Star Ford

Essays on lots of things since 1989.

My life in the city

I’ve often had to ask myself, What is the path from here to there? Particularly about the question of how do I turn my shallow modern lifestyle around and live a life of depth in natural harmony. I’ve tried getting involved in politics, getting married, starting a new career, and gardening, and none of these really changed anything because they are all Things in the way of the spirit, and not ways of the spirit. As a natural planner/engineer, I divided up “the problem” of community into steps. Some of the completely logical steps that I have taken were to buy a set of apartments, form a cohousing group, work from home, join a home schooling group… all steps towards that elusive “sense of community” that people love to talk about. Again, all Things, and burdensome ones. None of them worked.

When events of my custody battle forced me to drop all my plans and live without plans, some of those Things that were cluttering my life fell away, and I’m no longer taking those logical steps. In fact, I watch TV a lot and drive more than ever before, and it looks like I’m taking steps away from that goal of a life of depth and harmony. I’ve been eating hot dogs regularly, cutting way back on the tofu. I marvel as I watch myself Americanizing. I pay to use an electric dryer in the summer, and pay again to remove the heat produced by the dryer from my apartment with an air conditioner, and pay again to remove the heat generated by the air conditioner as it works to remove the heat from the dryer, and so on and so on. It’s like trying to fathom the size of an electron. The bizarre ways Americans do things and what we do and don’t do are mind-boggling even as I live the lifestyle. And I think about what most people do all day: shuffle papers, build weapons, and control other people’s behavior (media, schools).

In my plan-free hot-dog-based urban transition period, I’ve noticed more what is going on right now. There has been a little community and depth with the craziness. It isn’t so elusive when I find it here and now, but when I plan for it, it recedes into the future. People come to go swimming. (And yes, I serve hot dogs.) I walked over to Starbucks and cried over fairy tales in the atrium of the Hyatt. I’ve written music. We played leap frog in the park with all the random kids who were there. The spirit is actually with me, and here is that sense of community, now. It comes nearer when I go away from what makes sense. We are together even in my upscale apartment and even while commuting in my Volkswagen, and even though this lifestyle is on the brink of insanity in every other respect.

I have learned that the following are not preconditions to finding depth in relationships: (1) the environment; (2) the other person. They matter, but even these seemingly “central” aspects of life are just some of the ways of the spirit, and if I mistake them for Big Things, they become clutter.

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