Life is way too easy

An old Messenger column

I called my buddy Jigs on my cell phone the other day. I was stuck in traffic down in Minneapolis.
“Where are you?” he said. “It sounds like you’re in a wind tunnel.”
“I’m in Minneapolis. I’m on my cell.”
“I thought I’d check in.”
“You used to come and see me when you wanted to check in.”
He hung up. I stopped at his trailer on the way home.
“Life is way too easy,” he said, opening the door.
“Cell phones, the Internet. There’s no waiting anymore. There’s something to be said for waiting.”
I wondered if he would invite me in. He left me standing on the doorstep. “What do you mean?” I should know better. Asking Jigs what he means is inviting a 20-minute lecture.
“When was the last time you went to library?”
I couldn’t remember the last time, so I told him so.
“Used to be, when someone wanted to know something, they went to the library. When I was a kid and I asked my dad a question, he said, ‘Look it up in the World Book.’ If it wasn’t in the World Book, we’d have to wait until we got to the library. During the summer, that might be week or two. Even during the school year, it might take a few days. And do you know what we did in the mean time?”
“No,” I said.
“We wondered. We thought about it. We made up all kinds of possible answers.” He paused and just looked at me, like he was daring me to respond. I knew better. He went on. “The imagination is obsolete,” he said.
I thought he was exaggerating. “You’re exaggerating,” I said.
“No. Think about ice hockey.” I didn’t see the connection. He could tell. “The other day, they played the first outdoor hockey game in Minnesota history.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I said.
He clarified. “The first girls’ ice hockey game in Minnesota history.” I stared at him blankly. “Where does ice come from?” he asked.
I was still on the porch, waiting for him to invite me in. “From cold weather,” I said.
“Exactly. Life is way too easy. There wouldn’t even be hockey if there wasn’t cold weather. Yet nowadays, cold weather isn’t even necessary. There’s no need to suffer.”
“Suffering is good?” I asked.
“Of course suffering is good. What would you know if you had never suffered?” I stared at him. Blankly. Again. “Suffering is good, waiting is good, and wondering is good. But nowadays, with cell phones and Internets and indoor ice rinks, there’s no need to suffer. No need to freeze, to hunger, to wonder, to wait. I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder,” he said.
“It’s Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The beat poet.”
“You know. Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti.” He held a hand up to the ceiling of his double wide and looked over my head, focusing on a star somewhere. “I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder.”
“Look it up on the Internet,” he said, closing the door gently in my face.


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