The ancient woman stood there staring – just a little too long – at the recycling bin that was almost her height. No words were exchanged between her and I, nor she and it. But the look in her eyes spoke volumes. It almost seemed as if she was desperately trying to figure out this brave new world, wondering if she still had a place in it. And just what in the hell it all meant anymore any way.
It wasn’t until long after our paths crossed, that it dawned on me that her hair was blonde. And at her age, most assuredly not the kind of blond that sprouts naturally from the head. No, this blond was much more bottle-fed than breast. The hair was carefully quaffed as well. Silently sitting atop her head, with what had to be at least half a can’s worth of hairspray holding it up to the heavens. Reaching upwards to the very place it seemed she would surely be going to sooner, rather than later. Now, all of that has nothing to do whatsoever with the first part of this post of course, with the possible exception of this: while it was pretty clear that the concept of recycling was alien to her, the concept of defying the aging process was not. I suppose some sciences are just easier to understand than others. Especially the ones that are in place to help us to feel young and pretty.
Not to necessarily define recycling as a “science” per say. For it’s much more just about being a responsible and good steward to the earth and future generations, than it is anything else. As a concept however, it’s relatively new, and to one of her generation, one that was never a very large concern before. Why should it be now? Hers was the generation that scrabbled out from under the Great Depression. Hers was the generation that destroyed Hitler’s dream of an Aryan wonder world, one “free” of God’s chosen people. Hers was the generation who picked us up as a country – as a species even – and firmly plunked us upon the road that we now travel upon. Faster and faster every day. Hadn’t her generation done enough already? Hasn’t her generation paid every price possible? Now they also have to separate the damned cans from the garbage? Now they have to lug not one, but TWO heavy, clunky, and generally smelly bins to the curbside and back, each and every week? Now, after diligently taking care of so many yesterdays, they need to be concerned about tomorrow? Again? For what?
If indeed those were the questions she was asking, and the thoughts that were rummaging through her head, I had not an answer for her. As I was in a sour mood already, I was in no place to remind her that future generations would also need these resources. Future generations would benefit from us not using up every last one of them. I was not the one to tell her any of that. Especially when I knew that she could have just as easily responded with “what future generations? The future generations that will once again blow the banks while they push for their own greed and want? The future generations that will give birth to the future Hitlers? The future generation’s mad men who will devise yet even more plans and ways to kill the future generations themselves? The future generations that won’t share, won’t learn and won’t keep the peace? Those future generations? The very ones who will continue to spread the disease? The cancer that we are? Who needs them? Honestly, who?”
I know she could say that, and I know that my response would be – for now at least – that of silence. Who indeed? I suppose God for one, for it was He (“She”, “It”, whatever) who put the plan into action in the first. But the question the woman didn’t raise as a result of the conversation we didn’t have is an interesting one – who does need the future? Who needs the present even? Well, I suppose we all do. I mean, to ask the dumbest question ever (and you had been told that there were none…), what is life without life? What is the present, without the past to remember, or the future to hope for? And what good is a future without any of us to inhabit it? In short, what is so hard about our just rolling with it (life, that is), and as changes come along, incorporating them into our new present the best we can, simply for a better tomorrow? Even if it’s one that we won’t be around to see?
True, she was recycling, but she seemed none too happy about it. She was incorporating the new present into her life, but to me at least, she seemed rather leery as to what would result from it. And why it was even required in the first. But then again – as I was simply passing her by and engaged her not, and as her existence to me took up a mere several seconds-worth of my life – maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe what I truly saw was her, simply and solely staring at the recycling bin, thinking to herself “damn, that mother fucker is almost my height!”