2011 01 (12 to 14)
Vero Beach, FL
It came to me in a vision that I truly hate optimists.
We were riding the Blue Line Train on Chicago's L transit System when my transit reverie was intruded upon by a stray thought. Actually it was a full National Film Board animated short. Transit reverie is an urban phenomenon in which you stand furiously mute on a moving platform pretending not to notice anyone around you while broadcasting your emotional detachment from anyone in range. Transit Reverie is Elevator Indifference transposed to the horizontal plane with a dash of Tobasco for decent muted rage.
I can usually fake the standing mute part - my brain just shuts down and I ride zombie to my destination. On more than one occasion my senses have been so muted in this state that I have missed my stop only to startingly regain consciousness in some unknown venue.
Sometimes you really do not want your freedom from thought to be interrupted by stray or variant idea: you are entitled to enjoy your thoughtlessness. Sitting in that subway car you have a nice little natural buzz going on, like a full body stone from the good old days when I too drank original formula Coke.
That day the joy of moronity was to be denied me. Crashing my reverie came a twenty armed dancing elephant: Ganesha, Hindu God and Remover of Obstacles gripped in mortal combat with Pollyanna that pneumatic thoughtless perpetual optimist from the book of the same name.
It took a while to figure out what the other half of my brain was attempting to convey.
This all occurred on our second full day of a two hour layover in Chicago. Apparently someone in Atlanta, the City that gave us Coca Cola, thought they saw a snowflake. Panic reigned. Atlanta went catatonic. Too many of the locals still drink the true "original" formula of that famous coca leaf based beverage. For whatever reason no one could fly into or out of Atlanta for several days.
This was unfortunate because our flights were booked from London to Chicago to Atlanta to Melbourne, where floated our beloved Meredith. Now it is a fact that most people who fly into Atlanta wish to fly out again as soon as possible. This is only partly because it is a "hub" airport for Delta Airlines.
So we found ourselves unavoidably in Chicago, which was a lucky event for the Budget Committee and me. Chi-town is one of our most favourite American cities, right up there with Detroit and New York. Chicago's transit system, the L, is unique. For $2.25 you can ride the Blue Line train from the airport to the downtown Loop. The airport transit terminus, clothed in flowing glass brick walls and flourescing subterranean colours is more art gallery than subway station and the train itself is unique: part subway, part train and part elevated transit system.
Once downtown you have unbelievable resources for a tourist. In 5 blocks or so you have Ford's Chinese Theatre, Berghoff's restaurant, Macey's, the Opera Hall, dePaul University. We headed for the Art Institute of Chicago, home of an eclectic series of private collections donated by discerning Chicagaons.for public viewing. It is a working city's art gallery and well worth several days of attendance. With only a single afternoon to spend we invested it in the Art Institute.
As it developed admission was free. Unbelievable!
Once at the Institute we strolled through statuary of Islam and then of Indonesia where we saw several representations of the god Genesha, Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles. Genesha was created by another of the Hindu Gods out of bathwater scum. After an unfortunate beheading his cranium was replaced with that of an elephant. He has twenty arms and in each statue these appendages were furiously working at useful tasks. He is a cool dude.
So back to the dream battle. Genesha thumped Pollyanna. Competence defeated optimism. Here was a point worth invasion of my mental calm even if it took a minute or two to figure out the simple message.
I have no use for optimism. Optimism is mindless. Superstition is superior to optimism. At least the superstitious fool has some basis for his belief in future events: "Last night my priest threw a handful of chicken bones in the dirt and they told me...."
Optimists just think things will get better because they think things will get better. The brains of optimists need a good dose of neuronal ex lax. I mean really.
Competence and competents (the people who are competent) are radically different. They have a positive outlook for the future but not for no reason. They have confidence that whatever is thrown at them they can handle. They do not know everything they need to know about everything but they are capable of learning and adapting and enduring.
I want my boat crewed by Ganeshas.