On moving to Austin, my girlfriend gave me a warning: “This town is like Neverland”, she said, “full of pixies and Lost Boys who never want to grow up”.
At the time I thought that was pithy, even cute. But after being here for almost a year and having my own adventures, I know what she said was both completely accurate, and depressingly cynical.
This town does attract a certain kind of person. And while some squander their youth –content to do little more than bundle themselves in a particular aesthetic– a brave few stand bare-assed against the elements, offering up the most intimate parts of themselves to a world that seems determined to make them pay dearly for the privilege.
Like Peter Pan, these people are the heroes of this town; the young mother raising two kids on her own while sacrificing sleep to finish a brilliant novel, the guy wearing long sleeves in the Texas heat so he can straddle the fence between worlds where his tattoos either establish or undermine his credibility, the rough-looking couple arguing on the street corner about whether or not he’ll ever be on stage like them –her faith defying his doubt.
When you actually know these people as people, you can’t help rooting for them. And more, you can’t help resenting a world where the brightest lights are often submerged underwater, struggling to break the surface.
As both a futurist and a realist, the idea of a post-scarcity world where no one has to “earn a living” has all sorts of negative implications for the strength of our species. It’s easy to be cynical that vast majority of people, in the absence of a struggle to live, would do little but consume and reproduce and leave nothing worthwhile in their wake. But it’s even easier to dismiss this cynicism when you brush up against people who scratch and claw to both earn a living, and to live meaningful lives, to create beautiful things and leave the planet richer for having been on it.
And when you know these people, you find yourself hoping there really was that kind of pixie dust; for the sake of the mother, and the skin painter, and the hopeful couple, all trying to fly in this Neverland.