Ever lived in a busy city long enough to know how it works?
The busiest times in a city are the mornings and the evenings – the peak hours, we call them, as if there exists within them, some element of greatness. Identity-rid people become busy moving from one place to another to become busy at a place for some time, and then become busy getting back to where they started. And the futile cycle continues. Yet there is a marked difference in the morning peak and the evening peak. The morning – if you have lived in a city long enough – is a concentrated peak, almost with a sense of purpose. Fresh, eager, singular and directed. The evening peak is somewhat different. It is less heavy than the morning and it is scattered. It is relatively aimless, allowing for a slight delay – possibly searching for comfort, taking time to reflect on the day. It is dispersed, even, because the evening can take you many places. And man really wants to go many places.
It might be obvious to imagine that there is a greater sense of purpose in the morning – the focus of it all, yet the commute actually fructifies in the evening. Having been at a place all day long, possibly doing the same things repeatedly, it is the evening that sets you free and the prickly clothes of an otherwise imposed purpose are discarded. The naked mind now becomes free to wander, explore and reflect. It is a time to walk without duress in the open fields of possibility.
You don’t have to be a commuter to experience it all. Stand with your eyes closed staring out of the bedroom window not looking at anything or stare at the screen that offers radiating superficial solace, the same message keeps coming back at you. Let the countenance of your face remain the same, yet when that solitary tear makes its slow descent down the hump of your cheek, you know that the purpose that wakes you in the morning is not your own. Yet, so chained you are by the sense of purpose that you rarely question its relation with you or even its own sense of belonging.
When I first heard Sal say:
Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child believing in everything under your father’s roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life. (Jack Kerouac, On the Road)
I was lost for a long time, on the road myself (albeit a different one) so much so that I had to let go of the book because the immense empty weight of that statement immobilised me. The answer, when it came to me, was simpler than I expected.
The blindness of sweet misery binds us in believing in the false achievement of which we dream of in a waking state. That is the nightmare life that Sal felt. And we get used to it. We live that life in an infinite daydream, making millions of small compromises and celebrating victories that do not move us ahead even an inch. It is a recurrent struggle to perdition. Someday when the evening questions us about what we started the morning with, an honest answer will help. While the answer may be anything, it will be redemption.
That answer will release the morning and make it pure and positively vigorous.
When the evening knows why the morning was, now, that would be a nice day.