The other day I went to the top of a hill and found a piece of glass and large wooden peg in the ground by itself.
(In journalism, every story needs a peg; that is mine.)
The glass wasn’t surprising. You find them everywhere (nearly), sharp little reminders that less than six people per square mile live in many places again or still, but there’s no frontier left for us here.
The glass cut me, which stung, but I’ve had worse. Once I was reclining under the warm sun of the Sandia Mountains of Albuquerque near a sheer cliff, enjoying the cool forest and lovely nature of it all. Then I looked beside me and found a discarded feminine-hygiene applicator, massaging my elbow.
Hey, even Mount Everest has been climbed by more than 4,500 people successfully and a couple hundred not. Those that took their bodies home left behind two days worth of scat and urine, never to melt or rot. The accumulation is enough to make a Sherpa cry. Or a Yeti.
All that makes sense, in a way, except for the great big peg. It was just up there on its own, no road to it, no row of them; just one, there in the ground with no discernable purpose, past or present.
“It warn’t just a lark made some feller to haul it up all that way just to plop down and bury. ’Less he were nuts, then that’d make sense.”
On the same trip as the Sandia thing I visited the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, Calif. The craziest thing about that place, and I’m dead serious, is not the organization of rooms or the things numbered 13 or even the teeny tiny stair steps. It’s the punctuation of the signs all over the grounds.
“We Invite Your Comments..”
Now, a rich widow constantly building a house to try to confuse distemperate spirits killed by her late-husband’s gun company is no mystery. She was crazy — and ill-advised by a medium.
But someone, possibly lots of people, SUPPOSEDLY SANE PEOPLE, mass-produced a sign punctuated not by a period, not by an ellipses, but by something entirely different and monstrous, full stop (full stop).
Hermann Broch, an Austrian writer of the 20th Century’s first half, wrote a lot of things I’ve never read, and one passage from “The Sleepwalkers” that I did, and loved.
“Our common destiny is the sum of our single lives… We feel the totality to be insane, but for each single life we can easily discover logical guiding motives. Are we, then, insane because we have not gone mad?”
Suppose you listened to a crowd, I mean, the whole crowd as sometimes happens when you’re not really paying attention to what the person across from you is saying. Do you notice the awful din of babbling nonsense?
Slip back to particulars and you find rational thoughts are being expressed and understood in each case. But taken together, it’s all tongues.
That’s what Saint Peter did on Pentecost: speak the language of the whole crowd, which is divine and never duplicated (Chaplin came closest at the end of “Modern Times.”)
No one has global empathy to understand, much more care, about the results on everyone everywhere in all times.
So life continues to continue in this always crazy way that no one can explain from outside except that it makes life easier to pass the buck to people who can’t pass it back to us.