The Coelacanth


~ This world is a school for the sprit. The body is its classroom. ~

Maybe the reason why I am so drawn to cars is that they are metaphors for the body. The older the car, the more body-like it feels.

Perhaps I see myself in them. Perhaps I see the human condition.

They’re doppelgangers.

I know they’re inanimate, but I endow them with their absent humanity. The older the car the closer humans were to its creation. More human hands played a role in its inception; blue-collar people, people who have, in my imagination, given it spirit. Regular people, as opposed to genius designers and engineers. The people whose hands assembled its form.

Modern cars are missing the vital essence of life. They have less spirit. They’re vacant, hollow, lacking, something. I feel that something in the old, in the antique.

Such things seem to possess and exude soul. An old car, with its optimistically modern aesthetic – streamlined, forward-thinking, is not just a promise of a brighter future it is an affirmation of a more authentic past.

But such cars are not, for me, idols to time. They are shrines to an arrested present. They bring me back to the now by stopping me, and holding my attention, and by reminding me of the people, who seem so present still.

Steelworkers, metal fabricators, seamstresses and mechanics. And families. Fathers and children. Mothers and dogs. The generations of drivers and riders and the guy who drives her now. All the ghosts that leave their essences.

I just don’t think like that about Honda Accords. That’s not to discount the men and women of Japan who put their hearts into their work. It must be there too, I just don’t feel it. Maybe it’s something cultural. Maybe I am biased, being raised as I was in such proximity to vintage American cars. Maybe it’s the chrome and steel.

There’s something about these older forms, beyond mere nostalgia that, when I see them, triggers a body memory, a visceral response, a recognition even, that resonates in my subconscious. It’s cellular, and primal.

It has always been this way for me, with cars. But also with animals, And trees. And certain stones.

It’s a feeling that something is there, some thing beyond the thing. A force, a gravity, a magnetic pull. Tidal, emotional, tectonic.

Cars like this one ground me, like horses. They just suck off the charge. The thing about this car is how is just appeared. It was during a particular time of inner turmoil, a moment of wandering panic when I was aimlessly driving without a destination or a map.

It had just rained and the sky was the color of gray that comes just before a revelation, or just before a doom. Cast in such beautiful light and sprinkled with fine droplets of water, it was like some rare animal had appeared on the side of the road.

I knew that this was why I left the house that morning, that this car was why I took this road at this time. This car was sacred and alive. I had found a coelacanth in a millpond. And I didn’t have much time. The light wouldn’t hold. The rain would soon return. And I still had miles of open road before me. I, in my KIA, my non-descript SUV, a good car but a poor representative of myself, or anyone for that matter. It was no doppelganger, my car. My car would not last as long as this one, it would not sit on the side of the road in 2035 or 2050 to lure some passerby with a promise of a bright future or affirmation of a purer past.

This is simply a reflection of that moment, a moment when I found something familiar in a car. Something almost holy. I felt something then and I feel something now. It is not just humanity calling out to me from beyond a form, it’s bigger than that. It is the formless, calling to itself. Reunion is inevitable and I think that is what I’m seeing, sensing, feeling in these things.

o O o



2 thoughts on “The Coelacanth

  1. Every time I look at one of your portraits of these beautiful “shrines,” I have the same visceral reaction as you describe here. Lost treasures preserved by those who remember. Thank you for these flashes of memory.

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