Wide and Deep
It’s been an intense few days. Mostly because all my classes have been about teaching, and I take that very seriously. I’ve been on the manic side, and haven’t slept much until today. Too many pools and eddies to describe. I haven’t read much email, or cruised many sites. Too much thinking, too little writing. I took a look at my referrer logs this morning to find an interesting query. Someone got here searching for anything interesting. However, less than an hour after I found myself at number 895 of 899, I had disappeared completely from the list. I wonder less about the mysteries of google than I worry about the boredom of someone who would scroll through nine hundred items of such a broad search to get here. After talking in depth about Thomas Bewick’s wildlife illustrations last night in my document design class, I was not surprised to find that artwork of an animal nature ranks number one in the crowded search for anything interesting.
I used to love to get lost in a crowd. Crowds are lakes filled with self-organizing pools of activity. For some reason, I started to think about Lake Isabella. I drove there when I was feeling restless. At the lake, unless it was a particularly windy day, the surface was always smooth. It was too small to feel the pull of the moon. Underneath its surface there are two towns, Kernville and Isabella. Lake Isabella is an artificial lake flooded by a dam. The towns still exist in new versions— they just moved. The guitarist for the Doors, Robbie Krieger, lived in Kernville for a while. I also remember the Hendrix song Izabella. It’s a minor classic, and it seems to reflect a sympathy for returning soldiers from Vietnam— “I’m fighting this war for the children and you / And if this war we’ve been fightin’ is true / Soon I’ll be holding you instead of this machine gun.” So often, we miss the ambiguity of fighting a war fueled with hate for love.
I desperately want to believe that deep inside the crowd, there is some kind of love. But humanity is so wide, and so deep, and all we really see is the shallow edge of the lake. That’s where the shallowness and turbulence is. On the edge the water to stirs, beating against the things that stand in the way. It’s shallow, and if you look beneath the surface, you can see what is making it happen. Silt dredged up from the depths makes it difficult and murky, but if you look carefully underneath there are stones. I love to listen to people’s stories. Sometimes, people throw them like stones.
When you see people interacting in groups you see why they gravitate to some people, and avoid others. It’s a game of relationships, a game of value— not just a game of power. Both power and value can be difficult things to see on the shallow end. You try to trust the depths, but you see the pettiness on the edge. Inside everyone, there are broken and jagged stones, waiting to snag you. There are currents that can trap you, and pull you down with them in dangerous riptides. The larger the crowd, the stronger the tide. In might be the pull of the moon. The world is both wide and deep. So are people.
Dr. Barb was arguing with me about me being smart. She said that it wasn’t just that I was well read, but that I put things together in ways that other people didn’t. That’s what being smart is supposed to be. I never looked at the lake as carefully as I looked at crowds. Maybe I should have, but I never felt love from a stone. I always found that crowds were a more fertile ground to find anything interesting than animals, rocks, and trees.