Photo by Joshua Chandler
When I was a young man, I began searching for the meaning of life. Along the way, I wrote a travel journal, a mix of prose and poetry, and labelled it Fool’s Odyssey.
My first real day began with an inhuman lack of sleep and a maliciously lingering fever. But I was anxious to squeeze the juice from life, so I took the Tube and bought a ticket for a West End show. I explored, ate Indian food for the first time, and went to the theatre!
I have no idea what the play was. Before the third act, about to enter vertical sleep, I left for my B&B, and fell into bed at 10. Amazingly, I slept better than any rock ever did, and awoke at 8, alert, feverless and famished–for everything.
At a Soho creperie, I guzzled coffee and planned the day ahead, and then, out the window, watched the sun…set. Wait–what?
“Excuse me, waiter. Why is the sun setting at 8:30?”
“It usually does at night, sir.”
“Take the wrong exit, did you? This is England, not Iceland.”
I’d slept for 22 hours! Still undaunted, I planned my wonderfully meaningless future.
For the world is in their hearts
and no one can know the meaning of life.
Abandon this search, I told myself.
For there is nothing better than that a man
Should rejoice in his accomplishments.*
Oh, those natty, woolen suits, they suited me well! I dreamed of owning a bunch, and of dating tight tee-shirted blondes like the ones in the Underground ads, and of having a fresh-squeezed, spit-clean Rolls-Royce in my colour-of-choice, and of being civilized and drinking gin. I’d stop searching and let my life begin! I’d want what I wanted, and be as wanton as they come.
And so it began, this vision of want and of have and of get,
To ravel itself around my brain.
I’d poked about in the ashes and found
A lovable con-artist in me.
I’d learned to “look out for number one.”
How good, how fun!
I’d be at the civilized center of self-esteem
And never repent of this new dream.
I’d run through the door of that old hotel
Like a six million dollar man,
Spitting out splinters, the knob still in my hand.
And all of the way down to Harrod’s, I’d plan.
I’d live in a would-be-could-be world
where I was arrogant and fine,
and paralyzed profits and crucified time.
I’d ranch the prairies
And build a dynasty:
“Someday, little darlin’, this’ll all be yurs,
as fur as the eye can see.
They’s gonna be a town over there,
and dogies, little dogies everwhur.
And we’ll name the town after our son,
and he’ll be rich and subjugate poor people,
just like we taught him to do.”
*Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 (paraphrased)
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