Monday, September 26, 2005

Surrealism & the everyday

Lately I feel like I'm living in a surrealist painting.

The last time I felt like this I was in graduate school, after Hurricane Fran landed full-force on Chapel Hill, NC in autumn 1996. Almost everything stopped, and what little that moved moved very, very slowly. Many roads were flooded, obstructed by trees, or they were impassable for other reasons having to do with the storm. Power was out everywhere for days, as was the TV. Most of the grocery stores were closed, at least for awhile, and because of the power outages their inventory quickly turned rancid. The water was untrustworthy for a time. In short, everyday life downshifted abruptly. There were fits, starts, and jerks; everything--everything--seemed out of sorts.

I'm fortunate not to live on the US Gulf Coast right now, though the images I see and the reports I hear take me back to my time in Chapel Hill--only far worse. The main effects many of us living outside the region feel (other than a continued loss of faith in our government's ability to act and a profound sorrow for those who've lost everything) is the rising price of gas. Rumor has it that it may reach $4/gallon. That, of course, is a deeply everyday concern, given how much petroleum makes the economy--indeed, everyday life itself--go. Everyone living in the US has been touched to greater and lesser degrees by the recent maelstroms.

Lefebvre once said that a breakdown in everyday life's usual routines is precisely that which precipitates fundamental change. Are we indeed living through just such a time? If so, who will direct the change, and to what ends?

No comments: