months, and that I’m also unsure what I’ll be doing next. I praised his courage at taking the initiative and seeking out adventure. We talked about how there is so much out there; so much to do; and how we shared an excitement for the things to come in our lives.

He asked how I liked working in cafes. “I love it,” I said, “…kind of goes with the lifestyle, getting to meet so many people so diverse in background and experience.”

He laughed, “I guess you’re right.” And took another sip of his drink.

“Well,” I said, “…if I don’t see you again, good travels!” He smiled and said, “You too!”

I carried my finished work back across the cafe. A few minutes later he left with a wave goodbye. Maybe to catch a train, find a bookstore, or maybe to find a new adventure.

Circles

I close my eyes and I’m somewhere else. I’m sitting by a camp fire deep in the woods. All around me is a circle made up of people. Not just people, but monsters and demons. They’re all dancing as the circle goes round. I feel safe. I know all these souls. I’ve faced them and made peace with what’s happened. As they dance around me, they sing and chant; words I’ve heard a thousand times.

They’re all I can hear. I gaze at the fire and I feel warm and content as they dance through the sides of my view.

Far away in the distance I can see a light. I know what it is. It’s the world of today and tomorrow. I can just make it out in the distance. But there’s so much noise and its so peaceful and warm here. I don’t want to leave the fire and my friends. Friends? Is that what they are? There was a time these faces scared me more than anything. But anymore, they’re the only faces I can see. The people I meet when my eyes are open just look like shapes and outlines. All they do is remind me of a hundred other faces I’ve already seen. Faces of people I’ve harmed and been hurt by. Faces I’ve already made peace with.

All I want to do is close my eyes and listen to the music; watch the devils dance around the fire.

I know their dance doesn’t lead anywhere but around. But anymore, that’s almost enough. I’ve yearned so long to find peace and warmth in the dark. And now that I’m here, all I can think is how hard it will be to get up and move forward.

Big-Sky Special

A few years ago I was working in a quiet cafe full of retirees sipping coffee, and students quietly studying; when a man walked in who looked entirely out of place. He was clearly homeless. He had no shirt, no shoes. He was very dirty and smelled terrible. Everyone stared as he walked up to the counter. But his face had a look of enthusiasm like I had never seen. He was so stoked to be here at Starbucks. “I’ll have the big-sky special,” he said. I had no idea what he meant so I asked him to explain and he said it was an extra-large blended mocha with two extra shots and chocolate and caramel on top. Apparently it was very popular in Montana where he had just come from. I made him his drink and he enthusiastically ate all the whipped cream off the top and quickly downed the drink before heading back out the door. Everyone finally let their gaze drop back to what they were doing. 

I often think of him when I see someone who looks like they have an interesting story to tell, and I couldn’t tell you how many times I see his face with that look of sheer, uninhibited excitement for a double blended mocha, his “Big-Sky Special.”

Change

I’m sitting under old flourescent lights in a lobby that smells of decades of clorox and fresh paint. The hum of the hvac gently rattles the vents high above while soft couches meet hard, sterile tile. There’s something eerie and noir about the moments just before sunrise, especially in places like this.

The cold concrete walls support generic art permanently affixed there to deter would-be thieves. Above is the new, false-ceiling, concealing even newer additions to the aged building. Here and there a conduit slinks down from the ceiling to produce new electrical sockets and a network of security cameras. Things these walls never considered when they were built. But the world grows and changes, in spite of the old building. My computer draws power from a conduit that disappears into the ceiling. As it goes, it criss crosses other conduits. A fire alarm here, a switch panel there.

As the hvac shuts off, the old building groans at the stress. It’s tired and eager to give way to new growth and development. But its silent voice warns not to fear the slinking conduits and added changes that will come with time. Those are just life’s way of reminding us how far we’ve come through things we never expected. And they will come as surely as the sun.