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Unprompted: Are We There Yet?


We went to the moon but there was nothing there. Kinda like going to Kansas. Now we want to go to Mars, knowing full well there’s nothing there either. We just want to go. Of course we learn a lot of stuff in the process of going to useless places.

Every time I look at those ubiquitous scenes on TV of a million cars on the highway going both directions, or airports with people waiting in line for hours hoping to get on planes, it occurs to me that everybody wants to be where they’re not. But inevitably after they get there, they come back. They really didn’t want to be where they were working so hard to be. The astronauts wouldn’t have gone to the moon without reassurance that they could come back. They wanted to go to the moon, but they really didn’t want to stay there. There’s no place like home.

Most everything is that way. I wanted very badly to go to college. Once there, I couldn’t wait to get out. I wanted to land a job in television. Then I wanted out. But everything isn’t rosy. I’m retired, but the downside of that is I’d like to go back to one of those places I didn’t want to be. Just for a visit.

I think some of us don’t really know what we want. Lots of people rush into marriage then do everything in their power to get the hell out. We all want something we don’t have. That’s why we get up every morning and look for something we think we want.

In ancient times, which I barely remember, most people never went more than 10 miles from their homes. There was no transportation then, and of course nowhere to go. But they didn’t know that. All they knew was that if they went too far they would fall off the edge of the Earth. A lot of people still think that way. Today we have considerable evidence that the Earth isn’t flat, but we also have lots of people who think that’s probably a liberal conspiracy. Not all of these people are preachers. Some have been elected to Congress.

Life is a journey. How trite. But it fits. We’re like sharks, always moving. We get excited when our children are born, watch them grow, eagerly anticipate birthdays, then one day they become teenagers and we wonder what we were thinking.

By this time you may be wondering where Gene is going with this. Well, frankly, at this point I don’t know. Sometimes writers write stuff just to see what happens. The best writers have plans, but I am not in that category. I would like to be there, but haven’t arrived. Like most things it’s a matter of the journey — we go in hopes of getting there. When people arrive, realize their wildest dreams, they often don’t know what to do with them. Donald Trump for example, or Oprah Winfrey. What more can either of them want?

Trump could set his sights on becoming a decent person, but he doesn’t like long trips. Winfrey seems satisfied with her billion dollars, she just wants to lose weight. In that, it seems, she will always have something to do.

Perhaps we should set our goals just barely out of reach, far enough that we can’t reach them, but close enough for us to think we can. I still have a hundred or so words to come up with to fill my column, and I will. But at this point I haven’t gotten there. I will keep trying because I know I can do it. I’m close. Once the requisite number of words is reached I will call this trip over and start planning another trip down writer’s alley. Then it all starts over.

The destination is the journey. Getting there is half the fun. Returning is the other half.

Many years ago I left West Virginia, but I go back occasionally just so I can enjoy leaving again. S

Gene Cox is an author and inventor who retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at genecoxrva.