Tales From Mephitis, Chapter 9: The Woodstock Nation

Updated on January 15, 2018
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There are some for whom life is not a seamless arc. They are the Wanderers in the Wilderness, spiritually and physically; like Ulysses.

Because Rodney was off the next Friday, “Tim from Genoa” was in, along with “Don Juan” Byron, who was on the edge of being canned for not showing up for work too many times, Anton, and Frank.

“Where’s John?” Frank asked. With Rod off and no Hoppin’ John, it seemed like a different place; and not a bad thing. He didn’t miss the moronic phallic repartee.

“Gonna be off for awhile. Ray said he was hospitalized with Lyme’s Disease.”

It was pretty slow in the morning so Anton had Byron go downstairs and “do the cans”.



Aluminum cans were collected in 55-gallon plastic bags set inside barrels at all the stations.

Whoever had the White Truck run picked them all up and piled them here; heaps of bags of cat food cans, non-carbonated soft drink cans, sardine tins, tuna and Spam cans. They all stunk and drew rodents, flies and wasps.

Frank hadn’t done that job yet, so when he had a chance, he looked over the wall to see how it was done.

Whoever “did the cans” had to roll a large bar electro-magnet on wheels in front of the bunker, whose mouth it totally spanned. The eight-foot-long magnet was about a foot off the ground.

After flipping the ‘on’ switch for the magnet, you’d haul a bag of cans over in front of it, the magnet between you and the bunker, break the bag open onto the floor, spilling its contents, then push the pile of cans with a wide broom under the magnet slowly enough for any steel cans that were mixed up in there to be seized by the magnet above.

This way only one hundred percent pure aluminum was in that bunker; theoretically. The bags from the different stations varied in their freedom from ‘contamination’ with tin cans. Milan and Turin were the worst, sometimes more tin than aluminum.

It was amazing how deafening those bags of cans were clattering around. After a while the pile inside the bunker would get too large to push with the broom. Resort was then had to a cheap, short-handled snow shovel to fling the cans back further and make some room. Eventually though, even that was ineffective.

That’s when you got the skidsteer and pushed the cans back against the far wall, lifting and piling them as high as possible. The trick was getting the skidsteer in there. Rolling the heavy magnet out of the way was nothing. Whoever designed the building however, had placed a steel support pillar right in the way of entering the bunker. And because there was no real visibility with the skidsteer, you went in and out pretty much blind.

You raised the bucket up enough to clear a side wall, going in at an angle, watching out mentally for the overhead pipes, the other bay wall, the baler behind you, the piles of unopened bags, the magnet, and the bales of paper in front of the next bunker, then swung the bucket over into the bunker and lowered it when you guessed you were in far enough.

Only when the bunker was overflowing were the cans baled. A completely full bunker would make only two bales of 400 pounds each, but aluminum was fetching good money then.

The traffic began to pick up. Anton called Byron up to lend a hand with the crowd. That day there was a frequently whiffed change in the smell of the trash over the ‘normal’ and the flies loved it.

“Oh, f**k! What the f**k is that!?” Byron cursed, throwing the barrel he just emptied on the ground and pulling his pirate’s bandana off his Mohawk landing strip to cover his nose, gagging.

“Oh, sorry about that. We had clams on the 4th, and there was a lot left over.” The nattily dressed man apologized.

F**k! That’s enough ta gag a maggot!”

“Nope. Look. They seem just fine.”

“I’m gonna puke!

Anton silently went over to the tray with colored plastics on it and rummaged around till he found a laundry detergent bottle with a little left in it. He added some water from a spigot in the wall. He strolled back to the garbage chute, sloshing the water around with the detergent, and then poured it down the sides of the hopper.

“There. Better? That’s what we do when we get a stinker.”

It was hard to tell where the stench was the greatest, upstairs when you opened a can or barrel to empty its contents, or downstairs when the baler farted out the squeezed gases. There was no doubt the flies were far worse downstairs. Frank had seen entire hives of bees on the wing, but they were nothing compared to the biblical clouds of these disgusting carrion lappers

These patrons were completely habit-bound, and so only came once a week: Period. The remains of the holiday repasts had a whole week in the hot sun in closed containers to metamorphose into a methane energy source and something unspeakable, as well as a maggot-feast.

After the first time he found maggots in his boots, he made damn sure his pants’ legs were pulled over his boot-tops. The heat built and the sweat poured off him. His gloves became too slimy to hold on securely to heavy loads.

And some of those bags were huge. A woman came in with two huge bags tightly wedged in the trunk of her car or minivan.

“Could you help me with this? My husband put them in, but I can’t get it out myself.”

“Yes’m.” Tim replied, smiling confidently. He took one look at the enormous bag. “Jumpin Jesus! Where’s your husband at? He sent you?... That’s gonna take two strong men and a Texan....Hey, Frank! Give me a hand, would ya?”

Then he stood back, talking with the lady while Frank hauled them out and threw them in.

Afterwards Frank went in to take a leak. As he was standing there relieving himself, he felt a familiar hot bite on the back of his neck.

“No. Can’t be.” With his free hand he slammed it hard and then groped to pick up the carcass off his neck. He held it up to his eyes. “Chrysops Niger. I’ll be damned. What the hell is a Deerfly doing INDOORS? They NEVER bite indoors.”

He flicked its carcass toward the urinal. It landed instead on top of the fixture near the chrome pipe.

He had quickly learned to get an extra pair of gloves from Tom before the pair he was using had become totally unusable. He stashed the older pair to dry off on top of a cupboard in the breakroom and fetched his squirreled-away new pair.

There was a pleasant surprise when he came back out: Someone had dropped off a cardboard box full of VCR tapes. He couldn’t believe his eyes: Among them were ones titled “Spiderman”, “Hulk”, “Contact” and “Volcano”.

He went through the box eagerly and pulled out a dozen that looked good and took them right out to the bike. After he had realized he was probably going to be scrounging from there, he had built a wire basket for the back of Rocinante to allow him to carry a good-sized load.

“Oh, Jesus! Look at that!” he breathed when he saw the yard waste roll-off. Because of the press of traffic, none of them had a chance in a while to go out and push back the piles into the roll-off.

But that waste had kept coming. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s brooms, cars and trucks stretched out in a long line, waiting to mindlessly dump their bags and barrels on top of the other piles, the ramp, the ground; anywhere and everywhere.

No one felt obligated to dump in the roll-off. There looked like there was more piled outside than inside. Some enterprising souls had even begun standing on the roof of their pick-ups to dump their bags over the back end of the roll-off rather than wait their turn at the front.

Anton came out and stared at the chaos resignedly.

“Frank, get in there and try to push back as much as you can, then close it up and open the other one.”

“Sure.”

Easier said than done. He had to insert himself between vehicles to stop the damn broomsticks. He still hadn’t reached the level of unconscious mastery of the footpedals, and had to consciously coordinate the raising and tilting of the blade. He was covered with the hot, reeking, slimy grass clippings in no time.

After he had pushed and piled as much as he could get in, he pushed the ramp out of the way, trying to avoid the impatient patrons hemming him in.

He got out, unfastened the chain for the door and tried to close it. It wouldn’t close. Too many clumps of grass in the way. He dug them out with his hands and feet until he could push the door closed. It still wouldn’t go far enough for the clamps to catch. The door, like many of them, was warped from too many years of ill-usage.

He got into the Skidsteer and used it to shove the door closed, got out, threw the lever, latching it, and pinned it in place. He unfastened the empty roll-off’s door, swung it open as far as he could without whacking any patrons’ vehicles and then clumsily maneuvered the ramp into place in front of the new one.

As soon as he left they were at it like flies, and he knew that in five minutes there would be a mess as big as what he cleaned up already.

By the end of the day, he was just looking forward to a shower. He knew the ride home would be hot, and the sweat would make his jeans cling to his thighs, making it twice as hard to pedal, but the bright side of it was; he was done for twelve hours.

He got a flat tire about five miles from home.

Saturday, it was his turn to go downstairs in the morning. He was to “cut books”’. The book-cutter was set up right at the ram end of the product baler, up against the wall. The machine consisted of an electronics compartment underneath a table-like platform. The operator stood at the table facing a rectangular arch that housed a massive guillotine-like knife powered by a hydraulic ram on the far side.

Anton gave him a run-through. You simply turned a key to turn the power on, and then held in two flat buttons out of sight under the tabletop. The machine would not work unless both of those buttons were held in. It was a safety feature to prevent someone putting a hand under the knife. He took a book at random from the Gaylord set up alongside the cutter.

“Stick the book’s binding in under the knife about this far...then hold the buttons in.” Whining shrilly, the knife slowly descended, slicing through the back of the book with a crack like bones breaking.

“Then you throw the covers and the binding in here...” He tossed them into an old Post Office canvas cart on wheels. “And the paper in here.” He threw it into another Gaylord near the first. “Only hardcovers get cut. Softcovers have something in it that nobody wants.”

“Groundwood.”

“What?”

“It’s called ‘Groundwood’. It’s a type of fiber that’s highly acid. Mechanical action is used to break down the wood fibers rather than sulfides and heat. It’s cheap, used in newsprint paper. It’s not stable though, and oxidizes quickly.”

“Whatever. Okay... Some softcovers are okay, but you have to use this special pen to be sure. If you make a mark like this...on the paper, and it turns orange, it’s no good. If it stays yellow, you can use it.”

“You can tell by the color of the paper too.”

“How do you know that?”

“I spent sixteen years in a paper mill.”

“Take your time. There’s no rush. When you want to take a break, help yourself.”

“Thanks.”

It was incredibly dusty in that corner; it lay in a grey layer an inch thick. Like the aluminum, all the stations sent their Gaylords of books here. No one seemed to know why those huge boxes on pallets were called ‘Gaylords’.

He counted seven full boxes of books. As he started to work, he saw he was definitely going to have a problem: There were too many books he wanted for himself. He started a pile on the back side of the cutter.

But by far the majority of the books were definitely not his taste in reading material.

He was surprised by his hesitancy when he encountered Bibles. Some artifact of superstitious belief made him balk at cutting them up. And there were quite a few in the box he was working from.

When he saw how many autobiographies of Christian ‘Televangilists’ and Christian books about the power of God in your life were tossed, it made him wonder how many people had become dis-illusioned out there. He didn’t mind cutting them up at all.

Encyclopedia sets were also now passé apparently. Probably due to the Internet. He cut up a lot of those.

People spent a lot of money on cookbooks too, and apparently didn’t like any of the recipes or went on diets.

Must be they didn’t work either because there were amazing amounts of diet books thrown out. And based on what he was seeing out there among the public they truly were not effective.

He saw surprisingly few ‘coffee table books’. Maybe nobody had coffee tables anymore. The few there were, were gorgeous compilations of breath-taking photographs.

He loaded up the back of the bike with as many books as seemed stable. Every day he worked there he brought home a stack of books for himself and Melissa. He sensed the others were amused at his scrounging, and especially how many books he took home.

But he was amazed at what he was finding. Philosophical, psychological, biographical, historical works, classics, and anthologies; they were all just discarded. What really surprised him was the serendipity of many of his finds.

He kept running across volumes that he had read about in his studies and had thought someday he’d like to read to fill out his understanding of an author or thinker. They appeared just as he needed them too. And these were not cheap, recent paperbacks. No, they were older, well-bound editions.

He deduced from what he heard that they were probably from “house clean-outs”: After someone died, whatever no one wanted was loaded up and dumped here. He had been told several times already by Tom and Rod that at the Genoa station, anytime either Toad or Dougie overheard someone say their trash load was a “house-cleanout”, they quickly directed them to dump it inside on the slab. Then they’d shut the doors and rummage through each and every bag.

Apparently, it was worth it to them. They found change, cameras, watches, and sometimes jewelry. And Rod went one step further. He searched through any purse, wallet, sofa, easy chair or washing machine that came in, looking for change.

“I found seventy five cents once!” He crowed to Frank when answering why he did that.

Despite the fact that he was amassing additions surprisingly germane to his personal library free of charge, he was horrified at what he was doing. Weren’t there libraries anywhere that would take these other books? Weren’t there hospitals that could use the children’s’ books? How about schools in poor districts?

He tried setting it up between the local community help center and the DPW to allow them to come and get some books to distribute to the area’s poor, but nobody was interested: The idea died still-born.

He went upstairs to take a leak and get some water. On his way back downstairs, he stopped in the office and saw that the July schedule had finally appeared: He wasn’t on it. He looked again, harder, trying to decipher the scrawl at the top of the page where the part-timers’ names were listed. He just wasn’t on it.

“F**k.”

“He just forgot you, that’s all. You’re working, don’t worry.” Anton said when he asked him.

“You sure? How the hell could he forget someone on a schedule, someone he sees every week?”

“Believe me, he does it. He’s a dumb motherf**ker.”

“I cannot believe a manager could forget like that.”

“He does it all the time.”

That didn’t convince him. He went back to cutting books sure that this was his last day of work this month. He began to grow more and more furious.

“I was just starting to get caught up! We were just starting to eat! I figured it out, I’d just have enough for the school taxes by the end of September. Now I’m F**KED! Again!

When the cart for the covers and bindings was full, he angrily shoved it over to the roll-off and up the ramp. He squatted down, slid his arms under it and straightened in one explosive motion, throwing the heavy cart over and flinging the contents out.

“Are you alright?!” He heard Anton’s voice from up top call down. He looked up, his face still twisted with anger. Anton’s eyes widened.

“Oh, I’m f**kin fine!”

“You sure?...Ya know ya can use the skidsteer to dump that.”

“Yeah, don’t worry about it.” He picked up the empty cart and set it upright, and pulled it back to the bookcutter. He began to feel a bit ashamed of himself.

“F**k it. I’ll find something else. I’ll get out of this somehow. I’m not done yet. But Goddamn it, I sure wish I could catch a break.”

Something fell out of a book he had picked up and fluttered to the ground. A small slip of white paper had been stuck between the pages. He bent down, picked it up and turned it over. There was something written on the other side.

’Trust not in thine own strength. All will be well.’”

“You said all those protests accomplished nothing. Were you involved in them back then?” Anton asked him out of the blue during a lull later on when the two of them were alone waiting for customers. Frank was surprised at the question and realized that Anton must have been turning this over in his mind for some time.

He wondered if he was just idly re-playing it over and over, or was actually making deductions, comparing it to his own and others’ opinions. He’d come to learn that Anton had a characteristic way of picking up a conversation from an hour ago, a week ago, or last month without preamble, as if the intervening time was of no account.

“No. I saw it as fruitless. I was from a different background than most of the college kids. I understood the dynamic as not one of ‘The Right Should Prevail’, but one of ‘Might Makes Right’.”

“But if you don’t take political action against something you think is wrong politically, how is anything going to change?”

“That’s a question we concerned ourselves with for hours in ‘Bull Sessions’.”

“’Bull Sessions’?”

“That’s what we called them. We were always getting together, whoever was around, and getting high. We’d just start talking, trying to figure things out. Man, they were great. I do miss them. We really tried to understand the essence of our culture, how it went wrong as we saw it, and what to do about it.”

“So, you believed in the ‘counter-culture movement’.”

“Oh, hell yeah...I didn’t start out that way, but I became convinced by the arguments. We all just split on what to do about it.”

“What do you mean?”

“There were three main groups of thought on what to do...No...Let me back up and sketch this out better... I’d say that probably 75 percent of my generation didn’t really believe in the ‘Counter-culture.

For most, it was just something they mouthed to be ‘in’, to be part of something. Mostly they were interested in just partying and eventually settling down with a ‘square job’.

The other roughly 25 percent were the ones that broke down into three camps. One said the ‘System’ must be changed by direct action; that meant sit-downs, protest marches, petitions, and very rarely, violence.

Then there was the camp that said we had to change the system ‘from within’. That meant becoming policemen, lawyers, corporate management, bankers and teachers; but with the intent of becoming socially aware policemen, lawyers, bankers, and teachers.

It seemed like nine out of ten of us were going to college to become teachers. Every High School senior back then was told to go into teaching, there was going to be a ‘teacher shortage’, so there’d be guaranteed jobs for all. Of course, that guaranteed not a shortage, but a glut of newly degreed teachers. Most couldn’t find work.

But I digress.

The third group thought that there was no point in changing the system until we knew what was to replace it. That meant we had to know what we wanted: Which meant we had to know who we were, and what humans were; what we were capable of doing or not doing.

We saw the System as impervious to change. Protests would waste themselves against its walls. And if you tried to change it from within; the System would change you into one of them.

Our solution was to ‘drop out’ and work on ourselves, to try and straighten ourselves out before we tried changing society. And though we might not be able to change that society now, we wouldn’t just go along with it; we wouldn’t be part of it.

To be independent of the System meant not depending on it.

So how do you survive then?

By ‘Going back to the Land’, that’s how. This was the group that experimented with ‘communes’, ‘Ashrams’, and ‘homesteading’. We saw Nature as salvation, and Thoreau was our patron saint. “Walden” and “Living the Good Life” by the Nearings were our Bibles. “

“Hey, Boss...Truck’s in.”

“Thanks, Timmer.” Anton replied. He’d been listening attentively, silently, not interrupting. He looked back toward the entrance; a semi was laboriously crawling in.

“I gotta go get the paperwork. Tell him to go to the warehouse, would you?” He asked Frank. “Then meet me there. I’ll need you to help load the truck.”

Helen and Scott Nearing
Helen and Scott Nearing
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau

“Which would you rather do? Record the bale tickets and weights, or load?” He asked Frank when they got there.

“Well, I need practice with the Skidsteer...”

“Okay. Suit yourself. It’s a straight load of newspaper.”

Frank slid the forks of the Skidsteer sideways under the ramp as he’d seen the others do, then lifted it, non-too-smoothly, and lowered it, non-too-gently, into place bridging the gap between the trailer and the warehouse dock.

The bales were stacked three high in a bay. If the bale was not tied tightly enough it sagged when picked up, and if it sagged enough, it fell apart. And if you snagged the wires of the bale underneath the one you were lifting, they’d snap, making that bale fall apart when you lifted it. He tried to find the best way to insert the forks between them without snagging the wires. It was awkward for him, and he strained with all of his concentration.

Once a bale was free, he lowered it down enough for Anton to take down the number off the bale ticket, the station where it was made, and its weight. He kept a running total of the weight to prevent overloading the trailer.

The newspaper bales went on average about 1,000 pounds, and the weight limit these drivers had to stay under was 43,000 pounds. He loaded them into the trailer, stacking them two bales high.

There was less than a foot’s clearance on either side of the bale when he drove it into the trailer. He couldn’t see the ramp once he was almost on it, and not at all on the way out. The only way he could tell if he was going off the ramp, was that the Skidsteer would rise up on one side as the wheels went over the side rail.

Anton ignored how Frank was doing, playing with his phone, deeply engrossed. He slashed his finger across his throat when Frank had lowered the last bale needed.

“What do you know about ‘Transcendentalism’?” he asked Frank after he had pulled the ramp away and climbed out of the Skidsteer.

“Just a bit. Why?”

“I was reading about Thoreau. It said he and Emerson were part of an American philosophical movement called ‘Transcendentalism’.”

“I think Emerson was actually the main force behind that. But Thoreau was part of the ‘Concord Group’.”

“So, what is it? I couldn’t find anything that actually said what it was.”

“Emerson’s ‘Transcendentalism’ is a different animal than, say, Kant’s. And he deliberately kept it vague, never really giving it a definition; intentionally. But in essence, I think he meant that there is ‘something’ that lies behind appearances, something that cannot be known by the senses or intellect, only by a sort of mystical insight or intuitively.

He felt the universe to be an everlasting succession of events, but its ground was the timeless ‘Now’ of Spirit.

He was very strongly influenced by Hindu thought. Translations of the Indian Holy books had just been made available to the West, and he merged many of their concepts with his own more or less classical European thinking.”

“Oh. Was Thoreau... did Thoreau think that?”

“You know, I never found any indication that he really did. I really enjoy Emerson’s essays. Especially when I’m down. I don’t know what world Emerson was from. Not where I come from anyway. Thoreau was of tougher stuff, he didn’t get into metaphysical flights. Nature was his deity. And I’d say he was basically Stoic.”

“What do you mean ‘metaphysical’?” Anton asked after a few minutes as they walked back to the office.

“Aristotle coined it, but he just meant it as the chapter after the one he wrote on Physics. ‘Meta’ simply means ‘after’ in Greek. It’s come to mean philosophical or religious speculation on things not knowable by reason or the senses.”

“Like ‘God’?”

“Like God, the nature of God, the limits or non-limits of God, or the origin of the universe, of humans, or the reason life exists, or ‘Worm-Holes’ and ‘Strings’ of dimensions, or time travel. I’m stretching the classical definition, I know.

Think of it as anything we do not, cannot, know or test. That’s why the Stoics, the Buddha, and all the Zen and Taoist Masters said that it was a waste of time and the source of too many errors. And I think Thoreau agreed on that point.”

“I’m curious. You seem to have strong opinions. How come I’ve never heard you try and change somebody’s mind? Like that character before who was spouting off all that crap about Obama?”

“I never argue with zealots. If they don’t ask for my opinion, I’m not about to force it on anyone. If someone wants to discuss something; fine. But arguing is a fruitless and infuriating act.”

Near the end of the day a pick-up pulled up and Frank went out to take the garbage. It only took a glance to recognize the driver who got out.

Word’s sure spreading quickly.” He thought. “Hi, Sharon. How’s Paula?”

“Hi, Frank. She’s good. I’ll tell her I saw you... Good to see you! What have you been up to?”

She looked much older than when he’d last seen her, and shorter if that was possible. She had always been the stockier of the two, with strong shoulders, short-cropped grey hair and heavy breasts. Paula, her significant other, was petit and cheerleader vivacious.

They both used to be with a major Insurance company in Hartford, part of the upper management...until it went under. They had pulled up stakes and moved here to where Sharon’s parents had had a summer home when she was growing up. They raised goats and sold the cheese they made at the area Farmers’ Markets.

“I took my pension early: I’m retired. I picked up this part-time job a month or two ago.” At the same instant he was saying to himself: “Liar. You face-saving, f**king liar.”

Good for you. Everybody has been wondering what happened to you. It’s like you fell off the planet.”

“Yeah....What are you two up to?” he changed the subject.

“We just got back from visiting Paula’s family in California....I guess you heard that New York made Gay marriages legal...We got married on the 4th of July. We’d been together already now almost thirty-five years. It’ll be our ‘anniversary’ this August.”

Hey! That’s great! I wish you both the best of luck and all the happiness in the world!”

“I knew you would.”

They hugged each other briefly.

“I’ll tell everyone I saw you. Say hi to Melissa.”

“Will do.” “Tell everyone? Oh great. That will make me soooo happy”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Zeno the Stoic
Zeno the Stoic

“They pursue the greatest of all arts, the art of living well, in their lives rather than in their studies.” Cicero

“I looked up ‘Stoicism’ on line. It didn’t mention Thoreau as being one. It mentioned somebody named Zeno, and Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, but not Thoreau.” Anton informed him about an hour later as they were hauling garbage cans to the hopper.

“Right. Even those four differed in aspects of their thinking about what it meant to be a Stoic. Never mind someone as radical as Diogenes.

The ‘Stoics’ didn’t invent ‘Stoicism’. Some of the central ideas of ‘Stoicism’ can be found in the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, Zen Buddhism, uh, what else...?”

He saw the amused looks from some of the patrons as they overheard them.

“Well, it must be kinda weird to see a big old man and a long-haired young Prussian, both in filthy clothes, hauling garbage, and talking philosophy...Well; it’ll give them something to talk about later.”

“It said that they believed everything is guided by natural laws, and the wise man should be indifferent to external things.”

“That’s a bit of a gloss. It’s probably better to say they were aware that they knew they didn’t know why things happened as they did, but they assumed there was a reason of some kind, and it was up to each of us to play out our role, or destiny, as being necessary for the workings of the universe. Accept your fate and do your best to do it well. They aimed at achieving ‘Ataraxia’; a calm indifference to whatever befell them externally.

Nor did they worry about death or an afterlife. Epicurus said that ‘Death does not concern us.’, because when we’re dead, we are not there, so there is no one to worry about it, is there?”

“So, you think Thoreau was a Stoic?” he persisted.

“Stoic-like. He didn’t concern himself with an after-life, neither did they, like I said. He was personally unconcerned with good or bad fortune, and like the Stoics he wasn’t afraid to act on his principles. And he was a vocal social critic. He wasn’t concerned with earthly comforts or luxuries, as most of them weren’t as well....Hey, need a hand with that?”

“Got it...Unnnh!” With a grunt, Anton got himself under the weight of the barrel and hoisted it onto the hopper wall.

“Let me give you a hand. ‘Many hands make light work.’ ...There we go” The disgusting mass of baby diapers, rotted food, and wrappings let go with a jerking slip down the chute.

“Oh, Baby! That was a real ‘stinkeroo’!”

“So what did they think about religion?”

“I think I’d be safe saying in general: ‘Whatever gets you through the night is alright’. Remember “Cat’s Cradle”? Whatever ‘Foma’ makes you feel strong, brave, and happy.

And they understood the need not to offend the people’s beliefs. Most of them did not share the simple views of the people, but knew the average person needed the solace of petition and sacrifice, so they went along with it; with a wink.”

“Cool. I like that. I think one of the biggest problems this country has is too many fundamentalist Christian types trying to shove their religion down everybody else’s throat. All religions are childish. And all bullshit.”

“I think there is a distinction between the religions for the masses and the mystical experience. And I think most philosophies are bullshit too.”

“What do you mean?”

“’Philosophers’ fall mainly into two groups. Some want to find a way to explain why everything is as it is. That, in my opinion, is doomed to fail as much as any religion’s attempt to explain the world.

Mainly because our thinking is always subjective. We think we’re being objective, but we can’t see that not only does the time and culture affect our thought, but so does our psychology and childhood.

The other group is only interested in how to live this life; the ‘Art of Living’.”

“What do you mean, the ‘Art of Living’?”

“There’s a difference between analysis and ‘going with it’. A difference between standing back away from life and observing it to explain it, and dancing with it.

Those who seek the Art of Living feel the intellect is overstepping its bounds when it delves into abstract thinking. They see the rational mind as a good servant but a moron of a master; that the intellect is never really trustworthy when it goes beyond concrete objects; it loses its anchor then.

Henri Bergson said the human intellect is at home with solid objects, which is why it constantly tries to treat abstract concepts as concrete things. Our minds dislike things that can’t be perceived concretely.

I think of the ‘Art of Living’ as sort of an owner’s manual for what it means to be a human. No speculation, no religious dogma or beliefs; just concretely how to most fully, effectively, and ethically live out your life.”

Henri Bergson
Henri Bergson

He had another flat just outside the gates again on Saturday. He’d have been sure there was sabotage, except that he kept a real close eye on that bike, and some of the prime suspects weren’t even working that day.

He amused himself while walking by trying to remember all the Latin names for the weeds he saw in the fields and along the roads. He no longer even bothered sticking his thumb out for a ride. He wouldn’t give anyone the pleasure of passing him by when he was asking for help, or create guilt if they felt they should help but didn’t want to.

The problem seemed to be that the tires were brittle with age. It was a damn good thing they had laid up a good stock of bike tire tubes for Y2K, because he was going through them now like wildfire.

The best in the technology fields hadn’t been sure how bad that Century Date Change problem would be, so he had figured that to lay up food and supplies they would always use eventually anyway made sense.

As it turned out, the Chief Economist at Deutsche Bank, Dr. Edward Yardeni’s, scenario that it would result in a recession at least as bad as the Arab oil Embargo one, a stock market crash, higher fuel costs, and rolling black-outs in places was dead on.

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