The journey across country was a journey in introspection as well as a physical journey. It was uneventful which allowed me to observe and think without major distractions. Well, other than paying attention to the road. The road hypnotizes and your mind drifts. The miles flow past, the mind tends to ignore them. An occasional glance at the gas gauge is all that's needed. The cruise control eliminates the need to check and re-check the speedometer.
Like a small, disinterested, predator among the behemoths migrating across the country, I move in and out among the trucks as they lumber up grades in small groups. Cars, vans, SUVs, and pickups travel in herds. A few, like myself, move through these preferring to avoid close contact. The "loners", I guess.
To keep myself entertained (and awake), I play an MP3 CD full of oldies (real oldies.. from the 40s and 50s and 60s), and I think about philosophical questions. I think about men (mostly) who led others into the wilderness to settle and create new communities. I begin to wonder what it would be like if men had never desired to lead. If no one had wanted to amass power over others, no urge to direct the lives of others, no wish to be revered.
What kind of world would exist today? Would civilization have advanced beyond small bands of hunter gatherers? Is there a difference between the drive to improve the quality of one's life and the drive to achieve the greatness of a leader?
The difference might be a matter of scale. Some leaders are, of course, only out to improve the quality of their own lives and the lives of those close to them. But in doing that, they often improve the lives of many of those they lead. In fact, maybe that is what is needed in order to retain a position of power. A balance of personal aggrandizement and a broader improvement for the people appears to be the key to a successful leadership.
And why do we, the masses, follow these leaders? Why do we turn away from one and follow another? Before the emergence of the concept of self-governance, these shifts were almost always violent. Wars, assassinations, civil strife preceded the transfer of power. Even after peaceful power transfers were developed, there are still revolts and revolutions.
After the transfer of power, how do we measure the rightness of our collective choice?
I always approach these questions from outside, like that small, disinterested, predator might. I am concerned only with how that herd might affect me and how to avoid its collective will from interfering with my own.
Meanwhile, I lose my page of directions I had printed out. Directions I need as I approach my destination in California. The drawbacks of traveling alone... no co-pilot, no navigator. And I always misplace things.
The final miles are though the Coachella Valley in California. I begin to recall the smog of population centers in that state. It is an ugly brown haze that blankets everything. It is the curse of progress. The Valley has beauty, you can understand why people might settle there. The land is rich, farms are very productive. The mountains surrounding the lowlands provide a subtle, sub-conscious, sense of protection. And a contrast to the flatter terrain of the valley basin.
The valley is split by ribbons of highway, interstates and parkways, which connect the valley to the larger cities to the west and south. But it grows on its own. Once the province of the rich and Hollywood elite, Palm Springs draws all manner of people to the northwest end of the valley. Further south and east, the tribal lands of the Native-Americans are dotted with newly built casinos.
Traffic is constant. Light by California standards, it is heavy compared to what I have been experiencing for the last several hours. Everyone is in motion, it seems. As I enter the center of the valley, I see the nearby hills are populated with Wind Turbines. Almost all are in motion. A woman is parked on the side of the freeway, taking a picture of what appears to be hundreds of giant pinwheels.
I pull off the freeway and park where I can get a shot. As I get out of the car, I realize why this is a popular place for these electricity generators. It's windy... very windy. Maybe 25 or 30 MPH. The wind is funneled through the valley and made stronger.
It's Earth Day.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago