New Essay: “City Thoughts, Early Morning, Insomnia”

  Morning breathes down my neck again. Unbidden as always. Closed blinds shut out the sight of nothing. Concrete. Tarmac. Bricks.

  Humans suck the soul out of their surroundings – leaving nothing even for themselves in their wake. And then complain about the feeling of missing something. “Something is missing from my life!” Yeah, I know. You killed it off. Because you thought you were missing something else you also never managed to attain, even by murdering your way through nature in order to construct these tomb-like hives for yourselves – also known as ‘Cities’. And guess what; something will always be missing from your life, and the more you wreck in your search for it, the further you remove it from reach. 

  Why get out of bed now when these thoughts have already come unbidden? Why open the blinds? There is nothing worth looking at out there. More grey. More grime. More humans buzzing about in relentless search for something they don’t even know what is and therefore substitute for money, alcohol and sex. All things designed to distract. 

  They all say they want to get closer to nature. And then they try, and get scared, and scurry back into their hives. To complain further. Make the hives bigger. Destroy more of nature. Making it necessary to go even further in order to reach it – leading to more complaints. Less life.

  I can struggle out of bed and obey the morning that pounds on my temples now, obviously frustrated with me. But it doesn’t feel as if there is much purpose behind the act. Most time is wasted anyway. Confined in a 50 m2 box that I bought for a ridiculous amount of numbers that represent no real value. Sure, said box shelters me from the rain and gives me some privacy. But so could a cave, right? And still we think that we have evolved… We’ve certainly evolved at complicating things for ourselves, shutting ourselves in and making nature a more hostile environment for us than it ever used to be – even when we were prey.

  Who am I kidding? We are still prey. There may not be many animals left who would dare eat us – and judging by our diets we probably don’t taste very good either – but we will always be prey animals in the eyes of nature. 

  These are idle thoughts. But necessary ones. I just wish I wasn’t the one who was constantly burdened by them. But that’s a very human problem, isn’t it? Attempting to shove one’s responsibility onto others. Ignoring problems in favour of temporary comfort. Refusing to cut down on air travel and electricity usage even though not doing so equals stealing from one’s children – and then complain about somebody else who (from your perspective) looks to be overspending. 

  Keeping quiet is the safest road, isn’t it? It just really isn’t worth it if it means that nothing ever gets done – that no problems ever get solved, and that Nature eventually comes to reclaim the territory we stole from it in our futile and misguided attempt to shelter ourselves behind walls and shut it out. As if it was ever possible to do so.

  I am ill suited for life in the city. Yet ill equipped for life outside of it. And therefore a very common human being. I only stick out in terms of awareness.

  Being ill equipped for life outside a city essentially means being ill equipped for life at all, since the city is a fake, constructed environment. Life inside of those confines isn’t really life; it is a sad attempt at sheltering oneself from life. If the cities were to disappear, the vast majority of humanity would be seen stumbling about in confusion like animals who have spent their entire lives in cages, only for a misguided animal rights activist to suddenly let them lose to die. 

  It is an idiosyncratic world – but only because we make it so. We overthink everything. I am doing so right now. Nature – on the other hand – has only the singular flaw that it brought us into being. Since we are attempting so hard to destroy nature, that’s gotta count as a flaw, right? Unless we were deliberately manufactured in order to correct some imbalance that we cannot fathom. Perhaps everything was just too good to be true before us? Perhaps it was too boring without us? Perhaps Nature thought: “Enough of this! I’ll do the planetary equivalent of getting a tattoo!” and suddenly bipeds stood up and looked at the sky – starting to overthink things. And before you know it, the Earth was decorated by cities everywhere. Glowing in the dark with their own, sad light – a pale reminder of the natural lights in the sky which they dim down and make practically invisible. It’s no good reminding humans where they came from, after all. We moved into cities to forget, didn’t we? To forget that we are prey. To forget that we are animals. To forget that our gloriously long history is merely the blink of an eye in reality, and that the only reason why we can’t see it, is due to our short flare-like lives? 

  Forgetfulness is bliss. Until the point where the city has become so desaturated and so void of soul that the mind starts to wander, and wants to make a full circle. When your idle thoughts make you remember, because you cannot find anything even remotely worthwhile to do with yourself in such a hostile environment. 

  I could get out of bed. I could sleep all day. But it really doesn’t matter anymore, because no matter what I do, even I myself will have forgotten about it tomorrow. Only Nature has a memory long enough to be worth anything. But those stories are so uncomfortable to us that we shut them out. Except for the dinosaurs of course, since they make for such cool special effects.

  What I need to do is get out of this city. Who am I kidding – I wouldn’t have a clue in the world what to do outside, except take a few pictures and scurry back in. However tough it is to live in a city, living without it once you’ve become accustomed to this particular brand of drug, that’s nearly impossible. 

  In the event of Nature’s reckoning, which will happen sooner or later, I don’t stand a chance of survival. And neither do most others, at least in the Western world. And perhaps that’s the whole problem. We are too many, and we are too good at natal care, healthcare and disease prevention – many of us who are alive today would not have been tolerated by Nature because we are too weak for it! But Nature isn’t allowed to make its selection anymore. We believe we know better. And so the planet becomes increasingly inhospitable due to our arrogance and insistence on our “right” to the life that Nature generously offered us in the first place and we ourselves chose to sour.

  I am stuck, am I not? Just like the rest of you. The only comforting thought is that in the end, none of it matters. I have the certainty of death, and the certainty that Nature will always prevail – even if it means killing off its own creation to save itself.

  Facts are facts, no matter how many loops we jump through and how many concrete walls we shelter ourselves behind in order to hide from them.

  And now it is so late that I have no more excuses for staying in bed. I may loathe humanity, but it doesn’t make me any less human – and I have to pee.

Published By: K-M Skalkenæs

Danish poet, writer and painter. Writings include her own original poetry in English and Danish, and translations of poetry from the Scandinavian languages and German into English.

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