I am in my happy place having eggs at The Family Diner. My favorite waitress just welcomed two new customers with the traditional greeting, “Anywhere’s fine.” I ordered five minutes ago which means I’m already carving up my eggs and folding a slice of toast to receive a piece of bacon. The service here is excellent. .
I am listening to the typical mix of mundane and bizarre conversations: a mystery creature is invading the other waitress’ back porch and an old man is helping her guess what it may be; it rained a lot yesterday; a hillbilly family is laying down the law on grandma and her bad behavior, etc.
I contemplate a line in a Jack Johnson song about all of life being in one drop of the ocean. I think it means there is enough information in that one drop to repopulate the Earth with all that is here now. It must be in the DNA: fascinating stuff those molecular-level acid strings.
It is my day off, a day to ponder my existence and the meaning of life. Oldies music from the sixties pours forth softly from somewhere in the ceiling; nothing too hard, mostly G-rated melodies.
Digital information storage manufacturers have nothing on Nature when it comes to storing data in small spaces. It’s as if the exact angle of an atom alone will yield predetermined outcomes which eventually may become a flower or a bear or me.
Three old men are sitting at the counter re-imagining their youth and spouting all kinds of stupid man-wisdom. King of the Road begins playing on the radio; feet start tapping and the mood improves while I muse about wave-particle duality, tango and eternal life.
Quantum mechanics proposes that the fundamental building blocks of matter can exist as particles or as energy; sometimes they are matter and sometimes they are waves of different frequencies. This theory is postulated after a few millennia of progressive scientific inquiry.
“Never spend all your money on a woman,” one aged coot says, “she’ll get used to it and then you’ll never be able to please her.”
The dialog goes downhill from there. That’s how it is with men. We start at the bottom then break out the shovels to dig deeper.
I tune them out. It is not hard, the music is playing I’m into Something Good by Herman’s Hermits.
It is possible that our entire existence can be encoded onto just a few molecules when we die and float out into the nether with our last breath. Or maybe we cease to exist as matter altogether and that death is the process of transitioning from a solid state to a frequency that is particular to who we are or were.
I like this idea. I find the concept of Heaven and Hell illogical and foolish. They sound too much like the promises Donald Trump makes, “We’re going to win until you’re sick of winning...I’m going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it….balance the budget, healthcare for everybody, better than Obamacare….blah, blah, blah.”
“I was never in the Wawa,” one elderly man says, “I only go in there for some things.”
Life is full of paradoxes and they don’t always have to make sense. The Universe is a very confusing place.
One of the big paradoxes is The Question. Most philosophers say The Question is ‘why’. I think The Question is actually a set of questions that all try to answer the same thing but defining that thing is beyond our ability to do so.
Why am I here? Who am I? What am I? Where am I? How do I be me? The answer to all this is We Are Not Alone. Kind of a vague answer, I know, but that’s how life is: mysterious to the point where it seems the answer was just another question but it is not, it is the answer and you must work to find out what it means.
Work seems to be a common theme in all the answers to my questions. Asking questions is easy, understanding the answers is hard.
Two senior ladies sit in the booth next to mine. They are conversing but I cannot hear a word they are saying. The doddering codgers are halfway across the restaurant and I can hear them plain as day. I conclude that men talk to a crowd whereas women talk to each other. Sometimes I am amazed at our species' ability to get together long enough to procreate and carry the gene pool into the future. Sometimes the thought of the genes in that pool worries me.
Sitting here I am building up the motivation to propel myself to Philadelphia like a wet watermelon seed shot from between a thumb and a forefinger. I go to dance tango, social tango, not that ballroom tango stuff. It is a dance full of paradoxes, just like me: I live in a town full of people with whom I cannot even carry on a civil conversation.
You are on your own but you are not alone. Tango is an education in this fact of life. At the milonga, the place where tango music is played and tango dancers dance, you are one half of a couple that is part of the crowd. It is a lot like the diner in my small town but the men have paired up with the ladies and are expected to keep their mouths shut.
We move to the music which seems to find a variety of ways to pose The Question. She is The Answer. The other dancers are The Answer. Somehow I know this but I still have questions.
After a decade of working on The Answer, here is what I have learned:
I must strive to maintain her balance even though she keeps moving. I must lead the movements but I must wait for her to complete them. I must move in harmony with her and the music as well as with the other dancers on the floor.
“Can I get you anything else?” My favorite waitress asks.
“No thank you.” I reply.
“Okay.” She says with a slight smile, places the bill before me and speeds off to another customer.
I look at the bill and I leave enough money to cover it plus a nice tip. I stare at the money for moment and think about how hard I had to work to make that money. Here, I am just another customer but in my mind I am a tango dancer. When I am at the dance I exist in another state, my other quantum self, continually in motion, moving to the music with The Question and The Answer.
A moment passes and I head for the door; I am done thinking for the day.
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