Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Antipodes

There are times I miss the open spaces I know from my few years living in Montana, and from several solo trips across the country, by car and motorcycle.  I also miss the 360 degree horizon of the ocean, where I had once begun learning how to sail, but didn't keep with it (I may yet circumnavigate.)  I love standing on skis at the top of a steep trail and looking out at the Canadian rockies or Green Mountains.  I miss the imperious weather of these places.  I miss outdoor solitude.

I also miss the cramped, busy life of New York City and Boston; the urgent conversations among grad students at Boston College (philosophy) and Teachers College (literature, writing, teaching); the sense of engagement I found in serious, funny, impromptu conversations while walking dogs with neighbors in Riverside Park; the diversity of ages in social circles.  Civilization is born in close quarters.  Art metastasizes from not-always healthy, but often interesting, original sources, there.  It winds up everywhere, unkillable.

I blame automobiles for my loathing of suburbs, where social contact is thin, mostly a matter of civics and commerce.  Arts there are packaged versions of the mess cooked up in cities (or, if not in cities, in colonies fed by nearby university or tourist towns,) which is far better than nothing, but man cannot live on touring musicals alone.

My nostalgia for city life, on the one hand, and open spaces, on the other, won't resolve into a fixed hierarchy.  I want both.  This is why people invent God:  to contain contradicting objects of desire; to join the antipodes.

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