Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cash Me Ousside! Meriwether Lewis

(McClure Lake, Memaloose State Park along the Columbia River)

 Let's face it, there's been a big, hairy, steaming fork sticking out of the over-bloated and ashy burnt butt of the American Dream for a long time now.  Gone are the days of Jefferson's Declaration.  Subconsciously amended by public consumption and corporate greed, a new American entitlement of "Unalienable Rights" has emerged:  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Shoe Deal / Clothing Line with a Reality Show on the E Network.
(True Acts of Civil Disobedience)

 American lives are now measured on elite status in billions of dollars, Twitter followers, YouTube hits, and what high ranking celebrity pitches your foundation.  I'm not knocking evolution, America is advanced citizenship.  It's our God Given Right to be Famous and Adored.
(Calm Waters of the Columbia)

 But fame isn't enough anymore, the Advanced American must stay relevant.  Entering the public conversation is meaningless unless one continually pushes the agenda forward.  Falling out of the zeitgeist is our greatest sin... to be, a Has-Been.  Gasp!
(Rowena Crest State Park)

 To stay relevant means one must exploit all their human attributes and talents.  One must market personal grief, addiction, pain, humble origin, and triumphs over poverty, abuse, violence, all to create the ever elusive and (hopefully) corporate sponsored: Personal Brand!  That's how kids are brought up today.  Not to be global citizens, but to be a global corporation.  
(Stopping for Drinks at Mosier Market)

 Into this paradoxical paradigm I ponder Meriwether Lewis, who returned to St. Louis a hero, truly a man of his time and moment.  The famed American explorer back to civilization from the wilderness with one question on everyone's lips:  What's next?  How does one parlay this incredible adventure into the next great chapter of one's life?  A Governorship?  A run for the presidency?  How to capitalize financially?  Investment opportunities abounded with political and personal connections, and privately, there was the question of marriage.  Wasn't Meriwether Lewis the most eligible bachelor in all of America?  In the same way that Lewis stood atop the Continental Divide, straddling the entire mysterious country at the center of complete wilderness and isolation, he now stood in the direct center of all American life.  What would he do?  
(High Above the Columbia Gorge.  Clear Sky for Miles)

He unraveled, of course.  The journals were unfinished and unedited and Jefferson repeatedly was demanding his report.  (By the way, have you read these journals?  There's hundreds of pages alone with countless spelling mistakes.  Lewis didn't even have a word processor!)  Add to this his drinking and dealing with debtors and contract disputes and political obligations and suffering from an odd kind of malaise depression.  The weight!  It's no wonder Lewis was crushed by it.  The weight of American expectation pummeled him.  It was inevitable.  Isolated by his own celebrity, his entourage departed, his very relevance in society in full question, Meriwether Lewis pulled the trigger on immortality, and I don't blame him at all.

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