I don’t know if it was the gunk or simply all the services I partook of on the road but I had a quasi-religious fever about commerce, specifically this:
Entrepreneurs are the zzzzzzzt of life! Commerce — the lubricant of humanity, bringing diverse peoples together for common purpose, sustenance. Commerce! Those who would otherwise have no cause to be joined together except perhaps opposed in war or opinion are made eager to meet, to barter, to trade labor and capital and ingenuity, to offer aspects of themselves in order to gain aspects of unknown others.
I’d had this same epiphany periodically from early adulthood onward, maybe even as far back as teendom. It’s an insight that circles around again and again, and it never fails to smite me powerfully in my third eye — that eye of the soul.
The way some people feel about God I feel about the bonds that tie us together as humans, and it always begins with human exchange. Exchange of goods, exchange of ideas, exchange of effort and good will, because nothing can be exchanged without the will to do good for another, even if grudgingly, even if out of the narrowest self interest.
This same insight would overwhelm me from time to time in New York City, where I’ve heard it said well over a hundred languages are spoken daily. The Arab driver brings the Orthodox Jew to work in the diamond district, where a black musician takes his Puerto Rican girlfriend for a bauble, buying a hot dog from the Lithuanian vendor. None might choose to associate otherwise if it weren’t for the kiss of commerce.
I say kiss here for the romance and the alliteration of it, but really commerce bestows kindnesses to all and all bestow kindnesses through commerce, even the most brashly self-absorbed. Every day I would witness people interacting and trading their life force — each spent life time for the dollars they were exchanging — people who might otherwise have shunned one another.
This came back to me here at this juncture of the trip, ensconced in a van — living in a van! — a vehicle I didn’t create, propelled by fuels I didn’t drill for or refine, on roads I didn’t build, eating foods I neither gathered nor prepared from restaurants I didn’t construct, writing on paper I didn’t mash and sift and press with a simple pen I have no fucking idea in the world how to engineer, enjoying the ten million things that make this era so providentially rewarding (and safe) for travel.
In the time of Lao Tzu one would refer to the ten thousand things to refer to the many things in the material world. Now you would exhaust that number before you’d turned down every aisle at a Walmart.
It’s moments like that one somewhere in the Western mountains that provoke me to this humbling realization: that my whole existence is built on the efforts of others. My every single thing I use comes from the broad shoulders of human braun employing the hive mind of humanity. Every single thing I enjoy other than relationships and the uses of my naked body come from you, commerce.
So yes, commerce, I blow a sweet kiss to you.
Excerpted from the forthcoming book:
Bohemia in Suburbia and Beyond: Oh the creativity and originality outside of urban centers (one dude found traversing America) (in an old van).
And yes, yes it is; that title is rather longish, though it does succinctly speak to what you’ll find inside the book.