Monday, May 28, 2012

Remember-ies or More Footprints, Please

In the Western Way of thinking, we strive to make our mark. Whether we drunkenly etch the plaster of a gas station restroom, buy a $250 brick at the zoo, or chisel a relocated hunk of super-hard stone, we want a permanent record of our time. We want the world to know:

I. Was. Here.

Which is a thought that depends on the concept of "I."

And who are you, really? What do you suppose we think when we read "Stinky was here" or "Josephine and Bruno love hippos" or "Custer last stood here"? We wonder why you took the time to memorialize that moment. Was that the best BM you ever had, Stinky? Were you so busy loving hippos that you wanted us to know how you spent your Sundays? Or a really bass-ackwards memory of what happened in battle, memorialized from the loser's point of view (and obviously not by him?). Do you suppose we get a well-rounded sense of who you are/were?

We don't really do this with important memories, otherwise sites of important rituals would be graffitied like an elementary school desk. I can't imagine going back to the chapel where I was married and carving 'I was married here,' nor to a grocery store where I witnessed a crime as a child 'I saw my first gun here.' Is it about reminding us of who we are and how we are supposed to feel? Tricking ourselves into a sense of permanence?

Now through various forms of social media, we let everyone know where we are all the time. Did you forget about me? I'm at Denny's now! Now I'm getting an oil change! Now I'm going to yoga! Think of me as: a yogi who cares for her car and also appreciates Slams of all sorts.

Is that how we want to live our lives? Spending so much time telling everyone all of our insignificant blather that we can't make time to actually DO anything? Maybe that is how detectives want us to live our lives, and if you have the sense that your life is evolving into an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, please check in. At the fire station.

I want to know the stories behind who you are. The photos. I want to see that you climbed something fabulous, or spent a weekend learning how to lay carpeting, or reconnected with family you haven't seen in awhile. I want to see that you stood up for something you believed in, not that you "shared this if you think cancer stinks, too!" Perhaps it is the anthropologist in me, but I'd rather see a photo you left near the edge of a cliff to commemorate someone special. I'd rather find wisps of prayer flags and wonder who put them up and whether their grief is as tattered as the remaining flags. I'd like to see what you did, hear what you believed, and feel how you felt. Knowing you were here makes me feel a bit more confident as I wander willy-nilly through the strangeness of life.

Nothing gives me more confidence in living this life than the Laetoli footprints, left in sand or muck some odd million years ago by two beings, walking on two legs, hand in hand.

Maybe they loved hippos, or Slams, or futuristic battle stories. We'll never know. But their footprints tell us even more.

That they would rather walk together than wander alone.

And, that they were here. Sutras, 1.40.

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