Monday, June 18, 2007

Driving is a state of mind

I have been slightly amazed by something many millions of us do without thinking: pilot a 2-ton+ machine of metal and rubber down asphalt highways at extremely high speed. Actions and behaviors and conditions behind the wheel describe aspects of our lives: behind the wheel, pedal to the metal, out of gas, dead-end street.

I love to drive. I hate automobile exhaust and traffic jams and car repairs and car trouble. I hate the way roads and suburban development are cutting up meadows and farmland. I hate the price of gas, the smell of gas, the oil spots on the ground, oil spills killing wildlife. I hate the way the oil in Iraq is a prize to kill people over. I hate everything that is hateable about oil, and cars, and the car culture of America. Truly, I wish 9/10ths of the personally owned automobiles, ATVs, mobile homes, and other such beasts would be gone.

But I love to drive. I love to grip the wheel and engage my hands and feet and brace my body against the seat. I like the way roads slip up and under the wheels, and the way sounds surround and roar by. I love how scenery and CD can make the trip a narrative. I am darkly bemused that my car takes me past accidents, dead things, and bad scenes at speeds that allow little more than a quick sideglance impression of the events on the ground. I have no choice--I'm already 1,000 feet down the road.

I'm trying in this blog to capture that state of mind that exists only behind the wheel. There is nothing like it on earth, there is no activity a human being can do that is as much like flying free, that is a meditation, an escape. And in the era of Peak Oil and global warming, driving may become something only a few thousands, instead of millions, do. What will we lose, then?

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