A crow was lamenting—something was sad. I was listening from my car in a sunny parking lot eating a nice big sandwich. My life was good. Strangely, for a creature of nature, the bird cried at precise five second intervals, “Craaw…(five seconds) craaw…(five seconds) craaw…” Perhaps the crow thought, “These are emotional times, serious times, where crying is more important than conserving energy.”
Deja vu. I was reminded of a murder of crows at the top of Primrose Hill, the highest point of London. They had been walking and flapping about the cowling of a motionless Martian Fighting Machine, which was standing high on three stilt-like legs. An hour ago, as I had been crossing a canal, forcing my way through the Red Weed, I heard the Martian operator, still alive, activating his call, the only sound in dead London, at five second intervals. “Ulla… ulla… ulla…” By the time I reached the hill, at twilight, the Machine was standing still as death, only the crows left alive.
In my sunny car, as the bird wasted calories—how unnatural—I played a compact disc with the compositions of Bear Cleary for his soundtrack to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Cleary’s music is somber, plaintive, and lonely in the dark, as if Cleary had included a night train whistle. (but he didn’t) Tunes like Cromartie in the Hospital and Derek’s Mission are relieved by only two lyrical songs, sardonic and superficial, one with the bouncy descending line: “Ain’t we famous baby, ain’t we famous we are.”
Forget fame. Sarah’s world portrays two time-space locations: the present Los Angeles, sunny and bright, and 2027—rubble and bunkers. To Sarah, and to everyone surviving in the future, fame is frivolous. A few resistance fighters come through to the present: They focus on their mission even though they are suddenly on easy street. A young traveler screams at a family because, in her eyes… they don’t how lucky they are! They don’t get it! They don’t know anything about the coming rubble, starvation and bleached skulls…
To Sarah and her son John the values society disregards today are in fact the classic values, such as bravery, kindness and being helpful. And relationships. How superficial to the Connors are the frivolous things we of today place so much pride in, such as working long hard hours, away from our family, at the office striving for a bigger car, fancy possessions and silly fame. We should be grateful we live in these easy times, where it’s so easy to kid ourselves about what matters. In the backs of our minds, surely, we know we have built our values on flimsy foundations of paper. And paper can so quickly burn to ashes, blown away on the nuclear wind. I think of that sad cow looking down on our misplaced lives.
The 2008 TV show, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, was canceled for having low ratings. Someone thought the ratings were from having too much philosophy and not enough car explosions. I don’t agree; I found Sarah’s musings and the philosophical plots quite interesting. Maybe if ever this world is to be saved it will be from more philosophy, not less.
During our war on terror that, by the very definition of “war,” is always in our minds and in my essays, it is quite noticeable to me that terrorists place no value on philosophy, and put a second-class value on “their” womenfolk who, if given equal rights like Sarah, might think about building a peaceful world for their sons. As a Canadian Muslim put it, terrorists never have degrees in the liberal arts. They never analyze stories.
If the Berlin Wall has fallen and yet our culture still tells stories of apocalypse, lately stories about plagues of zombies, then surely there are sound psychological reasons. I wonder if we are creating these stories subconsciously to remind ourselves to see the world with fresh, grateful eyes. In Sarah’s world, one angry time-traveling officer, enraged somebody at drifting away from the mission, says: “I took you from hell and brought you to paradise!” Yes.
I try to take a moment, on a sunny day, in my air conditioned car, to reflect: ...I am living in paradise.
~in 2014, starting from the sand pit on the common near the house of H. G. Wells (his house has a plaque) I made my way to Primrose Hill. It’s out beyond the tourist map of Central London, and yes I did have to walk along a canal to get there.
~There was a fierce blockade during the first world war. German troops were desperately short on food and material. When a great mass of troops from the eastern front were freed up by Russia’s surrender, the Germans tried their last great offensive of the war. (Too bad the Germans had put their war under military, not civilian control—not like in a democracy—because the presence of all those troops could have been graciously presented as a reason for the Allies to agree to a peace treaty—but of course, the army guys couldn't think that creatively)
According to my high school teacher, the attack stalled… partly, my teacher said, because the troops slowed down to loot the plentiful food.
Sometimes, I guess, bloodless sanctions and cruel blockades are more effective than bayonets.
~Perhaps, if you are reading this in some future library, you are wondering why I would sacrifice the natural flow of my essay to suddenly, three paragraphs from the end, go sideways to referring to the war on terror. To me it’s obvious, but maybe I could answer you in a sidebar, next week.