Nobody likes them, but we all need them.
October 30, 2002
There’s been so much talk about Hurricane Lili, I was beginning to feel left out. I figured I should go ahead and put in my two cents before the story’s been milked for all it’s worth. I’m striking while the embers are still smoldering.
Right now I’m sitting at my desk with 15 of my closest coworkers. When I say closest, I don’t mean we’re the best of friends and we barbecue together every weekend; I mean we’re packed into this one room like sardines in a rusty tin can. We’re camped out over on Garfield Street in a cinder block box, like refugees escaping the atrocities of Jefferson and Cypress streets. When Lili rolled into town, she damaged our beloved, old, funky building on Jefferson Street and blew the roof off the sucker.
Actually I’m making all of this sound worse than it really is. We have a roof over our heads now, electricity and running water. Some of us have our desks and chairs, and all of us have computers to do our work and put out the paper every week. We’re just in transition, readjusting to a new environment.
But aren’t we always in transition? I’m not talking about just my coworkers and myself. I’m talking about all of us – you and me, our families, our friends, our acquaintances, our enemies and complete strangers.
We live in a changing, dynamic world. The laws of physics tell us that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. History tells us how man has changed throughout time and how little we’ve really learned.
We are changing every second of our lives, but it’s hard to see. We only realize it when we find a photo from our high school prom or an essay we wrote in fifth grade. Then we might think about how much we’ve changed and even ask ourselves how we went from being that person to the one we are now.
A hurricane can have the same effect. Leave it to 100 mile-an-hour winds tossing trees around like toothpicks to get you thinking about the nature of our changing world, our own being and our place within all of it.
What I find so funny in all of this is how I constantly struggle against change, as if somehow I’m going to be the first person in the history of mankind to make life submit to my whims. There’s no winning that battle. No one has done it yet. Then, to top it all off, there’s the brutal reality that one day I’m going to die. We all will. It’s in the cards for each and every one of us. No man, woman or creature has figured out a way to escape that ultimate fate.
So where is all of this depressing rambling going? I have absolutely no clue, but I do know this. Lili made me see things in a little different light, and I know I’m not the only one. I’ve talked with other people and read other people’s stories who feel the same way.
I’ve realized how fragile my own existence is. It’s made me see that all of us are desperately clinging to this little rock hovering in the universe, trying to figure out our place within it and trying to figure out what to do while we’re here.
Elemore Morgan Jr. once told me that his good friend, architect Neil Nehrbass, used to tell him, “You’re born and you die. You’ve got to do something in between.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.
I’m checking out of here one of these days. I have no idea when the management wants me out. I can call the front desk to find out, but they guard that information pretty closely. I can even call them for a wake-up call, but there’s no guarantee that if the phone rings and I answer it that I won’t hang up and go right back to sleep.
Let’s say that the wake-up call does come and I do open my eyes, then I have only two options. I can lay around in bed, flip on the tube and watch the 24-hour coverage of fear and terror on Fox News. Or I can throw back the sheets, leave the comfort of a warm bed, open the door and step out into this world of ours.
To be honest, I’d much rather lay around in bed and dream my own dreams. But the truth is, this dream we’re living is much more interesting.