The weight of the world 

(considering the construct of anthropogenic landscape features compared to those of natural sources, i.e., the topic of people and nature.) [circa May 2010]

Life’s toll isn’t often outwardly expressed in most people. It cannot be found in someone’s pockets, nor their shoulder bags. Faces can be masks, and words equally meaningless. That is because the things most heavy – well, people pick them up and bring them along, as it is it often seems. If their arms grow too weary, they shift the weight to their hips, or sling it upon their backs. Sometimes they can toss it off to the side, but for the most part they end up with their burdens. Somewhere, however, there is a distinction between those things which can, under any semblance, be brought along and those things too heavy.

The buildings appear almost tall as mountains to me on this day, driving along Lake Shore Drive from the north- to the southside. I am a single black car flowing in the artery of traffic before the evening plaque buildup and potential central city heart attack, the arrhythmia of daily Chicago commutes. It took a gulp of air to watch the buildings creep closer as my car approached them, only to feel alone and small under their gaze from above. Not too long ago, I likened skyscrapers to mountains. I remember asking a friend over email: Why care if they are buildings or mountains which cover the sunset? My point was that if a sunset was lost, a building was as worth blaming as the mountains. I wrote it from an unincorporated town within the snowy northern margins of the Northwoods, trying to come to terms with my next likely home. And then I visited the mountains. And then I moved to Chicago.

I learned that mountains are like the forest: you don’t expect the sun to veer around them on an unexpected course through their life. They have lived long enough to deserve the sun’s direction. The buildings, on the other hand, have never been carved nor planted so drastically, watching time span prior and beyond a human’s perception. Volcanoes never shot up magma to hold people, and forests never purposefully acted as umbrellas to the populations beneath them. Buildings, however, were formed by us, something special for the inhabitants who can watch from above. They are places to live, to work. A place to watch the push and pull of urban life.

There has been, and always will be, trials and tribulations which led to tales never shared outside of the previous inhabitants of the mountains and forests. This is not much different from the skyscrapers. However, the distinction holds in that the buildings pick whom they sequester, while the mountains and forests are equal in their hospitality and brutality. All who visit press the same button, leading less to the 95thfloor than to a place which holds minimal interpersonal distinction.

Lives push through snow upon snow, wind over wind, sometimes sadness which follows drought and the subsequent blame between inhabitants. Hands and faces crack whether considered friends or foes. This distinction between man and nature reigns supreme among the mountains and forests. Go ahead and ask the mountains and forests, and they will always answer the same: We did not invite you.

But for the buildings. They are different. They, likewise, hold lives in their premises. They can promote or destroy. However, they need people. They asked for our competition. They requested, specifically, for the bending and breaking of mankind, not for any force of wind, but for the force of ego. They crash their bricks upon the souls of many long before those same people learn that their real secrets and lives lie within another pattern.