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November 30, 2008


It's so dispiriting - why should we have to live like this, pleading for jobs; begging for the continuation of maintenance grants; fighting for funds to ensure the vulnerable have a decent life - while waging pointless wars and bailing out banks. It's political and economic mismanagement - a huge disconnect from the wishes of most sane people.

At the micro level: we visited my mother in law in her care home this weekend - a place of decent enough care but redolent of collapsing finances: cheap, shabby, patched-up. Back home and two youths laughingly take a flying punch/swipe at my neighbour's bird feeder. Completely knocked it off the tree. Then they retrieved it from the greenery and threw it high into the air, letting it smash on the concrete. Two saddening experiences in one weekend.
Things are getting worse, I'm certain but I try to keep playing the positive game.

Hi Anna - you're right, and I agree, it's very difficult to keep one's spirits up. Being positive and finding the joy in life really is the challenge and task of our times, I think. I sometime think back to Victor Frankl's writings about the concentration camps, or Anna Akhmatova's writing about life under Stalin. What made certain people so remarkable and alive, even there, was their ability (and determination) to find joy and beauty wherever they could, and meaning in their own lives by helping those around them. What we have now (in the west, at least) is not a black-and-white situation but constant greyness that wears us all down, and those of us who are realistic know that even the election of someone like Obama can't fix the systemic ills, certainly not quickly.

Beth, of course, you are so right about finding the joy. I *am* very conscious of going down the "it's all hopeless" route (a real cul de sac). BTW, Jesse Jackson is speaking tonight at our local, small, university here in northwest UK.

Things are falling apart. Things are coming together. There is so much happening at the same time. We have intimate, satisfying meals with loved ones and the next day read about mobs of anonymous shoppers trampling an employee at WalMart. I go out expecting a grey day and find the sun is high and the sky is brilliant blue. My friend who runs an art gallery has given cameras to homeless people and they are taking gorgeous photographs of urban decay. Lines are blurred.

I grew up in upstate NY and know of the poverty and decline of which you write. But I see those turkeys in the hedgerow and it suggests to me the return of a long-lost balance -- colonial times, indeed! -- and that we can find hope and beauty and possibility in that. Surely I find it in your writing. Thanks for the post.

I also think that the world is adjusting, after years of crazy consumerism that was always going to be unsustainable, to a saner and healthier balance. It will be tough for a while, and my heart goes out to those who struggle, but some good must come of it, please?

Thanks, Peggy and Mouse - and I hope the world is indeed adjusting to a saner balance. I'm not incredibly optimistic about human beings giving up the grasping and striving that has contributed to rampant consumerism, and learning to live happily with less -- I think that adjustment, if it happens, is going to take a long time and be met with great resistance. What will work, I think, are mandated programs to move us away from fossil fuels and sustainability, toward local agriculture, toward a better health care system, away from senseless wars. There has to be a long-term change in our educational system, though, to change people's basic values and their ability to be content with a book or a musical instrument, or sitting around talking to each other. Personally, I'd unplug all the televisions for a start...!

Peggy - thanks for telling me the writing matters to you - it helps me keep going to hear that. Yes, it's all a flow and there is plenty of hope in the possibilities. I'm so thankful we both grew up in a place like that, and are perfectly happy living simply. I wonder what needs to happen now. So many people have lost the ability make their own entertainment, or to be content with what they have instead of always wanting more. How can we "re-educate" a whole generation for whom money is God, and yet all they find is an emptiness that can't be filled? Thinking hard, living by example and writing about it is one way, or so it seems to me -- what do you think?

Well. The older I get, the more I find that it's seldom as good or as bad as it looks. It's beyond us, anyway, the ultimate solution or dissolution. We do what we can with what we have.


Thanks, Dale. Actually I think you touch on the paradox that the solution/dissolution is both beyond us and right here, right now. We can't know what will happen, ultimately, but in the sense that "the Kingdom of God is within us" we do have the power to give what is most important to one another, immediately, just as you say - by doing what we can with what we have. I often forget that living that way, intentionally, is really all we're meant to do and be - but of course it's also the hardest thing.

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