Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What to Do

Of all the means which wisdom acquires to insure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.- Epicurus
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it. -Albert Einstein 
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. -Martin Luther King, Jr. 

(Joseph Mydell as Casca,
eliminating Caesar)

As I sat in my bath today, recalling Marat in his, I asked myself once again what is one to do in a corrupt world awash in war, man-made climate change, starvation, ignorance, and bigotry? In particular, I asked what should I do. After all, I am no Voltaire, able to sway the minds of those who count (whoever they are). Certainly if one is brilliant and talented enough, one should, in the style of Voltaire, Simone de Beauvoir, Bertrand Russell, or a host of other truly great writers, offer up essays and articles and books of such sway as to enlighten people who actually have the power to alter the course of human affairs. 
If one is in a position to effect change through activism, as well as writing, all the better. Thank you, Larry Kramer. Thank You,  Your Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Thank you, John Lewis, activist and power broker true to the principles of MLK. Could I follow in their foot steps? 
What should a life-long academic, a lazy philosopher, a dabbler in writing and sometime protest marcher for this or that cause do? 

One of my closest friends has found his answer. He gets upon the stage and stabs dictators of old in an interpretation that has direct relevance to today's tyrants.. His plays and films offer a worldview sorely needed to counter the mush of ubiquitous mass media ( He has had major roles in Angels in America, A Season in the Congo, Julius Caesar...) 

Though I admire such diverse figures as Sartre, Allen Ginsberg, Edward Albee, Larry Kramer, Tony Kushner, Paul Krugman, and Bernie Sanders, who all have made a difference, I repeatedly fall back into the Philosophy of Epicurus. Why not live in a "garden" that stands for civilization, for art, for the exchange of ideas, for acceptance of difference and respect for life? I think of W.S. Merwin whom I met once and talked of the role of the poet in the time of Vietnam. Which of his poems resonate with us now? For me, such poems as Empty Water. I think of him in his garden on Maui. Doesn't living by example help the World? 

For now, in a world where discerning who is good, who is bad, and who is on what level in between, becomes lost in a digital maze of presentations, I have to go like a blind man, feeling my way in the darkness, going on intuition and what reason and intelligence I have, with the goals of having a humanitarian outcome, having a reverence for nature, and finding precious moments of joy and laughter with my friends and lovers. My only contributions, if they are such, are my writing, the teaching I have done, and the life my friends and I actually live, along with the principles we hold.

To the chief intensity: the crown of these
Is made of love and friendship, and sits high
Upon the forehead of humanity.

--Keats, Endymion

Our Garden (click)


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