Saturday, December 30, 2017
Great Blue Heron, Cape Cod
2018 offers some promise and it offers a warning. The promise for those in our country is that Republicans will lose power to some degree in the fall. Democrats will have some limited ability to guide the ship of state into better waters.
The warning is that complacency and indifference could undermine what limited promise there is.
Ours is not a future limited to the U.S. but rather a future in which we are a key force, determining by our actions events around the planet. Our capitalistic endeavors, our military, our corporations will shape the Earth and affect every living being.
My resolution for the year ahead, therefore, is to face reality, not turn my gaze away from what is happening globally. Positive thinking, avoiding "being negative" in short, has gotten us where we are. As long as we tell ourselves everything is OK, or will be OK, we contribute to our doom. Catastrophic climate change, pollution, war, over-population and corporate greed are killing people and animals as I write.
photo by Steve Killian
It is tempting to join the greedy and simply live my life as if all were fine. I can fly to Cape Cod, walk in the woods, take close ups of the Great Blue Heron, eat plentiful lobster, and drink champagne. I can listen to romantic love songs live, breathe the fresh ocean air, and ignore the horrors that I know exist in far too many places. Wanting to act, I can change my phone company to Credo, which supports progressive, liberal causes. I cannot save Puerto Rico from future hurricanes, California from more wildfires, Myanmar from ethnic cleansing, Africa and Asia from widespread species extinction, the killing of elephants, the poisoning of fish and birds, the melting of glaciers and the ice at both Poles. Do I think making others aware of the killing of life on Earth by capitalistic corporations and selfish world leaders can make a difference? I don't know. But ignorance will never be bliss as we continue to encounter ever worse man-made disasters.
My resolution for 2018 is almost self-contradictory. On one hand I want to be aware, and promote awareness in others, of what we are doing to this once so beautiful world we live in. Praise the efforts of those who are doing good actions, like building up renewable energy sources, stopping pollution, and protecting animal life. They are the minority. Their efforts may not be sufficient. It is pointless to think that positive action alone is going to save us and our world. To do so just buys into the false positive attitude that turns into complacency and complicity. Awareness is the key.
On the other hand, I resolve to appreciate the beauty that still exists in the world. What makes nature and life in all its diversity worth saving? What makes humanity worth saving-- art, literature, compassion, love, and human rights? Is it possible to stop over-population, despite religion and sexual desire? Is an end to war and nuclear destruction even possible now? Is it possible to be happy in such a world as this without being utterly deluded?
For me it is not rational or meaningful to dismiss either pessimism or cynicism. I think it is optimism that has made the majority of people ignore how truly horrendous conditions are becoming. If you want to get rid of evil, pretending it doesn't exist is the worst method. Pretending that evil is defeated by being positive is exactly what allows evil to be triumphant. Naivete, religion, greed, self satisfaction, belief in the goodness of an evil, egotistical man brought us our current president. Facing reality, listening to the truth, being aware of the problems facing the world might have prevented our anachronistic, slave-based electoral system from giving us such an ogre.
We all like an upbeat ending; so let me end with more praise for nature and the dire need to value, worship, and protect it as much as we possibly can. "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." --Albert Einstein
Thursday, December 14, 2017
This day began in darkness, dreaming of more sleep, a stumble to the shower, and opening the front door to a bright sunrise of orange and black, like a witch etherized upon a table. Seven minutes got me to work where I administered an ACT Test which not only do I not believe in, but abhor for its demand for conformity and competition instead of creativity and cooperation. Repeated standardized tests are killing education as surely as cell phones.
For a few hours I watched stressed and anxious students stare into space, twist and fidget, yawn, look over wistfully at their cell phones we placed on a table, stretch, and finally complete the ordeal of the testing. This was day four.
It was time for the mid-morning meetings in both our houses. As luck would have it, a comedian had spoken yesterday and there had been no discussion of current events. I was able to lead the discussion, beside myself with glee, about the stunning victory of Doug Jones in Alabama. The students pretended to look for news on their cell phones; though their texting gave their ruse away. One student did capture the attention of his peers by mentioning the coming effects of the end of Net Neutrality. I was impressed how so many were opposed to this heinous repeal which happened hours later.
At lunch I walked in the warm sunshine a couple of blocks to Earth Fare and bought $3.50 worth of smoked salmon from the deli. It seemed like a huge quantity for so small a charge. I returned and had the fish on a bagel with cream cheese. Lunch is a great time for banter with students about almost anything. I told them of recent studies showing the negative effects of cell phone addiction on adolescent brains. I told them they could read the whole report on their cells.
After lunch (when I could have left since I had arrived at 7:30 AM), I stayed on for a good discussion in the Philosophy class of Heidegger and Wittgenstein. One student, who is something of a savant, is a bit like Ludwig. He has a good grasp of math and physics, choosing his words and thoughts carefully. It was a productive couple of hours immersed in ontology and the concept of Being, not only from Heidegger's point of view, but going back all the way to the pre-Socratics and Greek philosophy, generally. Later we speculated on what the world today might have become if Alexander had lived to be an old man, if Greek culture, rather than Roman, had endured.
Another student, who is a remarkable artist, had some new work to share with us. She also gave me a gift of expensive bonbons, with a small art piece telling me to "Keep on Trippin' " and that the 1960s are never over.
I drove home and took a nap. Darryl had cleaned the screen porch, top to bottom, and was napping also. At 5 or so, we awoke and headed to the Colonnade for the Early Bird specials. Having had fish for lunch, I went for the turkey, and Darryl ordered the pork loin. The place was so packed that we had to wait first in the lounge, having a cocktail before dinner. Perhaps it was the vodka in my Cape Cod, but the restaurant became a satire by Botero. Fat, old, teenaged, gray and gay diners formed parades of people trooping to large tables. Singles, pairs, parties of ten, all congregated in the two large rooms. Darryl made the Botero reference; correcting my appeal to Goya. Not thin enough he had observed, though I thought many of the faces had a look of madness. I felt a kind of euphoria, whatever they all were. After arising at 6:30 AM for four days, I was off work until January something.
Then there was the dessert. The Early Bird specials include it. Dar had apple crisp. I agreed to the ice cream, but only if they added hot fudge. So there it was, one scoop of vanilla, one of peppermint, drenched in hot fudge, along with a hearty cup of coffee. When I was just a boy, earning my sterling silver cross for perfect attendance at Sunday school, Dad would pick Johnny and me up and take us to the Dairy Queen. There I always had the hot fudge sundae. Now, on Throwback Thursday I was having just such a sundae. It was a religious experience, sure enough, sensuous as an orgasm.
What better way to end the evening and begin celebrating the Winter Solstice?