people who know me know that sometimes i cannot get phrases out of my head, and i say them to myself or out loud at times that i am not actively thinking anything else, such as when i take a piss, or when i am staring at my students, of whom i am very frightened. today i said out loud to my students, for no reason, "The Pick Up Artist", referring to the VH1 show with the host named Mysteriosus or something. that was the first time that i ever said that particular phrase, but other phrases have appeared just as inexplicably and have then stuck around for years. a quick list of such things
when i am sitting at my keyboard and not able to remember what i want to type, sometimes i will type or think to myself, "jimmyeatworld.com".
in the bathroom i think, "the Milwaukee Brewers".
when i walk down the street, i think, "he walked down the street".
while playing Tetris, the question replays in my mind: "can Baumann get it done?"
i've often considered the mundane nature of these mind-slogans to reflect on my own boring nature. though people may initially be excited by my nuances, when they get to know me more, i fear they will see that all i do is sit around at home, reading things, repeating meaningless phrases in my head and narrating the simplest actions and thoughts: "he needed water." "he buttered the bread." "could he really face another day of teaching students nothing of use?"
sometimes, i want to shut up forever and just absorb the world. "i will be a part of you," i want to tell the world, striking a deal, "but it will just be better if i never again pretend to have anything to offer you; the very act of speaking, as you know, relies on such pretense."
when i speak, i feel horribly alone, out of control, narcissistic.
but last night, and then again this morning, i felt part of something bigger. something nearly (or more than) 64,000,000 other people also must have felt. i didn't have to say a word. i didn't say that many words at all last night, or this morning. i stepped into a booth. i stepped out. i stepped up to the a machine that accepted something from my hand. i felt another person, who earlier that day had done the same things i had just done, press a finger to my chest and then, as if magically, between that person's finger and my chest, there was this stupid little sticker, and that sticker was like a baby that i was proud of -- there are reasons not to like it, maybe, but i overlooked them, like a parent. i drove home feeling ok. i went to my room. occasionally i called meaningless things to Elliott that he could damn well see for himself. as i watched the maps become blue, i felt better, got quieter. i didn't have to speak to be a part of the world; a responsible part. a joyous part. i imagine millions of people with sheets of paper, doing nothing much, saying nothing much, changing history with their mind-slogans.
and then this afternoon, when i walked through downtown Lawrence, through South Park, up the hill on 13th Street, and through the KU campus, i looked people in the face, like i usually do. but instead of thinking "i could never be friends with that person" or "who is s/he, i wonder" like i so often and so divisively do, there was a new refrain that sounded over and over, appeared over every face and made me wonder, ultimately, just what we are capable of next. that slogan, of course, was
i hope it lasts for years.