mourning…that place where nature wasn’t so sweet after all, becoming intimately aware of her evil half, that place where everyone eventually got ground down into their molecular makeup and returned to the soil. Maybe that was why we carelessly plowed down the trees and paved over the planet, hoping to live in denial by creating a safe place we could live in forever – creating heaven on earth and accomplishing the opposite instead: slowly developing a hell where few if any could survive. Maybe that was why heaven was so often depicted as clean, free of trees, bugs, soil – even color – just an endless cloud of pure whiteness.
What could be worse than an eternity of whiteness? The insanity of unimaginable dullness and boredom somehow representing a place of comfort, a place to rest, the homogeneity presumably counteracting the chaos of a long life – the ultimate comfort zone.
A place I’ve spent too much time in. A friend recently asked who my favorite writers were, and at first I was reluctant to answer – there were too many, and favorite depended on my mood, where I was in my life – the answer to the question would never be the right answer, it fluctuated, but when pressed I mentioned a few old favorites that immediately came to mind, Raymond Carver always leading the top of my list, Cormac McCarthy (mostly for The Road), Bukowski, Thom Jones, and of course, Denis Johnson for my all-time favorite collection of short stories, Jesus’ Son.
So all white guys, she said.
Yes, and before she could say it, I added, but that doesn’t make me prejudice. I enjoy other writers, minority writers, who show me other experiences and may actually be better than some on my list, I just relate more to the white male writers and their familiar experiences and lifestyles. It would be prejudicial for me to say they were better, but that’s not the case. You didn’t ask me who the best were, but who my favorites were. I understand them more; and I tend to write in a similar way.
They’re in your comfort zone.
Yeah, I guess that’s what it comes down. I’m comfortable with them. As I bet you have a list of female writers who speak to you more.
She nodded. She couldn’t deny it.
Meanwhile nature explodes into an almost infinite variety. Is there anything more glorious than a table chock-full of various fruits and veggies and delectable delights? How many times have we said it: the more the better? That’s true of almost anything. We’re healthier on a varied diet from the abundance of nutrients, always experimenting with different foods, wines, teas; loving the variety of flora and fauna that nature creates. We like to have our choices in mates, the arts, in literature, music, shoes, homes, cars, friends; I love living in the city for all the diversity and culture, it’s a jungle in its own way, and get my fix of nature from Lake Michigan and its ever changing moods. Then we fall back to our comfort zones, our labels (democrat, conservative, vegan, environmentalist, religious affiliation, NASCAR enthusiast), those people we’re most comfortable with because they’re like-minded. If only everyone would think like me, the world would be a better place, if only we were all Christians; or all Muslims; or vegans; or spiritually-seeking latte drinkers. If only we could bomb others until they behaved as we do. Imagine the dullness.
How do we overcome this natural tendency, being more comfortable with what’s familiar, people who look and act like we do, like monkeys in the wild – every species striving to perpetuate its own kind, ignorant that it flourishes due to the abundance of its surrounding species, competing to dominate its environment and eliminate the other, unknowingly trying to die through its own success?
America the melting pot – ethnicities largely separated into their own habitats, trying to make it work and often failing, the subtle and not so subtle evidence of racism, bigotry, homophobia (in all their forms) still popping up like an endless game of whack-a-mole: a slur here, a cracker there, the occasional hate message or inappropriate political sign. Failing to evolve. Failing to rise above our comfort zones while ignoring the obvious: nature thrives with ecological diversity, from variety and abundance, and suffers from individualism, or the uniformity of mob mentality, until it’s eventually humbled by the forces of balance.