30 Cyber-Days in San Francisco 1.3.5

The View from Butte, Montana: A Response to Red's Java House

Walking the razor edge of hyperactivity, the SF post-moderns don't fear nothingness? They fear too much of too much? Then they move to Montana and give the state a bad name...

The view from here is a bit contraire. In old Butte, where the dust blows heavy with old smelter fallout, hyperactivity revolves around working 3 part-time minimum wage jobs to feed the kids, learning about the good life from watching prime-time TV, and trying to fill all your hunting tags by killing deer, elk, antelope, and moose. The nothingness creeps in. The nothingness is not like the cold feeling of the ground that creeps through your sleeping bag and into your bones on a 30 below night in the mountains. The cold ground is real. Even if you freeze to death, at least you know it's nature's eloquent way of reaching out to you. The abyss has no eloquence. It's a nothingness like the patches of blank screen that appear on your computer screen during a virus attack. Dead animals, beer, TV, and the fact that your boss is some high school kid don't fill no abyss.

The abyss, the nothingness, stems from the utter meaninglessness of your life. Being nice to some shmuck tourist who's paying for a bottle of pop with a credit card. Cheering for your kid who, even if he makes first-string offense, won't have any future. Watching some Californicator build a log mansion on the creek where your Dad used to take you fishing. You have little control and not many choices. Control? Tell the manager you think he should order more Coke and less Pepsi. Choice? Vote for the rich smooth-talking Democrat guy, or for the rich mean-spirited Republican guy.

I would guess even the hyperactive silicon info-geeks feel about the same way. What are they creating with their life? Do they have time after work to play catch with their sons, or teach their daughters to two-step? Is the only difference between them and marginally employed Montanaans that they are filling the hole in their life with a red Porsche and a trophy wife instead of an old Wagoneer and a .270 Winchester? Unfortunately, they all want to vacation in Montana, in August, when it seldom snows.

Maybe the Unabomber was right: "It would be better to dump the whole stinking system and take the consequences." The Unabomber was mostly talk. He didn't do as much harm as the LA Freeway on a good day. And if we believe evolution, a human individual, even one who sends bombs in the mail, is just another stochastic factor, no more purposeful than an avalanche or a hungry grizzly. Now that really pulls me back from the abyss, the thought that human nature is just another random and meaningless Darwinian maze-way.

How about Zen? We're just part of nature, bobbing along on the watercourse way, so go with the flow... But then there are those who insist on building logjams (or log mansions) in the very spot nature leads me, graphite flyrod in hand. Hmmm, no political solution to be had there.

Al Borgmann (he's a philosophy professor in Missoula, but that's OK; Missoula isn't much further from Montana than Butte) believes the essential problem lies with the impotence of liberalism. Liberals refuse to make judgments on what constitutes the good life. So, without a goal, we board the train, criticize one another, and argue about where we have went wrong in the past. Meanwhile, the train pushes on, further blurring our sense of place, disrupting connections with community, and accelerating our mental pace, so that it becomes more and more difficult to hop off.

Have a nice day.