Friday, November 4, 2016

The lonliness of the western mind

or, How geography and landscape affects the human mind over time (which is a really wild concept) One of the things I've been thinking about is the effect that being out in the wild had on the mind of those in the west. This was a wild land, a wild time, and in many places, not very populated. One might spend long stretches of time with minimal to no human contact. Not everyone can handle that kind of time spent with thoughts.
Grat hammered thick plate shoes on his horse at Bakersfield, the cowboy capital, and he took the Tehachapi trail for Barstow and the Mojave desert, thence to Needles and across Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, sleeping afternoons in caves or in the tangled shade of mesquite or Joshua trees, feeding on fence lizards, salamanders, greasy peccary and drinking sulphur water. The land was bare as worn carpet except for the balls of tumbleweed and the animal carcasses and the purple mountains in the distance. He'd see strands of smoke from Hopi and Navaho fires fifteen miles away, but by the time he got there the cooking stones would be cool, the wickiups would be empty, and vicious travois dogs would bark and lunge at his horse. Sheep would stare as he slumped by at night; rattlesnakes would stab at his stirrups and flop down to squirm under sagebrush; small tarantulas crawled over his face to drink water from his eyes as he slept. He lost thirty-two pounds, pried out an aching tooth with his dinner fork, blistered both heels so far down to the bone that he could pour blood when he took off his boots. I suppose Grat's brain cracked just a bit with aloneness because he invented a cowboy named Dangerous Dan who supposedly rode an albino mule and caught turtledoves in his hands and talked to Grat about railroads and how they were going to get even. "Old Dan, he was good company," said Grat. His journey from California to Oklahoma took one hundred and seven days.
-- Desperadoes by Ron Hansen Did the push west create the American national trait (desired or not) of rugged individualism? Did the US have two births and two sets of founding father? The first being in 1776 with George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, etc. The second in the wild west with Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickock, etc. If so did the first foundation give the country one set of values, one type of philosophy, one outlook on life. Did the second foundation give the country another set of values, another type of philosophy, another outlook on life. What is the relationship of the "code of the west" to a comparable "code of the south"? Is there one? How did these two strains intertwine post-West? Are they compatible? How has the country moved forward after two big births? Is there a see-sawing between the two? Here's the :Alone" monolog from the final season of Rectify. It gives specific voice to the main characters prolonged isolation on Death Row and how that time changed him. If there has been a re-wiring, can that be undone? (For the full effect watch it delivered
When you are alone with yourself for all that time, with no one but yourself. You begin to go deeper and deeper in your self until you lose your self. It's a perverse contradiction . It's like your ego begins to disintegrate until you have no ego . Not in the sense that you become humble or gain some kind of perspective. But that you literally lose your sense of self. And I'm not sure anyone, unless they've gone through it, can truly understand how profound that loss is . It's like the psychic glue that binds your whole notion of existence is gone and you become unglued. I think therefore I am. I think too much therefore I am not. I am not therefore I am nothing. I am nothing therefore I am dead. And if I am dead then why am I still so goddamn lonely.
--Daniel Holden, Season 4 of Rectify The west was wild land eventually tamed by the east. Did the west mindset of individualism, not working with others, maintaining a certain seperatness leave the people in the west ripe for the progress of the east? The wild lands create a mindset that allows for eventual occupation and dominance yet, in the long run, nature will, if given the chance, take over. Very cyclical. Interesting. (Explore more...)
That winter, Tom McLaury went for days at a time without another human being to speak to, but it was no hardship. He enjoyed the quiet companionship of his draft horses, Peggy and Bob. He talked to the dogs, too, and to a pair of Mexican pigs he'd bought recently. "Your babies'll be meat someday," Tommy told the pigs when he fed them, "but I'll give them a good life until then That's about all a pig can ask for."
--Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell