I remember once, a very long, long time ago, in a far-off corner of the universe, there was this young guy. Just an ordinary guy, I guess, about 24 years old. He survived the miseries of childhood and adolescence with all the scars and inner turmoil that were prerequisite components of growing up the 1970s in New York City. He had made it through the bong-blowing, violence-ridden hell of his youth with his vital innards more-or-less intact and was just starting to come into his own during the time of the actor-king in the slick, superficial, days of excess and over-indulgence.
He was thin, had an abundance of hair on the top of his head, and, amazingly, looked moderately fashionable in the cool, sleek, retro styles of the 80s, especially after all those years of being compelled to wear the unearthly and unnatural fibers of Discotopia. No longer the skinny geek, he had filled out just enough to land dates with a crop of fascinating, if slightly off-kilter, women—the amazon twin who towered high above him and her equally massive sister, the insane, obsessive Aryan bakery heiress with her delicious neurotic twitch, the uptight Catholic high-priestess of respectability and virginal purity …and, of course, the wild, neo-flower child from the North Shore, who was occasionally accessible, but always just slightly out of his reach. He loved all these fabulous women and some of them even loved him, and they all laughed and partied into the wee small hours of the beer-soaked night in smoky dens of unadulterated inhibitionism.
He had his own tenement apartment in the Bronx with sweet urine-scented hallways, fresh brown running water, and smoke encrusted walls—a virtual paradise at only $180 a month. On holidays he traveled with friends to Peru, Belgium, Paris, Italy….wherever the hell he wanted to go, ‘cause there was no one to tell him any longer how to live his life. And he snapped photos of ugly people with beautiful, sublime faces, because he understood intuitively that, in the transcendent realm that awaited him, hideousness and beauty were but dual manifestations of the same perfect reality.
He was, in short, young, foolish, slightly imprudent, and completely free…a recipe for happiness if ever there was one.
But soon wanton livin’ in gritty tenement paradise inevitably gave way to thoughts of a career at a “respectable” institution, with job-security, a 401K plan, and a substantial home in the “right” community far away from the chaotic energy of the decaying city. And he became a paragon, an upright citizen, a homeowner, a role model for wayward youth, and career guy who always did just slightly more than was asked of him. He even went to the temple of the divine manifestation, pretending to be intrigued by the idiotic mumbo-jumbo that passed from the lips of Yama’s holy representative on earth. And, in a sign of his own wisdom, he quickly learned to excel at the kind of fabrication and crass servility that is expected of those who wish to succeed in our cellophane-wrapped, image-obsessed little world.
If you met him on the street you would think to yourself, “What a swell guy; how happy he must be.” And, except in the rare moments when he was capable of being totally and completely honest with himself, he might have even agreed with those sentiments. “Life is super-wonderful-terrific!” he would often think to himself, especially in those unsettling nanoseconds when true self-conscious awareness threatened to emerge from his dormant spirit to dampen the keen fabulousity with which he was expected to greet each and every day.
That man, alas, died a sad and tragic death—a victim of his own sterile conformist sensibilities. One day, as he was fixing his ever-so-proper paisley tie around his ever-so-proper 15 inch neck, preparing for yet another soul-deadening day in surburblandia, the life energy inside of him simply gave up and he crumbled to the ground in a twisted heap. There he laid for five years, two months and twenty days, as family and friends stepped over him, barely noticing the rigor mortus setting into his decaying body. Nobody commented on his rotting remains, because to do so would be to commit the unpardonable sin of acknowledge that something—anything—was wrong with the picture perfect universe in which they all resided. “He’s just tired,” they said to themselves, even as the putrid contents of his bowls emptied themselves over his remains. “Pewww,” said little Johnny, “Daddy needs to take a bath!” “He sure does,” Johnny’s mom laughed. “Silly daddy!” At least they were able to use his body as a stylish coffee table upon which to play fun family board games.
But the seed of his younger self managed to survive somehow within his withered corpse and reemerged suddenly and quite unexpectedly on that very day when the Cathedral of Corporate Corpulence came crashing to the ground. Amidst the fire and rubble, he suddenly awoke, discovering that he no longer recognized the world in which he was formerly a part. After the conflagration, everything around him seemed so petty, so shallow, so exceedingly small, that he wondered if he had not somehow been resurrected in a weird parallel universe. But the world had not changed; he had changed. And there was simply no going back to the life he had before.
So he did what all men do who find themselves reborn after years and years of stultifying get-along-ness. He began to rebel. You wouldn’t notice that he was any sort of rebel from the way he dressed or even from his outward mode of behavior—that would have been far too obvious. The real change occurred deep inside him, in the vast recesses of his long forgotten soul. For you see, my friends, this one small, insignificant man, for the first time in his life, began to understand the awesome power of artful indifference—indifference to the conformist expectations of the larger society which render human beings pawns to the whims of market forces; indifference to the externally imposed, but often arbitrary, ideas of right and wrong which had guided him his entire life; indifference to silly threats spouted by the high priests of eternal damnation in the fiery underworld for those who defied the Yama’s eternal laws. None of this affected him any longer.
Then one monumental day, as all of humanity looked on with horror, he sat down, kicked up his feet, and licked his toffee ice cream, completely oblivious to everyone and everything around him. “This ice cream sure is swell,” he thought to himself. “I think I’ll write a poem about it.” And that’s just what he did.
With that one thought, time stopped, the world collapsed in on itself, and all life in the galaxy was suddenly extinguished. What reason was there, after all, for any of it to continue? After billions of years, the entire meaning of the universe had finally been realized with the wanton lick of an ice cream cone on a balmy summer day.