Fool on the Hill
It was one of those days when the psychobabble had grown so bad that I
wanted to move out of my skull. I was working on a deadline on a Sunday
on an empty stomach. I had a nervous feeling inside like I was missing
the Superbowl. I couldn't concentrate on the work itself on account of
the junk in my head: car payments, insurance, stock prices, the fact that
my mother stopped weaning me too early. I wish our brain came with a volume
knob so that we could just turn it down sometimes.
My wife came in to see how things were going, and I bit her head off.
Well, I barked it off. I explained to her, in cursory tones, how my
burden was heavier than that of normal humans and how I had real work.
How dare she bother me with playtime chit-chat. When I saw the ache
on her face, I realized that I had gone too far. I felt like I had
kicked a kitten.
I had to get out. Hard as it was to break away from the clutches of
Responsibility, I packed up my aggression and headed out. I drove to
the outskirts of town and found a trail winding up a steep hill. How
fortunate I was to have a refuge like this waiting for me whenever
I needed it. Imagine the people downtown who never know quiet, just
Climbing the hill, I transcended the misgivings that had gripped me
minutes before. The dirt squished under my feet from recent rains.
It was so...natural. The sage brushed me as I passed and scented my
clothing. In time, the trees and shrubbery swallowed me from sight.
The hills don't care about creditors or gossip or deadlines. They've
seen it all come and go. They are, after all, as old as the hills.
I couldn't see what was ahead, a welcome contrast from my daily planner.
I came upon a clearing in the brush and plunked down my backpack.
What I found when I turned around was the most extraordinary view in
the history of looking: my home town. At the risk of being kicked out
of the Man Club, I admit that I let go a sigh. Everything was so small
and enchanting. Like the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland or Mr. Roger's
Neighborhood or the beginning of Poltergeist before people started
ripping their faces off.
I saw an elementary school where soccer was happening. Once in a while,
the referee's whistle would stop the action. I saw the shopping center
where I could purchase food in lieu of hunting and gathering. I saw
the quaint church where people distanced themselves from the gorillas.
I saw two boys racing motorized cars from their driveway. Everything
was peaceful in its distance.
My vision came full circle when I spotted the road that lead to my
home. I followed it with my eyes until I recognized the tiny container
where I live and the Matchbox car outside. Sitting on a mountain with
rocks in my shoes and cattails in my hair, I had never felt so comfortable.
So it goes.
Then I remembered my wife, whose face I had pained. I had become lost
in the details of my daily grind and forgotten how dead I would be
in a hundred years. This old rock wanted to cry. But I didn't, man,
I just felt like I could, you know, if I wanted to.
I had gone from the verge of a breakdown to sublime revelation in
15 minutes. In climbing that hill, I had gained the most useful quality
a human can have on his journey to the Final Deadline: perspective.
From this height, I realized how small I was. The referee whistled
again in the distance. Who was I to grumble and complain about my load-I
live in paradise. While some children wonder the streets in search
of their parents, I'm eating ice cream and watching the Oscars.
It was getting cold. I drew one last breath and took a snapshot of
the neighborhood. Yes, perspective is everything. I began my descent
to the "real world" determined to remember that life is too
important to take seriously. One thing about to-do lists is that they'll
never be to-done. The point is to make peace with the process.
That little hike was a blue chip investment. It's available to everyone,
right there on the outskirts of town. Maybe you'll climb up there one
day and see what I mean.
And to give you a Hollywood ending, I returned to my wife and confessed
to being a fool.