Thursday, March 6, 2008
In the Mud
Not content with the time-tested, church-approved ways of wasting time (NASCAR, woolgathering), I've been Netflixing Colonial House. Colonial House (bankrolled by PBS and PBS's it's-not-a-commercial-if-it's-on-public-television sponsors) takes twenty-odd (and they are odd) 21st-century Americans and dumps them in the wilds of 1628 to make a go of it.
It turns out to be messy. The colonists whine and slave and chase chickens. They grow corn and leeks, carrots and beans, wildernesses of grime. And they fight. Over beer, over sabbath, over swearing, over governorship, over cooking, over all the meaty, important parts of life.
Creepily, the fighting knits them together. It forges them into the most cohesive, functional community I've seen this side of silent monasticism. One of the colonists puts it best: "You fall out with someone in the 21st century, you can decide not to see them again. Here you fall out and you have to move past it to survive."
You have to move past it because you're stuck. Stuck where you are and who you are and with the devil you know. The math is simple: live together, multiply. Live apart, get eaten by a bear. (Or something. Do bears eat people? I feel I ought, as a college-educated individual, to know this.)
Nowadays, in contrast, we're so unstuck it's almost unhinged. Don't like your job? Quit. Don't like your spouse? Divorce. Don't like where you are? Move across the city, state, country, continent, world.
It's fabulous. And it's not.
I think we've been undervaluing stuckness. Do you know what your best friend from grade school expects from the next 24 hours? Do you have any idea who your grandfather is under the toupee? We ravel and unravel relationships carelessly, knowing they're doomed by time and distance.
To be stuck is to wallow. Not in the well-known sense of rolling in the muck, but in the lesser-known of impressing yourself, millimeter by millimeter, into your surroundings. To be stuck is to be -maybe the only way to be- well and truly where you are.