I had an electric-like shocking experience this evening, and found myself howling like an distraught child. The problem was that everything was too perfect, and I couldn’t stand it. Debbie and I had walked a couple of blocks through the happy crowds of First Friday Art Walk, here in Bend, Oregon, before this harrowing event happened. We had visited a couple of art galleries. There was free wine, beer, cheese, and snacks and cheerful conversation. I didn’t make an effort to count, but there must have been two thousand people idly milling around on this balmy spring evening. There were half a dozen bands playing outside, and probably a similar number inside, each with surprisingly well polished music. I was feeling reasonably happy, and said brief hellos, and had short conversations with a few people I recognized.
We ambled the single block down to the Deschutes River and sat on the park bench in a fully manicured Ponderosa pine forest overlooking Mirror Pond. The sun was setting and soon touching the volcanic mountains named the Sisters. It was a glorious view, perhaps not photo-worthy lighting, with too much contrast of black trees against a brilliant sky, but fine for visual viewing. We sat. There were twenty kids of all ages, tots to teenagers, playing in the grass nearby squealing in glee, yelled at with encouraging words by their fathers. It was similar to the Pointillist Georges Seurat’s 1884 painting, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, but more American and more boisterous.
The sun went down, and we headed back some four blocks through the festivities toward our parked car, when my sorry event happened. These people seemed to fit perfectly a Norman Rockwell conception of what a happy, healthy, wise and wealthy bunch of humans would look and act like. Suddenly I felt as if I were walking through a graveyard of beautifully sculptured stones. They were clean and perfect and everything one could hope for in a graveyard, but these were living gravestones. The problem for me at that moment was that they felt to me as if they were as dead and meaningless as gravestones would be to an animal wandering through a cemetery.
We were walking past a particularly loud band, playing a floridly decorated Bob Dylan – Don’t think Twice it’s all right! – When I started howling like a lonely wolf, or perhaps a human victim trapped in a remote woods. No one noticed me, and any who did would probably think I was just howling along with the song, but it was a howl of despair. The pain wasn’t for me; it was for this cross-section of some of the luckiest people to ever have lived, and how their personal pinnacle of perfection was stunted into an adult form of being. It seems these people have the time and opportunity to infinitely improve themselves beyond simple acquisition of possessions, and yet from the visual art, the auditory art, and the conversation they were comfortably solidifying themselves into what to me was trivia. Of course that was just my problem, and my perception but for a while I felt anguish.
Living too close to sybaritic perfection kills the soul’s need to grow.