Thursday, June 18, 2009

Intellect is a Vagabond

Back in the U.S.S.R : Summer of 1990.

But the rage of traveling is a
symptom of a deeper unsoundness
affecting the whole intellectual
action. The intellect is a vagabond,
and our system of education fosters
restlessness. Our minds travel when
our bodies are forced to stay at home.
We imitate; and what is imitation but
the traveling of the mind? (Emerson)

A Dead Cow

On the road from Sochi to Sukumi, the route from our
Sportsmen’s Hotel in Adler to a mammoth cave near
a monastery overlooking the Black Sea in Soviet Georgia,
lay a dead cow.

It’s legs were stiff and stretched straight from its body,
its knees locked, eyes wide open. It was surrounded by
neighbors, sharp horned dairy cattle lounging leisurely
on the asphalt, chewing weeds and cud, switching flies,
content and oblivious and ignoring their dead kine.

Maybe sometime hours earlier, the cow had been hit by
a truck or a bus or any of the small cars rushing along the
two –lane road in a three-laned traffic pattern that relies
on courtesy among the drivers to give way to whatever
goes fastest or with most weight and determination.

The unofficial and continuously occupied middle-lane is
filled with traffic moving in both directions: head-on
orientation, headlight to headlight confrontation, each
vehicle driving fast and expecting resolution always
moments before collision.

Cows were scattered over the two official lanes, often resting
in the middle, their status similar to billboards in the U.S., a
nuisance not worth attention—like potholes in Chicago.

Nausea makes me care less. The rush of three-lane traffic in
two lanes stirred no adrenalin. Carsick, I simply watched what
seemed like highway chaos. The dead cow helped settle me. Its
tongue-distended, bug-eyed and bovine stupefaction stood for a
common sense that says cows can’t wander freely on highways
without tragedy. In whatever state one lives or visits, sensible
rules hold. There is more to reality than the cultivation of human
convention. Road customs eventually give way to lower laws.

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