Peace as the New Superpower

It was a wonderfully happy anniversary yesterday. The birthday of one of our nephews.

It was also a horrible anniversary, as far more people know: that of the infamous terrorist attack on US soil in September of 2001. You understand my intense desire to have the former event wholly eclipse the latter. I don’t demand that all the world celebrate our nephew’s birthday (though our niece and any one of our nine nephews would all be well worth the attention), but I would absolutely recommend that the whole planet get a lot less warlike and a lot more humane overall.

If grey is the new black, we should be mature enough by now to play well together.

Americans, first and foremost. We may be barely over 200 years old as a country, but we’re old enough to know better than to tear around the planet saber-rattling and messing around in every other country’s business whether they like it or not. Aren’t there enough things to keep us occupied in more peaceful pursuits? Many such valuable actions could probably be funded on the strength of one month’s national military expenses, things that might not only make the country better educated, healthier, more scientifically advanced but also better able, even, to improve conditions for other people, other nations.

Call me naive.

But first, here’s a nice little bouquet, from me to you. It’s a small thing, I know, but I’d like to start somewhere. You’re welcome. Pass it on, please.digital illustration

The More Things Change, the Less We Stay the Same

photo montageIn the dark on an airplane, I heard a click and it was accompanied by a quick flash of blue-white light. What followed was far more startling, though: first, a softly chattery rasping sound, repeated twice, rapidly. Then, the realization that I was hearing film being wound. It really wasn’t all that long ago that I’d’ve seen and heard these things without even taking note of them. But the world has changed dramatically, and all the more so have we within it.

It’s been a long time now since any flash of blinding light from an unseen source or any sound, however soft, of indeterminate mechanical movement has become the instant focus of suspicious thought.

Longer still, I realize, since I’ve been in the presence of anyone using a disposable film camera. That, of course, is what it was. It’s remarkable enough to have one appear like that and be struck by how long it’s been since I started expecting to only be around people taking photos that never need developing, shooting them with no sound, or with a distinctly artificial click, with their phones and digital tablets and pens and eyeglasses. Weirder still to realize how few years ago it was in reality that those disposable film cameras were on the cutting edge.photo montageThat is precisely, though, the way of the world. New ideas, inventions and technologies arise and supplant the ones we knew. The pace is ever more relentless and extreme. We fear the new in the instant of its inception, and seemingly minutes later, have forgotten even the existence of the old. One day’s science fiction is the ancient history of the next.

As always, I’m left in the wake of these little cataclysms wondering: what of today is soon to be obsolete? What strange marvels that are yet undreamed lie waiting in tomorrow’s dark? And where, in the midst of them, is the place I’ll occupy?photo montageI know that eventually I’ll lie forgotten in the jumbled janitor’s closet of history, as virtually all things and people once useful or known or loved eventually do. But like most animate beings, I do still harbor a whisper of hope that at least one person will remain for at least some little time after I’ve gone, still able and willing to remember me, if not as significant or laudable, at least as well loved during the short while that I lasted. With that, I think I can go off and return to dust happily.

Rainmakers

Now that super storm Sandy is mostly past, those in the wake of the destruction are left to dig out from under all of the mayhem. As all natural disasters do, Sandy left behind not only massive damage brought on by the high winds, flooding, snow, fire and explosions that were part of the storm and its immediate effects but a whole swath of financial, social, political, logistical and definitely not least of all, emotional and personal damages that will take years to be mitigated, let alone resolved. Besides the losses of life and health that are such obvious costs of a massive storm ripping through, we all know–those who have been through this grinder before, anywhere in the world most especially–that there are innumerable other things once held dear that have been slashed away in a few hours’ time and many of them will never be recovered.digital painting from a photo

The homes blown down, stripped away by violent waters, or burned were filled with people and lives and the Stuff of those lives–in many cases, all gone. The businesses closed for a few days, often in crucial periods of their peak season, are eclipsed by those whose doors, if they still physically exist, will close forever and by the many owners and employees and customers who will have to find other resources for making a living or acquiring the services and goods they count on to shape their ordinary lives. They will all find, as my spouse said very quietly to me when I came down the stairs to find him waiting palely on the 11th of September in 2001, that ‘the world as we know it has changed.’digital painting from a photo

But we also know from long experience that disasters, whether natural or human-made, can bring unexpected goodness trailing in their wake. The immediate selflessness and generosity and heroism shown by those who rush into the maelstrom to save others and who pull the stricken into their waiting arms of safety and warmth and shelter and healing are, when we others take a lesson from their shining examples, only the first wave of light and hope to follow the darkness and despair. If we all, whether by the nebulous but potent means of offering support in our hearts, minds, prayers, and invention or by the more concrete ways of donating, digging, driving; of building stronger buildings to replace those lost, remembering those who have died with forward-looking perpetuation of their virtues, and taking up whatever tools we have to recreate a more closely knit community that can expand exponentially to bring in every person with every need and every gift that can fill that need–then every storm is not an irremediable horror and every battle is not the one that will end safety and sanity forever. We are bigger than the storms. We can be the rainmakers who rise up out of ordinariness and even destruction to build something real and new and extraordinary.