It’s the direction in which I’m least proficient and the one I think least often about. Perhaps it’s not surprising that I regard it a little differently from the rest. After all, compare it to the other directions. I often have occasion to move, say, left or right. The morning walk from my bedroom door to the bathroom would be impossible to survive without my ability to sidestep two frantic teenagers as they race up the hall one way with an undershirt over their head and then hop down it the other trying to put on a second sock.
Forward is very familiar too. There are all sorts of things—dinosaur skeletons, huge insects, candy bars—that have always had the power to mysteriously draw me forward as if by magnetic attraction. I barely have to move my legs. And as for backward, it’s a direction I explored not twenty minutes before starting to write this post.
“GrRAARGhh, GrRAARGhh, GrRAARGhh!”
That’s approximately the noise my wife made. Most of those grraarghh’s were probably words, but if so, they were quite unrecognizable at the speed at which they came rocketing in my direction and exploded around me.
I’d been asked to look after the stew for twenty minutes while my wife popped out. I’d definitely given it an outstanding, high-quality stir shortly after she left. But then time had played a nasty trick on me by accelerating massively when I wasn’t looking. I assume the entire population of the world must have been running about at comically high speed like the Keystone Kops, but I hadn’t noticed because I’d been hard at work with my iPad sketching out some keys ideas for this post on Angry Birds.
This prank on the part of time meant that when my wife returned, I hadn’t yet had an opportunity to give the stew a fourth, a third or even a second stir. Yet despite this, there was still very nearly half an inch of water at the bottom of the pot and the kitchen hadn’t burned down. As you might expect, in her relief, my wife took careful aim and bombarded me with all sorts of gratitude.
“GrRAARGhh, GrRAARGhh, GrRAARGhh!”
Sheer humility then forcing me to step backward out of range.
Of course, some may be resolutely unimpressed by my proficiency at moving left and right, backward and forward, aware that all four of these directions exist within the same geometric plane. Such an attitude would be rather unfair, however, since I also have tremendous familiarity with down. In fact, it’s probably the easiest direction of all for me since I can get there with virtually no effort on my part, particularly after a heavy frost or a snowfall. I can also truthfully boast that I am able to locate down when drunk, although total inebriation on my part has been a rare state for several decades now, and it’s possible I may have lost my edge.
I’m even capable of finding down in pitch darkness, such as at four o’clock this morning when I woke to find an earplug had fallen out and so had to scramble about on my hands and knees over the bedroom floor trying to find it. Failure in this mission was not an option if I wanted to have any chance of returning to sleep, but this left me with a problem. I didn’t want to wake my wife, which meant I had to search for the earplug without making any noise she could hear and without turning on the light. Sadly, my skills in bat-like ultrasonic echolocation were not quite sharp enough for the task.
In the end, I dealt with this tricky situation by using my smartphone as a flashlight. Not only did I succeed in finding the missing earplug, but I even managed not to get distracted and start playing Angry Birds while I was down there. My iron resolve on this matter was admittedly made easier by the fact that I don’t actually have Angry Birds on my smartphone, only my iPad.
Now, anyone who has managed to follow my ducking and diving, weaving and sidestepping until this point in the post, will notice there is still one direction I have not yet talked about, namely, up. This is the one I obliquely referred to in my first sentence. I think I may have said something at that time about not being very good at traveling in an upward direction, but I’m not sure because I said it way up there at the top of the page and that’s a lot of climbing.
It’s true that up requires effort. Perhaps an even bigger issue for me, though, is that it simply rarely occurs to me to raise my eyes that far. In the street, I pay some attention to what my feet are doing. It’s never a happy experience to find myself treading on chewing gum, broken glass or small dogs. I also make a certain amount of effort to notice what is in front, to the left, to the right and even behind me. This is generally how I avoid adorning the front grille of buses, taxis and delivery trucks with my presence.
Up, on the other hand, is a direction I’ve often struggled to see as relevant. Obviously, I am not making the extreme claim that I never look upward. I may glance at the sky before I leave my apartment, for example, to check if I need an umbrella. Similarly, on the way back home in the evening, I’ll occasionally walk along the street while gazing at the moon. It’s safe to do so at that time; the dogs have all gone to sleep.
In general, however, I don’t look up nearly as often as I look in other directions. There are some advantages to this. For one thing, it explains how it is that I can happily type out this post despite being sandwiched between my wardrobe and my bookcase. It’s because I only ever seem to notice what is in them, but remain strangely oblivious to what is precariously balanced on them. Thus, the prospect of my inevitable doom under an avalanche of child artwork, forgotten certificates, photographs, Christmas wrapping paper and old Amazon boxes has never interfered with my productivity as a blogger.
Yet although up has never meant very much to me, I had a surprising thought about it recently. You see, ever since I was old enough to be aware of politics, and regardless of whether I personally agreed with their policies or not, I’d always regarded the presidents of the United States with a certain awe. All of them, even the frankly second-rate ones, were in a sense representatives of certain powerful ideals, like democracy, tolerance, liberty, opportunity and equality. It was a kind of looking up I’d been doing for years. I only realized it for the first time last Tuesday when I finally stopped.
© Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo Blog (2016)
(All Rights Reserved)
NOTE: I’m afraid a family health situation has arisen recently and it means I’m not going to be able to spend nearly as much time on WordPress as I’d like. With any luck, everything will be back to normal by about early January, but until then, I’m going to be pretty tied up much of the time. I intend making a real effort to continue posting once a week, and of course, I’ll definitely respond to all commenters and stop by your blogs. Much of my other reading is likely to be unavoidably curtailed for a few weeks, though. I sincerely apologize, but it’s really beyond my control. (This message is likely to be hanging around for a while, so please feel from to ignore it from now on.)