In this day and age, when I see someone’s profile picture as a car, I wonder…
Do they identify with the color of the car, or are they trapped inside waiting to be a different color?
Do they identify as an automatic or manual or CVT or Dual clutch sort of car?
Do they identify as having leather seats or fabric?
Do they identify as a V8 trapped in a 4 cylinder body? Or vice versa? Or do they identify as electric, or hybrid?
Do they identify as a front wheel drive, a rear wheel drive, an all wheel drive or a true 4×4?
Do they want some cosmetic surgery, maybe change those headlights to round or rectangular or… hexagonal?
Have they been abused? Will they be triggered by someone with heavy feet, or a woman with stilettos?
Car profile pictures are so very open to interpretation. People worry about people too much, but what about people who identify as cars? What kind of cars?
I’m sure I don’t know.
What is clear is that they don’t identify as a human, for whatever reason. Maybe they were born that way. Maybe they smoked some strange plant – not marijuana, of course, something stranger. Maybe they were raised by feral Tonka toys, or Matchbox cars.
Maybe their parents were cars. Maybe it was a one night stand, they met by accident, bent some fenders…
So don’t treat them like humans – you should treat them like cars. Send them lubrication. Fuel/electricity. Make sure that they have enough blinker fluid stockpiled. Communicate in ‘vrooms’. Wave your hand at them like windshield wipers.
Whatever you do, don’t make fun of them. They’re really, really sensitive.
I was thinking about how little I know about India.
The young lady of mixed East Indian and African descent who served me the gyro had called me ‘hun’, an American affectation, while handing me a Greek-ish food. And there I was, reading an Indian blog entry on resilience.
It seemed appropriate that I be reading her words on resilience when everyone I ran into in Trinidad was busy talking about what might happen at Petrotrin, as if their very lives depended on it. Last week, it was the earthquake, this week, Petrotrin.
The gyro was wrapped tight in a combination of paper and thin aluminium wrap – impossible to get off one or the other completely, so either you bit paper or aluminium. It wasn’t her fault, she just handed it to me – it was a problem of the paper combining with the juices of the gyro-ish food I had. So, being hungry, I opted for getting all the aluminium off- paper doesn’t hurt your teeth.
My own form of resilience in the moment, I suppose.
It’s not often I get moments like that one, out in public yet in a certain silence that allowed clear observation of the world around me. Now that I’d sorted out my gyro, which was really quite good – surprisingly so – I cast my eyes around.
This is South Trinidad. I’ve been spending more time in North Trinidad and the cultures, while similar, are not quite the same. First of all, North Trinidad almost always has better options for things. In that, it lacks the charm of South Trinidad where you accidentally find something nice.
It’s getting better, but there’s still a marked difference.
Petrotrin, which was later confirmed to be closing the refinery, was probably going to be laying off people I expect are largely from South Trinidad. This means that a year from now, I might not be seeing the same people were I to sit in the same seat. Since, by this hypothesis, there would be less disposable income in South Trinidad, any gap between quality and choices between North and South Trinidad would likely increase in size.
I chewed, picking at the odd piece of meat here and there that fell into my strategically placed foil. It’s Tuesday afternoon, maybe around 1:30 p.m. There’s people outside with loudspeakers talking about the need to learn sign language. Well, if you keep using loudspeakers, I expect so. There were people milling about in lunch lines at this hour, which seemed strange. Where did they come from?
Lunch is typically from 12 to 1, yet there were lines at all the health food places – you know, Royal Castle, Burger King, etc, in a country where people still share information on what to drink, eat, or stick in an orifice to ‘purge’. Not that my gyro was absolutely healthy, but I do have some moral high ground here that I won’t waste – it rarely happens. A spoiler for people: If you have healthy kidneys and a liver, your body doesn’t need much more help except with regular infusions of dihydrogen monoxide.
Reading an Indian writer, watching a South Trinidad floorshow while eating a fusion in cuisine. For some reason, a lot of my traffic here on RealityFragments, as well as on the Reality Fragments Facebook page, comes from India.
That’s why I was thinking about it. From the outside looking in, being a roundabout descendant of descendants of Indian origin (as well as others), what I know is a collection of reading what Indian friends have written or shared with me. They shared with a depth that was inspiring.
And yet I am apart, but then, as I considered India, India is largely apart from India. It’s this mass of people who turned an imposed language against the owner of it and continues to be a growing economy – even as poverty is visible. Conflicted, yet with a depth to those conflicts that cannot allow things to change quickly in a world that hastens in accelerated ways. I cannot know India.
I know it only from parts, pieces, little anecdotes, some articles, a Simputer, and little else.
There’s more to know, I’m sure. But with so many readers from a part of the world I might insult by only seeing pieces of it on a trip, I spent time thinking about it. And I likely will in the future.
So, for the people reading in that place marked by lines on someone else’s map – thank you for stopping by. You’re appreciated, and I’m returning the favor as best I can.
People do amazing things with simple items. Take crayons, for example.
The image at top was done with what we consider children’s tools. We send them off to color between the lines in the hope that they’ll be quiet. Maybe hoping that their hand-eye coordination improves as they grow older so that they can stay within the lines – and society likes things that stay in lines. That follows something someone else drew. Whose vision is limited to what is possible within those lines.
As I hinted at, I got rid of the last pickup – codename Artsy – and have since moved on to another vehicle. I won’t mention make or model – I’m not going to do free advertising for some company when I’ve only had the vehicle a few days.
But I like it. This is what the article is about – because I told someone I visited today that they are now less far away with this vehicle.
They didn’t move. I didn’t move. The distance hadn’t changed. What I was driving had.
Artsy’s job was to create trails in the bush with me at the wheel. This she did well – so well, in fact, that I saw her on the way home and for a moment wondered what my pickup was doing there… when it’s not mine anymore. She looks well.
However, things have changed and so the requirements of the vehicle have changed as well. And this one doesn’t have to go in the bush. Trails, maybe, but no more bush. Mainly, roads. Parking in the cities. And, finally, it’s not a manual transmission.
It’s a dual clutch transmission, which for the sake of people who don’t know enough about cars, is more efficient than a manual and as convenient as an automatic.
The air conditioning is awesome. The back up camera makes parking so much easier. The audio is so good stock, and plays my MP3s and more. The seat is comfortable.
And so, now, what used to be a long distance for me is a shorter distance – just like that. This is probably not news to a lot of people, but I’ve always sacrificed things. The RX7s had their AC’s take out for weight reduction, Artsy had noisy mud tires, and so on, and so on. These were things that were necessary for the tasks at hand.
With this vehicle, I did not sacrifice. I ordered the pizza with everything on it. It has features I may never use.
But today I saw the value in that spontaneous simple statement, it dawned on me.
It dawned on me that relativity and the hierarchy of needs are related in the human experience – something I knew – but at a new depth.
And, after all, even the Spartan minimalist has to acknowledge that the new chariot is a worthy tool for the next part of my life.
And that actually fits in with all of what I was getting at. Granted, some people are distracted by the antics of people who they implicitly give authority to with their attention, or have that societal attention deficit disorder as frameworks do what they were designed to.
When the earth rumbles and people realize just how powerless they really are – when they can’t run away from something and there’s nothing to fight – a morbid reality sets in that can’t be so easily dismissed… for a short while, anyway. It’s not as if understanding plate tectonics is going to save you from an earthquake. Breaks in frameworks begin to show, and the ambiguity of how safe one really is seeps into the society.
Time moves along, the ambiguity pumps are manned as people find explanations from either science or religion or that-person-down-the-street-who-knows-everything… they find some comfort, getting rid of that ambiguity.
And suddenly, they’re acting as if nothing happened at all. As if they are safe, as if the few hours of their lives they spent with seismologists was enough – because to them the world is dangerous to know about, it’s dangerous to understand what happens outside of those frameworks.
People don’t want answers. They want comfort.
And, oddly enough, that’s an important point on the way to where I was going.
There’s a part of my soul that’s machine. It started early.
As far back as I remember, it was an integral part of my life. I grew up on the road, with 8-tracks becoming the first part of the soundtrack of my life. Later, cassettes. Later, CDs. Later, MP3s.
And even before I got my license, I was driving – to the consternation of just about everyone in authority, including a particularly patient Irving, TX police officer who was genuinely surprised that I had gotten a 4 speed, 81 hp Toyota Tercel up to 90 mph on a curvy road that someone had mistakenly suggested had a speed limit of 35 mph.
No ticket issued, by the way. He simply waggled a finger at me, told me to get my license, and had me park the borrowed car of a friend’s mother where he could check on it in her absence. That, by the way, is policing – as opposed to Law Enforcement, which could have gone a really, really different way. Thank you, wherever you are.
Every vehicle I’ve driven has become a part of me – from the sports cars to the 4x4s, from the muscle cars to the ricers. Each played a part in my life. Each one had it’s own character, it’s own special songs that fit the shifts – I rarely drove automatics. And I knew the mechanical aspects of every single one, enough to surprise mechanics. Later I would learn not to say too much or I wouldn’t learn more. And I managed to find great mechanics everywhere to help me.
When it came to the RX-7s, though, I was the only one to work on mine.
Restoring those first gens was always a special joy that came from my father and I building a model when I was about 5. Of course, I was full of questions – and he could explain piston engines to me, but when we built the RX-7 model, he explained to me that the engine was different – and when asked, he couldn’t explain why. That unanswered question made me fall in love with the Wankel. Beautiful and underappreciated cars, those old RX7s.
I’ve been fortunate with cars: I’ve always found the good used ones, and people have always wanted the ones I’ve driven – even modified, sometimes especially when they had been modified – but when the machine and I merged, they only saw the machine.
They bought what they had seen me do with a machine. Pulling out every little bit of horsepower, using inertia, understanding the flow of air, the engine, the transmission, the drive wheels, the tires, the feel of the steering – the machine speaks to you.
Some people can’t hear when machines speak.
And so, another change. Another vehicle tomorrow, the turbodiesel Ford Ranger now the past. This last machine worked hard, doing things that surprised people I know.
And, a few times, she surprised me.
New tools are required.
A new vehicle awaits for a more sedate part of life.
Her new owner better understand her – she can be an unforgiving vehicle. But oh, she worked hard and did what so many thought were impossible.
Just like all machines can in the right hands, with the right maintenance.
They have the heart.
The soul, on the other hand, is always the operator.
People were freaking out all over the country. It was a sudden explosion of anxiety disorders, but all I felt was stillness. Rationality. Maybe even tranquility. Yet with so many people freaking out, that sort of reaction compared to that of others gets someone thinking. Introspection is healthy.
I know what fear is. I’ve felt it. I haven’t felt it in a long time, or maybe I have and didn’t know it. Maybe, as things go, I’ve been in worse situations and seen worse situations.
Maybe, too, the fact when the world collapses, I was trained to keep my wits about me in an emergency as a USN Hospital Corpsman – but the truth is that I picked that job, much like firemen pick their jobs, much like police pick their jobs… and if I’m going to be honest, I miss that spike of adrenaline that jolts that tranquility. Granted, medical professionals will waggle their fingers at me and tell me not to go running into things.
It wasn’t the training. It refined it, distilled it, but it was there already. The person who, when everyone is freaking out, can focus and see the stillness in each moment.
The sad truth about that earthquake yesterday is that while exciting when it happened, I was a bit disappointed afterwards – a disappointment I remember from working in the old Naval Hospital Orlando Emergency Room when something didn’t happen. And I look through my life since then – a trail of boredom, but the ability to throw myself at real-time emergencies and not get sucked into them. There’s a life to them.
They have a pulse. A rhythm. Maybe it’s just my pulse, my rhythm that I superimpose on the world. As I write this and think about it, I can’t remember the last time I tasted fear – that coppery taste in the mouth, that tensing of the muscles. Or maybe I do feel fear and just react differently now.
Maybe I’ve been afraid often enough and had to muddle through it. I’m that person when it all hits the fan is standing around, observing, thinking, acting – in that order.
There’s no one around me now who will understand this questioning. Veterans will get it, I think, but I’m geographically far removed from my brothers and sisters.
In the end, I suppose I’m healthy – I suppose being irritated by the anxiety of others is par for the course, where they’re still afraid. But they have a right to be afraid, I know that – they have a right to be scared. To be traumatized by a world that is full of traumas great and small.
I suppose it’s the imagined traumas, the self inflicted ones, that bother me. The people who, afraid of a wall, will run into it over and over – a Darwinian closed loop system, a self-immolation with fear.
In South Oropouche, in an apartment I’m about to say goodbye to, the earth started moving around 5:31 p.m. It was wobbly, and increasingly strong – enough for my bookshelf to move. It walked maybe a inch during the entire incident. Once I felt it increasing in strength, I grabbed my phone and walked out into a clear area.
Earthquakes have a tendency to make some things fall down. Stronger earthquakes have a tendency to throw things. I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but I was certain that I wanted no part of being underneath concrete. I updated Facebook, hit Twitter, and waited. It was strong enough for me to walk outside, but not strong enough to do any damage. I knew that this wasn’t the epicenter, and I also knew that it might get worse, have aftershocks, or damage things sufficiently where they might break later.
The Earth stopped moving and updates came in. The first in was from the USGS at 6.8 in Venezuela, the next said it was 7.0, the last said 7.3. People in Trinidad and Tobago who had never experienced an earthquake were freaking out.
Yet in all the time standing outside, I saw not one single soul out on the trace. Everyone was inside. Everyone stayed inside. As if it were rain. A bad instinct. But it was over fast enough in my area.
Everyone on social media in Trinidad and Tobago was acting as if we were the epicenter. We weren’t. What I felt might have been, at most, a 4 – those up North in Trinidad got it worse; they were closer to the epicenter. Someone mentioned tsunamis.
Well, we are close enough to Venezuela that if there were going to be a tsunami, it would have hit by the time mention were made of it.
And all the while, I was wondering at that old system I had thought of and had begun work on all those years ago. Untrusted information was flying. That was the point of that system, to have that trust in the system. Social networks are flailing; Facebook didn’t ask me if I was safe until a while after – I had posted to them that the earthquake in Venezuela also affected Trinidad and Tobago. Whether that was the reason or not (I am no narcissist), I suddenly was asked if I was safe.
If only there were a system designed for that. Meh. They didn’t want it, they didn’t want it.
Well, yes, I am safe. I’ve been through worse, I’ve seen much worse results.
Trinidad and Tobago was lucky. Fortunate. No deaths reported so far. Property damage seems to be limited to North Trinidad. Videos and photos are making the rounds, the most of which seem legitimate – there’s always the trouble with disaster porn.
The sky, despite all reports you might hear otherwise, has not fallen near me. It has affected others much more than me, but it is not for me to write what they experienced.
Generally, it seems that people don’t handle ambiguity well – a call, maybe, to the tunnel vision that we unconsciously cling to like straw.
The ambiguity of our reality is perilous. We build ships of ways to live – philosophies, religions, bureaucracies, traditions – to ride upon the ambiguity of our world. It leaks through, and society has those at the pumps to try to keep it on the outside of the ship. Sometimes they’re lawyers, sometimes they’re educators, sometimes they’re even politicians – holding onto a way of life, trying to keep everything together even when the shoals drive toward us with a strong wind behind.
We like our society. Some of us like it more, some of us like it less, the degree is unimportant: We all resist understanding the ambiguity below the hull of the ships we sail in. We wish to understand the hull, the structures that we can understand, the things that we are used to. It is the fool who looks to dismantle the ship with no plan for that ambiguity.
Mutinies – revolutions of a minor sort – rarely take this into consideration. A revolution with no plan of the aftermath isn’t as much a revolution as a harsh criticism with no constructive plan for progress.
Then there are the people who unwittingly fall into the ambiguity, somehow not meeting the requirements of being on board that ship. Maybe they were thrown off, discarded into the ambiguity. The souls of society we cannot understand – the criminals, the insane, the misfits, the artists…
And then there are the people who manage to swim in that ambiguity, boarding different ships – strangers aboard that somehow get past an intruder alert. They come aboard maybe to explore, maybe from a respite from the ambiguity of the world underneath the hulls of these ships. They see, they meet – maybe they meet their fate involuntarily going overboard, maybe they voluntarily take a swim, and maybe they even stay because of the comfort of the lack of ambiguity they find aboard.
This is really our last realm of exploration. How we deal with the ambiguities. As the world changes faster and faster, the ships falter, the storms push them too and fro, and so many are left to swim in ambiguity. Some drown.
We have a tendency to set goals and get tunnel vision – we see everything directly between ourselves and the goal.
Yet everything directly between us and the goal is connected to other things, and those things to other. We forget the circumstances, the environment, through which we try to progress. There is more in our way than we find directly in front of us, and there is more that can help that is not directly in front of us or behind us.
This is the real world – not some facsimile that they teach about when they hand out diplomas and certificates, but a world interconnected. These days, the interconnections themselves are accelerating. Writers have tackled this over the decades, trying to communicate that the world is getting Faster.
Most recently, I’ve finished reading Friedman’s, “Thank You For Being Late” – an appropriate title as I’ve been making my way through various things in Trinidad and Tobago, a nation where bureaucracy can be harvested and exported. On a global level, ‘thought-leaders’, predominantly of the developed world, have the luxury of seeing things above the clouds of the developing world.
And they write about it.
And it’s disconnected from the rest of the world – even people in their own countries.
There’s this growing tension because of that which I would like to think could be healthy – where people aspire toward such lofty goals. And yet, the same ‘thought-leaders’ don’t understand the world that they live in as much as the world they are familiar with – just like everybody else. Reality defies us. And that content spreads like a wildfire around the globe, right or wrong, good or bad, and people see it through their tunnel vision.
We all want things to be better. The problems arise when we don’t agree on what’s better.