“A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson (1839)
The conformity of it all is satisfying and comforting, but something is lost. It’s group think manifest in cookie cutter conformity congealing into neighborhoods across America, as if all borne of the same mushroom, its spores cast in the wind across the continent. I derive some sense of relief from odd bits peculiar to the pattern.
Like the guy in front of me in what resembles a personal spacecraft made by a four year old. The back end covered sloppily with bumper stickers demanding action and pointing fingers at the usual figures of suspicion. Affixed to the hitch cover is a sticker that reads “Be Nice” in a font resembling child’s writing.
I can see through the rear window to notice the debris deposited along the top of the dashboard like the high tide line on a dirty beach. Small figurines and animals, bottle caps, seashells, feathers, a smudge stick of dried sage, and various grasses inserted here and there standing like small flagpoles. Along with a stash of other random pickings accumulated over the years.
The Toyota 4-Runner glides down the avenue with painted tires spinning in a blur of splattered color. Patches of over spray coat the rest of the vehicle in what looks like a terrible impression of a Pollock canvas.
That’s also why I appreciate, to some extent, seeing those derelicts beside the same busy four lane avenue, perched like two mangy buzzards atop an old pine stump on a dirt slope. I catch a brief split second view of them on my way home as I speed by only to brake into the corner a quarter mile past.
The stump couldn’t be more than three feet in diameter, yet they both crouch there as if joined at the hip. A shopping cart sits below them on the sidewalk stuffed and overflowing with indiscriminate possessions, as if they had just won a shopping spree in a thrift store.
One rests on his haunches hunched over poking the stump with a stray stick, the definition of aimless. And in his aimlessness there is a certain element of freedom from the pack that is appealing, if only for a moment.