Suburban Soliloquies #8

It was an effort finding a sufficiently detailed map.  In my imitation of real navigation, I bent over unrolled charts, drawing lines and calculating measurements to figure exactly where my house is fixed to the globe.  Stick a pin at 40 09' 16" North by 74 52' 40" West and my roof should leak.That's dead reckoning, after taking into account the negligible distance this house might have drifted in the forty-five years since it was built and the map was printed.  I don't swear to the accuracy of my numbers, as I found differences between maps.

To be sure, it would be better to use your blunt finger to point out the spot. The swirling ridges of your finger would then leave a print on the map that would form a reasonable facsimile of how streets are arranged here in Levittown, Pennsylvania.  Mr. Levitt made history by creating a planned community on a scale this country had not seen since French architect Pierre L'Enfant plotted Washington, D.C. We invent our habitat. We attempt to draw stable maps across fluid space, trying to trap chaos beneath a grid.

It is to Mr. Levitt's credit that he permanently altered the future of suburban design.  The curling streets and landscaping helped to defy monotony.  These are all single-family homes occupying eight square miles of the original 5,750 acres that Levitt purchased.  The rest are parks, pools, shopping centers, schools, libraries, churches, and the like; all the necessities for a self-contained city, although Levittown is not properly a city.  It is divided up among three townships and a borough that didn't want to give up their tax bases.  It had at one time been prime farmland, and before that woodland.  Farewell topsoil and biodiversity.  According to the estimates of biologists, the world can only support one or two billion people at this pleasant level of subsistence.  I should like to see this level of subsistence available to everyone, although it would first mean reducing the number of everyone.

Our unique accomplishment as a species has been to reface the earth with the invention of agriculture and mining. It left large wads of humanity free from having to labour directly for their sustenance. These unemployed had to divert the capabilities of their brains, the human's instrument of survival, to invent new vocations. This was a more thorough exercise of creativity than ever the farmer had time for. Non-farming bums had to get the farmers to part with their excess food. Culture was born of this luxury and some of those newly invented professions were priests, police, painters, and poets; and who's to say which is the proverbial oldest profession. Culture remains a word stolen from farming.

Love is also a luxury born of culture.  At the root of its function is the need to keep humans together long enough to procreate and prepare another generation to take over.  Love is a luxury not adequately understood by most of the human species. I have not been able to define love to my own satisfaction, but I can recognize the manifestation of love. The manifestation of love is sacrifice. By this I do not mean the hapless romantics who hold themselves emotional hostage until another loves them. It is ludicrous to make someone love you, or, when they no longer love you, to demand they forsake their happiness and remain with you. This is self-centeredness. This is putting your own happiness and importance before another and there can be no love where there is no compassion.  Although many people, in order to feel they are whole, require a relationship, this also is not love.  I am trying to plot the coordinates of love, to be able to define it by its boundaries.

Add to those coordinates given in the first paragraph the additional coordinate of time; it is the start of Summer in the year of 1998.  Enclosed therein is the moment of our romance.  I am continually mapping our relationship and never taking it for granted.  Neither of us would dare to travel into the cruel regions where our love would be lost.  I doubt my spouse is capable of the crimes that would prevent me from loving her.  And every day I work to earn her affection.  In this tiny space and brief time that cannot last, she is my greatest happiness and foremost priority.  It feels like more happiness than I am entitled to.

Bruce Bentzman

This is the eighth in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.