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James Campion
Rules were for others, suckers frozen in the passerby.

Editor's Note:
The following is an excerpt from an essay Mr. Campion penned for an upcoming compendium called "In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself", the entirety of which is expected in the series fourth volume.

I've been thinking about Sheldon Broner lately. He was a kid from my high school who died when he was seventeen. Fell out of a tree stoned or drunk or something. I particularly remember him only because I stared at the back of his head in homeroom all through middle school and then the first three and half years of high school. I only knew him because of the alphabet, Broner/Campion, teasing and joking, occasionally opening up about parents or girls or music.

Then one day he was paralyzed from the neck down. Some of us went to visit him in the hospital. Before the accident he was a big, burley, loud type, full of fury. Afterwards he was a shell, a skeleton with skin, and eyes that flickered hints of him. Then he contracted pneumonia, slipped into a coma and died.

I haven't thought about Sheldon for a while. His memory rests in that part of my mind that deals with mortality and this finite waltz of reason; a petulant goblin-thought that camps out in the deepest recesses of my subconscious.

Then a gentleman who edits a compendium on generational voices asked me to encapsulate mine. Ironically, I'd tried this very same feat for the introduction of my last book, but failed miserably. Ended up with a babbling account of Egyptian felines and the futility of practicing humanity in an inhumane template. John Lennon called it trying to put the universe in a paper cup, but someone put three bullets into his back, and, well, never mind.

The thing is I realized I hadn't been honest with myself. I'd perfected the art of placing glass slippers on a harlot and expecting a princess to emerge from some horse-drawn pumpkin. But midnight always comes, and by that twelfth chime we have to come to grips with reality and quit dancing merrily to the dirge. Honesty is a tough business, admitting that every moment we are not growing, we're wasting away, or when we're not busy being born, we're busy dying. Bob Dylan wrote that last part, and Dylan Thomas told us to rage against the dying of the light, which is less prescience than a form of denial.

So driving home one night last week I'm thinking of Sheldon Broner and how he'd only made it to seventeen and 1979, and how much he never experienced; cell phones, e-mail, CNN and Aids. And all those images that had formed us were all he would know, like the Kennedy assassination and Charles Manson and Watergate and The Beatles. He was just a kid, suspended in youthful ignorance, innocently joyful and shamelessly mocking silly notions like consequence.

I can't even recall being a teenager anymore. I only remember flashes, like dreams, ghosts of people I might have been at some point. We were so petulant then, with all the answers and all the fears that go with that. We escaped reality by simply being. Death was never a possibility, and the myriad of poems and philosophies and religions and tomes about love and war and aging never occurred to us. The world was only there to serve our whims and we were going to be the last ones left standing. We would see the year 2000 and then implode into wonderful lights, with buzzes and whistles and the final chord from "Won't Get Fooled Again."
Yeah, we didn't need causes or heroes or leaders. We had no patriotic duty or anything to drop out of. We'd survived the inevitable prisons of reality by erecting monuments to individuals not stuck in their generation, but beyond the beyond, outside the box and over the rainbow. Rules were for others, suckers frozen in the passerby.

I was raised a cynic in the best American sense. Everything was corruptible and nothing could be considered sacred as a result. This gave us a false sense of freedom as American kids. We loved the protection of slipping the noose and pointing fingers at the fallen hippies, the nouveau riche and the bohemian madness that rendered the playing field a litter of cultural corpses. Television minds caressed and seduced with apathy, we bought the hype. The louder the cry, the faster the result; solutions meant the end of the line, and we couldn't accept that in any conventional sense. After all, there was too much dawn left to go.

In the process, we learned that concepts like religion and politics and philosophy weren't evil or good, but merely manifestations of these fears that we harbor for not being immortal, and not being able to feed the world or stop the war or keep mommy and daddy together or save the kid from film class from jamming that needle into his arm and rotting away in an Eastside one room flat. So we slowly became anesthetized by their fragility, learned to accept their failure to be perfect. It was finally okay for us to let go of icons and see the humanity of us, that sports stars could be rapacious louts and politicians, schizophrenic paranoids, and God was not blueprinting school bus accidents nor was fate heralding any ages of Aquarius. Now we know the end of the world isn't coming, nor are we any Generation of Vipers. Revelation is a scam and the US Constitution could be manipulated and the Bill of Rights treated like a Bazooka Joe comic.

Maturity is nothing more than the experience of disappointment and the elation of rescue. Groups and flags and slogans and marches are best left to those missing something deeper, chasing the larger quandaries to mask the rest.

I miss Sheldon Broner. Mainly because I miss being immortal, or, at least, believing it; with all of it in front of me and no fucking idea what will become of it. I'm going to be forty this coming year and I still have no fucking idea what will become of it. I've just got twenty-three more years on this wild ride than Sheldon. Any rival conclusion would just not be honest.

© James Campion 2002

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ISRAEL - Blinded by the light?



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© Hackwriters 2002