LAKELAND, TN: When I used to run, I would often experience a “Runner’s High” when you get to that stage when you feel you could just feel you could just run forever. I kind of experienced something similar today, what i’ll call a Driver’s High. Sometime in eastern Arkansas, after getting gas in Brinkley, I just felt I keep keeping driving forever. Of course, the confusing roads in Memphis ended up destroying the feeling.
I mean, if you’re on I-40, shouldn’t you need to exit to get on the “subsidiary” route, instead of exiting to stay on the interstate itself? Had I not been paying attention in West Memphis, I may have ended up in Mississippi.
Well, I just crossed the Big Muddy. I had thought to end my day in Arkansas so I could begin the new day crossing the Mighty Mississippi, given how significant it is to our culture, but I didn’t want to deal with Memphis traffic in the morning and did have that driver’s high as I approached the city’s Arkansas suburbs.
I had a good start this morning and am glad I remembered my parents’ advice when we traveled to go back and check the room before leaving. Had I not done so, I might have left my cell phone behind.
Despite the plethora of books on CD I have in my car, today I preferred the silence of the open road and listened to three, maybe four hours of the The Iliad and The Odyssey, leaving Telemachos with King Menelaus in Sparta and having Calypso tell Odysseus how he is to leave her island, free finally to return home to his beloved Penelope, preferring that aging woman to the immortal nymph, perpetually young.
As I finished the Iliad, I realized (yet again) how wrong David Benioff got the story when he adapted the poem for Wolfgang Petersen‘s 2004 movie. The basic point of the epic is that Achilles goes from a peevish and juvenile young man, indifferent to the men he slaughters to a man who, in seeing the suffering of the father of his defeated rival Hector, becomes more human. In the movie, while looking the part, Brad Pitt‘s character was far less bloodthirsty and antagonistic than Homer’s Achilles at the outset of the ancient conflict.
I became enraged with speed limits, recalling the German Autobahn which lacked any. I mean, once when I was being passed on a straight stretch of highway, I checked my speedometer and saw I was going 90. To make sure I stayed under the speed limit, I often glanced at the dash board. Wouldn’t it be safer to keep my eyes on the road and gage my speed on the traffic around me and the condition of the road, rather than on arbitrary limit? (Of course things should be different in urban areas.)
I thought much on the empty debate on gay marriage and wondered that if we ever got it, would it help gay men develop a mature attitude toward sexuality. And I realized (yet again) that those most vocal in promoting gay marriage are often those least capable of articulating the meaning of marriage. Those gay people who best understand that meaning–and oftentimes live out that understanding–are most often reluctant to speak publicly about the social meaning of relationships like the defining one in their lives.
I thought about Log Cabin and their latest media success in attacking another Republican. If they want to get headlines by attacking the GOP, they shouldn’t call themselves Republicans, but then if they didn’t call themselves Republicans, they wouldn’t be getting headlines for attacking the GOP.
I noted billboards decrying the evils of Meth across New Mexico and guessed that that problem was not limited to urban areas.
The further east I got, the more signs I saw advertising churches and quoting the Bible–with numerous large crosses along the road. I saw a number of billboards promoting abstinence until marriage. While I think that may be good for people’s souls, will that help young people understand the risks and rewards (and all around general complexity) of sexuality?
When I crossed into Oklahoma, I found that the song was only partially right. The wind did come whipping down the plain. The air was sweet, but I saw no hawks making lazy circles in the sky. And as to that other song, I saw no corn reaching as high as an elephant’s eat. Western Oklahoma did match the musical to some extent, but eastern was a bit more hilly and forested. Nice country.
I had some thoughts about some political issues–how Republicans tend to suffer more from scandals than Democrats. What Larry Craig did pales in comparison to what Teddy Kennedy did. Where Mark Foley resigned his seat (as well he should), Gerry Studds stayed in office–and was honored by his colleagues whereas what he did was far worse.
As I listened to the end of The Iliad, I also thought about movie adaptations of classic works in general and Peter Jackson‘s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings in particular. While Jackson didn’t get everything right, he was, on the whole, true to the spirit of the books and given the scope of the project, did an amazing job. I was eager to read the magazine I had packed discussing the possibility that he’ll be producing an adaptation of the “prequel” to LotR– The Hobbit.
And I wondered about the people in the cities, towns and countryside I drove through. Have they been thinking about the presidential election? (I saw no political bumper stickers between Santa Rosa and here.) I wondered more about their lives than their political interests. And wished sometimes I could just stop and listen. How would they treat me if they knew I was gay? What movies do they watch? What do they think of Hollywood? Are they happy in their small towns? All kinds of questions.
Of course, many other issues crossed my mind. I covered about 900 miles today and was only listening to CDs for at most 4 hours. So perhaps the biggest thing then today was the notion of silence, how there is too little of it in our culture. I found it on the open road, but whenever I stopped in a convenience store or even the hotel lobby when I checked in, I could music being piped in or the sounds of a television in the distance.
Being silent today on the open road, my mind was full of all kinds of ideas. Some find silence in the great outdoors. But, all too often, it seems we’re all too eager to turn on the music or the TV or some other source of noise, drowning our own thoughts, oftentimes distancing ourselves from those in our presence. And even distancing ourselves from our own inner voice.
I do think (and I’m not the first) that we do need to be silent sometimes, not just to hear that voice, but also to be present with those around us.
So, I’ll have a little more silence on this trip–and then perhaps turn on voices telling great stories or teaching me about ideas and history. And then later of course, there will be the company of my friends and my family.