We anxiously await news of Hurricane Matthew tracking north at 12 mph along the barrier islands including Hilton Head Island. Unless it is swept away that’s where in approximately three weeks we’re scheduled to alight for five months. There are two sure-fire ways to eliminate a problem, at least temporarily. One, drink. The other, sleep.
Drinking can be undertaken daily. It is a habit or (more often than not) an addiction which is sometimes spared indignity by being coextensive with hors d’oeuvres, an improving British novel and a crackling fireplace. Though mine is an historical perspective only I mention those particular ceremonies because they were my additives of choice and most convenient to the end of my business day. While I confess that a drink at noon was soothing I avoided the allure not because it threatened to interfere with my mental acuity (and it certainly would have done so) but rather because it drained the strength of the evening cocktail, a unparalleled reward I was not prepared to diminish. If one were on occasion fortunate to have the conspiracy of others during this practiced ritual it could be counted upon to elevate one’s perceptions of the day and to lubricate the detail of one another’s lives, trivia which might otherwise have been lost to time. Until I succumbed to martinis (which effectively terminated consciousness within an hour or two), I could count on whiskey and soda to buoy me after almost any disappointment or personal taxation while still permitting me to motor (though perhaps somewhat sloppily) through the remainder of the evening until the following day when the cycle of “Oh God!” and “Thank God!” started again. The dead-head on the voyage is that, “If you think you have a drinking problem, then you do!” This in turn downloads all the annoying psychology about running from life and hiding from something, unsettling even when cavalierly dismissed or camouflaged by a persistence to regard one’s time on earth as limited and therefore entitling one to unmitigated indulgence. Besides headaches are so obtrusive. I do of course hasten to add that this affliction is not a universal conclusion.
In the result – and once again speaking for myself only – the anaesthetic of sleep presents itself as a reasonable alternative. Yet apart from the tenuousness of sleep (eight hours might not for some be adequate relief) we’ve all heard the overarching qualification – “To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub.” Dreams for me are disturbing and in the end no better choice to end the mortal coils of life though the hangover may be less punishing.
Either way – inebriated or asleep – there is seemingly no way out. Thankfully during my waking (and sober) hours I have learned to divert myself with enterprises which disguise the existential despondency of life. These diversions are mere tools, void of any spirituality other than what I succeed to inspire. Succumbing to the persuasion of diversion is only slightly removed if at all from drinking and sleeping. Nonetheless there appears to be a case for doing more than burying or ignoring the complexities of life. Even if one were to stare down the value of recreation or cars or jewellery or whatever it is that takes one’s mind off things, there remains one final assertion and that is to dismiss the past, forget about the future and look only to the present. Though it borders on the axiomatic, the logic of such a posture is slippery to embrace. Who hasn’t a foot in the past and an eye on the future? So often we’re persuaded to assemble experience and to project our imagination. The counsel to smell the roses is so deliberately poetic as to risk authenticity.
Perhaps the only solution is to gape at the world without comment. The instinct of every mother is, “Don’t worry, it’ll be alright!” And if for a moment you doubt the admonishment and prefer something else, let me ask, “So how’s that going?”
I am left to conclude that there ain’t no ship to take me away from myself; that no amount of alcohol or sleep will ever sufficiently dilute or obfuscate life’s disillusionment. It is embarrassing to contemplate that the source of discontent is nothing but impatience, an evil intemperance of its own. How foolish it is to dodge tragic pessimism by hibernation as though we could simply wait it out! I shall not tranquillize or shield my experience. Instead I prefer the inadequacies of introspection and rumination. Oh, and cars.