The road to enlightenment is the one still traveled.
People sometimes tell me that I make things too complicated.
“Ah-hah!” I say to them when they do. “You’ve fallen into my trap!”
Or I would have done, if it had occurred to me, which it didn’t, because I practice the ancient art of retroactive wittiness, which does nobody any good except us now in this moment, which is a thought you can look back on and go, “Ah! I see what he did there.”
It’s a shame it never did, though, because it’s a good line, given the context that often surrounds the comment, since what I almost always actually say is, “Why? Do you have somewhere else to be?”
To which no one has ever said, “Yes. At the end of this story.” If anyone ever does, I may kiss them full on the mouth, because of being witty in the moment. A superpower which I have just mentioned I haven’t got.
Only I probably won’t do it, just think about it, for a similar reason as the power of retroactive wit that I mentioned above. I also tend toward a capacity for retroactive gestures. It might be that I hear you like Modest Mouse. Ten years later, you might find I give you for your birthday a dashboard bobble in the form of a small rodent in a conservative sweater, as a visual pun.
If we even live that long. I have this theory that nobody has actually been alive for ten years. What we think are years are just all our explanation for the time that must have passed in all the waiting rooms and traffic jams and Blues Traveler jam sessions. But that wasn’t real “time,” per se. Not your actual time, like with passage and things. That was an experience of touching eternity, which is where they keep all the endlessness in tidy little packages that go on forever.
The ironic thing about eternity that slips past most people, I think, is how you touch it.
The gurus in towels and body paint and very little else tell us that we can touch eternity by becoming enlightened. Which I think will turn out to be a translation error when it turns out that what they really meant by “enlightenment” was a longer phrase. What they meant was “the improbably long two minutes between gre-en lights. Erm…mint?” But because we were in a blazing hurry, we only caught the last few words before rushing over to the next guru, in case he had a more succinct answer.
Because, as they keep trying to tell us, “enlightenment” isn’t in the destination.
It’s in the journey.
Since traffic was invented slightly before travel¹, we’ve all been in touch with eternity for as long as we’ve been trying to get anywhere. That feeling like warm cotton balls with moths trying to get out of them that fills your head in traffic — you know that feeling? That’s enlightenment.
The only trouble is that if we ever stopped to think about this, then we will have made a Destination by sheer force of locational coincidence, and got ourselves out of touch with eternity.
This is the main reason that everyone begins planning to leave the moment they get anywhere. Subconsciously, we all recognize that the only true path to enlightenment is the one still traveled. Small children in particular feel keenly attuned to this reality, as many have observed before.
I can tell you want to get back on the road to enlightenment. I can see it in your eyes. I can see it in the way that your eyes always look behind me. I know what you see is the next step on your journey into yourself via the vehicle of rushing slowly onward with a hundred million other hopefuls down the standstill Freeway of Light and Car Exhaust. I get it that your “free time” here is really just an illusion. “Free time” and “conversation” and “entertainment” and “resting” are all just distractions from the real purpose in life: touching eternity.
I may make things too complicated. That may be true.
I may answer innocuous questions like, “You have long hair for a guy…I mean, I think you’re a guy…” and, “You know, you kind of jingle when you walk,” with answers that both ignore the lack of question mark and then begin with, “Well, in 1854…”
It may be that the aptest metaphor for my stories is, “Did anyone get the number on that Rube Goldberg machine that ran me over? It was just this unassuming switch when I first saw it…”
That may be true.
In which case, you can just call me Mr. Tempter-away-from-the-Path-of-Enlightenment-Guy.
See what I did there? Religiously neutral diabolical suggestion. Which is only polite, since it’s Easter.
¹But slightly after the first traffic-related accident, because when the first two Pedestrians With Intent To Travel tried to go the same way and began inconveniently near each other and, after impeding each other’s progress and engaging in a brief exchange², they knocked each other over, resulting in several bruised egos.
²Road rage predates all other travel-related paraphernalia.