We are all living in houses, built in rows and nestled around the hearth of human civilization. I think of those times, long ago. I imagine the fires burning late into the night, surrounded by farms and make-shift huts. It was the first attempt at forming a society, built around stockpiles of basic necessities like food, shelter and safety.
Now, we do not gather around fires or work on farms. There is no king surveying the land. We are all free to do as we choose, if one accepts the modern definition of freedom. There is opportunity and possibility, at least enough to make us feel content. Yet still, here we are, in houses built in rows. It is the cruel illusion that arrives with the neat package of Midwestern, suburban lifestyle. It gives one the sense of being part of a community, but I do not feel like I am part of a community.
I could live my entire life in one of these houses, crammed wall to wall with my favorite things and people, and never get to know anyone else living next door. I could never participate in the actual society in which I live, but if I pay my taxes and go to work, I am technically part of the group as a whole. This is the illusion: the thought that I am participating, but I am so clearly not. I am not an actual member of the society, I am simply a bi-product.
It is as if I am a single piston, in a single engine, set in a single car which is part of a collection at a car show. I am technically participating, but nothing more. I am not the car as a whole, just as I am not a man as a whole. I fulfill a single role and hope not to make any trouble, so as not to be discarded and replaced, or worse yet, to be “fixed” or “repaired”.
I served my country’s military for six years and returned to the peace and quiet of my home-town. I am comfortable here, so I stand on my porch, smoking a cigarette, and drinking my morning coffee. I wave to my neighbors as they set out to complete menial tasks or leisure. I have functioned well and, for the most part, have never needed the attention of any social mechanics, but I fear my functionality will not last long.
As I stand here on my porch, looking at the faces of the houses opposite mine, my eyes drift slowly to the roofs of the houses beyond. The hill slopes in a gentle manner and reveals them stacked in neat rows; they all have a road and a number assigned. I can feel the presence of the houses behind me, obscured from my vision by my own home, but not at all absent from my perception. I sense their presence and I begin to wonder, “Who are these people?”
I cannot help but feel as though I have been kidnapped late at night, stolen away from my family, and placed here. My memories have been taken from me. I am the orphaned amnesiac, functioning in a role I do not understand, for the express purpose of not being noticed. I have been stolen away from the nurturing fire of the human soul and placed into a neat cubicle, complete with central air, plumbing, and pharmaceuticals.