knowing and understanding

As I stroll up San Antonio Road, I notice the changes that have taken place, as well as finally perceiving those things that I noticed but never understood during those six years that I faithfully travelled its path. Old homes, which I would never describe as charming, have given way to newly-built ones. Perhaps the former owners, realizing the potential of their property, decided to cash in, happily packing their bags and everything else before moving on. And in the same manner, bulldozers rolled in, paving over the chocolate-brown earth that once was mostly orchards.

There is a strip mall feel to parts of the town, though I blush at the mere thought of juxtaposing Los Altos with strip mall, after all this is a town where homes are worth a million dollars and up. No, this place is not congenial to a strip mall; somewhere else, yes — the town next door certainly.

On the usual corner lies my old Jr. High, a transformed edifice slumbering over its sprawling fields of green and dappled tawny yellow. In its midst rises a two story building, an awkward monstrosity, perhaps a coincidental and jocular simulacrum of the pubescent acne-devilled children that inhabit its interior. And the portables that once housed these same pre-teens are now reconstituted into a charter school inhabited by small children. Small beasts that have recently shed the past beauty of the early years of childhood, but are not yet tarnished by the hideous mien that is most elegantly described as man’s nature.

I am instantly forced to recall my childhood. A strange phase when everything was enough and awe-inspiring. It was not a world of gigantic proportions, simply unimaginable or incomprehensible, but of palpable limitations. Now, that I, that being that I once was is lost — he is ostensibly a mere illusion. My mind is shrouded in doubt: was I ever that way? Of course, this question is equally applicable to most things in my past. Did I ever love him? Then again, everything is easier to grasp and understand in retrospect.

I bite my lip as I come upon this incredible discovery: we are no better than chickens. These wretched creatures lead a miserable existence. I would go as far as to say it is an unnatural one, for to live in captivity is surely anything but natural. Yet we too are captives, trading one cell for another. We awake to the comfort and safety of our respective room; however, charming is a qualifier, not part of the reality or essence of the room — a prison. From here we proceed to penetrate the labyrinth of the home, composed of a multitude —if we are fortunate — of other equally banal cells. They say a man’s home is his castle; I say it is his prison.

From the home, we make our way into that bizarre and portable prison that is the car. And how many minutes if not hours are spent within its bowels, slowly rotting away, sometimes even dying? So we whittle our life away, piecemeal, calling our wasting commuting — a necessity.

I never cease to be amazed by this wonderful contraption, especially when it serves as a patina of expressions. After all, we live in a time when everyone has an opinion but also a right to express his opinion (but how easy it is to come upon opinions, facts on the other hand…). Thus we are informed of someone’s opposition to the war, i.e, Iraq War, his support for a free Tibet (the Dalai Lama’s PR has created a magnificent and benevolent image for him in the West), or my personal favorite, support for keeping Tahoe blue. This is my favorite bumper sticker cause, for it is almost always on the bumper of an SUV. Contrary to popular belief, Lake Tahoe is not an isolated and independent phenomenon, it is part of a greater ecosystem. So I laugh at such stupidity, but it is a bitter laugh, one of hopelessness and sadness.

Then from the prison of the car we proceed to other prisons, e.g., work, and so forth. Our voluntary incarceration is facultative and perfunctory, and in its quotidian aspect lies its verisimilitude of freedom. Such a realization is sublime and from it proceeds such unhappiness.