Sometimes A Pair of Pants Can Give You Vertigo

Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.  The desolation lies there, not in the facts.

— John Berger, “A Man with Tousled Hair” in The Shape of a Pocket, May 11, 2003

A few days ago, as I stepped into my pants to start the day as is my habit, I happened to notice the label at the waist band.  It read “Gap,” and the sight of this word sent my mind spinning into a whirling contemplation of this void that lies at the center of life today, a subject that has disturbed me for a long time.

I had earlier that morning made the mistake of checking the news headlines on the computer.  This too is a habit that I no doubt share with millions of other people.  It is a dastardly habit no sane person should inflict on oneself.  To rise from one’s night dreams and step into a litany of hyperbolic headlines shouting doom and gloom at every turn is to inject oneself with a poisonous drug before the sap of life has a chance to rise in one’s veins and one’s imagination might give birth to new possibilities.

Standing in my pants, I felt as though I were hovering over Berger’s enormous empty space, and if I didn’t wake up, I would tumble endlessly away.  Thoreau’s words floated up: “To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?”

So I stepped…

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