Retirement is agreeing with me -- more than I ever expected. I feel like I have my head back a little. Even when I wasn't playing the game, it's amazing how much time I spent thinking about it. Derby isn't just a time-commitment. If you take it seriously, you become evangelical.
I don't have much affection for David Brooks, but I liked this bit from his recent New Yorker article:
“I’ve come to think that flourishing consists of putting yourself in situations in which you lose self-consciousness and become fused with other people, experiences or tasks. It happens sometimes when you are lost in a hard challenge, or when an artist or craftsmen becomes one with the brush or the tool. It happens sometimes when you’re playing sports, or listening to music or lost in a story, or to some people when they feel enveloped by God’s love. And it happens most when we connect with other people. I’ve come to think that happiness isn’t produced by conscious accomplishments. Happiness is a measure of how thickly the unconscious parts of our minds are intertwined with other people and with activities. Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through covertly every day and year.”
I read this on Saturday, swinging in a hammock, outside the Integratron in Joshua Tree, following a moment of profound disconnectedness from other people. I had bought tickets to see Gregorian chanting in the desert and instead I got a choir of assholes who couldn't actually sing. They came outfitted in blond dreadlocks, five-finger running shoes and gauged earlobes. I got Orientalism and inauthenticity. I got a woman plucking away at an instrument that looked sort of like a sitar but wasn’t exactly a sitar. I got a round room, a dome designed as a beacon for UFOs, crammed full of new age yuppies perched on Navajo blankets and yoga mats holding their hands over their hearts. There was cuddling and there was singing, but nothing that resembled Gregorian chanting.
The point of this event was connection, I presume. A meditation on friendship and peace. But as I looked around the room and saw so many self-satisfied 30-somethings sitting in lotus position, I was filled with hate. I'm pretty sure this was not the emotion the organizers of this event intended for me to experience, and I didn't want to be feeling it, either. I was getting skeeved out by my own negativity and judgment. I felt consumed by self-consciousness and the overwhelming desire too flee. I felt bad for bringing my friends to this place.
It was the poetry that finally sent me running for the Joshua trees: A woman stood and recited an ode to a cactus -- an homage to both the painful and prickly exterior and the oh-so-soft and sweet center. Couldn't we see? They were both of equal value! This was supposed to be a revelation, and so I stood, crawled down the ladder and exited the Integratron. I made my way to the Hammock Village and opened my New Yorker as a sad rendition of "Amazing Grace" pored from the dome, saturating the desert. I flipped the pages. But I was OK again: happy to be in the desert, in a hammock, in the sun, reading something. I was happy that I wouldn't have skate practice tomorrow, or the day after that or the day after that. And when the singing stopped and my friends scattered from the dome looking like they'd witnessed an atrocity, I was grateful for them.
"This why I hate white people," Adriana said. "This is why there is war."
When you walk away from the Integatron, you face a giant mirror. The four of us stood before it.
"Maybe we should take off our clothes and masturbate?" I suggested.
In the car, during the 2.5 drive through the desert back to L.A., we discussed blowjobs, food and Crass (among other things). We were connected. The information and affection flowed, covertly, and we were in a better place.