I was out for a nice stroll in the neighborhood. We have no sidewalks here. Everyone walks in the road. I have no idea why. The neighborhood is almost sixty years old and they never bothered putting in sidewalks. Now, as you can imagine, the town has rules. First of all they claim to own or control the first eight feet of everyone’s lot; both front and side. They also have a rule that there can be no fences on that eight foot section between what I own and the curb; the sidewalk-less section in case I had to remind you.
But all that information is for naught. It has nothing to do with what I am about to tell you.
As I was walking – – – it was in the evening – – – I heard someone talking to me. Or so I thought. But why was he speaking in Russian (or Ukrainian or Polish or whatever he was speaking). It was a high pitched voice; possibly a woman.
Upon observation I saw that it was a very large man with a very large beard – – – and a very large voice; although in some sense, dainty. Sort of like a grown man speaking to a baby.
He wore a light coat over his shoulders with his arms outside. The coat was, of course, unbuttoned. He held nothing in his hands. Therefore I deducted that he had a blue tooth hanging on his ear. He walked at a slow but deliberate pace. I waved at him but received no response. It was twilight and that may have been the reason he did not see my wave. Possibly he was totally involved in his phone conversation.
Whatever the case, all that information is for naught. It has nothing to do with what I am about to tell you.
The large man’s voice drifted off as he went his way and I went mine. My mind was busy attempting to determine if he may have been talking to his daughter back in Russia. Maybe that was the reason for his dainty way of speaking.
I rounded the corner and was now across the street from an elementary school. It was on my right. The distance between me and the school was approximately two hundred feet. The lights were on in some of the rooms of the third floor. The janitor was probably cleaning the rooms. The school had just gone into summer recess. Or possibly he had moved all the desks out into the hallway and was busy varnishing the hardwood floors. They would have plenty of nice warm weather to dry to a nice shiny gloss.
A deer lay high up on the school lawn in the semi-darkness, resting in peace away from the road. I could hear the chimes of the university clock off in the distance. And the hoot of an owl was almost lost in the leaves of the oak trees. The squirrels and the birds had gone to their nests. Shards of a quarter-moon shone through the pine trees.
But nature’s ways have no clues to lend to you. All that information is for naught. Nature has nothing to do with what I am about to tell you.
I had reached the top of the knoll and the cold bricks of the empty elementary school seemed to make the air less humid. The lots on my left remained homeless; only a variety of hardwood and softwood trees remained there. I wondered if the lots had been abandoned due to their steep slope. Or did the people whose homes backed up to these woods simply pay their taxes on the forested lots in return for the privacy it gave them? I could hear voices from below. I assumed they belonged to the homeowners on the other side of the woods. I could imagine them sitting in their lawn chairs beside their dimly lighted swimming pool. Possibly one or two of them sipped on a wine or mixed drink while they enjoyed the evening with a friend or relative.
The homes were typically two story center-hall colonials or wide and vast ranch style with low-sloped roofs. One or two had a slight variation except for those who added dormers, to house the children at night. Oh yes! I almost forgot to tell you about the one with an addition that was a half story taller than the rest of the house. The addition was built for an artist who needed more southern sun so she could judge her colors better.
These homes are typically well kept and have absolutely nothing to do with what I am about to tell you.
As I reached the knoll I saw a car parked in the semi-darkness. A street light on the next block allowed me to see the silhouette of a person in the driver’s seat. The car was out of place. There were no homes on this street. Only the dark woods on the left and the almost empty schoolhouse on the right. The car did not belong there – – – nor did the person sitting in the driver’s seat.
Oh, not that I had not seen a random car there from time-to-time. However, it never failed that when a car was there, two people sat in the front; sometimes both of them tightly entwined. Typically teenagers or two lovers in a tryst without their spouse.
The lone shadow in the car made me nervous.
I kept my pace so as not to give the appearance of weakness; all the while keeping a close eye on the dark figure. I was up to the front fender of the car and the shadow inside did not move. I eased out away from the door and was almost past it when it swung open. A large hulking man stepped out of the car and spoke.
“I am going crazy” he said. That is exactly what my instinct had been telling me as I had been approaching the car.
“Pardon me?” I asked.
“I am going crazy. My life is in shambles.” he continued.
Normally, in the daytime, with other people nearby, away from the woods, I would have stopped to console the poor fellow. But under these circumstances I thought better.
“I hope things work out for you” I stated as I kept my pace up.
The hulking man said nothing at first and as I walked away I could hear him mumbling something to himself. He seemed quite confident that his words would have an effect on either him or me.
I did my best not to look back but I did intently listen for the tell-tale footsteps of someone chasing my way. There was nothing. No footsteps, no car starting up, – – – nothing for me to make a quick decision about.
My fears were for naught; as that particular part of this story is naught. What I am about to tell you has much more substance.
I had reached the next block and decided to break the normal pattern of my evening walk. It seemed safer to me for some reason. I was now heading down a slope and away from the knoll, the dark woods, the shadow in the car and whatever may have been going on back there.
I came to a place that I had driven by many times. Recently, during the last few months, there had been a lot of construction activity at that location. A new home for the addled elders was being built. It was a long building being built on a narrow lot. It appeared that there would be no room for visitors to park their cars. The street was narrow and busy during daylight hours. There would be no room for street parking.
An access road ran alongside the building site. It serviced four large apartment buildings that housed university people; visiting professors and graduate students. The access road was close the new old people’s home. The architect had done a fine job of cutting away the hillside and designing a retaining wall. The parking problem was solved. The roof of the old people’s home was broad and magnificent. It had several eves at separate levels. The windows were a fine mimesis of old leaded glass windows that were prevalent in the early 1900’s. Highlights of pinkish-red stone graced the doorways and windows. Port roofs protected incoming and existing visitors.
As I continued along the access road I finally reached the off-campus dwellings of the university. The license plate variations kept my mind busy; Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Jersey, New Jersey, New Jersey, New Jersey, even a New York or two. Was there some sort of hidden advantage for non-resident tuitions? Possibly the out-of-state plates were for visiting professors.
The outside of the apartments were very functional and architecture was apparently not of concern to the owners. They were neat and served their purpose very well. Each apartment had a balcony and the ground level apartments had a small patio and a grassy area for a propane BBQ. The parking was more than sufficient. I said hello to a few evening strollers and departed the area opposite from the way I entered.
But here is the rub. The old people’s home and the university apartments have no effect on this story. All of that information was for naught. I will finally be able to get to the crux of my story.
As the university apartments remained behind me the four-county-library system appeared directly in front of me. The parking lot was empty; which it normally is in the evening – – – except for an executive or two who needed some peace and quiet to complete their financial tasks. The building resembles a monolith more than Ayers Rock resembles a monolith. It is constructed of monotonous red brick, is square and reaches four stories in the air while not covering more than eighty feet on each side. The only style on the building is the concave curved side that contains the garage for the Cybermobile.
The grounds are as neat as the building. Manicured lawn, an azalea here and there, the blacktop drive is always plowed and re-topped with a fresh summer coat of coal tar.
What I wish to tell you about is inside of that building. On the fourth floor, it was cataloged. Therefor, the description of that building was for naught.
The Portable Nietzsche
Kaufmann, Walter Arnold.
Personal Author: Kaufmann, Walter Arnold.
Title: The Portable Nietzsche, by Walter Kaufmann.
Edition: [1st ed.] Publication info: Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1954.
Physical description: xvii, 388 p. 24 cm.
Subject term: A collection of Friedrich Nietzsche’s most profound works.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Second Part, Page 231
“ON THE LAND OF EDUCATION”
“I flew too far into the future; dread overcame me, and when I looked around, behold, time was my sole contemporary. Then I flew back toward home, faster and faster; and thus I came to you, O men of today, and into the land of education. For the first time I really had eyes for you, and a genuine desire; verily, it was with longing in my heart that I came.
But what happened to me? For all my anxiety I had to laugh. Never had my eyes beheld anything so dappled and motley. I laughed and laughed while my foot was still trembling, and my heart no less. ‘This is clearly the home of all paint pots,’ I said.
With fifty blotches painted on your faces and limbs you were sitting there, and I was amazed, you men of today. And with fifty mirrors around you to flatter and echo your color display! Verily, you could wear no better masks, you men of today, than your own faces! Who could possibly find you out?
With the characters of the past written all over you, and these characters in turn painted over with new characters; thus you have concealed yourselves perfectly from all interpreters of characters. And even if one could try the reins, who would be fool enough to believe you have reins?”
So this is what I have been about to tell you; do not disregard the property infringement of the town, the Russian on the phone, the janitor in the school, the deer on the lawn (and especially the owl hooting in the tree), the wooded section on my left, the fancy homes with their pools and patios, the madman in the car, the home for dementia plagued elders, the university housing project, the building holding the books of ideas and stories of the ages, all the possible words – – – combinations of words – – – misused words – – – ideas twisted until they committed “suicide by reader” – – – unread books, partially read books, books listed in papers as read (yet in reality, unread), books read and re-read and held in esteem, and books arriving daily for cataloguing and to have their protective covers applied.
I fool heartedly disregarded all of this above. I also flew too far. My goal was the future; and I reached my goal. Then I also looked around and found that all I had on my side was time. I soon realized that I had missed something on my voyage; EDUCATION. I sought out the men who lived in the university; those men of today. I was in awe of their accomplishments, their knowledge, their intelligence. I longed in my heart to sit at their feet.
There were men of today, but they were rare. There were more men of yesterday. Men who rest on the laurels of other men. I had to laugh. But I did not laugh and laugh and laugh. I questioned my motives for laughing. My feet trembled as I entered the classroom. Did I belong there? My heart trembled as I heard varieties of opinion. The ideas opposed each other and appeared dappled. Worse yet the ideas opposed those that I had gathered in my earlier flight to far. Every idea held by the ancients had been painted over and over by the men of today. Very often it happened that the paint was so thick that it chipped with the slightest tap of an outside idea. Deep down below the layers of paint I saw the glint of gold.
What amazed me the most were the mirrors sitting in the classroom. They reflected the ideas and magnified the egos of those men of today (lest there be reproachment). No one would dream of questioning those men of today.
Thus within the layers of paint were different answers for the same question, different truths for the same argument, history re-written over and over and over. There is no way to control those beasts of today.
And that is my story. A property infringement is just that. A Russian on a phone is a Russian on a phone. The janitor loyally accomplishes his drudgery. The deer and the owl are wonders to behold. The leisure class changes surnames with each generation. The madman understands himself but cannot face it. The dementia will visit all of us to some degree or another. Educators and to-be-educated will dwell together. Books will whisper things to us until we translate them. And words need to be tamed until they speak clearly.