Sunday, April 23, 2017

4/23/17: The Hidden Value of Genericism

Tonight, something different: a word on genericism,  and an odd, hidden benefit it possesses.

I've been traveling again, but, again, I've been nowhere new, or especially special, however much I've yoga'd there (and none of my destinations have been spared my yoga'ing, to be sure). Though, it's through this mundane, routine quality to my excursions that I've discovered something both unexpected and wonderful: the value of the United States' increasingly generic landscape.

In a nut, there are things to be learned from repeated exposure to outwardly identical places (and, similarly, people, and about anything else, I suppose). In particular, my adventures in such "genericized" environments have revealed to me what I do (or don't) like about any space.

Bear with me.

It's a matter of contrasts, as it were. Why is it that I liked that one Starbucks back in Charleston, while that one up in Charlotte was a total turn-off, despite being nearly identical in every respect? Well, there are the obvious variables -- the people present, the time of day, my mood and perceptions at the time, plus a million other chance factors. But, what about the times when, all things being more or less equal, I just ... liked that first one, for no reason I could readily put my finger on. Both were Starbuckses, with a standardized menu and decoration and general experience ... yet, they were different, and in a subtle-yet-significant way -- significant enough to sour me to one and endear me to the other.

And that's when we come to the heart of the matter: the highlighting of contrasts, an unintended side-effect of such standardized, Strip-Mall-America genericism. In the case cited above, of two almost-identical coffee shops in different geographical locations, I was allowed to see what I didn't like, due to experiencing a similar setting in a totally different physical environment -- visiting a Starbucks that wasn't a Starbucks, you could say. Here, the contrast was provided by the franchise's attempt to inject the good-and-appealing into multiple, separate locations, which, in retrospect, worked to isolate what was so enjoyable at the one Starbucks -- and, conversely, so repellent at the other. (And just what was that elusive contrast? Well, that's a whole other blog post, about psychology and architecture and the subtle, energetic qualities of space; but, as far as this post is concerned, the factor of the matter is, just, that the contrast was there.)

The point? That by traveling to such same-but-different places, the revealed contrasts can teach much to the traveler (and, in a broader sense, that there's value to any experience, however hidden or indirect).

Now, as for why you should care about this phenomenon? Well, I never said you should care about it, for the record. But, since you've read this far, I suppose you're entitled to some kind of takeaway, which would be this: that my "going to the same, uninspired places" brand of travel can be fulfilling, and in novel and surprising ways. And, for what it's worth, it bears mentioning that incidents of the particular sort cited above, involving the proliferation of cardboard-cutout franchises and their corporate parents, have been beneficial for me personally, helping me to find some good in these ubiquitous (and, sometimes, troublesome) non-entities. In my case, it's not a fully redeeming quality, exactly, but such benefit has gone a long way towards healing my somewhat rocky relationship with the corporate world and its controversial offspring.

Cool, eh?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

3/25/17: Of Death and Departure

Departure is something of a death-trip, in my experience.

Preparations to be made. Loose ends to tie. Lists to write. Packing, packing, packing -- what'd I forget?!? And that's just for a single, untethered young yogi. Also, that knot of pre-trip considerations is just the start, not even touching on the finer points: inconveniences, deprivations; the breaking of the hallowed Routine; the loss of the creature comforts that have made sedentary life the norm in many parts of the modern world.

Logistical mayhem, this.

To leave one's home, however temporal that home might be, and however temporal the leaving -- it's no small thing, for mind as much as body. For the un-traveled, this reaction might come as something of a surprise (if not a shock). These attachments run deep, and strong, so much that, for many, there's ultimately no preparing oneself for The Departure, same as there's no preparing to leave the womb.

And so that's why a death is necessary.

For me, the process has become quite pronounced, as to be predictable. Before the departure commences, a stoppage must occur, an end to the primal continuity which constitutes the infrastructure of the average man's linear, time-lined, earthbound existence. The mind must shift from an orientation of survival and posterity and movement, to one of in-the-moment stillness -- a mentality of planning and tomorrows and progress, to that of Here and Now, and these things only.

There is resistance to this letting-go, of course, that of the ties that bind us (so securely, yes, but oh so restrictively). But, slowly, surely ... release is attained, either climatically, with our fingernail marks on it, or quietly, whimper-style. Then, a timelessness ensues, a cessation -- sometimes uneasy, sometimes tranquil, but always inevitable.

The hands untense. The bag is hoisted. The slate is wiped. The horizon opens up, and with it, the road.


* * *

Such was the case for my latest journey, requiring this bittersweet ritual and its mental gymnastics. And, for all its ado (adieu?), this journey was a short one. Likewise, the journey was rather routine, just a few days of van-camping in some relatively staid suburban environs (without even crossing state lines, as it were). So routine and pedestrian, I once more will refrain from so much as my uninteresting pictures.

But I loved it, loved it, loved it. Loved the dying as much as the living that followed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2/14/17: Tension and Release (Or, How to Make Something Out of Nothing)

The yogi has been out of action, for nearly two months. But, no longer.

Where'd I go? Nowhere new (same northern-family-visit circuit as catalogued exhaustively in this blog). What'd I do? Nothing new (camped in my van at a couple comfortably familiar places, where I yoga'd and such). What happened? Ditto.

Nothing ... and everything.

The trip, however unremarkable and routine and yawn-inducing for an outside observer, was absolutely blissful. How? Why? It was all about tension and release. Namely, that of being a riotously footloose person (a wandering yogi, as it were) who's been kept grounded by a conspiracy of health and circumstances and just plain stagnation -- only to finally break out of it, at long last. So, even though this breakout trip was absolutely routine (and lasted barely three days), it was, for the traveler, nothing less than manna from Heaven. I might as well have gone to the moon and back.

That first night out, I thought: This is how a supernova must feel.


The Horny Manta Ray, parked at the gym that hosted this trip's single night of public van-camping (which, keeping with the "nothing new" theme, has been previously pictured on this blog).

And then, what's this?!? Some actual content? Well, it was just the minor spectacle of some urban geese with whom I shared that gym parking lot, approximately six or eight of them waddling about and honking conspicuously throughout my stay -- but hey, some lousy content is miles better than no content (for the content-centric, at least).