When the next great historian writes of the decline and fall of our Empire, I will have no difficulty in pinpointing its zenith.
Few mourn their passage. Few know what has been lost. Perhaps the Truth swims too deep and fast to be caught in the flimsy nets of most men. What ennobled this period in history was neither our knowledge nor the opulence some enjoyed.
What merits striving? What should be sought? Fame, a function of herd contingencies, is obviously worth less than nothing. A mate can bring joy, but they are plentiful like stars and as different from each other as Tuesdays from Wednesdays. The best that can be said for the pursuit of riches is that it distracts from the grievous uncertainties of Existence, assuming, as you should, that most would crumble if confronted with the ultimate puzzle.
Posthumous glory, dependent on the beliefs of those yet to be born, is the most senseless of all. If the imbecilic estimations of the mob currently wandering the earth are to be ignored, how much more so the ravings of the brutes who will follow? Indeed, a wise man will shun renown like death itself. In this world of flux and woe, does anything warrant pursuit? Is anything intrinsically good?
Quietude, of course: a state of mind tranquil and serene, yet confident and affirmative of life despite its precarious nature. The courtship of Truth is long and austere, but it spares one from countless delusional allurements. Despite a paucity of honorable men, the pursuit of honor may seem a fool’s errand, but aren’t ideals unattainable by definition? Are they not the stairway from the swamp of our beastly nature? Dignity and heroism certainly merit striving, but intertwined with them, inseparable from them, is a man’s car. But not any car will suffice.
If a wise man were called upon to demarcate the epoch when the automobiles were most magnificent, he would, without hesitation, name the Golden Age between the decession of Johnson and the inauguration of Carter. The cars were colossal and solid, forged from the purest sheet metal. Powered by the blast furnaces of the gods — the grandest V-8 engines — they had no peers in strength. In homage to Euclid, all the great four-doored ones exemplified rectangularity: the Cadillac Fleetwood and Sedan DeVille, the Lincoln Continental Town Car, the Pontiac Bonneville and Catalina, the Buick Electra and Chrysler New Yorker. And, of course, the Caddillac Talisman. These glorious bricks blessed the concrete seas with their majestic bearing. And by 1980, darkness fell. The Great Ones were desecrated (“downsized” was the coarse euphemism) with puny bodies and feeble engines. What is there for a man to do but cover his eyes and weep as he beholds the degradation of what was once mighty and proud?
The elegant lane shifts, the Renaissance curls of their turns, even the smooth course down a straightaway, are these not calligraphy flowing across the pages of the road. Or syllogisms necessitating every coordinate on this perfect line. Though hurling through space at 120 miles-per-hour, one experiences it not as motion but the exaltation of surfing a tsunami in a luxury liner. Brush your toe across the landmine gas-pedal. The ravenous hood devours the road and the distinction between you blurs. “You” become the rational faculty of a mythic being: half car, half man.
As if mocking the distinction between transcendence and immanence, the soul of this latter-day satyr neither exists apart from you nor is it pantheistic. Though the product of a synergy, it cannot not be equated with any sum. When the dichotomy between you and your car collapses, when you attain oneness, the coalescence becomes irreducible — not like an elementary particle in the dusty attic of Physics, but a Necessary Unity in the basement of Ontology. Something infinitely greater than man’s powers of reckoning absorbs you. More cannot be said. Some experiences cannot be contained in the cheap Tupperware of language. You cannot take a shining star from the heavens and place it in a meatloaf dish.