Just One Little Thought
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By Marc Porter Zasada
I don't know about you, but every day the Urban Man finds it harder and harder to have a coherent thought of his very own. Nothing elaborate mind, just something I could write in a diary or a letter to a friend. Every time I try, my thought seems to get crowded out by something I read in a self-help book, heard on The Daily Show, or flashed from Slate.com. It gets lost in a monologue from Dr. Laura or drowned in clever lyrics downloaded from iTunes.
Do you have the same problem?
Now the other morning when I woke up, I'm pretty certain I was on to something, and I laid in bed for a while, trying to recall it like some half-remembered dream... It was something like, "At this point in a man's life, he should... " or "I should be approaching some new resolution now that... " Well, I couldn't quite get ahold of it.
When I got up, I tried to avoid the newspaper, because I knew if I looked at the headlines, I'd soon forget the whole effort. But I couldn't help myself. I mean, there was all that bold type. And soon I was absorbing three new scenarios involving Anthony Pellicano, two more cases of avian flu, one more giddy cartoon based on Brokeback Mountain, and then, nine simultaneous car bombs in Iraq. They had pictures, and sure enough, within five minutes, it became impossible to have, well, any coherent thought.
This problem has actually been going on for some time. Way back in 1845, Henry David Thoreau said even his little town of Concord had grown so full of hustle and news that he could no longer think clearly, so he went and built a shack next to Walden Pond, where he intended to quote "front only the essential facts and ... dig deep into the marrow of life." He wrote: "I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of ... one house burned, or one steamboat blown up -- we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?"
Thoreau lasted two years by his quiet lake. Not bad for an urban man.
By now it's 7:20 and I have to drive my daughter to her fiercely expensive private school. I try not to turn on the radio, but hey, it's right there on the dashboard. I hear a snatch of Billy Joel, a soup--on of Mendelssohn. On Morning Edition they're interviewing someone who has had a whole series of apparently coherent thoughts. And all the while, I try to listen to my daughter, who's telling me something about her history teacher.
But I can't help thinking, "What was that thought I almost had in bed this morning? Didn't it have something to do with middle-age and its unique possibilities? Wasn't there some image of hot air balloons? Didn't I picture the way they're tethered to the ground and then, all at once... " Unfortunately, just as my thought almost made another shy appearance, I was distracted by a left turn involving L.A.'s dreaded San Vicente Boulevard. Soon, I began thinking of interest rates and port security-- and yes, already by 7:30 a.m. my poor, half-thought thought had started to fade away.
Come 8 a.m., the Urban Man was firmly seated in his office chair, and all hope was lost.
Still, I have to report that late that night, when I shut down my browser after the last shocking revelations of the news cycle, and dragged myself into bed, I again experienced a nagging unease. I thought: "Surely, I forgot something on my to do list today. Surely, some important thing has slipped my mind... "
But for the life of me, I couldn't remember what it might be.
Copyright -- 2006 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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