Make it rain
Our body and mind functions like any other living entities in this world: for them to be healthy and strong, they need the right form of nutrition and stimulation. This may come from a variety of sources, but as soon as we strip things down to the most basic level we are able to perceive the things we take for granted: a place to stay, food to eat, work to attend to and someone to take care of. Whether we choose to be a bank director or a writer, we all share these basic factors that bring joy and meaning into our lives.
As soon as we forget, abuse or dry out any of these things, we slowly become stressed, impatient and unsatisfied with life, struggling hard not to lose connection with reality. While just 100 years ago lives were centred on family, work, community and nature, we as modern individuals probably live the unhealthiest lives history has even seen. This should not come as a surprise to most of you, knowing how stressed, insecure and passive-aggressive most people are today. Sooner or later, in front of the television, by the children's beds or in the kitchen after work, we ask ourselves: is this what life has to offer us? Is this really the best we can do with our time? Where are we heading? What is our future? Why am I here?
And perhaps, with or without intention, we come to think of all of these things that make us angry inside: increasing violence, selfishness among people, tiring work, demanding and insecure children, sinking economies, and wars for "freedom" and "justice" - what freedom? Where is the freedom here and now? When can I live a decent life with my family? No doubt most people will ask themselves these questions, waiting for an answer, waiting still for something to happen, for anything to change. Perhaps the new politicians can make things better for us? At least that's what they're saying they'll do. And they've got to be right, haven't they?
Every single day we read about how our world is becoming a worse place to inhabit. And it's not just us: Nature is screaming to be given time to renew all its resources, and our animal populations beg for us to stop cutting down their forests so that they too may have a place to stay and somewhere to take care of their children. There is no escape from the world around us, and what we do affects not just us, but all of life. "So where do I give my vote?" You want a happier life, a better life? You want to vote for a better life in the future? "Yes, I'm ready. I'm definitely ready for a change. Who? Bush? Kerry? Who, tell me" If you want a change, and you're truly ready, then what I'm going to ask you to do is far more complex than just voting. I want you to change your life, your way of looking at things, your habits and choices. Put simply, I want you to vote on yourself, and make the best out of that vote.
Where did it end? Where did it all go? He's now sitting at home, spending time with his lovely family. Don't worry, I know the guy well, he'll be pleased to see us on this visit. "It's you, I certainly didn't expect that. Step right in, make yourself at home." It's a nice a little place he's got here. Nice children as well. They're doing well in school, although I can't vouch for the elder sister: she's in the teens, which means she'll want to scream, yell, shout, run, hide, cry - all of those lovely things that make parents proud - and tired - to be alive.
Oh, he's taking us into the living room. A sparkling fire lights up the room, well fit for occasions like these when you want to set up a tender and comfortable atmosphere. Very well, he's talking about his life. I didn't want to be the first to bring the subject up, but it's clear he's got something on his mind, and I'd be a fool not to listen.
"Before, I didn't know what to do. It wasn't that I was afraid or desperate, but I simply felt that life had slipped me by. It started out well. I began college and was studying the usual academic works, hoping to some day become a lawyer. I'd heard they made good money and I was hoping for a good place in society, a well fit couch you could slip into and claim your rights, so to speak. You know what I mean; I was like any other kid in this country. I wanted an education, a job, a family, some place to live - perhaps even a dog. I've always liked animals, dogs in particular. They astonish me with their behaviour.
"You see, we humans work differently. If I fall down the stairs and break my legs, my dog is there to look after me, perhaps run over to the neighbour and get some help. Even if I've been mean to him, perhaps shouted at him at times, he's got a heart of gold and a sense of...a sense of heroism that you normally wouldn't ascribe to a human individual. Because that's what I did after I was done with my studies and had found an agency some miles from where I lived. I asked for help. He seemed to be a nice fellow, someone you could trust. He was my boss, after all, so I had no reason to think any other thoughts about him. And so I didn't.
"At first the work was great. It paid well, though there were plenty of long hours in front of the desk. Still, it was interesting to get into a new world. Finally I'm in the system, I smiled, and brought home some whiskey to celebrate with my wife. She was happy too and even the dog was jumping up and down like I'd never seen him do before. The next day I went into my office. Two new cases. Robbery and rape. Two words I usually associated with newspapers and TV-reports. Robbery and rape. Why? What made me ill - sick is perhaps the best word to describe it - what made me ill, was that these two men weren't men. One was fifteen and the other had just turned seventeen. "What the hell are these two kids doing?" I asked myself. Perhaps I was naive or poorly informed. After all, these things happened every day, right? That's what you tell yourself when you're in the shit. When you sit at home, waiting for your daughter to arrive from some drunken party, and the police find her, raped by two equally drunken youngsters. Just like that. Out of nowhere. SLAM - and reality hits you in the face like a doormat, wanting to rub the dirt deep inside. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. And I wanted help.
"Anyhow, I had to take on these cases, because it was my job. I went through the situation for them briefly, explaining how they had to talk and act, in order to reach minimum time in prison. "Minimum time in prison", I shouted, "what do you mean minimum time? These people are criminals! They raped! They robbed! What the fuck are they doing with a minimum time in prison they're stinking, rotten criminals, making life for others a living hell?". Still, I did it. I went through both trials. My clients denied. I know what they'd done, because I could see it in their eyes. Yet, what was I to do? It was my job. My job was to do nothing. "Your job is to do NOTHING. Nada. Do you hear me? If you can't get your ass together and do your own job, you're not welcome here, understand? Comprende? ARE WE CLEAR HERE, MR ROBERTSON?"
"I needed help, and I didnít get any. I knew it'd never work. Perhaps it was for the best anyway. Spending over nine hours at the office five days a week, shuffling papers and signing contracts. Sending criminals to jail and victims to heaven. The only thing I could think of was my wife and our children.
"Why am I here? - I changed. I made a radical change in my life. It wasn't just the job, or the family - it wasn't even about any human being at all. It was about this world. Yes, this world. It's the only world we've got that's fit and well for us humans to live on. That's why we need to treat it like that, like our own mother. What are we doing, cutting down beautiful forests, cramming people into offices to fill whatever bureaucratic function society has put out for us, thinking only of money and greed, wasting our time in front of the television or the newspapers, voting on politicians that want us to work but not to live - what are we doing? Iraq? Iran? Vietnam? Fucking Buckingham Palace, what don't we go there and start a war? 'Hi, we're here to inform you that we want you to start living like us. Hi, we have freedom in our luggage. Our people are fat, dumb, lazy and bored and we think that is great. This is like the top of the mountain baby, hi, come here and do some work for us. We need your people as labour for our people. Hi, we're about freedom. You love - you know you love - our freedom.'
"Forget it, I'm never going to buy into that again. I did before, I did it most of my life, until I noticed that things weren't getting better, but worse. Until I could see beyond their lies and cowardice. 'Freedom' - what does that mean? To live on hamburgers, send your children to school and see them stumble home stressed, bullied and insecure? To drive a SUV to work, becoming just another part of our consumer-driven society? To cut down a few forests so that we can use both the trees and the animals as firewood in our industries? Fabrics and God knows, producing our oh-so-important cell phones, cars, computers, TVs - our lives? Our lives are confined to one single massive industry and the mark on it says 'Vote for me, I'm freedom, I'm happiness, I'm your God - show me what your God is. Is that your God? I'm your God, I'm the Right one, I'm the Left one, I'm all Gods you're allowed to believe in. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Worship no god but me. I am God.'"
As you can tell, he's quite changed since his early days. Don't get me wrong, this man was, and will always be, an example of a normal American man in his middle ages. He's not weird, he's not odd, he's not a neo-nazi, he's not a communist, he's not voting for Bush (or Kerry) - I'd say he's normal, but special. Special in that he dared to pick a new direction and follow it. I can't say it was impossible, or expected, but he made it. That's why I'm here, that's why I'm sitting here next to him and his wife in this couch, glaring into the burning fire, breathing in all the things they have here. Photos of the family, a red carpet, a lamp shade gone dirty - it looks pretty much like any other home in America I'd say. So what about America, what about its life? What about this man? Did he change? If so, what could he possibly change?
"I'm just another individual, I know that. But I'm not here to save America or anything, I'm certainly not Jesus, with our without cross. At work, where I build houses and help people with their roofs (the large companies can't even do that right: there's always holes in them, which creates a fuss when the family wakes up in the middle of the night with water dripping on their sheets from above) - at work, I'm Mr Robertson. I help people and most of the time they're happy I'm there to do the job. I like what I do, because it's an important job. I'm not there to shuffle papers, degrade myself in front of an authoritarian boss, and certainly not there to help people that rob or rape innocent citizens Ė someone that could very well be my own wife or daughter. I'm there to fix their house up, and we all need solid houses for our families, don't we? Right, so I do this and I do that."
Family? How's the family? TV? Where's the TV Mr. Robertson? Bush won this election, did you vote? Did you vote on Bush? Sorry I ask, but it's interesting...
"...to hear my story, I know. I'm not here to waste your time. As soon as I got fired from the agency and got a new place at the construction company here in my town, it was like a door opened up before me. Suddenly I had time for my family and children. I usually worked six hours a day, but often completed work after schedule, because I felt it was important. "If you gotta do it, then you gotta do it well" my dad used to say to me, and it's still there with me. If you have to work - which you must to prevent society from breaking down - then you need to feel that what you do makes a change. I didn't want to become a lawyer to simply make money. I thought it was a good way of protecting the justice and freedom of our country. But when I realized that what lawyers, politicians, agencies and so on, what these people really were up to, I said no. I said: 'No way I'm doing this again. I voted for this man last year and now he's here to say that he didn't pay his own taxes? What kind of selfish, ignorant and hypocritical moron is he to say that I need to vote for him, when he can't live up to his own policies?' I simply said no and went on with my life. I became a worker and even though it's not always fun or anything, I feel that it makes people happy and that I'm doing something meaningful for this town.
"But it's not just that. It's not just my job that changed. I began spending more time with my children. Before, when I was working at the agency, I always came home very late. No time for my wife - who, by the way, began feeling more and more distressed when I couldn't give her the kind of love I had given her before I started working, the time when I actually had energy and time to devote to her and her feelings, not just my own. No time for her, no time for my children, barely any time over for myself. The children sat by the TV and watched violent animated characters beating each other up for no reason. My wife was making dinner, watching the news and talking to her mother by the phone. She wasn't feeling very happy either. When I quit the agency, things changed."
You mean, you spent less time working, and more time on your family?
"Pretty much yes, but it wasn't just the time. We did other things. I sold the TV - why do we need a TV anyhow? Sure, it brings us some laughter now and then, but when it doesn't, it informs us of how shitty our world is: 'Today three young women were found dead in the woods near blah blah blah. Today the American embassy discussed the issue with Iran and possible nuclear warheads. Today a new study has shown that the number of individuals suffering from obesity has increased, especially among teenagers. Today we can confirm that scientists have found a new substance in fast-food that may be the cause of the increasing rate of heart failures among the American people.' When does it ever end?"
When you turn off the TV?
"When you turn off the TV and spend your time on more important things - like your family. We took the children out on long walks in the forest, which they enjoyed greatly. They had time to play around and discover, while me and my wife could get away from the stress in the city and talk about things that were important to us. Not news, not politics, not the latest gossip in town, but important things, like how her mother was feeling, how our boys felt in school (the elder sister had been bullied since some weeks back, afraid to tell us, as social appearance was the only thing that mattered between herself and her 'friends'), about what good books we had read and what music we liked. Yes, several years had passed since our marriage, and I didn't even know what music my own wife listened to! When was I going to ask her before? At work? In front of the TV? In bed, exhausted like you cannot imagine? To my surprise, she seemed fond of Kraftwerk, which would perhaps explain the CDs stacked by her bedside.
"To put it simply, I became attached to what I loved most in life, and I noticed a significant difference. Even my neighbours noticed all of this. We helped each other in clearing out the green areas for our children - areas that were otherwise places for people to dump their waste (the official ones cost them money, which they liked less). On such occasions we spoke a lot about our jobs and our families, and though we all came from different backgrounds, different families and so on, we all agreed on a few basic things: society was not what we wanted it to be, our politicians had failed, family and nature mattered to us more than pride and money did, and we thought all of it needed a radical change, something we could achieve by ourselves, something that'd make others follow. We weren't any different from say, you or your neighbour, except that we..."
...you had a goal? A vision to follow? Excuse me, but this is all very intriguing. I had no idea you'd come this far when I stood by the door and rang the bell. You actually managed to group yourselves together with your neighbours? What came out of that?
"A lot actually. Besides supporting each other and now and then hold 'family dinners' where we'd enjoy good food and happy conversations, we saw to it that our children stopped wasting time in front of the TV, video games and comics. "Get out, play football, ride the bike, read a book". At first they didn't like it. All their friends were playing computer games and watching cool television shows on TV. Our elder daughter nearly cried herself dead when I sold the TV. 'Moron! Do you have any idea what this means? I'll miss both Seinfeld AND Sally! My favourite shows. Amanda will wonder why I don't know what she's talking about at the lunch break tomorrow. They'll make a FOOL out of me, and it's all because of YOU. I'll buy my own, I've got money, you'll see.""
So? Your children didn't quite like your new and healthy way of living? Perhaps one TV couldn't have hurt?
"You might think so, but when you see your children spend hours and hours in front of an electrical box, whose 'content' is 'war in Iraq, freedom, justice, soap opera, soft porn and comedy', you begin to realize that your own children are being brainwashed. It's simply not healthy and there are at least a million better ways to spend your time. I took her out on walks at evenings after she'd done her homework. It felt good talking to her, because I hadn't gotten the chance to get to know her, you know. She had feelings for a boy, she was sick of grades; her teacher was apparently a donkey. She had feelings.
"She started reading books, mostly about the Antique and the Romantic era. She liked Goethe. The youngest one was into sports, playing in a new soccer team. I was happy for them both. My wife stopped buying hamburgers and pies, and instead used her motherís old recipes to cook her own food. Besides being a lot cheaper, it tasted great - much better than the fat and watery soups in packages from the supermarket. TV? They did watch some, at their friends' houses. But at least they didn't dedicate their lives to it. It was just 'there', you know? Around you. You can't stop people from watching TV, unless you give them some alternative. Go read a book, I say. They'll try it, and then they'll see there are things to learn, things that are far more important than passively taking in information from people whose only goal is to make money on your laziness. America's about making money and looking happy. 'Smile, the nice man with the camera is taking a picture. Smile and go "freedom daddy, freedom, I vote for Kerry. I vote for anyone who's into freedom like you me daddy, smile!"' *Click*"
He was very intense when speaking, yet overtly calm in his way of dealing with the past. I didn't understand it. Kerry was still there, although not as president. We were still cutting down trees and torturing animals at farms. Our jobs still lasted 8 hours and most people were living on McDonald's, growing fat like never before. Most were still not geniuses, they were in fact getting dumber by the day, thanks to TV, bad breeding habits and long hours waiting for God to save them from their misery. I couldn't understand it - what was the big deal? Where had he taken the change for a happier, more meaningful life? Was I alone in this world? Was I dreaming when wishing for a society where I could trust someone, see culture grow again, see sanity prevail in politics, see people marching home from useless wars and instead weeding out the egoists in power? Was I alone here? Where was my God? Mr. Robertson, was he my God? An angel, sent down from above? An average American husband and father, sick of it all, deciding to fill life with more meaningful things. Was he the future of America?
"The future of America? I don't know. These days are uncertain days and we don't know where the hurricane is taking us. I know where I'm going. I'm not here to think of myself. My family matters much. I have a culture to engage in and help grow richer. I have a beautiful piece of nature outside, did you see it? Did you notice all the wonderful trees? Did you get a glimpse of the bird living in the nesting box our youngest son made in school? That's where I'm going. That's where my future's at. The future of America? Look, I'm nobody. I'm your average American husband. I take care of what I see is important. If more Americans did, or any other people from any other nations did, they'd see a change too. They'd see things happening. It's never just about us. 'What do I want, what do I need, where am I going?' Screw that. Think large. Think outside the box. Sell your TV, say no to lies and refuse accepting the day-to-day shit our society wants us to believe in. Believe in your ideas? You are the ones that brought us into this mess, and you want us to believe in what you have to say? No, I'm not voting for your 'freedom' to make more money; you already own the whole fucking country. No, I'm not helping you cut down this forest; it's here for our children to play in. Trees need to be here too, you know. It's not just humans on the planet. No, I'm not reading your newspapers, I KNOW there are more rapes, I KNOW there are more violence, I KNOW our schools are degrading, I KNOW it all! I already know what you're going to say, because what you're going to say is 'our society has failed, on almost every single point, and we're here to make it better, if you simply place your vote once, pray to God, work 8 hours in front of your office desk and keep your mouth shut the rest of the time.'
"The future of America? To realize that we are one with nature. We are one with our families. We are one with society. If nature feels bad, we get hurricanes and water waves and a burning hot sun and a piece of global warming for just about anyone and everyone living on this planet. If our families feel bad, we feel bad inside, we drink alcohol, we smoke cigarettes, we do drugs, we create gods and claim they'll save us instead. We vote Left instead of Right, or Right instead of Left, and think that'll save us. Our society's decaying, rotten within, built upon the belief that Money and only Money matters to us, creating a people of ignorance, greed and egoism, waiting for the next obesity wave to set in so that we can write and publish books on 'how to get rid of your fat in 5 easy steps' - five easy steps? Life's never easy, and if it were, I'd lie down dying right now. Right here and right now, I'd lie down and die, you better believe it. Because I'm not the one giving up. I'm not going to become a robot like everybody else. Yes, I'm an average American citizen, but I'm not fucking stupid. I can think for myself. I can see that our system is corrupt from within, and that the only way to deal with this system is to replace it with something more healthy. Not like a revolution or anything, but simple things, small things - things like clearing out green areas, having a meaningful job and doing well, caring for your family and seeing to it that they get the best possible life there is to have in this world. See to it that your God is in nature and that you will do anything to save that nature and keep it green. Green and healthy. A fucking green and a god damn healthy God, to whom we'll serve every day. That, is the future of America."
It had been over 16 years since I first met him. He'd changed, no doubt about it. On my way out, I met the daughter. She'd made cookies for me while we were talking in the living room. No surprise, they tasted sweet. I brought some more along with me in a plastic bag and said good-bye to Mr. Robertson and his family. Without knowing it, the sky had turned grey and the clouds were beginning to darken in colour: rain was near. I could feel it in the air, the humidity spreading like a plague in the lonely night. Ah, these lonely nights, I love them. Nights when everything is still and compassionate. The rain poured down heavily and I started my journey home. My car was only 700 metres away, but I decided to take a longer walk tonight, across the town park. No one was out at this hour - especially not in the rain - so I walked alone. It had been a pleasing day, full of thoughts and surprises. "The future of America", I thought. What is our future? I turned my face at the sky and met the raindrops, running down and soaking me cold and wet. Perhaps this was our future? Long walks across parks, surprises hidden everywhere. Who'd turn up, who'd gone by? Where was I going? My car stood right in front of me, concealed in the dark like an animal behind the bushes. "I'm going home, selling my TV and reading a book. I want my future now". With those thoughts I jumped into the car and turned the keys in the ignition. I was alone, wet and cold, waiting for better times. Until those would arrive, I had things sealed and done. With a plastic bag in my pocket, filled with cookies of a sweet and delicious nature, I turned on the front lights and began driving. Driving home to my family and my children. Tomorrow, make it rain.
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