Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Awakening

This past Saturday I was having dinner alone outside in Uptown. It was one of the first nice days of the year, so everyone was out & about. Suddenly, there were beautiful women everywhere, as if they'd just emerged from hibernation. Such is the spell of Spring.

Luckily, I was in a good place (emotionally) to appreciate it. The weather had a salutary effect on my mood, as the impartial observer might expect. But my history with Spring has been rather tortured.

It all started when we moved from a small town to the 'burbs after I finished first grade. I had no real friends for the first three years. My summers became very lonely, and I came to crave the (limited) socialization and structure of school.

This left an emotional legacy that invests each Spring with background anxiety that comes to the fore when I'm alone. As someone who finds himself alone most of the time, the Fall and Winter provide some cover for my solitary lifestyle. But the Spring and Summer lay bare my isolation, reminding me of my loneliness.

Last year, my anxiety peaked in May, leading me to take the unprecedented step of going on medication. Therefore, I'm worried about how this season will affect my psychology this year. So far, however, I've had a more conventional reaction to Spring, feeling happier, energized and more willing to socialize.

As a result, I was seeing with new eyes. My gaze settled on the towering brick smokestack of Jefferson Elementary across the street. For the first time, I was struck by its magnificence.

It's a fine monument to the Industrial Era, almost regal in its bearing, rising above the fray of everyday concerns. It seemed a relic of a more civilized age, a time when people were dedicated to more noble ideals than making money and paying the bills.

I saw it through the grainy, awe-inspiring filter of distance. The rarefied air surrounding it hung heavy with gravitas. It carried the mantle of incorruptible tradition on its lofty crown.

I wished for binoculars to see what appeared to be fine detail on the stone ornamentation around the tall, blocked-up windows near the top. Think about it: This is a 6-story, free-standing industrial chimney for an elementary school, and they bothered decorating the top story. What building today would receive that kind of treatment?

It's worth remembering that our society didn't always treat its buildings (or people) as carelessly as it does today. If we really wanted to, we could resurrect that sense of civic duty. Are we willing to look up from our own lives long enough to give others the consideration that we'd like from them?

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