why a D Rex does, part 2: levitation

Once upon a time, there was a Mask with a ravenous hunger, that ate everything in the universe, until, finding nothing left, it consumed its own body, from the bottom up. Struggling to chew with and consume its own lower jaw, the chewing eventually ceased, and finding its work finished, the Mask found for itself a new task: staring ceaselessly ahead in astonishment.

But the world began again and grew on the Mask, which I found staring out at me from a case in the St. Louis Art Museum. From its gaze I, at least in part, gathered the determination to go on with my trip. I had arrived in St. Louis downhearted: feeling alone and altogether unequipped to deal with the impossibilities of the unfamiliar road ahead. I was probably 50/50 on whether I would go through with it or not.

I spent a lot of time at the museum, reflecting on where I was and where I was going: in life and in the world. I didn’t come to any conclusions, but I gained a lot of perspective.

Art comes from the care that is put into its creation. Its manifestations are hugely varied. For me, an object–a painting, a sculpture–a work of art–is a good forum for coming to understand the care that went into the artist’s contribution to my world. In the artworld of the museum or gallery, the art is the physical presence before me, with which I am interacting.

But art is much bigger than that. The coffee shop that I am sitting in right now, the Black Feather, is a fantastic work of art: the colors, furniture, food, and name chosen for it; the carport they’ve turned into a patio; the many plants that have been tended around and inside of it and given room to grow. This coffee shop has been cared for, and sitting inside of it, I feel that I am being cared for too. That is a work of art.

This city, Berea, is a work of art, too. What’s more, I think that I am coming to the realization that our culture, our civilization–be it American, or maybe something more, something global–is by-and-large a work of art too. For generations, we have been caring for and contributing to each other, and, as a result, we have come to this unique and rich moment in the human experience. A moment which has allowed me the opportunity to leave home–in many respects, for the very first time–to pursue my desire to travel, and yet never feel altogether alone or distant from my friends and loved ones. I believe we are blessed. And I admit it seems strange to say it, but we are blessed by satellites and cell phone towers. We are blessed by the progress of commerce and technology. At no other time in history has it been so easy and so natural to share our cares and our pursuits from one side of the globe to the other.

I believe that our culture is changing. That as we become empowered by the culture of communication, the culture of consumption is ending. That as our awareness increases, we will come to see our less savory habits for what they are. But it will take time.

I read an article recently about how some airlines were encouraging their pilots to make their flights with less gas reserves because the weight of carrying the extra fuel was a cost that could be cut. Carrying extra fuel requires the burning of extra fuel. The article struck me as a sort of parable in progress. It’s a safety precaution to carry extra fuel reserves, but at what point does the cost of carrying the extra fuel become more dear than the safety it provides? I certainly wouldn’t want to be a passenger in the plane that finds out. On the other hand, wars are fought over the provision of that extra fuel. How many lives were already lost for the provision of that weighty safety net?

I’m traveling by bike, but I’m aware of some of the moral compromises I’ve made in the course of my journey. I am against the raising and slaughter of animals in concentrated feed operations, but I’ve received a lot of calories on this trip as a result of those practices. Sometimes they were the only significant calories available. Sometimes I was just too hungry and lazy to avoid them. It’s something I need to work more at figuring out.

And that, right now, is a part of the art that I’m creating. My trip and the care that I take in all of its aspects, including this blog, is my contribution to the blessed world. I hope it is a positive contribution, and I hope that when it ends, it will help provide me with perspective to reach toward my next place in the work of our evolving culture. Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how much I enjoyed my time working for Jumpstart. I think I have figured out that I’m not meant for teaching in an early childhood facility, but I think I would really enjoy working for a nonprofit organization again.

For now, I am practicing a different role. Taking a cue from my friend Nick here in Kentucky, I have decided that while bike touring, it is best to become a superhero. Nick’s pseudonym is Pedal Tramp and his superpower is the ability to stop time. I am D Rex Bikeset (it’s like jetset, but on a bike) and, by swinging my legs wildly in concentric circles through the air, I can levitate.

Take that airplane! Take that heavy, heavy oil! D Rex Bikeset is in the air!

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One Response to “why a D Rex does, part 2: levitation”

  1. glenn gardner Says:

    Hey D Rex, I am almost sure you passed me on the MKT 2 weeks ago as you headed out of town, it was a saturday, am, and you were haulin… anyway – savor your experience because believe me, there are more than of a few of us who would like to be in your pedals… also your blog reminded me of a book I read in 1982 by William Least Heat (he actually used to teach writing at MU) about his travels in a van through the back roads of the US after his wife divorced him – entitled “Blue Highways” – great read… stay warm and stay in touch, Glenn

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