Let’s talk about movement. We do a lot of it–sometimes. I blame the internet and airplanes. That cliched phrase that nobody uses anymore: “the world is your oyster” is basically the Schrodinger’s cat of cliches: it’s both true, and false at the same time..
I can go anywhere without being a mega rich guy. I can be as culturally impermanent, or informed as I want to be. All I have to do first is subject myself to is a brisk frisking by some dude at an airport who makes sure I don’t have any groin bombs tucked under my dingle-berries. A fair compromise. I don’t know what the Tea Party is so butthurt about. I flew across the country on June 18th 2013, with a suitcase and a pocket full of dreams. I moved from Maine to San Francisco. In a handful of hours, I had myself a new life.I was living kinetic energy and “the world was my oyster.”
As mobile as I can be, I can also go nowhere. I can sit in my apartment and hop between digital worlds. As a voyeur, I find home easily looking through the window of video entertainment. Mad Men, The Sopranos, 30 Rock… why risk walking out the front door and getting killed by a drunk driver when I can sit at home and grow simultaneously more and less comfortable each day? I can play games– with myself, or with others. My laptop screen shapeshifts from a window into a door, and I waste innumerable hours scoring triple kills and exploring cities that aren’t real. Games and movies and television shows, books and magazines and newspapers. I am the sole resident in the capital city of my imaginary universe. When I hold a controller, I am in control. I accumulate more and more stuff: bandages for my injured pride. Every time I venture onto facebook to see what my old friends are up to, I’m confronted with the unexaggerated success stories of people who were once on my level. They walked out the front door–the real one that leads to the street. They walked down the street and LAUGHED at the possibility of being struck down by a drunk driver. This was me for about the first three months of my ‘new life’ in California–where I knew nobody, and had basically nothing. I was living potential energy, and “the world was not my oyster.” I lived this way until I had less than a dollar in my savings account, and finally, I had to walk out the front door.
There are two kinds of energy: kinetic, and potential. You can probably guess by the respective lengths of the past two paragraphs which I’m more familiar with. I thought about having this sentence (yes this one) read: “this is a transitional time, where reality hasn’t quite caught up with technology,” but I changed my mind, because that sentence doesn’t mean anything, and because it’s probably never been any different.
Woe is me in the present, blessed am I the past, and merciful be the future to me. There are two kinds of energy in the world. I learned all about them in 9th grade science: potential and kinetic energy. Believe it or not, this actually means something outside the nerdy comparison I’m making to real life. Kinetic energy is finite, and once it’s used up, it returns to potential energy. Potential energy, though comforting and safe, is only potential because it has the capacity for movement. It’s unremarkable and impressive how aptly comparable my life is to a stone on a mountaintop. I waited for an avalanche, but all I got was a drop. the decimal point in my bank account was the gust of wind that threw me off the cliff.
I walked down the street. I got on the bus. I didn’t get killed. I expanded my locus of control every day, venturing a few blocks closer to other people. I settled down at H&M as a sales associate, and here I am. I’ll be the first to admit that I made a mistake: I’ve been waiting for an avalanche to carry me to greatness, but I was wrong about my life being like a stone over thousands of years: I can move. I can throw myself against a cliff face, until the avalanche comes, but it won’t be an avalanche I rode into greatness, it will be MY avalanche. This is why my life matters. The next time I sit in a chair in the sky watching whatever Ben Stiller movie nobody ever wanted to see, I’ll feel the way I ought to feel: powerful beyond measure, because I can go anywhere. I’ve found a new life in an alien place.
If a sensitive shut-in like me can do it, so can you.