Saturday, May 15, 2021

Bells that still Ring

 Yeah, well, the pandemic. I don't talk much about it. I had figured out how I was going to deal with it by March of last year: quit doing massage, and reduce my exposure to human beings who were not Martha to once per week (to go shopping.) That was no great hardship: I don't like human beings much anyway. My workplace was blessedly good about making it possible to work either alone there, or from home. Life went on.

I was surprised at how surprised people were. We all knew this was coming. We all know a much worse one is coming, for which we also refuse to prepare. Except apparently we didn't all know. I don't know exactly how you miss the foremost epidemiologists in the world repeatedly warning the public that we're in for zoonotic viral pandemics every decade or so from now on -- they've been perfectly clear since SARS 1 (2003) and MERS (2012) -- but lots of people managed. Social media has been full of people announcing how blindsided they were, and how nobody could see this coming. Jesus. Get a clue, you chuckleheads. Listen to a scientist once in a while.

So anyway, the point of the pandemic for me was the same as the point of Trump's election, and the same as the point of the wildfires in maritime Oregon. It's not the end of the world. It's not even something that impinges on me and mine all that much. The point is that we human beings are not going to look ahead and cooperate, not even in the face of destruction. We're not up to the challenges, and we're going down. It's that simple. The pandemics, the rise of fascism, the change of climate that makes rain forest burn like desert scrub -- those are the easy challenges. If we can't rise to them, it's absurd to imagine we'll rise to the harder ones coming.

So as a species, we've got our diagnosis: stage four pancreatic cancer. There's three ways of handling that: ignore it, defy it, or accept it. Most people I guess choose to ignore it. Defying it is maybe ultimately the driver of neofascism. (I don't really know: I understand those people even less than I understand most people.) But my way of handling it is to accept it. We're in humanity's final chapter. It's time to put our house in order and turn our attention to last things. All our collective hopes and projects are void. We're dying without heirs. What does that mean for an individual human being, living an individual life?

Well, it means give up. Give up on public life. It means settle private accounts and ask for forgiveness. It means shake free of the bitterness of the local squabbles and vendettas. Treasure these last moments with loved ones. The death of all people is not so different than the death of each one of us.


Thus Von Tal, who is sounding, frankly, a little unhinged to me: I think he's worried about his dad's health, and unhappy about his back being iffy again after all the work he's put into repairing and fortifying it. If you don't like people much, Von Tal, then the "fact" that they're going down surely shouldn't bother you, let alone induce despair? You're swimming at the bottom, my friend, and stirring up clouds of mud: you can't see very far from down there. Ease off a bit. Play a little.

So this morning: meditated, first thing. And that feels helpful.

It's time to take a vacation, and wander some country lanes. Time to look at the sea and the tide. Wind and wave.


Yeah. clarifying, would be the word for this last visit to Eugene. Of course, my father's mortality evokes my own. He handles it much as I would (will): he knows damn well that muscle mass is the key, and he's just not being able to produce it. What works at 63 no longer works at 92. And you can swap the numbers around however you like, but even if they're 83 and 112, you get the same answer. At some point it stops working.


When I visit, now, he makes sure that I know that he wants me to have his onyx bookends. It's hard to know if he knows that he's said that before: he's always had the good teacher's capacity for clear repetition. He knows it's not enough to say something once. One of the reasons I've always been a poor teacher is that I'm not able to repeat myself. If I even suspect that I repeating myself, I stop short; I'm mortified; I can't proceed. Not that it actually stops me from repeating myself: I'm often startled, if I look back at my older posts, to see how often, how tiresomely, I say the same thing. I've said all this before, too. 

The bookends are massive, Mexican onyx, from some foray into Juárez. And I do indeed like them.


The mallet just kisses the huge metal disk: it rings, or rather throbs: a low tone on the edge of hearing, but a sweet call. If the huge slow earth were a cat chirruping with pleasure at the sight of a friend, it would make this sound. More things, more things in heaven and earth. A la deriva, but at least in motion. The sky is a pure wordless blue. This year's wildfires haven't started up yet. And we don't actually know that they will.  There's lots we don't know.

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