I reflect upon conversations with The Woodchuck, and who is The Woodchuck? Why he is a BSD Unix hacker, a furry Marmot burrowed in, a Patriotic Vet, a slightly tired near, Misogynist, and a keen observer of all concerning Western Civilization’s incipient fall.
Lately my thoughts have grazed in the pastures of nostalgia. Flashbacks from the 80’s and early 90’s regularly assault me, a woman’s haircut brings back warm, and sad, memories and feelings for Sharon, the first intense crush I ever had, in the 5th grade. A bar or two of a song overheard, and I remember the awkwardness of the 7th grade. The intense embarrassment and awakened desire of catching a glimpse of Peggy’s knickers in class, as she sat demure, in a chaste little skirt. Of awkward attempts to find friends, walking along train tracks or fields discussing with other boys dreams of conquest…
The young beturbaned Mullah sits cross legged on his divan, ruby tinted sherub swirled in a crystal goblet, held in one hand, he chats about such nostalgia with The Woodchuck. The Marmot licks his paw, smoothes down a patch of fur, takes a deep puff on his pipe, and then directs his keen gaze at the Young Mullah.
Nostalgia, muses the Woodchuck, is an Old Man’s Disease.
I suppose that it is. My impressions of even the mid to late 1990s, seem brighter, more innocent. But was this really the case, or does memory filter? Time, being the perception of change and movement. Were the ages before now really more innocent and lively, for then I was young, with a younger mind, a younger heart, and a younger soul. And now, I am older. Were the 90’s, or the 80’s, or the 70’s more innocent and simple? Or were they every bit as intensely complicated and convoluted as today.
Science fiction was always a love of mine, the idea of a progressive and liberal smooth future of burnished chrome, and polished plastic, of machines with omniscient and omnipotent virtues. All of this read while sitting here, in the threadbare desert of the present now. But is our perception of the suckiness of the present so firm because in our perception of the present, this eternal now, we are inexorably and inescapably interwoven into its matrix? The present is now, and now is detailed.
The barista’s toned thighs standing, in her Sunday running shorts, taunt, but as her muscles flex as she moves and walks toward the espresso machine, so too does her youthful early 30-something cellulite. Barely perceptible, a slight, and endearingly beautiful, nuanced imperfection that the memory edits out in future reveries. I recall her smile, occasionally open and joyful, utterly beautiful, before it is self-edited back into a thin lipped and reserved professional politeness..
I do not often, however, recall the delicate peach fuzz on her chin, so blond as to be almost invisible. I do not often recall, also, her perpetual curt, and slightly aggressive manner, a slightly unpleasant vibe of discontent and aggravation that makes her stand out from the other girls who work here. This perception is strong. Now. It will fade however, until I return to Hamilton seeking a Sunday morning cup of coffee, next week. The only thing that will remain in my mind are the pleasant details.
I remember the 5 foot tall, petite and lithe cutie, met at the party last night. I recall a bewitchingly lovely smile, unguarded and real in youthful naivete. I recall her red tube top, just barely holding in her pert, and youthful breasts. I recall the detailed sensation of a hug, I recall in detail the attractive averaged generalities of a pretty 19 year old face, flush with youth and slight tipsiness. I recall the scent of a pleasant perfume overpowering the slight scent of beer.
I only dimly recall, however, her acne concealed beneath foundation makeup. Her face’s pores slightly enlarged and coarse, the beginnings of slight smile lines. I dimly recall the awkwardness of her poise as she walked towards the table for another round of beer pong.
The present remains always detailed, here, and now. The more alert and aware we are, the more we consciously take in these details, and the more we retain them. But so often we slide into a trance, somnambulists we are. We perceive and then filter out the details and thus we notice, briefly, the complexity of the now.. but the memories that remain become more simple. Those details which please us, we retain, those which displease us or fail to captivate us, we forget.
The Woodchuck muses, his furry chubby paws folded beneath his chin;
“the past is a sort of summary, even if we employ second- and third-hand memories
of others. Fantasies of the future are necessarily vague and contingent.”
If we perceive the future as full of hope, and the past full of innocence, then we have a reason to continue to project of civilization. When our intuitions of the future acquire an air of baleful inevitability, and when our present lives grow gray, lackluster, defined by the dull ache of tyranny and regret, then the normally weathered adversity turns within our gut, as we realize that the shiny future, once expected, is nothing more than the gray static sky of now, with less joy even, it is then that we contemplate revolt, for paraphrasing Lao Tzu:
the peasants are revolting because they do not value their lives.
Look at the architecture of society, that we now resent. The dominant social orders whose weight we feel as oppression. The party apparatus assembled social machine, run by the polite society nomenklatura, who molded us into the smooth, but half functioning, half yearning, 9 to 5 social units that we are, is not this machine in its dimensions, depth, complexity and detail, in its subtle depravity, and its omnipresent rationality (lack of reasonableness notwithstanding) of an extreme age, built, assembled to specification, the most minute of gears molded with exquisite attention to detail, wound up, and let run.
Simple times I thought?
The Woodchuck’s furry chin bops with knowing joy as he chuckles at the waning of my youthful naiveté.