Zen and the art of being “On the Road”

It was a dismal cold day in May and the clocks had just sounded 0800 hours.  The view from the Victory Mansions nestled high in the hills above Berkeleyprovided a reinforcement of the previous evening’s weather guess with a tableau of pewter skies and soggy ground.  Uncle Rushbo was scheduled to read out a list of figures which have something to do with the production of safe atomic energy.

Adhering to the journalistic tradition of writing a column about the end of the world a few days in advance of when the catastrophe was expected, by many devout conservative Christians, to occur seemed imperative to the World’s Laziest Journalist, but the cynical curmudgeonly columnist couldn’t provide himself with the logical motivation for undertaking (did you have to use that word?) of such an existentialist errand.  

If the World really was going to end on Saturday, why bother to do the keystrokes necessary for an obituary for use on Sunday?  Why bother? 

Heck, if theUnited Statescan continue the War inAfghanistanfor no discernable reason, why couldn’t the columnist bang out a few more snide remarks, bits of esoteric information, and political predictions that seemed to be a bit too liberal even byBerkeley’s standards?  Why not?  The alternative was to get the umbrella and go for a cold wet walk to the usual destinations.

Would the tree-huggers appreciate the humor if the world did end on Saturday?  Such a catastrophe would mean that the human race became extinct in a photo finish with the end of the polar bear (Ursis Maritimus) species, which had been predicted extensively since long before the first “End of the World” billboard had been unveiled.

What about a bit of irony for the optimists who assume they’ll get docked if they are late for work next Monday morning?  Because, we believe, there will still be “miles to go” on Monday Morning.

In the film “Point Break,” the surfer/bank robber, Bhodi (Patrick Swayze) advises the Establishment, in the form of FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), to “think it through.” 

Have the banksters used the “think it through” method to assess the long term effects of the wave of home repossessions?

What will happen if the new masses of homeless Americans have a morphic resonance style collective epiphany moment and  find that they have learned the Zen and the Art of Being “On the Road” lesson?

Isn’t literature rife with variations of a story about a traveling wise man who preaches to the people that they can be happy without a storage unit full of superfluous material possessions? 

Wouldn’t it be dangerous for capitalists to face a mass movement of the Zen philosophy of renouncing extraneous material possessions?  Isn’tAmericabuilt on the concept that “Greed is good” and that if the Jones family next door has a flat screen TV (don’t they wear out more quickly?  [“Mommy, is ‘planned obsolescence’ a Zen concept?”]) your family needs a bigger one?

Here is a hypothetical example:  if you are traveling around Australia with a suitcase and you find some amusing tchotchke that would be a perfect gift for someone 12,000 miles away, should you buy it and lug it around with you for the rest of the trip or should you pay the postage and send it on its way?  (Isn’t it ironic if the postage fee will be more than the cost of the book you want to send?)

If you are always on the move, you tend to only buy those things you know you need such as a very light battery powered alarm clock and a flashlight.  (Kids will tell you that a cell phone is a flashlight.)  Even a dedicated life long sloppy (and slovenly?) person will quickly learn the advantages of knowing precisely where things are in the suitcase, so that they can be located quickly in the dark without the need to empty the entire contents of the suitcase on the hostel bunk, just to find the elusive item.  Suppose the item you need is the flashlight?  If you dump the suitcase on the bed, you would need the flashlight to sort through the contents to find the flashlight.  Hence even a slob will come to adopt the “a place for everything and everything in its place” philosophy while being “on the road.”

Wouldn’t it be very dangerous for the recovery, if massive numbers of people who have been made homeless via foreclosure suddenly learn and begin to preach the advantages of renouncing material possessions? 

The German concept of <I>Schadenfreude</I> explains why TV interviews with people, who have just lost their home by tornado, flood, or foreclosure, attract large audiences, but what would happen if, instead of a crying victim, the interview produced an interviewee with the happy-go-lucky attitude who shrugs and says:  “I learned I didn’t need it”? 

The happy wanderer such as Chang Kai Kane, the guys on Route 66, the Fugitive, Sal Paradise (symbolism?), the Lone Ranger, Dr. Gonzo, etc. is amusing and entertaining but true patriotic Americans must never forget that such cultural rebels are the antitheses of American values and must not be permitted to weave their web of subtle philosophy heresy that repudiates American ideas and culture.

Back in the sixties there was a main stream media report (urban legend?) that some hippies used to stand in the middle of Highway 1 in the Big Sur area and extend both hands in the hitchhiker’s thumb a ride style and take the first ride they were offered.

That kind of ambivalent approach to life might have worked back then, but it doesn’t work.  Sure, most folks in the Sixties could name several famous counter-culture personalities but sorry to say, the Sixties are over!  Can you name one prominent counter-culture personality alive and thriving today? 

Will the World really end this Saturday?  The World’s Laziest Journalist has received reassurances from a reliable source, that the “fixeroo” is “in” and that it ain’t gonna happen.

Do not, whatever you do, do not tell your boss on Friday to do something that is physically impossible because you are going to need your job on Monday morning to be able to make those every growing monthly mortgage payments and perhaps, if your credit card isn’t maxed out, buy some new designer label threads to arouse some good old fashioned envy in your neighbor’s heart.

It’s just like St. Ronald Reagan used to say on the sign-off for a weekly TV show:  “At GE, progress is our most important product.” 

Now the disk jockey will play “This old house,”  “Come On-A My,” and “Home on the Range.”  We have to go  buy a fondue maker and also give a shout out to the folks who will be having the Saturday evening barbecue on the roof of the Sydney Backpackers’ Hostel just about the time that the world is supposed to end.  If it does happen, mates, you’ll have a marvelous view of the spectacle.  Have a “Chill out, dude!” type week.

Afterward: Personal message for MM and KM in the area that hosted Sherman’s famous 1865 “March to the Sea” Tour:  You should work out a quid pro quo agreement with “Blue.”  See if you can get an offer to use his home as a short term crash pad so that you might learn the “No worries, mate” attitude (you will love Australia; it’s like America without war crimes) and, in return, let him have a night (or week?) serving as your vacation substitute host.  Ask Blue if Harold Holt was “Osama-ed” for his opposition to the Vietnam War.

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