In my fifties, finally convinced that I can not fix the world, I took a decision of the kind, “if you can't beat them, join them”, I decided to join the rest in the art of avoidance. The first step was to find leisure activities that help me “not to think,” as everyone does. It was rare the occasion I watched a soccer match on TV as most people from my native country (Argentina) do every other day, instead, I have a vivid memory of being a child and sitting with my mother and grandfather in the living room, enjoying some Carlos Monzón's fight in a black and white TV set. My mother loved boxing, maybe it was nostalgia (another way of avoidance) what motivated me to start practicing boxing five months ago.
As it became the norm in most gyms today, you have to suffer background music at full volume during the whole session. I read an article explaining that the reason is that some study performed in the United States revealed most people practice sports as a form of avoidance. So, there you are, as if the omnipresent noise in our modern world weren't enough, you also have background music.
But the noise from the street and the music together seem not to be enough for my boxing teacher, who also watches TV news on his computer, the typical tacky Spanish newscast where several journalists relentlessly crow at the same time. On top of all that, time to time you also hear the sound of some video he's watching in his smart-phone. It seems that, despite the punches in the head he has received along his career (he's barely five years younger than me and still spars hard every Wednesday,) he's still thinking too much.
Fortunately, days ago someone proposed to change the music channel, the new one reproduces some music from the '60s and '70s, which reminds me of my teenage days, besides it's less hysterical than music of these days. Just after doing some sparring with a partner, it began “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf, I smiled at him and said:
“That's my song!”
“Did you see the movie,” he asked me.
“This song was used in a movie, you mean?”
“Easy Rider,” he said.
“Oh, I ignored that. I'll try to download it and watch it!”
And so I did. Investigating a bit I realized it was written by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper themselves. The next time I met my sparring partner I let him know I'd already seen the movie.
“You saw how those American peasants were, didn't you?” he pointed me out. “They killed you just for wearing long hair.”
“I have a curious anecdote to tell about it,” answered I. “Remember the scene where the character played by Jack Nicholson is killed? Well, years ago, I wrote a novel and there is a part in which the main character, Roquesor, also an outsider as those of the movie, is caught in the forest while sleeping and beaten to death by a tribe of Mennonites.”
“There's nothing new in this world,” he said. “Everything has already been created.”
“Yeah. I had probably seen that movie before as a child and that scene got engraved in my mind.”
My last response was kind of elusive. I was tempted to go ahead with my analysis but I learned to be cautious. And I did well, as you'll realize further in this writing.
I remember that the principal cello of an orchestra where I used to play when I was young nicknamed me Steppenwolf, not referring to the rock band or the movie but to Hermann Hesse's novel. Rather than by any song, movie or novel, my arguments are inspired by my real life experience, I know what an outsider feels, I am one myself. What George tells Billy (Nicholson's and Hopper's characters respectively in Easy Rider movie) the evening before he's killed: “They're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to them,” is the conclusion I came every time I was criticized, mistreated, rejected or even persecuted by those I naively considered my peers.
Back to that talk in the boxing gym, now it comes the unforeseen incident. It was the second time I sparred with that guy, very nice person indeed. After the mandatory shower I was leaving the gym.
“I still don't know your name,” I told him when I greeted him.
“My name is Hop,” he said (phonetically it sounded [Hɒp] to me.)
“Hop? That's great!” I exclaimed. “Finally someone with an original name! You must be thankful for your parents didn't call you Jordi as the fifty percent of male in Catalonia, Ha, Ha, Ha.”
“I don't think so,” he didn't laugh. “Trust me, having a weird name is a handicap. That's why I called my son Jordi.”
“So, you blew it,” I could not help saying it.
I smiled to let him know I was joking, and continued.
“So, 'Hop.' How do you spell it?”
“J-O-P (how it sounded to my ears,)” said he.
“Where is it from?”
“Ah! I heard you wrong twice. 'Job,' is what you said, J-O-B, right?”
“I read that part of the Bible. A real pain in the ass! Seeing it from this point of view I agree in that your name is a handicap,” said I, faking complicity.
I'd liked to add, “Your parents weren't as original as I thought after all, half of the population in Spain has biblical names,” but I kept this last thought to myself. And there ended the talk.
Dear reader, did you think that your parents acceptance was a decisive factor in your self-esteem? Or, at a more practical level, did you think that the function of a name is to identify? Wrong and wrong. Stop thinking! Some loud music can help. Or, maybe, attending some Magic Theater and consuming drugs as Hermann Hesse prescribes for these cases; you know, he talks about his Steppenwolf as someone suffering from some psychological illness, (probably he thought the same of Friedrich Nietzsche.) What would've Hesse told us about those peasants pictured in the Easy Rider movie? Would've he considered them sane?