The Corona Cruise Liner is docking. Wild shouts of pandemonium erupt. The in-place sheltering voyage is ending. Masks like black academic mortarboards sail skyward. But now what?
We’ve been drifting around for almost three months, squeezed in stifling confinements that have shrunk smaller than closets, sick of masks, hand washing and agoraphobic hand wringing. The landscape’s unfamiliar. Normal ain’t normal anymore. Where do we go from here?
I come in from wandering aimlessly around the yard. I roll around on the floor with the dog to gain a ground-level perspective of life, swapping my share of licks. He isn’t concerned with things. He’s used to drifting through life. There’s a lesson here. What is it?
“Let’s watch a movie on Netflix,” I say.
“Ok. Any suggestions?” she asks.
“How ‘bout The Big Lebowski? It’ll provide some prophetic ideas for reentry into a dystopian universe.”
It was a 1998 cult favorite starring two LA slackers, Jeff Bridges and John Goodman, before Goodman reached sumo wrestling status and couldn’t fit into a scene. The box-office take was meager, primarily because it failed to include Murray, Murphy, Ackroyd and the cameo ghosts of Dangerfield, Dean and Belushi, iconic paragons that gave definition to drifting in the alternative universe.
The movie begins with a tumbleweed blowing across the beaches of Malibu, the utopian venue of fruits and nuts. I hear the tune now, “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” a classic written by Bob Nolan in 1930 while himself drifting through life as a caddy in LA. Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers made it famous. What better image can be found than a tumbleweed to define the essence of the drifting life?
So relax, slide into the driftin’ mood, sing along with me:
“Cares of the past are behind
Nowhere to go, but I’ll find
Just where the trail will wind,
Drifting along with the tumblin’ tumbleweeds.”
Maybe you remember the movie. It was a comedic caper bouncing between bowling alleys, bathtubs, psychedelic escapades and loosely modeled on an improbable Raymond Chandler crime plot. If there was a theme, it was weird like life itself.
But then life has always been weird. Now I’m not suggesting anyone change their lifestyle. No, go for what you know. But come tomorrow when the dust settles, it won’t be business as usual. All bets will be off, boundaries will be removed and for the fearless, ‘beginning again’ will be inspiring.
Stretch your mind, imagine the idea of drifting through life, of testing the order of chaos, of reaping the rewards of randomness as though they were common miracles. And what is a common miracle anyway but some serendipitous invasion of life? It’s what happens when something happens that shouldn’t happen. Go figure.
There’s a mystique to a ‘one-word’ life, the ‘adventitious’ life, the life of ‘improv,’ the life of just showing up…no watch, no wallet and no wireless. It’s standing beside life’s highway, thumb in the air, waiting on Providence for a ride, somewhere, anywhere, just somewhere else.
Once a friend and I were backpacking. Bad weather set in. We found ourselves standing on the edge of a frozen, sleet-covered highway at the Appalachian trailhead at Unicoi Gap. Hungry, wet, freezing, praying for a ride. Minutes passed like hours.
A pickup truck creeps cautiously over the hill, passes us by, then stops. It backs up, a door opens, we squeeze into the heated cab for a ten-mile ride to our car. This is what driftin’ through life is about. Exciting.
Flannery O’Conner wrote: “Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there; and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”
Drifting through life requires no agenda, it’s easy to comprehend. And, good jokes help. You just show up, prepared for nothing, but ready for anything. Disappointment cannot exist in this frame of mind.
Think about that. When’s the last time you didn’t have some notes shoved in your shirt pocket, or tasks tacked to the refrigerator door, or a calendar cluttered with appointments? Probably never. If you prefer this regime, drifting might not be your thing.
Dr. Leary’s manifesto of drifting through life was simple: “Turn on, tune in and drop out.”
Maybe COVID will empower us to explore, ‘turn off, tune in and let go.’
Driftin’…whether an LA slacker or a Georgia cracker, it’ll separate us from the herd. Do you get my drift? Report back.
May 25, 2020