Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Like Coming Home

The human condition has the same smell no matter where you go in the world. This is something that amazed me when I first realized it, but the barrio of La Paz, Bolivia smells just the same as the back alleys of Baghdad or the projects of Atlanta. It's the stench of human waste, diesel fumes, urine, unwashed people in greasy clothing, automobile exhaust, rotting garbage, and food cooking in some nearby kitchen. It's an odor that flashes back memories of other similar locations, places where humans struggle day-to-day for food and means; dirt-crusted, sunburnt children play amid the pot holes and blowing trash; and the old simply sit in the shadows, waiting and staring.

The smell of abject poverty, that which covers the vast majority of this planet, is similar to the odor of human death. It's one that will linger with you forever, one that you will never quite be able to wash out of your senses no matter how hard you scrub. Over time it becomes familiar, almost comforting, like coming home again.

1 comment:

Ken said...

This phenomenon is captured by Agent Smith as he makes an observation during the interrogation of Morpheus in the Matrix.

Agent Smith: I hate this place. This zoo. This prison. This reality, whatever you want to call it, I can't stand it any longer. It's the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink and every time I do, I fear that I've somehow been infected by it.

Agent Smith: Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.