By: Andrew Ahern
This portion of a larger essay was extracted for Red Skies publication
When we finally entered Highway 1 going into Big Sur, the drive along the coast was nothing less than heavenly. This was the place where God spent 6 days creating and the rest of the planet seemed like he was taking a snooze. I was surrounded by the best topography the earth could offer. Lofty mountain sides to my left and the azure Pacific to my right, each smiling back at each other as I passed through them. The car felt like a submarine over the paved road, simply floating on the earth rather than actually being there. It was a complete reverie. I felt lost in the world for the first time and more at Home than ever. Big Sur was surreal.
We stopped to take photos and view the ocean from the closest point we could. Both my sister and I were silent as the climate seemed to stifle our ability to speak. Before we drove more than 5 miles down the coast I told her: “I want to move here”. She giggled and we kept on. As we kept going we saw some houses built incumbent to the Pacific coast. Glass houses, locked gates, “Keep Out”, that type of thing. I thought “how many men must have died building these homes? Only someone with enough money to buy a slave could live here.” It amazed me both out of envy and anger that the richest assholes got to come here first and make the property value that much more egregious. Henry Miller was right about the beauty of Big Sur but I wondered if he encountered the same thoughts upon the glass houses like I saw? We seemed to be on what I call the same “emotional wavelength”; that is people who seemed to have a natural affinity and hatred towards certain things. “Romantics” we might be called. Guys who hold a strong sense of sentimentality and artistic reverence for the world of peace and tranquility and idealize the world we live in. Reality as is isn’t what it ought to be. We both enjoy ping-pong too so maybe that will convince you. As we drove past the solitary houses and into the winding mountains the climate only grew more and more immanent. Wild flowers brushed the pavement as the mountains began to alter their hue into shades of dark, mineral green coupled with heavy violet, almost resembling certain shades of broccoli. And how healthy it was. Big Sur in no way disappoints.
But where were the advertisements? The retail signs? The gift shops, arcades, strip malls and all the other 21st-Century Roadway inanities? They seemed to have sunk. It was a Christmas miracle! The place was left practically untouched by the swift hand of business and advertisement! Through Sausalito until our resort “The Fernwood” the whole drive was virtually mountains, ocean and forest; kept almost like a secret for those wishing to escape the everyday reality of work, whine and worry (the motto of Big Sur is “Do Nothing”). Except for the occasional gas station, restaurant, motel, or marketplace we were left with a gift that embodied everything I was looking for: necessity, nature, nurture, and peace. Nothing flashy, sensationalized, excessive, superfluous, malicious, or degrading. The place was an utter reverie and I felt lost in rapture. I felt like some weight was lifted off my shoulders, that there was a place in America that valued necessity and nature.
Everywhere you go there`s an excess of everything. Five Dunkin Donuts within eyesight; three Chinese restaurants within a mile; four bars, six gift shops, and a couple of high-end boutiques incase one feels the need to “treat” themselves. We live in a country that’s equally part unnecessary as is insatiable. We’re taught to fill our time by wasting money and wasting time, making believe that these material items will give us a better sense of worth and happiness in our lives. I, as you may guess, feel that our consumption problem in America is a real issue. By throwing down a few beers, buying more clothes than you can wear and eating too a state of comatose, advertisers try to convince us that these things, these items, their products! will make us happy. Recollect any commercial you see- I personally like commercials selling alcohol due to the pathetic approach they take (this could also be said about other drink products). Predominantly most alcohol advertisements will try to convince you that you`re night is not complete without their product, and due to their product your night is only made that much better. You`ll probably meet some woman and be so drunk that she`s bound to go home with you. If not that you and your friends will accomplish some idiotic thing you`ll remember forever, painting a picture like you were the best of friends and blah blah blah.
These advertised scenarios are all an illusion that gets a lot of unnecessary products sold and the consumer convinced that “yes, that product will help me, that will make me happier”. It`s a scam. No amount of material goods can satiate a person to the point of happiness. Happiness is no relative emotion but an apex for a person that is fought with throughout their life. We reach points of joy and elation, but happiness is more abstract than that. Happiness will only be attained by working at it, (or in some cases not working at it but letting it happen organically) but on one`s own terms; that is by deciding for oneself not dogmatically by businesses and advertisers who only care for you to buy their product. As Krishnamurti states:” if the individual is at peace, has happiness, has great tolerance, and an intense desire to help, then the world as such ceases to exist… peace and understanding will only come when there is understanding, certainty and strength in yourselves” (261).
Rather than working on ourselves it seems Americans tend to try to work from the outside in, letting products and the belief that others will make us happy rather than ascribing to the notion that we can only be pleased with ourselves when we come to understand ourselves more fully. No outside force can equip us with the patience and tenacity and the will that`s needed to leave a life of suffering into something more grandiose; something that awakens the soul into it`s brightest light, dulling out all evil, hate, and doubt from our minds. We’re plagued by society in many ways and a constant burden is thrust upon us without ever accepting the task. We watch our lives slip away into a shameful abyss filled with regret and anxiety, telling ourselves to act but never acting upon the wish. We’re approaching an age where apathy is cool and hard work is shamed. Laziness is accepted and opinion is synonymous with having a negative judgement. We’re wilting our will away sooner than later the more video games we play, social media we digest, and inane conversations we vomit out. It’s easier to not care for the state of the world, the state of our mental health, too have philosophies on how to live and argue them; to be so overwhelmed by oppression, wealth gaps, and the conviction that pleasure is the way to happiness, that it seems useless to care about anything. It makes me sad seeing people throw their life away into some passionless, faithless existence. Religion may have its flaws but at least it makes people believe in something.