November 20, 2006

Surreal Life

For a brief moment, everything around you which was previously familiar and comfortable seems new and unknown. It’s like flipping into the middle of a television show which you’ve never seen before. Or walking into someone else’s home for the first time. Except this is your home. It is a rare moment of clarity and curiosity when you see things without the baggage behind them. You see the furniture and the art without knowing where it came from, the colors without knowing why they were chosen, and the books on the shelves without knowing the reviews. And then the feeling is gone.

Yesterday, I went to see a movie sponsored by Nebraska Emerging Green Builders and the Flatwater Chapter U.S. Green Building Council. It was called “The End of Suburbia,” a documentary commentary on the error of American suburban lifestyle in the face of dwindling energy supplies. Without a doubt, it is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Even if overly pessimistic, which I am not too sure it is, it paints a bleak picture. It makes me realize how artificial our lifestyle, my lifestyle, really is.

artificial – false – fake – mock – reproduction – non-natural – synthetic – simulated – imitation – man-made – pretend – insincere – contrived – feigned – hollow – surreal

The buildings in which we live are built in layers. The solid brick wall isn’t solid at all. It’s brick veneer with an air space behind it, flashing, concrete block, studs, insulation, drywall, and paint. That wall doesn’t even support the structure, which is depending on an invisible steel frame to hold up the floors and the roof. We never see the things which really make our buildings work, the structure, the ducts, the pipes. We cover them up and hide them.

In our homes we surround ourselves with things to keep us busy, so we can sit on our couches. I have a television, but just in case nothing good is showing, I have a VCR and a DVD player. I have a stereo so I can listen to the radio and a CD player when the music I want to listen to isn’t on the air. I have a computer with more music, dozens of different programs, and internet access. One of the most used functions of this powerful machine is solitaire. I have shelves full of books, novels, architecture, philosophy, mythology, history, city planning, interior design, cookbooks, and home reference. Some of them I haven’t even read, but I’m always looking for more when I’m at the book store. I have a telephone so I can call someone to chat if I’m bored.

There are so many options, so many choices, so many things. Human beings have built all of them. Beyond the objects are the games we play in our minds. Everything is so simple, but we insist on making it complex, only to help us realize it really is just that simple. Even the most complicated philosophy or religion can be summed up in a few sentences. Ironically, those sentences all tend to say the same things. Yet, thousands of years of discussion and writings have been done over and over again to help us ‘get it.’

Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.

Life is but a dream.

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