Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Will to Power

At the University of Chicago, I discovered a low-tech way of keeping drinks cold without a refrigerator. I’m sure I’m not the originator of this method, nor its most extensive practitioner, but I was pretty proud of the fact that I came up with it myself, rather than having it sprinkled down to me along with other secrets of college life.

The trick was to place your can of Coke in the window sill on a frigid winter day. It probably helped to close the window to block out the toasty indoor air, but this went without saying, since on days that frosty, one was unlikely to keep the window open for long. Sitting outside like that, sodas (or “pop,” in Midwest lingo, but that’s a topic for another blog tirade) would get as chilled as in the best refrigerator.

Obviously, this technique was strictly seasonal (and geographic), but Chicago has a long cold season, so for about four or five months a year, I went “green,” using nature’s refrigeration. I considered it the crown of luxurious creativity to sit at my desk with my studies, right beside the window, and be able to reach out for a “cold one” any time I liked, without having to leave my chair.

In my own cavalier way, I had whipped man and his machines, at the same time subjecting nature to my appetite. Unbeknownst to myself, I had become a voracious omniphage, gobbling up nature and man alike, indiscriminate, so long as I was exerting my power over the once-powerful. Nietzsche described all human endeavor as an expression of “the will to power.” Inevitable, perhaps:

Where I found the living, there I found will to power; and even in the will of those who serve I found the will to be master.
- Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Part II, On Self-Overcoming

One day, soaring high in my hubris, relishing my triumph over nature and technology, I reached too high, and saw myself brought low. If the window sill works for Moxie and Faygo, I thought, why not keep my lunch out there, too? It was customary in those days of larcenous meal plans to take home a sandwich or three from the dining hall, somewhat on the sly. The contents being generally perishable, it didn’t behoove you to take too much food “to go,” not more than you could eat within a couple of hours, unless – ah! – unless you had a refrigerator.

With my new mastery over the force, er, over nature, who could stop me now? After lunch, I plunked a neatly bagged sandwich onto my window sill and headed off to class. Keep her cold, baby, keep her cold! With the knowledge that I had a nice, non-spoiled snack to come home to, the slate walking paths seemed pillow-soft, and the Chicago wind lost a bit of its bite.

On the walk back that evening, I could almost taste the sandwich as I glided up the stair-rail, like a daredevil video on rewind. I lifted the window, snatched the bag, and prepared to feast.

Horror. Dismay. Revulsion. Think of a moment in your own life that conjured up these words, and then multiply the anguish by a million. It was nearly Oedipal. Such was the feeling that liquefied my bowels upon seeing a gaping hole in the bag, its rim encrusted with sandwich crumbs and some grainy, dark residue, doubtless the foul saliva of a rabid squirrel.

I looked at the window, and discerned the unfathomable violence of this theft and desecration. The window sill was covered by a typical mesh metal screen. Through sheer contempt, this squirrel had chewed a hole through the screen just big enough to fit its savage (and presumably pus-covered) head. Whether he ingested the bits of metal screen (and the paper and plastic that wrapped my sandwich, for that matter) is a matter of conjecture. His malicious intent is not.

To tear open the screen and rip into my sandwich like that was unscrupulous. But to leave behind the defiled ruins of my sandwich – it was like killing someone, then mutilating the body. I had lost my snack, and I almost “lost my lunch” at the nauseating sight.

I had no idea that squirrels had a taste for oven-roasted turkey on a Kaiser roll. That was a valuable lesson learned.

A second lesson: Having surmounted nature, I thought myself invincible, but soon learned that nature, the vengeful mother-beast, ever mounts you right back.


Riyuu said...

That's amazingly sad. I didn't even know squirrels liked to eat meat.

And I hated Oedipus. It was gruesome. Oh, but I guess that was your point.

Henry said...

Did you really drink Moxie and Faygo?

Czardoz said...

Well, the story is meant to be a study in myth-creation. As such, it demands the creation of a heightened reality, a super-realism that disregards what actually was drunk, in favor of what ought to have been drunk. I heard about Moxie and Faygo, though.