13 August 2011
Munich: The End of Invincibility
The hospital in Munich doesn't smell the way I expect a hospital to smell. The walls are still gleamingly white, the floors are solid and polished with strips of dark gray tile accenting large paths of even more gleaming white. It's the sort of decorative palette that is designed to be easily cleaned and disinfected. But, there is no lingering smell of disinfectants here. It smells more like an office building than a hospital. The waiting room has lockers, just like the hostel we're staying at. Lockers 0024 and 0025 are the only ones being used. Germans are waiting patiently and unhurriedly.
An elementary school; maybe this hospital reminds me of an elementary school in rural Virginia in the quiet moments between classes when the halls are eerily empty. Except there are no crayon drawings or motivational posters on the wall. I am beginning to lose faith in my elementary school comparison. A proper metaphor needs to somehow encompass more accountants than an elementary school ever could. It is a new cubicle at an accounting firm.
It's our second time here. I would describe yesterday as uncontrolled; inarticulate; inconsolable. Our passive-aggressive snarkiness and possibly elitist superiority complexes giving way to infantile anger and the sorts of grandiose statements that belong nowhere else but on early morning talk radio shows. I don't remember most of it today, but that's how we got to the hospital. More or less.
And the reality is that, as it was foreshadowed on a park bench in Amsterdam, we are not invincible. We do not always make good choices. We are flawed and weaker than we acknowledge. Life and nature and gravity are all things that are bigger than us and they quite frankly don't give a rat's ass about our delusions of grandeur or the pseudo-humanistexistential philosophies we've been trying to weave together since we got on the first train together. When it rains, our metaphysical quilt might as well just be another ratty, wet rag.
But, that's not to say that I'm depressed about it or that I am even doubting that we've been pretty much right all along. Instead, I am just feeling a certain sort of resignation to accept that yes, I have been running away from a lot of things in my life. I have chosen paths that weren't easy but ones that weren't as hard as I could handle. Those choices have left me occasionally feeling like my human potential has become sterile or impotent. Lost. Surprisingly needy (between bouts of reckless independence.) Like my personal identity hasn't really existed, that it was only ever a reflection of the people I was around; of the people I was trying to please. A sense that good things in my life weren't necessarily deserved - not because of my own lack of effort - but because I should have done more. Still more, ever more more more. So many things that I haven't done that I could do. That I still could do, and that, I suppose is the silver lining of this whole accountant smelling hospital business. The things I will do.
I read a message on the internet from a girl I know today that read, "A little less conversation, a little more action please." That message probably wasn't actually aimed at me, but considering our history together it could have been and it might as well have been. She has always been something that I've run away from. So much so that I've stopped trying to figure out why I ever ran in the first place. But, it's time for me to stop running. With any luck, I suppose. It's a happy thought for me.
The hospital waiting room has been silent since I started writing, with the exception of the tap tap tapping of a woman pacing and one friendly cheek kiss from a nurse to a friend. Locker 0026 has now been claimed and the glossy floors echo the chunky sound of the turning key. Sartre said that we are never truly helpless victims, regardless of what Man or Nature or Gravity manages to do to us. We always have the choice of how we will handle ourselves in the face of adversity. Actually, maybe Sartre didn't say that, it sounds awfully cheery to be Sartre, but I'm pretty sure that's more or less what he meant through all the "life is miserable" commentary. You see where I am going with this? Halfway through this trip I mused that I didn't feel like it had really changed who I was, only reinforced certain ideas I had about myself and the world. But, now I think that assertion was probably both presumptuously premature and naive.
I am coming home in less than a week, and I'm ready for less conversation and more action.