A prayer for all those who need strength and succor.
A prayer for all those who need strength and succor.
My daughter’s birthday today…spending the day hanging out, going to a movie, out to dinner, etc.
Probably the only kid in town who’s getting an axe for her birthday.
I love this kid so bad. She’s an incredible person, this lively and strange mixture of her Mom and I. But there’s no doubt about who is steering her ship, it’s all her.
Anyway, today is her day.
Happy Birthday, kid.
Last night my wife and I watched “Hotel Rawanda.” I’m also in the middle of reading “Collapse- How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” by Jared Diamond. These twin visions of destruction, inhumanity, and loss and show suffering on a massive scale and are powerful enough to penetrate the leaden barrier of “daily life” and really make us open our eyes. For a few minutes, anyway, until the sheild descends again and the world assumes its more benign face.
It’s hardly a new thought, but I am seeing again how much like a virus we are. Our mythic successes- fire, stone tools, iron and copper, gunpowder, cities, electricity, science, all come to seem like accidents of location rather than as particular cultural endowments- that is, the reason one particular society rises to power and maintains it for lengthy periods of time has more to do with the weather, ecological and natural resources available, population pressures, the resiliency of the environment, etc, than with some imgained “cultural” superiority. Imagine a petri dish with areas of rich food and areas of poor food or even poison. Introduce a strain of bacteria and soon the food rich areas will be swarming with thriving bacteria and the barren or poisoned areas will have little or no bacteria. Now if you were to interview the bacteria on the food rich patch, you might hear how much smarter and powerful these bacteria are than the wretched, starving bacteria on the poor areas, and how if those other bacteria knew how to run things they’d have the same benefits and abundance all the “smarter” bacteria enjoy.
Follow the activity in the petri dish a little longer, and you’ll soon find the food running out and the dish becoming choked with the waste products of the “successful” bacteria. They are still engaged in the same behavior that spelled success for them in the beginning- eating up the food and reproducing wildly. But now the behavior that brought them initial success is killing them off. Unable to regulate their reproductive rate they plow through their available resources and explode their population base at the same time, while filling the environment with their waste. Soon, everything is gone and the successful bacteria are as dead as doornails. They couldn’t get more gone.
A simplistic example that considers only two variables, but illustrative nonetheless.
Ask a Mayan twenty years before the Mayan collapse where things were headed and he or she would have pointed to all the grand temples and cities and said “We are the most powerful beings on the planet. Our destiny is to prosper and control the world.”
As I look around at our cities and television and computers and space travel and McDonald’s, it seems likely we’re in the same boat as everyone else who’s sailed over the edge of the world before us. But no one treats this idea with any seriousness. Of course, even if we did there’s little reason to believe that would change anything.
So, I turn off the computer and go walk along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific with my lovely wife and our dogs and I hold her hand and breathe in the salt-laden sea air and feel my legs moving, my body living and breathing, and my soul singing with joy, and I give thanks again for this day and every other.
Impossibly fragile, our bodies entangle
as we bump together in a dark sea.
Our tendrils sting and paralyze.
We hug our prey to us and devour them.
How our beauty shines.
How we ceaselessly flex and convulse
to make our small progess, ignorant
of the great tides moving us.
Nearly too tender and silly to believe,
we make our way through a cold and
limitless void, the brine jampacked
with numberless lighted souls.
Our semi-homeless friend C_______ is here visiting. For years we’ve been watching her trajectory toward simplicity accelerate, and now she lives in a van and bounces around and around, stopping in with us every other month or so for a few days of showers and a place to hang out. She’s a true free spirit, and for years and years she got a lot of wonderful support from the world (well, men, mostly). She’s going on sixty now and her men are all still twenty years older than her, but….they keep dying off. And not always fast enough for her. And the support now comes in the form of…well, for example, she’s very excited today because she found a cooler at Goodwill that plugs into the cigarette lighter of her van. She is a living, breathing manifestation of possibility for me, a constant reminder in human form that the world is a more wild and wonderful and awful place than I can often make room for in my head. C_______ has chosen this path, and she chooses it anew each day. Although now I often catch the glimmer of a deep and numbing fear in her eyes, that this is a ride she can’t get off now.
But then it passes, and she’s fine again.
I, however, become almost paralyzed with fear looking at her. I can hardly breathe. No income? No retirement? No bed, phone, closet, garden, computer, books? No spouse, no family, no support? She lives on the opposite end of the spectrum from me, and her trust in the world is orders of magnitude greater than mine.
So, I’m grateful for her presence in our lives, grateful for who she is and how she lives her life and for the way she swings away at the underpinnings of my sense of the world.
Ah, but she does scare the living shit out of me….