Original writing by Mary Kate Murray
The earth rotates one full cycle in about 24 hours composed of 60 minutes composed of 60 seconds, and we don’t think much of the incredible gravity of that time because from eight o’clock in the morning to nine o’clock in the morning, we are most often in the business of finding clean socks and trying to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the sticky, flat tube. We meant to buy more last night.
From nine o’clock to ten o’clock, we are on a train, or on a bus, or on a bike, or in a car, or on foot, traveling somewhere we’re not quite sure we want to be. We go anyway because where else do we have?
From ten o’clock to eleven o’clock, we’re sitting, usually, at a desk or in a warehouse or a waiting room, and thinking about what we haven’t done or what we need to do or what we aren’t doing, until it is between eleven o’clock and twelve o’clock when we are thinking about lunch.
From twelve o’clock to one o’clock, we sit in a café just down the block from where we used to be sitting. We eat a sandwich or maybe some soup, and we see something that reminds us of the earth’s rotation, of passing time, for just a split second: an eighty-seven-year-old woman sitting with her five-year-old granddaughter, someone coughing into a brown paper napkin, our glary reflection in the café window, chewing, swallowing, breathing, blinking. Instead of dwelling on the sudden thought, we take another bite of our sandwich or soup and sink back into whatever we weren’t thinking about before.
From one to two, from two to three, from three to four, from four to five, what we think doesn’t seem to matter. All that matters is that the vending machine is broken, the printer is jammed, the elevator isn’t working, the doctor will be another fifteen minutes, and to cope with these matters, we sit and do whatever it is we’re doing, wherever it is we’re sitting, and make sure everything is the same as it has always been, that everything we do is what we’ve done before. We wouldn’t want to try anything new, to cause any ripples. Those can turn into waves and make it harder to stay afloat.
From five o’clock to six o’clock we are back on our train, or bus, or bike, or in our car, or on our feet, and we are going to the place that we call home. We get stuck in traffic, we answer a phone call, a song we kind of like comes on the radio or on an iPod. We fidget. We move. We travel. We wait. And when we get to the place that we call home, we notice again, the rotating earth: the dog barking in the house next door, the near-empty gas tank, the change in our pocket, the sunlight slanting into our eyes, and we think about our breathing for amoment. We think about the millions of little cells, and how hard they work, and how they reproduce and die with every gentle inhale and exhale, and how they always do that, how we can stay alive without even thinking about it, how incredible that must be.
Then we remember the keys in our hand and the door that needs unlocking.
From six o’clock to seven o’clock, Anderson Cooper tells us about the world and what we missed today while we fork reheated noodles, or Chinese take-out, or half-sandwiches, or frozen pizza from tupperware containers into our mouths. Anderson Cooper, with his serious face, tells us about a bomb going off in Boston and an earthquake in Iran and a building collapsing in Bangladesh and the bloody protests in Lybia, in Syria, in Turkey and North Korea’s warheads aimed at our country, our state, our town while we slurp our noodles or sniff our take out or bite our sandwich or pull the cheese off our pizza and let our minds glaze over.
We think that Anderson Cooper must be a demigod. He has a jaw like chiseled marble and eyes like the Mediterranean deep, and he never breaks under the weight of all the words tumbling out of his mouth. He is a survivor, a modern myth, a tragic script. As we watch him carry the world on his back through our television screens, we don’t think of how lucky we are to be able to turn him off.
From seven o’clock to eight o’clock, we sit on the couch and flick through the channels, looking for something to watch. We don’t feel like reading. We search for cartoons or reality television, something easy, something we don’t have to pay attention to. The search lands on a documentary about the French Revolution and the button sticks or we don’t feel like clicking anymore, so we keep on watching it. The narrator talks about a woman named Charlotte Corday who stabbed one of the most influential radical journalists of the Revolution while he lay naked in his bathtub. His name was Jean-Paul Marat and he wrote about how the Revolutionaries were too complacent. They needed more vigor, more violence, more forward drive. He was the reason they killed the king and guillotined sixteen thousand others across France. Not wanting to hear about this crazy man and his crazy murderer, we flip through our smartphone apps and read the Facebook statuses of friends of friends of friends. “Love the rain!” they say, and “Got a new phone…text me your number!! Thanksss!!!1!” and “If I was a bear, I would have gone back to sleep this morning,” and we realize how little we care and we wonder if Charlotte Corday killed Jean-Paul Marat because she disagreed with his values or because she was tired of listening to him.
From eight o’clock to nine o’clock we think about going out. To anywhere, really. Anywhere but this place that we call home. Maybe the grocery store is open and we can buy some vegetables to make a salad for dinner tomorrow instead of the last of the leftovers. Or some toothpaste–we meant to buy more last night. Or we can go to a bar and meet some new people, or call up our friends and go dancing, or find a new night café that’s a good space for working. Then tomorrow we can go to the library and get a book on modern France or the Enlightenment; we’ve always wanted to brush up on history. And we can start a new diet of only organic produce, and buy art supplies and paint like we’ve always wanted to, and we can volunteer to build houses for children in Africa, and we can quit our jobs because we hate our jobs, and we can live in an RV, driving across America, experiencing the nation like pioneers with gasoline.
Nine o’clock to ten o’clock: we don’t go to the grocery store; we don’t go to the bar; we don’t call our friends and go dancing, or find a new night café; and tomorrow, we won’t go to the library and learn about France; and we won’t start a new organic diet, or buy art supplies, or paint, or volunteer to build houses for children in Africa; and we won’t quit our jobs even though we hate them; and we won’t live in RVs, or drive across the nation, because a Revolution can’t happen overnight.
From ten o’clock to eleven o’clock, we think again about the rotation of the earth because it’s dark now, and we’re tired, and the feeling of the ending of a day is too much. We think about the word “rotate”, and how it means “to revolve” and how “to revolve” means “to turn, roll back, back again” and how the root word of “revolution” is “revolve” and how a revolution is a turning, a rolling back, back again, and a revolution doesn’t seem as instant as we would like it to be. It seems slow like the turning of the earth, like the progress of a planet through orbit around the sun. It seems like minutes, hours, years.
The French overthrew their government because of years and years of building economic tension combined with hail storms that ruined a year of crops, which led to famine. People wanted bread, people wanted money, and people who felt misplaced wanted to feel empowered, in control. They wanted to recreate the place that they called home. They fought for ten years to reform the monarchy, only to end up with Napoleon, King Louis XVI on a horse.
Charlotte Corday killed Jean-Paul Marat because he wanted immediacy; he was dissatisfied with the slow-moving Revolution. She knew that he couldn’t have that and that his writing would kill more people than his life was worth, so she stabbed him because he was too radical. His sympathizers killed her because she was an Enemy of the Revolution. The Revolution turned in on itself. It turned and turned until it spun out of control.
From eleven o’clock to twelve o’clock, we are dragging ourselves into bed. We lie there, staring at the ceiling.
All the while, in Lybia, the government is crumbling like it did last year.
In Istambul, there’s fire in the streets. A crowd of hundreds is gassed and sprayed with fire hoses but they do not desist. In the beginning, all they wanted was the right to peaceful protest.
In Syria, fifty more are dead.
In New York, Anderson Cooper is swallowing pain medication for the migraines he’s been getting every week.
From twelve to one, from one to two, from two to three, from three to four, from four to five, from five to six, from seven to eight, we sleep and we dream about drowning in Anderson Cooper’s Mediterranean eyes while Charlotte Corday stands over us with a knife, dripping red.
We dream about packing an RV with orphans and going to a bar where they run around screaming that they are pioneers with gasoline.
We dream about the spinning of the earth, and we can feel it beneath us. Its slow and steady constancy, its rigid movement. We are in revolution. We are changing, turning in on ourselves, beginning again–the same, but different.
The earth rotates one full cycle in about 24 hours composed of 60 minutes composed of 60 seconds, and we don’t think much of the incredible gravity of that time because from eight o’clock in the morning to nine o’clock in the morning, we are most often in the business of finding clean socks and trying fruitlessly to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the sticky, flat tube. We’ll have to buy more today.