Certainly, one of the most amazing things about being in New Mexico, about being alive, or about being anywhere, is that being, and being here, is even possible.
That people exist, think, breathe, and walk around, full of blood vessels and organs and synapses, is unbelievable. That so many of us can be right here, in New Mexico, while billions of others are simultaneously wherever they are, is incomprehensible. And that the Earth we call home is rolling through the endless vacuum of space, with all of us along for the ride, is really too much for most minds to dwell on.
“How strange it is to be anything at all!” sang Neutral Milk Hotel, and the lyric is as true for New Mexico as it is for anything.
How strange it is to drive down a street and see men and women hanging in the sky beneath floating bags of heated air. How strange it is to stop for green chili and have parts of our brains literally believe we’re on fire. And how strange it is that everything, absolutely everything, has a reason. Even the chrome bumpers of lowriders have a reason for shining, owing to microscopic electrons buzzing about inside their atoms.
Everything around us, everything we see, and everything we experience somehow got to be that way, somehow began existing, somehow arrived at this point, with us, here, right now. Mountain ranges stand thanks to massive geologic upheavals. Certain rivers flow from saturated ground surrounding subterranean springs. Seashells rest along the tops of mesas as the result of ancient lakes and oceans. Every tree came from a seed.
Every city had its founders, every street had a name giver, every building had an architect, and every highway had a work crew. Every person you see was born, had a childhood, and has thoughts. Every piece of ground existed long before you ever glimpsed it, and long before anyone else did. The airplanes that fly overhead, the satellites that blink past, and the cars that drive by, all speak to us of history, of the past, and of existence—whether we stop to hear what they’re saying or not.
Typically, we accept with a shrug what the presence of the world implies with a shout—that being and time are so complex and so intricate and so wonderfully unfathomable that you should see and hear and experience as much of it as you possibly can, without ever missing a minute.
To always acknowledge such grandeur, however, would be overwhelming, even schizophrenic, and would undoubtedly make the driving world much less safe—with everybody craning his or her neck to see rays of light reclining on benches, skeletal trees growing leaves, or sun-stretched shadows snaking down concrete. Such open behavior might also run the risk of transforming all of us into a world of spaced-out hippies, tripping out on everything.
“The universe is amazing, man,” said Glen Doe, an honest-to-God-totally-serious-actually-living Tennessee poet. “Everything in it comes in threes—like birds, and plants, and animals. And stars, and the moon, and the universe.”
So, yes, such behavior might turn us into hippies, sure, but unless we combine it with felony-level amounts of marijuana, we will probably be all right.
Instead, if we were to take the time, at least some time, to look around us more, to think and feel a little more, to stop and enjoy New Mexico and the desert and the world a little more, we would probably catch a tiny bit of the joy and excitement that children feel when they spend hours marveling over bugs and flowers, studying a household object, stacking rocks, or eating strawberries. We would more likely experience the thrill of the world as it actually is—as a place entirely impossible and yet inexplicably real.