thoughts on where i was from by joan didion
the past tense in didion’s title, where i was from, reveals the author’s detached relationship with the state, and appropriately sets the tone of the entire book. california’s conflicting foundations are ripe for study, but didion delves into these stories with such obvious contempt that she misses the irresistibility that makes these issues so interesting in the first place. with so many problems, how does the state continue to glow with such shiny allure, and why do we keep returning to this unfulfilling myth? she views the appeal of the land and the warmth of its embrace as the imaginings of the naïve. she admits that she was once seduced by california’s falsehoods, but she has since matured beyond it.
didion has made me wonder what i’m doing in california when so much artifice and disappointment exists here. there’s no way to reconcile the plentiful dream that the state promises with the realities of our state’s ecological and financial limitations. the current state budget crisis signals an impending doom without any concept of a solution. what does california have, concretely, to provide for its citizens? our education, welfare and healthcare systems are not providing the tools of success. our water supply is dwindling. we are not creating; we are consuming and ravaging.
yet, like any californian, i love this place. honestly, i feel the land vibrating beneath my feet. i feel the history of this place, i feel what it has provided. i don’t need to see the fruits it has borne, or any kind of evidence at all really. i just feel it.
so i know there’s a problem. this kind of irrational love is unhealthy, and it blinds us to the realities of our situation here. we cannot move forward or change or build anything at all if we do not understand what we have to build off of. at the same time though, i will miss this dream. i want to keep living in it, to keep loving the fantastical california in my mind. shouldn’t we be allowed to make up stories? especially when the story is as great as the golden state?