A long-ass rant inspired by a play about Turkish refugees that suddenly put life into perspective, again.
Here is the thing. I am an immigrant. I remember, when I just got to the States, I had a hard time connecting to people my age. I felt crazy and out of place. I felt as if everybody were made of cardboard, as if the easy material abundance somehow ate into people’s souls. The things my peers talked about weren’t real. They didn’t talk about meaning of life or about their families, they talked about their favorite TV shows and baseball games, and I just felt crazy grown-up. As if I was the only human in a world robbed of depth.
I’ve been here a while. I have adjusted, and my life is good. I was raised in a big city, and I know how to speak the language of the ‘civilized,’ uhm, man. I don’t think like a ‘civilized’ person, more like a peasant, but I know how to fake it.
I have met many good people, and I smile ear to ear when I think about my kick-ass friends.
But when I look around at strangers, I see a lot of old children, and it blows my mind every time I allow myself to think about it too much. This land is a blessed place of physical comfort, and an emotional nightmare. Have you seen the eyes of an average middle-class suburban house-wife (or an average senator, for that matter)? There is nothing there.
Speaking of comfort, it absolutely is a blessed place. I’ve lived in poor neighborhoods, both in Chicago and in New York (not the broken windows poor, but everybody is on welfare and occasional gunshots in the streets poor), and people still had more stuff than my friends’ families when I was growing up.
But see, when I was growing up, we still had everything we needed. We had food and toys and my grandma sewed beautiful dresses and coats for me. And you don’t want to know how much the simple things we had when I was a kid cost at Whole Foods today. Annoys the fuck out of me, actually.
But life back home was about the family, and all things human, and education, and culture, and why we are here, and being alive. I cooked and baked as a kid, and played at abandoned construction sites (and I don’t think anybody cared), and spent summers in a country house with no running water, and um, stole corn from old, unattended Soviet collective farms that were “everybody’s and nobody’s.”
But importantly, there was warmth. There were also assholes, and soulless cashiers, and an occasional line to stand in. But warmth made it all better.
Here, in my favorite city on Earth, life of the community feels like a tired machine. I am a million times blessed to do what I love and keep my own schedule. I treasure every warm person in my life. I think that in our time, creative people are the luckiest ones because we get to be who we are. Even presidents cannot afford that.
Creative people, and also those who have found a small circle of people who get them.
But when I look around hoping to see freedom, I see survival and maybe content. It bothers me because it screams of emotional poverty. And I know it’s conditioned because everybody is born with bright eyes.
Encouraging whole people to be entitled, helpless, masturbating children is cruel.