“If it’s between chicken hearts and a guy you can’t blame me for my choice.” –My Associate
Part I: Deconstruction
In an instant my mind expelled the smoke blowing down the tunnels of my brain circuitry, exhaust from the combustion of ideas and facts, concepts and analysis. Unlike most breaks from school, I planned to accomplish nothing in the way of self-improvement. I came to accept experiential inputs as currency, particularly experiences not mined for morals or wisdom. I simply sought to observe as though a temporary tenant in my flesh, offered the benefit of just five senses. This became clear nonetheless:
Experience is ultimately abstraction, but abstractions are not as transferable as representations. If our abstractions must be translated into communally accessible representations, the only unique thing I own in the universe is my abstracted experience. All else is representation. All else is communal. My ideas, body and brain are all borrowed vehicles.
Part II: Brain Breeze
Speaking of borrowed vehicles, every moment on the rental car lot we had to impersonate fully functional, well-adjusted adults. Due to company policy, one must be sure the rental car agent does not suspect them of simultaneously pursuing a bachelor’s degree and trying to transport themselves. I didn’t necessarily have to participate in the charade, but I supposed my effort would limit suspicion of my associate, the one purporting to be the operator of the machinery. My mind therefore assigned all small-talk and friendly questioning an investigatory tone.
“Where are we heading today?”
“Oh, we wouldn’t dream of it!” I blurted. Confused myself, I scanned the awkward silence with my eyes. Nevertheless, we were offered the machine and went leaving all pretense in our wake.
An admission cannot be avoided here: operating the machinery felt dangerous, seeing as I hadn’t done so in many months and I hadn’t been the one offering collateral. Luckily I limited errors to one nearly-run traffic light and one three-lane, high-speed swerve, though my associate must have not noticed the latter because I don’t recall any yelling. It might also have been a kindness on my associate’s part, deference to the idea that my uncriticized driving would keep us safer than my driving high on self-loathing and embarrassment — a lethal cocktail resultant from one silly, powerless shriek.
Upon arrival I was able to shut down the split-screen mindset of talking/driving and open my eyes again. Down a crackling slope of dry leaves sat a sad little dried up pond — a puddle relative to the Walden of my imagination. But the newly uncovered soggy land was soaking in sunshine, and that’s what counted to me.
With no company in the sunken space we passed hours casting our eyes about the muddy surroundings and dead-tree shade covered hills. Lounging on rocks and pressing bare feet on soft earth, the breeze ventilated my charred brain circuitry.
My newly uncluttered northern headquarters — free from textbooks, notes, even leisure books or news — felt liberated. Unconcerned about retaining information with a sense of grave duty, my mind could shut down its self-conscious programming and quiet the engines of memorization.
Sitting by our friendly puddle something soon became clear — the parking lot had been full of cars. Our solitude in this place was therefore somewhat odd. Connecting this fact to the meekness of the body of water we sat by, it occurred to us that we had found something other than Walden Pond. Though equally satisfied, we supposed the journey would be incomplete without having attended the historic site.
A small journey to the opposite side of the parking lot we found a fuller lake, a bigger body of water, greener trees and a formal beach. We looked at the exact location of Thoreau’s house and read the details offered by the accompanying information sign. But perhaps we experienced the place’s meaning more acutely in our adjacent place of solitude, free from information on the banks of our own muddy puddle.