a much-ado- about-nothing rant

diego rivera sugar cane
‘Sugar Cane’, diego rivera

Yes, I know it’s silly, but…several days ago, a notable and lauded progressive blogger put up a post that began to chafe my hide more over the next few days.  The author first described the world as always having been both horrid (he’d used a more scatalogical term) and beautiful.  He’d first chronicled his take on disturbing and worrying current events in the US and world, then named a few political good signs like ‘neoliberalism on its way out.

Following that came mention of what the immediate future portends, both climate change, the likelihood of food and water shortages, and what the Queen of Chaos’s election will augur, then mentions of the historical hellscapes of war, the Depression, Khmer Rouge genocides, famines, etc.

But it was all as a prelude to this:

“But why despair?

Even in bad times, there will be good. Most of history has been bad, but people have still loved, they have still enjoyed food, and the beauty nature so generously provides. There has always been wine (or bathtub gin). Life has gone on.

It’ll probably go on this time, and if we manage to drive ourselves to extinction (still unlikely) well, no humans will be suffering any more.

Enjoy your lives as best you can. Take joy in the real things of your immediate lives. The horrors that are happening to others are not happening to you and making yourself unhappy because others are unhappy does nothing to help them, and harms you.

That doesn’t mean “do nothing,” it means do what you’re reasonably able to do, and don’t sweat the rest.  There are billions of people on Earth, you aren’t personally responsible for this, and your contribution is not going to be the key if other people don’t also get off their asses.

Be realistic, accept no more than your tiny bit of blame, and then go eat a good meal, make love, and listen to some beautiful music.

Don’t destroy your real happiness over events for which you are almost entirely not responsible, and which you do not have the power to change.”

I confess that I was most sincerely taken aback, first by the notion that those of us who are sensitive to the horrors others are experience are choosing to make ourselves ‘unhappy’, not just finding ourselves heavy-hearted in spite of trying to make community, enjoying the natural world, and listening to music, etc.  I also question whether ‘real happiness’ is a laudable goal (apologies to the Dalai Lama).  I’m going to go with Arundhati’s formula at the bottom, at least aspirationally…and add: live life to the fullest, kick the hell outta it as you try to make it better.

Admittedly, during the first Gulf War’s shock-and-awe, ‘turning the desert to glass’, I felt as though I could hear every bomb, and fell into a deep depression for the first time in my life.  Later, author Barbara Kingsolver recounted that she and her family had moved to Spain to try to get away from her own similar depression.  What she later divined post-depression was that her excessive despondency was rather self-indulgent, which lesson I’ve tried to incorporate into my psyche.  And yes, some folks can intellectualize or compartmentalize their caring and solidarity without so much angst, as with the Briggs/Myer personality profiles.  ;-)

But it also struck me as a very privileged place to be, with the ‘still loved, enjoyed food, wine and nature’.  As to our not being to blame but a wee bit, that’s up for grabs as far as I’m concerned, depending on who the ‘we’ is, but collectively, I fear we are to blame.  As Keegan Stephan and others remind us often: while we may pay homage to the fact that many of us live in privilege, those realizations hardly dent the surface compared to those living without any.

But what came to mind was not just the people in this nation and around the world slowly dying of totally needless, but increasing oppression and immiseration, but for how many it’s always been this way.  So many simply struggle to survive, or try to help their families and friends to survive.  Not just the poor and colonized, neo-colonized, but those living in apartheid states for instance, or by dint of being the wrong sect of a religion, or the wrong color and class, or even the wrong gender.

Hearing the many admonitions for ‘calm and peace’ from some faith leaders and El Presidente caused me to muse about the utter necessity of our shared-by-osmosis pain as well as outrage, staying angry, and pushing back against those who rule us without conscience, with extreme brutality, and the theft of not just our labors, but ourselves as well.  That’s what will bring change one day, imo, when a preponderance of us wake up to the truths that Martin Luther King and other sages and poets have tried to instill within us: we are one humanity, and the divisions have been artificially created by those who would rule us; we must be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

‘We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.’

~ Martin Luther King

“No hour is ever eternity, but it has its right to weep.”

~ Zora Neale Hurston

“Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men – above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.”

~ Albert Einstein

When Michael  Franti  returned from his quest to Israel, Palestine, and Iraq to discover what war really is, he wrote this song; the lyrics clearly indicate that he was at least considering ending his life.

‘And tell me why I need to know
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to know all you’ve shown me

‘Hey world, what you say
Should I stick around for another day or two?
Don’t give up on me, I won’t give up on you
Just believe in me, like I believe in you…’

“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

~ Arundhati Roy

22 responses to “a much-ado- about-nothing rant

  1. On a WI website in the last few days (so much research lately that I’ve omitted some record keeping for sources) explaining the irony of using our perfect glacial deposited silica sand to be lost forever in an effort to frack gas to heat up the planet, instead of using it for manufacturing the perfect glass for solar panels. And we’re the, “higher intellect,” species.

    I tend to think the sumac and the poplars who’ve sensed the extra moisture in my mulched vegetable beds from 50 meters away and have popped up among the beets, lettuce and raspberries to use it, just might be debating that point.

    • Your sumac and poplars, nonquixote, bring to my mind the following:

      GLORY be to God for dappled things—
      For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
      Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
      Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 5
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

      All things counter, original, spare, strange;
      Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
      He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 10
      Praise him.

      [Gerald Manly Hopkins]

      I was myself thinking that in the garden is my solace early mornings – and the creatures taking refuge, even poplars and sumac, from our species’ wanton ways – they are our solace too. Yesterday a coachwhip, young’un, found itself curled between my sliding back ranch door and the screen – all it wanted was to escape but it left the tip of its tail which had been squeezed behind. That wriggled and jumped cleverly to distract me, but the beauty of its owner had me so sorry it had been left behind.

      I will argue with Einstein that man is not here just for the sake of other men but for all living beings whose lives we squander at peril of our own. We need their nourishing presence more than they need ours. That is the humbling truth.

  2. lol; when i’d seen your comment via email, i’d thought you were giving me a rather Zen tap on the shoulder in agreement that ‘yes, your wee rant really is about..nothing much.

    but now i see what i’d written having included ‘turning the desert to glass’ (praise be stormin’ norman schwarzkopf!)

    …and the relevance of your comment. ;-) (nice to see you, nonquixote, and to you and all others to whom i owe emails: i just can’t keep up; i’m so sorry) emailing is all family for now.

    yes, humons love those self-congratulatory opposable thumbs and pre-frontal cortexes, top of the food-chain (more’s the pity) don’t we? but see, there all all those lizard-brain profiteers who make sure they get their way. and don’t forget the sand-washed jeans.

  3. Well, I’m owing you a response on family, so not to worry about the mail on my account. Remembered the link above, not sure if this translates properly to appear as an image:

  4. “the worst is not | So long as we can say ‘This is the worst'”?
    rather self-indulgent of our progressive blogger. assuming we don’t nuke each other, (s)he/it is probably right that humanity will survive, even if it’s only 5 or 6 of us. it’s not a certainty by any means. but is that really a problem in the grand scheme that too many of us are overwhelmed? i mean, of we who are not so impoverished already that we can’t afford the luxury of even knowing about the big problems in the world? or is it that most of us don’t give a shit at all, or we are so easily bought off by things like “environmental consumerism,” shopping at whole foods, recycling, getting LEEDS-certified appliances, putting solar panels (a few of us) on our houses, or buying Toyota Prii (sorry, latin nerd joke there-Priuses)? Hurray! i can still be middle-class AND do my part to save the planet by putting plastics in the blue bin. or be heroically, yet somehow respectably, middle-class in my consumer refinements & buy an electric-only car! (nothing against solar panels, but unless we shut down the nukes, end hydro-fracking, etc., etc., these solar panels don’t mean shit. empty feel-good gesture for people w/money to burn & one functioning neuron of a conscience. not even gonna touch the inane “enviro” car BS.)

    and isn’t the message of our society, you *must* do whatever it takes to prop your fragile ego up, principally in order for each of us to hold down *their job*? isn’t that what this self-boosterism is all about? if you don’t do so, as millions of americans, and billions of the world, can absolutely not do, if YOU can’t do it, you are a failure, a loser, a quitter.

    they got a new Pokemon game out there for this guy who needs some happy-me time. i bet they don’t have any digital doodads on this CIA-sponsored virtual scavenger hunt or whatever near morgues, AIDS hospices, homeless shelters, prisons, mental hospitals, modern Hoovervilles, etc., etc. all the zip codes are pre-approved for your absolute safety.

    thanks NQ for that wisconsin update. that was the last straw. now, i’m gonna go slit my wrists. and drink bleach. and sit in the car garage w/the motor running. and jump in front of a train. & stick my head in the oven. & jump off a bridge. as if feeling despair at times is not a very healthy sign in the individual in the world we live in. a despair many others have felt, even if we aren’t really sure why.

    • nice little rant, jason. who was it who’d said “be the cog in the machine they want you to be”?

      your last paragraph? Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

      the rachmaninoff was sublime; thank you.

      @juiiania: i don’t see an inherent contradiction in your belief as far as uncle albert’s quote, but i do with your conclusion. i.e., it’s obvious that the fauna of the world would do a lot better without the humans on the planet.
      (not that most of the 99% of extinct species were caused by humans), and while i love watching the many varieties here, taking their portraits, and so on…the pleasure i derive from them isn’t enough to conclude that ‘man is here for all living beings’. but perhaps i’m missing your meaning.

      that many species have been dubbed ‘the canaries in the coal mine’ is another whole thing…we’re murdering their big blue planet, iow.

  5. interesting that none of the comments here have addressed the OP save for your firt one, jason. thanks. i get it.

  6. “A rant is a rant…is a rant…is a rant!” or says this ever-vigilant Optimist.

    Consequently, there are days where I have to exercise a tad of self-restraint when it comes to the nonsense that makes it to my door. And perhaps, my being a voracious reader, doesn’t help, given the level of nonsense espoused by national media outlets. And of course, the “insiders” have their scores to settle with their political opposition and done in whatever manner possible. Consequently, I stay away from twitter and the assorted shibboleths being delivered in virtual real time.

    In closing, my logical advice is to “repent…repent…I say.”
    Alas, my “repent” will be accomplished far into the future and where I will be recognize for having been an ever-vigilant Optimist. :-)


  7. well, señor optimist, i suppose a rant is not a rose, the? ;-) advice alert: stay away from msm as far as possible, save to make sure you have an inkling about what’s out there. headlines suffice for me.

    i actually like twitter, as it is in real time and the images are very vivid, and the several accounts i check into every few days show me a lot of news and opinion pieces i would have missed otherwise. i don’t partake myself, as twitter wars are destructive…and stupid.

    dunno what i/we/they should be repenting about, really, but i gladly will if you’ll state your case..;-)

  8. with all respect due, this diary was a failure. no one save jason even responded to the ideas in my post, although for once, i couldn’t quite make out his meaning/s

    some of you, i know, are ‘believers’, while i am an apathiest, but mr wd. addressed my woe over the non-response to this thread noting that according to the Urantia book, the sole message that one of god-the-creators sons (michael of nebadon) was sent to this planet (Urantia) was to preach exactly the message i tried to bring: we are all the children of god (i usually say that ‘we are all stardust’, or related by blood from the first humans: the san bushmen tribe, instead) and that we are here to make life better for one another…in god’s love. or i hope i’ve gotten it right..

    phooey on this post, in other words. i will take the fault for its failure upon myself (I repent, jaango?).

    no, i won’t shut down the site an blow my brains out, as this is the core of why i’m passionate about the issues i write about.

    at least i do know that all of you are in search of helping to create a better, more just world.


  9. “But why despair? …………………………………………………………………………
    Don’t destroy your real happiness over events for which you are almost entirely not responsible, and which you do not have the power to change.”
    PanglA$$ ueber ALLES.
    It’s how we got HERE!

    • yes! thank you, bruce.

      “Our labour preserves us from three great evils — weariness, vice, and want.” (‘sugar cane’, diego rivera illustration at the top)

      ~ Voltaire, Candide

  10. Wendy,

    Don’t go a-repentin’ on me, otherwise, I too may have to join you.

    As to mr. wd, he’s correct, we all arrived from parts unknown, and yet, with the responsibility and duty to make life better for each one of us. And shame on all of us if we ‘enlist’ in the failure to conduct ourselves accordingly.

    Thus, a stiff upper lip is, at times, required. However, there is one exception for today’s current effort in that Donald Trump is one of America’s middle finger.


  11. when reduced to dribbling bumbling mumbling before The Mystery (of EVIL!!!!) in this case, resort to Authorities:
    end of sonnet 64
    Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
    That Time will come and take my love away.
    This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
    But weep to have that which it fears to lose
    i had an enviro photog tell me one time, when i asked her how she dealt w/all the terrible shit she sees, “you must weep for the environment.”
    Grief is forbidden us, in relation to people we love, or the world. “i’ll do and i’ll do and i’ll do,” as one of macbeth’s very protestant witches says. the answer to every question is: Arbeit macht frei. “Why aren’t you WORKING HARDER about these things that concern you, instead of just bitching all the time?!?” i get that a lot. AND WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?!? at the end of P Floyd’s The Wall, the prosecutor in The Trial scene, says of Pink, “he’s guilty of having feelings, feelings of an almost human nature.” of course people can get too self-indulgently fascinated by the Spectacle of Evil, all this shit some of us know something about, via the supertubes mostly, that’s going on in the great big bad world. but is that really the problem for people reading the article of this knucklehead? (i don’t really know. information can be like a horror movie: titillating.)

    it’s easy to deride religiosity, commander achs, when jesus coming back (or whatever) is about as certain from this side of the future as attaining utopia. for a few of us individually the certainty is death, whatever the cosmic future. faith in the bible or hegel or the mayan writings by itself is not enough to sustain one in a daily struggle for justice. connection to particular love objects is the only thing:
    sonnett 66(6)
    Tir’d with all these, for restful death I cry…
    (long list of evils in the world)
    Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
    Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

    • dear Comrade Acks: please piss.off. when one upon a time, you had some interesting and edifying comments to add (and quoted sources) it was fine. now all you can do is trash other comments, even pretending that they’re in some sort of disagreement with what you espouse, or pretend

      find some help for what ails you (perhaps old pastor sourpuss can help), or go trip out on digby or someone like her. but do leave here. sorry i had to be gone and couldn’t just delete your ha ha ha nonsense.

    • thank you for that, jason; i’ll likely read it a few more times to let it sink through my pores. the last bits of will’s sonnet 66 you’ve brought have gone right to my heart in their relevance.

      thank you, juliania; we do seem to have been talking past one another. i understand now, i think.

  12. I did respond, and you rightly took issue with my contradictory (as you saw it) statement, since the worst of the worst has occurred in spades, most likely because of Einstien’s preoccupations with the atom, though I don’t fault him personally for that – (I suppose the ‘repent, repent’ to refer to the annihilation of other species for which mankind is indeed in large part responsible. My point was simply that we ought to be responsible in better ways than we have been, not that we are doing well at what we were assigned to do.)

    And to do something about all the above, I’ll be voting for Jill Stein. I like her. And I’m so tired of all the triangulation that says you don’t vote for your ideals. To my mind that’s the only way to vote.

    • i apologize for having felt too pressed for time to answer your ‘einstein’s preoccupation with the atom’ at all. but if anyone ever contributed more to science, cosmology, and theoretical physics, than uncle albert did (and him having been tossed out of school for his learning disabilities), i dunno who that would be. it was he who said once that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand], for instance, which poster we have in our unfinished downstairs.

      but do look at this list of what he’s contributed to our understanding of the universe if you have the time. well, did contribute, i guess.

  13. I didn’t mean that to be a snide remark, wendye – just tracing back the planetary woes of nuclear fission to the man of genius – and I wonder if we’d have gone as far as we did in reckless atomic pursuits had he not been such a genius. Yes, I know and have studied (a lot without comprehension) all the positives you point to. I did say I don’t fault him personally – have a bit harder time with the charismatic Oppenheimer and un-charismatic Teller, though. And now I simply hate hearing the ‘boom booms’ on the horizon every morning around 10:30 am. (I used to have a very sweet elderly neighbor lady who had been a secretary up there on the hill – she has moved away but lived for a while across the road, gazing each morning at the far horizon that is Los Alamos. What might her thoughts have been, I wonder?)

    Had I been of an age and power to make the decision, I think I would have said “Let’s not do that.” At least, I hope I would. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and all that there.

    • i hadn’t taken your remark as snide, juliania, and i do hear you, really. einstein bitterly regretted turning away from his long pacifism, and writing to truman to give his go-ahead and, well, all of that. but of course, he was not only a zionist, but this was post-holocaust discovery.

      i would hope that we all would have said No to it, including to nuclear power, myself. the news from many of those power plants lately is hideous, not to mention the hanford nuclear waste site, fukushima, etc.. oh, woe.

      i was interested that einstein said his god was ‘spinoza’s god’. i looked that up, and didn’t think much of it. :-)

      but we just had rain! blessed rain! not for long, but definitely a male rain. ah, the scent of it.

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