hmmm

ferrets's picture

i m not sure...what gravitated me back here, after so long. but i wrote this thing last night, late. its had no edits, so please bear with me...

Our Beloved Logging Trucks.

I had a dream a few nights back, which shocked me to my very core. I usually try and avoid putting any kind of stock in dreams, and do not think that I take myself for some kind of profit for this dream. It is obvious that I had the dream, and then laid a meaning that I found interesting on top of it. I am certain that given enough time, I could have put a thousand different stories on top of the scenario. But the one that I immediately thought of just felt so very…right. A perfect match, a glove. If I were the superstitious type, I may endow the rightness of it with some outside force. Luckily, I am not, or I would most likely not be writing this, I would probably rather be starting a cult around my dream.

In my dream, I was driving in my jeep down a road. The windows were rolled down and music was blasting from the radio. It was exhilarating. I could feel my foot pushing the accelerator down, crushing it under my sole like it was the throat of my greatest enemy. I had the sense that I had been coming uphill for a long time, that it had been a hard trek to get up some large, unremembered hill. But now I was going downhill, faster and faster. I threw my head back; I was laughing. I laughed so hard in ecstasy, that a horrible yet thrilling pain burst up in my chest, so sharp that tears ran down my face and flew out the windows, sparkling in the sunlight, beautiful orbs held up for just a moment, glittering, suspended in all their beauty by the rules of Newton. After all, and object in motion will remain in motion, until acted upon by an outside force.

I am forced to wonder if you have ever considered that term, after all. It is used far too flippantly in our society, it has a very profound meaning if you truly sit down and dissect it. After all. After everything else is considered, every factor taken into account. It is almost a dogmatic statement, one can easily imagine it being even religious. “After everything else is considered, every factor taken into account, God is just.” But I prefer to apply it in a more scientific way; it’s a good way to talk about scientific constants. “After everything else is considered, every factor taken into account, two added with two will equal four” or “after everything else is considered, every factor taken into account, bodies will exert a gravitational pull on one another.” The term, after all, is rather remarkable, if you merely take a single second to consider what it truly means.

I laughed harder and harder, uncontrollably. My jeep was just so wondrous, to feel it roar down the hill, consuming the distance was wondrous. The music that came out of its radio, is perfect; party music that infuses the moment of sheer motion with a feeling of soaring. The wind is screaming past my windows now. I wonder briefly if perhaps I have hurt the air, by forcing my jeep through it so quickly. Perhaps it screams because I am killing it? Perhaps I should slow down, let the air recover…but instead I press the pedal down more and my speed jumps even more. The pain inside me escalates as I laugh, but for some reason that just makes me laugh deeper and louder.

Down the road from me is an intersection. The light is blazing green. I look at it and immediately know that I will blaze through the intersection, as I have so many others. The radio was not even music now; it was just babble, infinitely entertaining, but shallow and empty of any value. The view out my windows had turned to a blur. The wind was crying now, screaming for mercy like someone being raped and then being slit open. Then the light turned yellow, and I was suddenly, aware that I had to stop, that I could not make it through this intersection. I was also suddenly aware that this was no dream; that yellow light had transfigured it into a nightmare.

I tried to slam the brake pedal. But my foot met nothing. I looked down in horror, realizing that there was no brake pedal. Someone had built the thing with no brakes. Why had not someone foreseen this, I screamed? Why would you not build in a brake, that’s the second or third most important goddamn part? Had no consideration gone into the infernal machine, who’s engine now did not sound like a friendly, powerful, roar. It sounded like a malevolent voice; it whispered and screamed simultaneously to me that I had no on to blame but myself, that I had made my bed and now I must lie in it.

I have always hated that saying. You have made your bed and now you must lie in it. But…I seem to use it all too often. It is unusual, how sometimes we use something we hate, willingly. We welcome it in with open arms; let it sit in our homes or minds, even though savage resentment for it festers in our souls, simply because we think it could be helpful in some way. I am guilty of it. After all, I hate the saying, but I have written it down twice, and wasted a paragraph expounding on it. I will write it a third time, I suppose, though, because it seems that sometimes we just do things we hate for not good reason. So yes, the engine lanced the phrase into my skull ‘you have made your bed and now you must lie in it’.

The light was now red. Blood red, I could feel it burning me as I approached. It was withering me, the red light. I hated it, I yelled for it to depart; I didn’t want to see it. But still it blazed sadly on, staring down on me like a single eye that could see the whole past and future. The red light seemed infinite for a moment; it knew all. How foolish you have been, it said silently, how you ignored me, and now you will pay. It was not smug, or harsh, or arrogant. It sounded as though it was going to weep at my foolhardy actions. I could see two logging trucks coming down the road. They were going to cut through the intersection in just a few seconds. It took no mathematician to calculate that they would strike my jeep as it careened out into the intersection.

I looked down. I had one option left. The emergency brake. I grabbed it with my trembling right hand, and pulled hard. My car was still a hundred feet from the intersection. I was going obscenely fast. The gears ground and snapped as suddenly the wheels froze. The car fishtailed back and forth. The steering wheel was wrenched from my left hand with such force that it broke my thumb. I pulled the hand to my chest, the animal instinct to recoil from pain stronger then the logical instinct to try and maintain control of the vehicle. The thing skidded sideways, then flipped and rolled, once, twice, three times, crushing the lovely body and smashing the roof down onto my, fracturing my lower body.
Despite the efforts of the E-brake, I had rolled into the middle of the intersection. The log trucks, giant and menacing, barreled down on me. They had full loads of the bodies of trees, skinned and dead, on their massive trailers. They made no attempt to stop, or blow their horns to warn me; as I looked up into their cabins I saw that I myself was driving both the trucks, my face once again laughing.

I tried to climb out of my wrecked jeep. The bottom half of my body was fractured, and I knew it was futile, but I tried to pull myself along by my arms anyway. I could not even get out of the mangled remains of jeep before the trucks struck their mighty, ending blows…

I awoke with a start. My breathing was accelerated, and perspiration covered my torso and forehead and groin. I threw the blankets off myself, and the chill felt good. I rubbed my face with my hand as my breathing slowed. I sat up in the dark and turned on my bedside lamp. Just a dream, just a dream. I got up and padded to the kitchen, my naked body being nipped by the cold, and got a glass of water from the tap. I walked slowly back to my room, unable to shake the feeling that the dream was significant. I remembered it so vividly, which was unusual. Perhaps I had been lucid dreaming. By now my feet had started to grow cold, so I drew the covers back over myself reluctantly. I was afraid that the night would rob me of the memory of this dream, which I still felt was for some reason important. But I gulped my water and rubbed my body to warm up, and then put my head down onto the pillow and fell back to sleep.

I was right. I nearly forgot the dream. The next day I was going about my business, eating some toast with butter and raisins, and rereading Achebe’s things fall apart. Suddenly, reading about brave, cowardly, noble, evil Okonkwo, the dream hit me. I let the book drop to the table, as things fell into place in my mind, one after another. I almost gasped. Like I said, were I superstitious, I would think myself some sort of prophet, the memory and immediate meaning I saw in the dream were so powerful and evident. But I am not, so I understand that it is just a matter of the memory of the dream probably being triggered by considering the meaning of the title of the book, and the meaning so obvious only because I had been pondering such things already.

I realized that I represented you. And I represented myself, and Achebe, and Hitler, and Gandhi. I was humanity, with all of its flaws and strengths. I was laughing hysterically, as we humans so often do; we distract ourselves through entertainment and try to avoid any kind of responsibility. The pain inside me was the result of this unrelenting pursuit of shallow, short lived and expensive pleasure. It is the slow process by which, if we decide to indulge ourselves constantly, and never try and build ourselves up, we will rot and die on the inside. So many of us who appear so happy and content are just walking shells of people, our insides have been scoped out and thrown away. The teardrops are the great works of art. Some people utilize the pain that we inevitably experience, and turn it into beautiful paintings of poems or books. But these are ultimately left behind as we continue to move forward.

I was driving the jeep, a thing of power and grace the ultimately led to the downfall of me, humanity. The jeep is everything we have built; the culmination of all the accomplishments of humanity, our technology and societies. The road is time, and the air our planet. The two log trucks were our willful ignorance, and our shortsighted selfishness. The intersection is a crucial time in history, a point when many factors come together. The stoplight is the warnings of those people with enough wisdom or expertise to see disaster coming.

With these things in mind, let me once again tell you about my dream.
Humanity is driving its technology and society forward, always forwards, down the road of time. For thousands of years, humanity fought its way uphill against superstition and fear of the unknown, but now we are going downhill, moving forth more and more quickly. We are driving our societies and technology fast and hard. This would not be a bad thing, if we were drivers with prudence. But we are not. We are distracted by our own pursuits of pleasure, distracted from what is going on around us, from the intersection we are coming to in our history. We are laughing, while we are killing ourselves on the inside. People perform operas while the homeless starve behind the opera house. TVs are being watched while children and the elderly are being ignored.

We do see the intersection of course, but we figure that if we accelerate fast enough, we can just go through it. It is not a problem to be worried about, we will simply barrel through it, as we have in the past. But that will not be how it works out this time. Our luck can only hold out for so long. The experts sound the alarm when the light turns yellow. They warn us that if we do not change our ways, our destruction is neigh. The wind is screaming as we move toward the intersection; the earth dying as we drill and demolish and spew chemicals into the air and sea. It is protesting, but we ignore it.

But, now we see that we cannot make it through the light. We decide that now is the time to stop. But…no brake exists next to the accelerator. We cannot slow the machine down. It will carry forth unless we destroy it. We have no fail safes. We assumed our finite resources were infinite, and now we are paying. The light turns red; the experts have told us that it is too late; we are doomed. And yet, we make one last desperate attempt. We pull the emergency break. It backfires.
The emergency brake breaks our hand. Our ability to control this situation is now gone, our hand is off the wheel. When we try and suddenly stop everything, the momentum continues, and we tumble. Our societies collapse like the roof of the jeep. Our technology is destroyed in and orgy of desperate violence. To no avail. We are in the intersection, our societies destroyed, our technology destroyed. We ourselves are injured, our ability to escape destruction gone. We gaze at the coming trucks.
One is our willful ignorance. We ignore things that we know are happening. We shove them to the side and ignore them, allowing them to grow massive, like an untreated caner. The other is our shortsighted selfishness. We consumed and didn't plan for the future. We only saw the next pleasure for ourselves, not the grand picture which would have revealed that that next pleasure would be injurious in the long run. We have no one to blame for these trucks bearing down on us in the intersection but ourselves. Because, if you recall, it was us driving it. Us laughing, and driving our own destruction into us.

I suggest you go back, now that you understand what it is all meant to mean, and read the first description of my dream once again, with the lens of knowledge on your eyes.

Now, let me say a few things. For starters, I am not against the advancement of technology and society. I think it is good for such things to move on to bigger and better things. But, I do think that such things need to have a system of checks and balances in place to make sure that they do not move outrun themselves and end up causing a mess. Next, I do not think that we should never use the earth’s resources; though if we wish to have them available continuously, we need to husband them far more carefully then we do now. I do not think that all humans are just mindlessly following pleasure and entertainment. I know that many people are very thoughtful about world issues, and some even invest their lives in solving them. My issue is with the mindless masses, who just follow the empty promises of fun and prosperity without a thought of the repercussions. Lastly, I do not think that the next crises humanity faces will end in the collapse of our societies, and then the death of our species. But I do think, that unless we change our ways as a whole, we will inevitably be killed off by our own machinations. How? I do not know, it could be any number of things, climate change, nuclear war, overpopulation, weaponized viruses, something I could not even yet imagine. It doesn't matter what the issue is, what matters is that if we stay on our current course, one is forced to wonder if the only thing that will remain of us in seventy-five, or fifty, or even twenty years will be our burnt out cities and our rusting machines.

I hope my dream is just that, a dream. But I fear that it may be a metaphor for the future of humanity, if we cannot learn how to install brakes that won’t break our society if we try and use them. We get only one chance to get this right, because if we screw up, no one is coming to help us. I was able to wake up from my dream, but if humanity is destroyed in reality as it was in my dream, then there will be no waking up from it; the only thing humanity will know will be the sleep of death if that sad day every does come. For these reasons, I encourage us to take extreme prudence when it comes to matters of the safety of the whole of humanity.

My dream has disturbed me. I fear for our future, but I also look at our past and see that we are adaptive; we morph ourselves to meet any challenge that nature or our fellow man has yet to throw at us. Perhaps one day these dreams and fears of mine will be obsolete, we will somehow overcome the danger of being eradicated. Yet still…the fear remains, gnawing at my insides like rats. After all, it is hard to tell if we are soaring upwards into the heavens, or spiraling downwards into the darkness of oblivion.

Comments

elph's picture

Good to see this new contribution... after much too long!

Great exposition, ferrets. And… it's truly great to see you here again after such a very long absence. I'm sure that fellow Oasies™ (you know who coined this reference?) would really appreciate more frequent updates from you.

You probably notice that we're now on a much more stable and faster server… and… if you keep your fingers crossed… we may soon see much-updated software as well! :)

I remain not quite sure whether the "dream" aspect (your story) is just a part of the telling… or did you actually experience such a dream?

For me… such a dream is not too unusual: about once every 2 or 3 months: usually involves unresponsive brakes (car), accelerator, or steering wheel! Interestingly… disaster is somehow always preempted just "in time" by waking up!

Oh… just a btw: "profit" and "prophet" are homophones! :)