S.O.S. Fresno


by Miguel Arambula 


    Sitting here in Fresno I am unfulfilled. I struggle with it constantly: Who knew I had such a big void to fill? But there can’t be fullness without a void.

    It is hard to find enriching experiences that support a desire for meaning in Fresno. It is hard to be truly happy or truly sad or to feel that life is grandiose and vaster than we can see. Moments like this tend to happen when people are with their friends in a big city and it starts to unexpectedly rain and they have to run for cover.  Somewhere in between the steps and the pitter-patter of falling water the aesthetics of the situation are taken in from all angles. The scene is suddenly perceived from the point of view of a young child who realizes that he has become worldly; from the vantage point of old age where wisdom lets him see the joy of new experiences and an optimism for the unknown; it is seen cosmically as a dance between the divine and its creation; it is seen as wild nature pressing its seeds to grow; it is seen playfully as something that stills fear but in which the bold are bathed and sanctified—all simultaneously to the experience of our own present vision of lights moving like a shroud, of wet grass salting the nostrils, of the crashing and cleansing of things.

    Something of that is missing from Fresno, some of life's inexplicableness, some of its most tender moments. I did feel it once here. I was 17 and it snowed in Fresno. The cold streets where finally covered in their blanket. Everything was where I had grown used to it, but everything looked new. I cannot revive while in Fresno because the old has not allowed this feeling of newness, and instead time feels linear as opposed to emergent. Time marches like a soldier instead of emerging like a flower from its bud.  

    After a certain time in Fresno I began to question whether these thoughts were realistic or if they were dreamt by romantic notions of youth. I began to question whether I deserved these tranquil moments or if I didn't in fact deserve my fatigue and frustration. Perhaps it is not life that restores us to health and brings us fulfillment but us who must bring these things to life. Like a prisoner in love with his jailor, I became engrossed in my bars only so that I could show my strength in defeating them. I didn't need life to give me anything, I would be my own source of renewal. But a world lived inside oneself without a world outside in which to explore is not a world at all. It is a delusion that brings those down who dare to believe in it. We are not free to move about the world unless we first can be free of ourselves. I tried to do this in my travels away from Fresno, attempting to evoke internal shifts through external effort and motion. But running from something is not the same as being free from it.

    Many have developed sophisticated and enduring ways of bringing happiness and rebirth from the human experience, like music and friends, art and drink, exercise and food, spirituality and love.  And it tends to be the prevalence of these things within our immediate environment that encourages their existence in ourselves. Perhaps this is the true meaning of the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’: That a village is not needed for financial resources, protection, or supervision, but indeed that the immediate family cannot satisfy the void that awaits each of us in our own souls. It is only in the interaction amongst various spirits wild and living that gives us the sense of contentment for which we yearn. It is like we are all the Scarecrow walking the yellow brick road, but instead of a brain, we need a spark to set us aflame and to give us our direction, which is and forever shall be upwards, towards the mountain top, through the clouds, to the diamond studded firmament of knowing our own god. And these sparks can sometimes be made on their own through friction and great labor, but are much more easily passed from a flame already burning. Perhaps Moses was wrong to bring back laws in the form of stone tablets instead of the burning bush itself, not so that his people could learn of it but so that they could take on the fire themselves, as Moses did.

    Everyone who talks of Fresno from the outside always comments that it is too hot, but for me it is too cold. People sit like cartons of ice cream chilling in the freezer section, waiting for someone to come by and, for the right price, discover all the deliciousness inside. They group like artificially flavored twin pops lying clustered in a see-through plastic bag.

    In Fresno our wrappers suffocate us, but we don't know it because the cold air slows our breath. We can live for a month on a day’s worth of air; on two weeks of fun for a year.  But Fresno for the American is young yet. And like all youth it feels the void inside it; and like all of its citizens, crouching in its dark dank bowels it awaits a spark to give it life.

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