Really, they are. Our civic spaces are mis-led and full of anger, some of it even righteous. We have fouled our species’ nest and are ignoring the smoke curling out of its edges, and don’t know what’s awaiting when we fall out of the tree. I’ve been sad a lot.
For days at a time, even. I get up and find myself barking at my children for the smallest sins; just a shitty mood that I can’t shake. Introspecting, I see that I enjoy my job and get along with my family and am loved enough and have enough others to love. I like my car and my bike and my city and my garden. And eventually I had to admit that it was the lousy state of the world dragging me down.
What to do about it? You can’t and anyway shouldn’t face away from the world. We need to keep finding the courage to face the truth and work on mending what’s broken. Because in my heart and my mind I actually really don’t believe this is Ragnarök; we are not (quoting Tolkien’s Galadriel) “fighting the long defeat”. There are paths to better places and whether or not the pain and injustice and filth are our fault, finding those paths is our responsibility.
Gubeikou · Or 古北口 — it’s a town northeast of Beijing on a not-particularly great section of the Great Wall. It has a temple for the Goddess of Mercy.
The temple is well-maintained and the offerings fresh. That’s a no-brainer — would you prefer a just or a merciful deity?
Why am I sharing this? Just a reminder that the world, uglified though it may be this year, contains wonders; the hope is to lighten a rotten mood if only my own. What we are trying to save is worth saving! See those paintings on the Goddess’ wall? They were said to represent her attendants and are worth a look.
That said… · In another part of the world, the country next to mine, sixty-five million people think Donald Trump is just fine and will probably think so again in 2020. In my own country, a morally-hollowed-out leadership is probably about to punch a bitumen pipeline through the walls of sanity to the Pacific to increase our share of carbon loading even as the carbon numbers attain levels never seen in our (or any) civilization. I could enumerate bad crazinesses in lots more timezones, but why? Anyone who troubles to find out knows.
I find it hard to deal with the fact that, and I’m phrasing this as gently as I can manage, a substantial proportion of the population seem ignorant, bigoted, and mean. Perhaps the natural proportion of Deplorables has been made larger by dysfunctional media. I’d like to believe that because media are fixable but endemic mean-spiritedness isn’t.
Horrorshow · In Hong Kong, lining up for the Star Ferry across the harbor, among more tourists than locals since they put in the subway tunnel, I came face-to-face with it. In a party of otherwise-unexceptionable Americans, there was the #MAGAhead with That Hat, waddling, empty-eyed, enormously obese; folds of fat hanging out of the bottom of his golf shorts. In the warm wet Chinese air I couldn’t dig up a sane way to react or even a sane thing to say because, frankly, murder was uncoiling at the back of my brain. Fortunately for that dude, I’m a grown-up.
More temple walls · The ones without paintings are a canvas for nature to write on.
Get out of their way, leave them the fuck alone, and they’ll do fine. In my heart I believe that if I could learn to listen slowly enough, they’d have things to say that we’d benefit from hearing. We need to do more getting out of the way.
The Second Coming · It’s really the biggest threat. I’m talking about these lines from Yeats’ poem:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
It’s so easy to say “Screw it, what can I do?” and change the channel. Let’s not. Let’s drink beers and sing songs and share pictures and sign petitions and get arrested where it might matter; Let’s bathe shameless in our world’s good things but never say “Screw it”, because those good things are worth, at the end of the day, dying for.
Our times are kind of particularly fucked up just now. I’d like to wear that fact like the poppies wear the raindrops. They’re tough generalists and will probably outlive Homo sapiens for a while, whatever dumb-ass things we do. But let’s try to stick around and keep them company.