It’d been a long day; a very long day. That was behind me however. Right now, a hearty supper and two glasses of wine later, I sat in front of the roaring, warm fire. Smoking my usual pipe and in my red robe and fur lined slippers, I sat down in my usual chair and heard the church clock strike eleven. Nothing surprising, this was my routine; one that I adhered to, almost consciously, every day for the past five years. Yes, almost consciously.
Most days I find myself forcing my days to work according to schedule so that my routine goes unchanged. And by this routine, I shall sit in this very chair for an hour more and then proceed to put out the fire, climb up to my room, lay awake in my bed for another half hour till sleep takes over my conscious self. What I do in this hour? Well, it depends on my mood. (Doesn’t everything?) One day, I might look through the old photo albums, might try my miserable hand at the daily crossword, or browse through the one of the books in my large, oak wood bookshelf. Tonight, I was too tired for any activity. I could’ve fallen asleep right there. Yet, I wouldn’t let myself. Routine. So I sat there, looking at the fire, glowing and orange.
Why I don’t break out of this routine? Well, I guess for the same reason you don’t. Safety; security; the illusion we like to drown ourselves in that as long as we avoid change, things will be “fine”. Ha. The comfort we find in illusion is almost laughable- almost because I look for that comfort too, as does everyone. Of course, we do welcome that change in routine that happens once in a while. Even that however, has to fit that bigger routine. It’s almost unbreakable, this routine. Why, even our birth, schooling, graduation, marriage, widowhood, death... routine isn’t it?
I was sweating a bit now, don’t know why. I instinctively wiped my forehead with the sleeve of my robe. Suddenly, as if Routine knew I was talking about it, the bell rang; thrice and shrill, tearing through the earlier silence. I stared at the space in front of me as if it would reveal the identity of who stood outside my door at this dark hour. I slowly got up and made my way to the door. A slight fear grew in me but curiosity, as usual, won the argument. (What was that line about curiosity killing something again?) I pulled open the door and there I saw, with a bottle of wine, my brother. Not unusual that he stopped by but not very usual either. Michael, he was two years younger than me and as sharp as a tack. We often had a nightly chat.
“Come on in Mike. What brings you here today? You were here just a week ago. I daresay you’ve anything else to say already”
“Why brother! Must I have to say something to seek your company? I have a bottle of the best wine in my hand as do you in your shelves. Why not we pour ourselves a glass or five and rant? I assume there are enough problems with humanity for us to talk about over wine.”
I sighed deeply. I could tell that the bottle in his hand wasn’t his first of the night. By this time, we were back in the living room. I was back in my usual chair. Mike had gone off to find glasses to drink out of. Considering the collection I have and the perfectionist he is, he’ll take a good five minutes to find the ones suiting his present mood. I reverted back to my thoughts and the fire and my pipe.
Presently Mike walked in. He places the glasses and his bottle of wine along with a bottle of my best wine on the low table in front of me, pulled his arm chair closer and nestled in. A glass of wine later, he began, “So what runs through your mind today?”
“Nothing. Just reflecting on routine.”
“Ah. The ever prevalent cosmic Order”
“My thoughts were more on the lines of why we never broke out of this routine. Why we found such security in order to be precise.”
“Maybe because it is but impossible to break out of it.” , he declared, slightly pompously.
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“Have you ever wondered that it is impossible to break out of this order? That there is no way out?”
“Are we talking about destiny here?”
“Destiny? No. Let’s not trivialize it brother. I’m talking ‘bout something bigger than that. Much bigger. Everything that happens is merely a part of the routine. The atom bomb over those countries, the birth of a son to Mrs. Smith across the street, my being here, your having studied law and moved into ecology, the fires in a city in the other hemisphere, the snow in Alaska and the disappearance of Atlanta, everything is just a part of this humongous routine of things.”
“Something like everything happens or a reason?”
“Something like that”
I got the flow of what he was talking about. He made sense. He got me thinking as well. We’d been through three glasses each now. It was sinking in, you could tell.
“Let me see if this is right. So, you’re saying, that everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen is all a part of a predetermined order?”
“No. Not predetermined, but that will be determined according to the present. It’s like, this Order knows there is an end and what the end is. It also knows that there are various possibilities to that end; infinite in fact. It will play with each of these possibilities every second.”
“Hmm, so it will lead the world and life and everything in it to this final end, whatever it may be, changing its course at its will”
“Yes, something on those lines”
“Impressive. Ever thought about what that end might be?”
“Alas, too many possibilities crowd my mind when I put to it that question”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the end could be everlasting life; immortality of a super human race; extinction of all life in the world, universe, the swallowing up of all physical existence- the stars, planets, solar systems, universes, everything into a black nothingness”
“Hmm, I see what you mean. But you made me think of something else when you said that, unrelated as it may be.”
“What would that be?”
“Well, ‘everything be swallowed into black nothingness.’ Why must nothingness be black? Why not white, pink? Imagine, at the end of it all there would be but just pink and nothing else.”
“Ha ha. I see what you mean. How long do you think that pinkness will last?”
“Hmm, I have no idea. What do you think the end of all time will be? (if there is such a thing)”
“I don’t know. Have you wondered why we’re all so concerned about time?”
“I suppose it’s because we’re limited by it all the time. At all levels, whether it’s a deadline, an exam or our existence, we’re hounded by it. I believe that’s why we may define ourselves as thinking entities that are given a physical existence that exists in time and space”
“Well said, well said. The wine’s all out, brother. Have you any more?”
“No more wine. Check for whisky in the cabinet next to the spices.”
And he went off to get the whisky and, by practice, the glasses that suit the drink. I got up, fed the dying fire with some coal and old paper, sat down. It was two in the morning by now. He’d kept me up. He’d “broken my routine”; or stayed in the routine of breaking my routine every once in a while – you can put it either way.
He came back with the whisky and the glasses, poured us both a glass, downed his, made a weird noise and poured himself another. He was pretty high on the intoxication meter by now. I could tell. The two of us have been on binges together, some that lasted weeks, so I could tell.
“Are you alright, Mike?”
“Who? Me? Yeah, yeah just give me a minute.” With pleasure, I thought to myself. (his speech was slurring a bit)
We sat in silence. I thought about Mike. He was a pretty handsome chap, still an eligible bachelor, had been in the army, intellectual- a pretty good catch for the average girl. I think he felt my gaze over him, he looked up.
“Nothing, nothing. Just thinking.”
“I know what you were thinking. You think I’m the perfect li’l boy, don’t you?”
“Who knows? You might be.” I said.
He cocked his eyebrow and looked up from his whisky. “..and I thought I’d drunk too much!”
“No no, thought that IS true, what I meant was, why do you think you’re not perfect? Maybe what you are is actually perfection? What is perfection but an abstract attribute anyway?”
Now, I was blabbering, I knew it.
Mike looked up, “Brother, you prove your blood is mine” and he stood up to shake hands and promptly tripped and fell back into his chair. Enough was enough.
“Alright, Mike. It’s time you go home. Lord knows how long you’ll take to recover from this hangover. You’ve already ruined one night of mine.”
He exclaimed with surprise and a bit of alcohol, “The lord! Ha ha. The Lord knows, does he? Well, well, well.
“Alright, alright, I’ll take you to the door, Matt’ll be here soon, he can take you home. Now hand me that bottle, Mike.”
I was tired by now, we’d been up all night. Matt the milkman will be on his way soon, and can take Mike home. Relief. I stood at the door, with Mike propped against my shoulder. Matt was just coming down the lane from the gate.
“Good morning, Mr.Wilkers, how ar..My my is that..? Well, someone’s been downing a drink or ten, hasn’t he?”
“Yes Matt. Could you do me a favour and take him home, please? I don’t think he can walk anmore.”
“Gladly, Mr.Wilkers. I say, where has he been all night, then? Here? Not one of your usual nightly parleys?”
“Yes, Matt. Quite right. We were talking and the more we spoke, the more we were haunted by our thoughts.”
I sighed. Matt took Mike off my shoulder and on to his.
“Well, lucky me then. I slept soundly and I’m happy about life. Ignorance is truly blissful, ainnit, Mr.Wilkers?” he said. “Well, good morning and have a nice day, Mr.Wilkers. Don’t worry, I’ll get him home safe.” With that he turned around and left.
I was left staring at him and reflecting on his last words – ignorance is bliss. How right you are, Matt, how right you are. Ignorance is bliss and we are condemned to think, us poor bastards. I sighed, took in the morning air and went back inside for my hour of sleep.