With Nature


After that, Band class became my only point of attachment to society. It was the only hour of the day that was not being wasted. It was the only hour I would have shown up for even if there was no grade or other paper-based reward system.

It would have been one thing if they required me to spend my days in class. That might have been a fair trade in exchange for the food and medicine and shelter and so on. But they also wanted to decide how I would spend my evenings and my weekends. Dropping Honors Chemistry was not the end of homework. There was still Dishonorable Chemistry, English, Math and History. I wished I could take Art but I couldn’t because I was already committed to Band. The education system, it seemed, was actively working to prevent the ratio of beauty to ugliness in the universe from rising above 1 to 4.

And all of this was in the name of preparing us for a soul-crushing hellscape known as The Real World. But I had been studying outside of school. I knew that when they talked about The Real World they were really only talking about a tiny corner of The Real Real World. And that tiny corner was what we know as capitalism. An ordinary person could opt out of capitalism simply by deciding that they didn’t want to buy things. And not only that. If your spirit was pure enough the universe would provide whatever you needed.

But that wasn’t true for me. I needed capitalism. Like, to prevent my death. I imagined myself as a prisoner at the beginning of a life sentence. Actually, I would have jumped at the opportunity to be locked in a cell, fed a minimal diet, and left to my own devices. But I was all too aware that my position on the ladder of evil capitalism was an enviable one, and that made the situation even more intolerable.

I could tell that capitalism was going to do to my soul what the disease was doing to my intestines. Whatever hollowed-out shell of Brian that survived the school system would only exist to serve the bigger, more horrible machine. I had to resist it. I had to escape from it.

If not for Band, I might have let go completely. Once you decide that you don’t care for paper assets, whether they be money or grades or logos or kind words, society can’t offer very much to lure you back. But music is something it does offer, in addition to medicine.

Meanwhile, my lucid dreaming efforts were failing. This was true even after I dropped Honors Chemistry to get more sleep. Yet, in spite of my failures as a dreamer, I was feeling a lot better. I yearned to believe it was because I was expanding my perception and bringing my whole being into alignment with the universe.

It was really the immune-suppressants and anti-inflammatory drugs. Western medicine was working whether I liked it or not.

But they weren’t treating my philosophical problems.

I had friends but they were juniors and seniors and mostly had after-school jobs. I considered getting a job but I didn’t have a car or a driver’s license. Besides, I didn’t really need a job the way my friends did. I wanted to be with nature. I was lucky to live near some great mountain-biking trails. So when I wasn’t at band practice or practicing alone I was normally found riding in the woods.

I knew those trails better than I knew my hands. The bike felt like an extension of my arms and legs. I felt my attention expand from there to include the dirt and the river and the crows that would fly off the trail as I moved between the trees like a dart.

There was a cave in the park where, according to legend, a local teenager had shot himself during the ’70s. I would go in there to meditate, hoping to communicate with him.

I was learning to fly alone. The question was whether I would fly away.

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