Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rhizomatic Tendencies and the West

Late Day Light (M.A. Reilly, The Badlands, SD. 2010)

There's a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving. 
                               - Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, 1971


In 1893 when Frederick Jackson Turner said that the frontier had closed, he couldn't have been more wrong.

Closed for whom?  
Closed in what manner?  

Turner's speech would fuel the imagination of others who were to come as endings are a logic we understand, we want to embrace. Endings are a kind of Get Out Of Jail, Free card.  30 years after Turner, Nick Carraway towards the end of Gatsby would tells us, "I see now that this has always been a story of the West after all" (p.179).  The West is an idealized world, untouched by the greed and despair Nick finds present in New York--greed and despair that touches Nick as well.  35 years after Gatsby, the Catholic senator from Massachusetts would ask us "to be pioneers towards that New Frontier", namely--space.

There are always new frontiers, borne ceaselessly out of the past or forward into some desired future we can just, almost grasp. We want to be the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. And so we seek not what is beneath our heels for that requires us to wade in the middle of things and the middle is undefined as it is always emerging. No, we are far more comfortable out of sync with the now.

Nick and Jack epitomized how the present we actually occupy is so less sexy, so less talked about, so less believed than the reconstructed past and the imagined future. External power rests in such constructions. We live lives where the logic of starts and stops is our chief organizing force. And these forces are more often thought to be truths.


We only need to reread Turner's assertion that the frontier line was "the meeting point between savagery and civilization" to understand how temporary such endings are and how (in)formed our beliefs are by the new frontiers we forge and the beliefs we carry with us. The world is made over to suit ourselves--have we enough power and ego to want to do so.

For even now as I pen this the universe, in which those frontiers clearly sit, is enlarging and if we believe current physicist will continue to do so, infinitely as our galaxy and planet are pulled apart. The universe too, has no beginning. Time, as Einstein suggested, is a fiction. Yes, we may mark time with the Big Bang, but that is more conceit, less truth. Time, like everything about us, is constructed.

Reinventing may well feel as essential as breathing.

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