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Sunday, February 11, 2018

On The Road To Irrelevance

"Everywhere he looked, he could see the most vibrant world of life that had no need of him...that would not think for a moment of his vanishing...have no memory of him...would go on without him. He began to fear his imminent death, not because he would die but because he sensed that he had never really lived as he wished. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan.

After a bout of hike-induced heatstroke, we traded saguaros and Pleasant Lake for pinion-juniper and higher ground. A couple hours of Interstate frenzy landed us an exquisite boondock amongst magical healing vortices and Red Rocks, a wise investment that paid dividends of cooler temps and Red Rock trails. This is exactly why we are the ultimate fickle Rv'ers who travel loose and free from reservations and ill-timed destinations, so we can elude the ravages of heat, cold, smoke and, occasionally, days on end of dreary clouds and rain.    

From our new camp, layers of majestic purple mountains fade into the haze of a classic Arizona Highways sunset. The air is tepid, wind calm, and coyote’s yip and howl at a full moon rising, one that will soon be eclipsed by earth’s shadow, or so I’m told, whilst I sleep through it like a desert rock.

Near the bottom of a second Hop Nosh IPA—the self-prescribed dose for hushing superfluous brain noise and waxing philosophical—my mind surrenders to “the buzz" and my body to a wedgie-inducing, five-dollar Walmart camp chair. Wedgie aside, what better time and place to ponder the Universe, awaiting pinpoints of light from a million molten suns? 

Bobbie finishes off an EXTREME Sudoku in waning desert light. The sky fades from orange to pink to violet to blue to black, only to be reignited by a humongous super moon, bright enough to cast our slumped shadows. The sun fights back with a final few brushstrokes of scarlet on wisps of clouds, then gently slips toward tomorrow somewhere far, far away. 

A sudden waterfall of cold air floods down from the Mogollon, and with it a raw chill that begets hooded sweatshirts and crossed arms. Bizarre. Even as daytime temperatures break record highs, nights still plunge to 40’s. A reminder that, even in the Arizona desert, it’s still winter.

Light from the super moon drowns all but the brightest stars. Bobbie and I cross postulate the probability of life in the vast “out there,” collectively wondering if "they" are more advanced or primitive than earth? Do they have cars and skyscrapers? Are they out-procreating their planet’s ability to sustain them like we are? If so, at what point does rampant greed cause a breakdown in social order?  And, do they know we're here?

In daylight it's canyons and mountains and seas that tickles our “muse.” But nighttime belongs to stars and black holes and the universe at large. My brain aches with concepts like “infinity.” Imagine, time and distance with neither beginning nor end...

You know, I say (or maybe it was the Hop Nosh talking), We are sooo irrelevant. Eventually our sun will burn out or blow up and it won’t make a diddly damn
Yeah, Bobbie sighs, Kinda like when we grow old and die…how fast we become irrelevant
I feel irrelevant NOW, I add, gazing to the ends of our galaxy. 

After putting ours lives in proper perspective, we discuss the seemingly inverse relationship between age and relevance. Arizona—the state where I grew up, the landscape where most of my big life-dreams spawned—is now a purgatory for retired snowbird geezers. They come for "the weather" and play golf till they die. That I feel the urge to take up golf lately is both interesting and alarming.

A sleeping Geezer...
A victim of the 50’s and 60’s school system and Pentecostal “fire and brimstone” parents (I’d like to think), my biggest dream/problem was how to enjoy life without ending up in Hell. Everything, it seemed, is a sin. Eventually I let go of most of my dreams, slipped into a “blue collar” along with a hundred million other lemmings, and pretty much did what I was told…which, if I’m not mistaking, pretty much defines “irrelevance.” Is this all there is? 

I have a reoccurring nightmare, the disappointment of my future descendants after researching Ancestry Dot Com only to find nothing of significance. This prompts me to Google my name, Mark Everett Johnson. Who knows? Maybe they heard about my fifth-grade starring role as Joseph in the Christmas play, or my improbable interception of a tipped pass on Orangedale Elementary’s flag football team. Perhaps Google knows that I pen a silly blog or a column for the Ouray County Plaindealer…instead of finishing the novel I was so certain would be made into a movie.

Another sleeping Geezer...
My Google search reveals there are/were quite a few Mark Everett Johnsons, but alas, none of them are me. One of my namesakes filed for bankruptcy, another went to prison for murdering his wife, and yet another was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat in, of all places, Topeka Kansas. Not that it will ever be found by Google or read here by my descendants, let me set the record straight: I am not any of those “Mark Everett Johnsons.” 

Disappointed in my seeming irrelevance, I do a last click on “images” for Mark Everett Johnson and pour over thousands of unfamiliar faces of namesakes and/or people related to, or having something to do with, said M. E. Johnsons. There, on the very first of endless pages, fifth row from the top, is a photo of my Mom, Hilda Mable Johnson, gushing a big smile from the hood of a ’56 Chevy. Alas, she upstages me, even in death. If only the IRS would count me so irrelevant as Google, perhaps I could better deal with my apparent anonymity.  

Now relax...let your mind slip into the Vortex and come hike with us through Arizona's beautiful Red Rock country... 
Peace out,
Mark and Bobbie, On the road to irrelevance.


  1. I read you therefore you are...

  2. I find not being relevant a wonderful way to live.

  3. Did you overheat on the mountain above Madera? I waved from Lemmon, hoping to see you, or at least see some crazy climbing photos of those crazy rocks. Instead you leap from south to north without a blink toward Tucson. We debated heading Sedona way, but I couldn't bear the thought of 17, and had no clue there was an uncrowded trail anywhere within miles, much less a boondock site. Instead we are heading for Death Valley and the Alabama Hills. All irrelevant of course. And yes, I watched my crazy grandmother's life become more and more irrelevant since she died in 1993. So many stories, so much and yet now, really, completely irrelevant to my kids kids. Funny how life does that to us. Will someone look at my name on a soil survey manuscript someday? Probably not, because they are becoming irrelevant as well.

  4. Excuse me, you are relevant to every one who reads this blog. There is not another living being on the planet that is anything like you, you are one of a kind, like all of us are, most never get to first base. Life is about the journey not the destination and YOU KNOW that. :) We have all been given the gifts to explore and examine all we see in front of our eyes , know all the sounds of nature we hear, and smell all the smells that enhances these qualities which make our life truly worth living. Would you rather not be alive, I think not, look at the incredible experiences you have known. Heaven is right before your eyes, so before you make it into Hell, Live like today is your last day on Earth.
    There are more readers out there of the BCB than than you can imagine and we are all grateful you are giving us this gift .
    Stay thirsty my friend and I'll meet you on the trail tomorrow.

  5. So funny, your picture of a sleeping Geezer. How did you know he was sleeping? Did his loud snoring let you know he was OK? Some people just like to pretend they are laying on the beach, soaking up some sun. The only missing beach items are some sand, an ocean and the bathing suit. Great photos of the red rock hike!

  6. Enjoyed your rumination (and photos!) in this post. Yes, we are all irrelevant, and in 200 years, no one will remember us. I grapple with desire to find "meaning" and "the Truth" in all facets of life, and yet I feel liberated by the reality of my own insignificance. I try to coral this idea when my ego flares up. I'm reminded of Bukowski:

    “We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.”

    1. and one of my favorites...and so applicable to this post:
      "We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us."

  7. ......or is it the road to irreverence?

  8. I googled myself and it turns out my name is nowhere near as popular as yours. One is dead, the other two ages 68 and 76, nothing of note beside their ages and where they live. For myself it showed only the same. I'll take irrelevance, I'd rather nobody know where I am and leave me alone!


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