I am a property owner in this place. It’s a humongous sprawling suburb in the global village, a hernia of history ballooning out of World War II. Its mailboxes are now being stuffed with letters from the AARP, the governing body of the entire universe.
I became a citizen of Boomerville in 1948 when it was a sprawling frontier town mushrooming over the brink of a wide-open, unknown future. It stood at the gleaming border of an old world built on the small farm, the classical education, and a concept of honor that permeated family, society, business, war, and even crime.
Things are different now. In the short span of fifty years that honor became a dodo bird. It didn’t get out of our way fast enough so we hastily bludgeoned it and then shot it to rags with Henry Ford mass-marketed machineries that began, for us, by putting a Red Ryder BB gun in every household in America.
Today the farmer’s kids are working in a monstrous chicken-gutting plant south of town, and glad of it. Universities teach on a fiscal planet now, and most degrees are given for mastering the history, math, literature, astrology and dianetics of cash flow. The family is a second-class social unit. Now our jobs absorb us. They give us identity, define us, and explain our presence on the planet. Our churches tell us that we can install a handle on God and tip him over like a pitcher and pour wealth into our lives. I haven’t quite gotten that one right yet, but I’m visualizing the hell out of it.
Today packs of lawyers roam our streets representing our interests unbidden. Somehow they manage to purchase the high legal ground on our behalf with “class action suits”, a misnomer if ever I heard one, because there’s nothing classy about it. Basically, they extort large amounts of cash from all of us by applying a jimmying tool to 1) a corporate vault, which later is refilled by higher prices and lower wages, and 2) the scales of justice. After extracting a modest stipend for their efforts– usually between ten million and a grillion dollars each– these legalistic burglars distribute the balance evenly back to the rest of us. This is ordinarily more than a nickel but less than thirteen cents. Plus, there is often an attached privilege. I was once able to pay six more months of medical insurance to the same company rather than a different company. It made a tremendous difference in my life.
So here we are in our own post-Orwellian apocalyptic world. We have become a formidable demographic market capable of puking galactic quantities of cash into shopping malls. We are able to make small lawyers leap into large anonymous offshore bank buildings in a single bound. We can gut ten thousand chickens an hour and build our houses ten feet apart in perfectly straight rows fifteen miles long. We can pinpoint our position on the planet “24/7” with GPS systems. Why we are anywhere at any given time is explained not by philosophy or prayer, but by e-mail. The fault lies no longer in our stars or in ourselves, it’s in our internet service provider. And instead of having to watch paint dry we can stare at computer monitors and track our mailed packages from point to point around the globe. It’s a wonderful life.
Not! Duh. At least I’m not jiggy with it. It’s all a strange hive-metamorphosis, a revolution gone bad, a revolting development. Some days I have the sudden feeling that, like a jackrabbit in Idaho, the headlights I have finally noticed on the street where I live are probably not bearing down on me with any really terrifically good news.
But I’m not here to complain, not really. OK, so maybe the planet has gotten a little grungy and crowded and shop-worn supporting our social order here in Boomerville, but hey–
a) Somebody would have done it sometime anyway, so why not us, you know?
b) We wanted to make a difference, right? Well, we have.
And most importantly, c) We can always laugh.
And when we’re gone our children will remember the good humor we displayed in the face of our daunting task, which was to forget over six thousand years of accumulated human wisdom, plunder the planet, and bequeath to all who follow us a fine selection of level 5 bio-viruses and smart bombs with which to continue. Not to mention the multitude of high-rise condominium-warrens, work cubicles and just this really remarkable imbalance of wealth that either puts you out in the gentrified countryside or into the American third world experience.
I think it all goes back to the mass-media-marketed Red Ryder BB gun. Remember? Our mothers told us we would surely put our eye out with one of those things. They would have done better to warn us that the whole mechanism would knock our lights out if we weren’t careful.
The Incredible Shrinking Brain
Men’s brains are shrinking faster than women’s brains in Boomerville. This makes men grumpy and women, once again, correct. Science has finally caught up to what everybody else already knew: namely, that compared to the feminine brain the male brain is most suitable for hanging in front of a bird house like any other suet-ball.
The news arrived in our latest Reader’s Digest, a publication with a long-standing, intimate experience with all sorts of shrinkage– the brain sort being just one flavor in their total product line. In years past these folks devoted themselves to shrinking books, and got pretty good at preserving a story line while cutting away all that literary stuff that clutters up most books. They were the publishing industry’s version of Classic Comics, with no pictures. This was directly related to brain shrinkage, because when we no longer had to put so many words into our brains our brains didn’t have to be so big. So they shrunk.
But even though our capacity shrunk as a result of this lack of literary back-pressure we were still young and relatively empty-headed. In the resulting drought of words to funnel into our melons we turned to pictures, which were easier to pour into our skull-space and took up even less room. And so a few of us were able to shrink our brains years earlier than our peers by obsessing on Classic Comics. This was the equivalent of jumping three spaces ahead on the old game board of life, and put a lucky few just that much closer to the real goal. Which, according to Reader’s Digest, guys, is apparently to arrive at our dotage with shrunken brains which are only able to absorb large-print Classic Comic editions of The Reader’s Digest, (Condensed Version).
I would just like to mention in passing here that in my opinion the comic version of Ivanhoe is still the definitive work. And it takes up absolutely zero volume in my cerebral warehouse, because I have completely forgotten what it was about. I just remember it was good. Sort of. What I mean is, it was sort of good, and I sort of remember it.
Most folks think Reader’s Digest is a benign and harmless bathroom magazine, a bland successor to The Saturday Evening Post, Boy’s Life, or the Crime Gazette. Not so. At our house we have a policy; nobody reads the Digest unless they’re in tip-top condition on all fronts. Mentally, morally, spiritually, physically, nutritionally, and self-image-wise. Be advised. When you enter those innocent-looking pages you need to be right and ready and locked and loaded, or you will be unmercifully dismembered by a no-nonsense journalistic devotion to the hard and horrible.
If, for instance, you found the power-mulcher scene in the movie “Fargo” too intense– the one where a disgruntled and annoyed fellow paints a snowbank a brilliant shade of gore with some art supplies he finds laying around the place– then do NOT read the Digest. The movie scene was fiction. The Digest actually finds and reprints articles about real people who have been sucked through everything from power-mulchers to jet engines and allows us to accompany them blade by gear by steam piston from that first chagrined two-word thought (you know which one I mean) all the way to the other end of whatever maniacal machine they have mistakenly trifled with. And beyond. You share in bone grafts, tendon stapling, and stitch-counts that have to be tabulated by insurance company actuaries. It is not a literary environment for sissies. Get my drift?
Speaking of which, where was I? Oh yeah. The shrinking Boomerville male brain. I forget what that was all about, but if you’re interested it’s probably available in a magazine on a toilet tank near you. I have to stop now. I’ve emptied too many words out of my head. I have a decompression cramp.
Sunday in Boomerville
We’re religiously tolerant here in Boomerville because for the most part we stay away from that sort of thing. It’s not that we don’t have spiritual beliefs– we do. It’s just that over the years we’ve become wary of organized religion as the place to practice those beliefs. We believe, we pray, we practice. What we don’t do, majority-wise, is susbscribe to a dues-paying club in order to make these connections.
Church is a competitive business, and the competition is stiff. They have to compete with my tight fist for the dollar clutched within, they have to compete with one another. We really don’t like most sorts of coercive sales techniques– we’ve had to employ them in our own other, more mundane pursuits, and have guilt and smarts as a result. We have developed a suspicion that attending church is probably more like buying a used car than sending e-mail to the Creator.
November in Boomerville: Gore, Bush and the Supremes
The winds of November are blowing hard through Boomerville this year. Our elected representatives represent us too well; they have decided that, like themselves, we want what we want and we want it all– our way and now. In that illusion they see a mandate. And so political affiliation defines right action; “Spin” is King, and justice dangles in the docket. Constitutional crisis looms; the law is lynched in the pursuit of unenlightened self-interest; things fall apart, the center cannot hold, and rough beasts lurch through Tallahassee for points north.
Or maybe not.
It’s certain that selfish partisanship leers broadly from our television screens and media these days, and the higher ground of impartial ajudication is poorly defended. But beyond the current posturing and obvious screaming plunge from grace a hard landing looms, and with it valuable lessons. It will not matter one whit then who is president, or how they got there.
What will matter is of much greater interest and import than the circus before us now. In the retrospective view questions will be asked and answered, and judgements rendered more soundly based in fact. Higher principles will be recalled that supercede the shifty rules of hacks and PACs employed unchecked and unexamined. God is not mocked for long, nor the spirits of Jefferson, Hamilton, and the founding fathers. A Sermon of Reckoning is coming, and on that sunday the naughty boys and girls will be shamed, the righteous upheld, the self-righteous cast down. Partisanship and its patented exclusions will reek to high heaven, and an inclusive embrace of impartial True Justice will rise from the wilderness and restore sanity to our fallen national consciousness.
Or maybe not.