Earlier this month I was on something of a vacation, visiting family out west. During the flight out to Calgary I came across a magazine article that featured the following lines of Baudelaire’s poetry:
Once we have burned our brains out, we can plunge
to Hell or Heaven – any abyss will do –
deep in the Unknown to find the new!
From Calgary, my wife and I (and three dogs) drove to Canmore, where we picked up my Sister and Dad and headed to my brother’s place, about an hour across the Alberta/BC border in Golden. We made it halfway through Yoho National Park when all traffic stopped. Minutes passed. An hour passed. Nothing. We dipped into some of the beef jerky we had picked up in a small resort close to Lake Louise. Another hour went by. No sign of anything. Just a long lineup of cars sitting in the summer sun in the middle of a mountain range. People started to walk down the shoulder a ways. Some stepped out onto the empty stretch of asphalt that ran alongside us, looking for some answer. My wife had Mochi, the nutless wonder, doing some tricks on the side of the road to keep people entertained for brief moments. The time passed along and it got to where everyone wondered if we’d ever get back to the everyday movements of modern life.
And there was an aspect this that I enjoyed. This was something of an abyss, that lied somewhere between Heaven and Hell. We were deep in the Unknown, and I guess finding the new was a possibility, but simply not knowing was pretty good on its own. Enough time had elapsed for us all to figure out that somewhere ahead there was a good bit of death and destruction. Certainly, knowing about that was not going to be helpful. The not knowing was actually ok. There was no cell phone reception; no radio signals of any kind; no way of finding anything out. Just trees, and rocks, and sky. And it was actually ok.
It was around the time when the ugly figure of a long-horned pine beetle landed upon the windshield, that I thought of the Raptors. And no it was not in relation to the certain, horrible crash at the end of the long line of motionless vehicles. The deaths of real people should not be equated with my expectations for a basketball team. OK-OK, there was a millisecond where I wondered at the possibility of Bargnani severing an arm, but that was both ludricous and just unhealthy. Mostly, I just found myself happy not knowing anything that might be happening to my hapless team. Not only did I not know, I had absolutely no means of knowing anything. Bryan Colangelo might be admitting that he was wrong to say the team was evolving without giving equal time to Creationist theories. Jose Calderon might be getting interviewed and responding with his classic “we just need to get better” line. Chris Bosh could be tweeting about his trip to a pet store. I’d probably still miss that if I was back at home, but now I was absolutely sure that I would be missing that, and there is no denying the allure of the absolute. I started to get drunk on the absolute sense of not knowing.
I would have no way of seeing any youtube video, of reading any article, of watching any tv appearance, of receiving any ESPN broadcast in any form. Bosh could be singing You Don’t Send Me Flowers with Babs – I wouldn’t know. He could be standing in for one of the regulars in The Puppetry of the Penis show. He could be taping a stupid human tricks segment for Letterman (not where you defecate more than your own body weight Chris! No! Not that! It’s my idea! It’s my big chance goddamit – you’ve got Lebron!). He could be communicating with Emperor Penguins. He could be making a cameo appearance on the Young and the Restless. I would remain oblivious. He could ride a cow up one of the mountains that surrounded me, and shout “I’VE GOT MILK” through a megaphone, and the bears would likely get him before I noticed anything.
A part of me wanted to stay.
Four hours in and something finally moved besides the sun and the shadows. We would head towards Golden again. We would eventually come across a stretch of road scrubbed clean and now sudsy in the rain. From deep in the Unknown I would eventually be able to see the new that awaits this basketball season. It probably won’t resemble Heaven. It could very well resemble Hell. But it will be basketball all the same, and in that sense, any abyss will do. When the chatter and clatter and noise starts up, in my mind I will take myself back to the middle of Yoho, between the Rockies and the Purcell Mountains. And know nothing – as usual.