In an age of constant reimbursement and satisfaction, in which people are as fluid as the waters of a deep sea current, we live and breathe in a world of forward motion. And it is in this spirit that I fear, no, pray for, the Midwest. In my experience, the people in the Midwest seem stationary. Set. Unmoving.
“Oh,” you may argue, “you’re just looking for something to criticize and, oh, anything that is beyond yourself is instantly bad because we’re all only trying our best and, oh, not everyone has the resources or the privilege to move about as you do,” to which I would reply “oh, but in the day and age of Chris Supertramp McCandless and the Mormon Exodus, how can we defend the actions of those who are merely scared, even after all of these ‘success’ stories? Sure, they are filled with death, but these are the happy deaths of those who are satisfied; and I ask you, then, whether or not you are satisfied.”
My father’s family lives in Wheaton, Illinois, a suburb that is 99 percent white, where God-fearing Protestants leave the influx of liberal propaganda of the big city (Chicago) and set up rows and rows of homes set up by an urban planner who was inspired by either a chain-link fence or by the bars of a prison. And it is there where they grow, live and die all in the comfort of their 2ba 3b Great Location! Good Schools! Wholesome Neighborhood! Homes, where the fathers are within walking distance of the train station which takes them on a whirlwind down the City on a Hill and into the sin-pits of secular Illinois.
Last year, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my brother and I were able to convince our Wheaton family to take a day in the city. For all of the 18 years we’ve been flying into the O’Hare airport, we have yet to see the Chicago skyline. The four adults walked nervously to the station as the children balanced on the curb, arms outstretched, ready to experience the city for the very first time. And then came the train, with windows the tint of urine. We were nervously guided to the upwards-left corner on the second level, where a barrier of backpacks was placed on the edge as we children were sheltered by the now significantly smaller sandwich of false reality.
I got nauseated on the way to the city, yet it wasn’t from motion sickness, nor was it from my cousins who still, at 21 and 23, have an absolute fascination with burping. I sat there on the train and for an hour watched at least fifty Wheatons fly by before we got to the city. A country, world, universe of suburbia. Millions of people. More. Where is their writing? Their stories? Where are we going as a species, and where are these millions of people taking us?
I have this need from my family, my school, my wealth, my privilege, to feel… special. And I feel that way, I have to. I don’t have to be the best, but I have to be a concoction of different perspectives, of new words and sentences. Do they get it? Should they get it? Are they wrong, or am I?
We stayed near the park, peeking into a few shops and after being turned away from dinner in the Trump Tower, we settled for Qdoba (uglier, Midwestern Chipotle) on the way back from the train.
The people of Wheaton are inexplicably happy to a point that I will never understand, as if I were there, you would no sooner find me lost in a gutter somewhere with a half-empty bottle of Coca-Cola and M&M’s.
They’re more content then I will ever be. More secure shoveling snow and hosting block parties than I will be traversing Shanghai or sneaking into the Buckhead Theater.
Maria Bamford once stated, “People who are developmentally disabled often bring entire communities together because they lack the social awareness that makes loneliness possible.”
What if we, as budding intellectuals, are establishing this social and existential awareness that is placing us in the most lonely corner of our minds?
Liberal arts have ruined the wonder of little things.
We’ve rubbed elbows with understanding of true loneliness, and through our privilege, sat down and farted down the throats of naïveté.