Sometimes it takes a jolt to the system to snap oneself out of a rut. Like an old wagon, one can so easily roll along as before with neither the inclination nor the ability to change. Granted there may be a distant look in one’s eye, but abstract aspirations seldom inspire. Something more tangible and immediate is required as a stimulus.
As shallow as it may appear, the arrival of my new car has been exactly what the doctor ordered. If the truth be known, it represents the culmination of months of anticipation, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of one model over another, visiting every Lincoln dealership in the area, test driving vehicles, dipping in and out of web sites to “build your own”, contemplating the possibility of economy (a fleeting consideration albeit), and of course the alluring magic of getting anything new. In short, it is a relief. Philosophically the translation of a dream to reality is not without its disturbing ramifications, sometimes disappointingly “real” and even ultimately vapid. Echoes of the words of a forgotten poet that “There ain’t no ship to take you away from yourself...” come to mind. Yet such a distraction is sometimes all it takes to readjust one’s outlook upon life, a nudge which pushes one over the edge of contemplation.
Perhaps the “jolt” of which I speak is nothing more than a bump from one rut to another, though frankly I think I am correct in saying that not all ruts are equal in terms of desirability. I prefer to think of my present “condition” as an improvement on the state of affairs which previously existed. Like the proverbial snake I have shed my skin to start anew. Rebirth in almost any context has its excitement, as ephemeral as it may sometimes be.
My last new car was a 2008 Buick Enclave which I leased in October, 2007, following my open- heart surgery on Friday, July 13, 2007. The October date is significant because it was the end of my three-month sabbatical from the office, signalling my return to work and the beginning of a fresh way of looking at things. I remember driving in my new car to the Village of Pakenham almost every morning before I went to work. It was partly to enjoy driving the car, but equally importantly a kind of exercise to rid myself of feelings of depression which hauntingly lingered after my surgery. It was months later (almost exactly a year to the day of my surgery) that the final remnants of the narcotics in my system suddenly evaporated, and I felt once again “myself” (an extremely odd sensation, and one only to be believed if experienced). Anyway, that Buick became part of my recovery from the surgery, epitomizing my re-embrace of life -big, bold and beautiful. As I gradually regained my strength and adapted to the altered regime, I established new patterns and habits, some of which (though superficially welcome as they involved more time for myself) were misguided and regrettably sent me down the wrong road for almost three years.
The human mind loves habit, at least mine does. To adopt the right habits is the trick. Yet as much as one might rationalize the appropriateness of one course of conduct over another, what keeps any one of them going and on the rails is an overriding commitment to something higher. It is far too easy in the swirls and eddies of daily life to be swept away by even the most inconsequential current, sometimes with exponential effect. As with most goals, the distant object is in sight, but success requires raising the trajectory, rising above the intervening commotion so to speak, if one is to hit the target. In this preoccupation it assists to have some advantage other than one’s mere will, that fragile drive which is so easily withered by frustration, stress, lack of sleep, personal conflict and any other number of life’s daily and persistent aggravations. While I would like to say that I have consoled myself on the subject of life’s regular “trials and tribulations”, the fact sadly remains that I have very little patience with the unexpected bumps of living; and my Pavlovian response to disappointment is frequently indulgence, a reward for having suffered what I consider to be unmerited harshness. It is at times like this that having something else to hang onto helps, even if as mundane as a new car. A fine automobile is an object which represents iconic satisfaction, refinement, stability and quality. Considering the extent of technological advancement in automobiles today, it is hardly beneath one to view such human achievement with more than a degree of smugness. To be part of that self-satisfaction by owning one of those cars is for many an advantage to be envied, and for me at least a fix to be desired. I have always thrilled to the delight of time pieces, barometers and computers, including the fascination with software generally. It is all part of the same drug which, by virtue of its precision and ingenuity, heightens my awareness and involvement in life.
Having said all that, I am keenly aware of the relentless and pressing mediocrity of life, and of how hard it is to sustain such an enthusiastic level of participation in life day after day, even with the help of icons. I also confess the religious overtones in doing so. Blending oneself with recognizable symbols is bound to be dangerous to a degree, if for no other reason than that one possibly loses touch with the fundamentals and tends to the ethereal. But don’t let me be among those who condemn faith in symbols; in the end, they may be all that remain. Just as some symbols can be negative and damaging, so others can be empowering and uplifting. When I think upon it for a moment, I realize that my vices and my virtues are in part driven by symbols. It would be erroneous to suggest that all that I am is powered by internal sources alone. The external representations are very much a part of my life. I will, however, appropriate the luxury of labelling myself as one who is dedicated to high standards, notwithstanding my inevitable failure to leap over the hurdles. So for the time being I content myself with this shot in the arm, that boost of energy to enable me to carry on. Whether I could do it otherwise is beyond current scrutiny. I am quite satisfied for the present to wallow in my amusement with automobiles, buoyed in my pleasure with them.