Kindness and Civility
In our small world, we don’t always agree on the best course of action. Previously, I’ve lobbied for natural priorities, like giving up our bus seats for the infirm, encumbered, parents with kids. But it’s not always so clear. To live together harmoniously, despite all our differences, we need civility and kindness arising from fellow feeling as a priority.
Enlightened people know this.
So much hinges on our cultural bents and biases. Because there is a wide range of disparate assumptions, views, values, beliefs, expectations and priorities, let alone individual wants and needs, access to accurate information, the ability to assess, question, and understand where others are coming from, it’s no wonder we keep bumping into each another, not perceiving that our misunderstandings arise from not having a common denominator.
In the culture of community, the bottom line is not fiscal
impact, but the well being and fellow feeling of its members. Together we thrive, getting by with a little help from our friends. In the culture of corporate America, it’s me first and big bucks. What happens when cultural values collide? If we apply the business bottom line to community and academic life, as if applying the rules of bakery to medicine, we have a mess. No. Don’t put patients in the oven at 350.
Interestingly, enlightened businesses are incorporating community values by profit sharing and respecting rather than commodifying and exploiting employees and customers.
This is a new era, new century… I’d say the women’s century. Time to realign and embrace what supports the ongoing well being of watershed, biosphere and all denizens. Mercy as well as justice, grace as well as power. Does anyone still consider this idealistic, hence unrealistic? Look at the operation of systems. In an ideal state, a car functions as it was
meant to and there’s nothing unrealistic about that. Of course things break down, wear out, become obsolete. They always do. Our work is in repair, in rising to occasions, members of the human and planetary community, not mere consumers,top or under dog. Thank you, Darwin. Onward.
So much languishes, huddles, lounges, basks in the lost sock warp… not just the missing socks from the dryer, but essential, hah! things, thoughts, places, people… that won’t stay put where I can find them. Who knows what they’re up to, those escapees, those naughty, wild puppies, roaming etheric streets, free from human constraint and scripted obedience: stay! Refusing to stay! Gone missing: words phrases whole lines from poems I once knew by heart; beloved songs– first the words and then the melodies; names of friends, people I’ve known for thirty years I meet at the post office and we smile and exchange neighborly pleasantries, filling up the moments until the lights go on and we remember each other’s of course, how could I forget? name; and in my classroom I refuse embarrassment when I can’t recall the particulars of what I profess, which could be construed as not knowing– book titles, authors, characters, times and places, settings and plots. I hold up the self mocking mask of the good natured absent minded, still articulate, but ditzy professor. I say the information is hung up at a traffic light in Petaluma, or, my favorite refuge, we have data; we don’t have access.
Memory is now a sieve, more like a colander. And we all have our reasons and explanations: too much in the memory bank…the drawers stick and there’s no WD40, like water overflowing the vessel, too many onions for the basket…as if the brain hadn’t capacity. How much grey matter is waiting in the wings at the ready to receive the footprints of our migrations and discoveries? Lots, honey, lots. Well, ok, because of all that smoke in the days of rock and roll, not that we’re not still dancing. Stress, then, and preoccupation… my mind footsore and heart sore, my sleep troubled in time of war. I grieve for friends lost, gone by neglect, product of my nomadic inclinations, my longstanding habit of setting up camp, inviting kindred spirits to sit at my table, to take warmth from my hearth, then packing up the 10,000 things and moving on. And lost through the last breath those beloved whom I would not have left, who could not stay.
Friends keep so much of who we are, remember what we cannot even remember we’ve forgotten and carry for us what we cannot carry. My late great goomba, Ed Halley, bore witness to our glory days in Marshall in the 70’s where I had been fortuitously summoned from the endless winters and cold sap of Vermont to cook at the Tavern. A while ago we were pining for the good old days when time was available to fill as we would, when possibilities were possible and gas was cheap. He remembered my menu. I called the locally caught fish and chips fish, Tiburon, knowing how few would have ordered shark. He recalled an incident I had entirely forgotten which restored to me a sense of who I was in exuberant youth, an ebullient feisty young woman whose sardonic proclivities made her name what others have called Caesar or Nicoise, Irving. Salade Irving. One evening a distraught diner called her from the kitchen and pointed to the intoxicated fly staggering through the garlic suffused salad greens on his plate. “What is that?” he demanded. “That,” said she, not missing a beat, “is Irving.”
C’est moi though I barely know her anymore or find her smooth skin and unflappable, unharried disposition under the wrinkled knees and circumstances of a woman of a certain age, a woman who has lived and died a gezillion times, suffering the slings and arrows, fortune’s fool. What gets me, though, the lowest blow, the cruelest joke is that I don’t remember the words to John Lennon’s “In my Life” or Bernstein’s “Tonight” or what’s his name’s “Autumn Leaves.” No, blankety blank, what I do remember is the sappy and insufferable ballad sung by Eddie Fisher.
”First the tide rushes in, plants a kiss on the shore and rolls out to sea and the sea is very still once more.So I rush to your side like the oncoming tide….” Feh!
Where to begin? Here to begin the beguine and all that ensues. Word play is somewhat onanistic, I trow. Ah the Red Squiggle erupts, underscoring the upstart word. Googlegeist doesn’t recognize trow, the archaic form of believe, suppose… which rhymes with know and reaches to troth, the pledge of one’s word from the core of being… and thereby hangs yet another tale…there are so many muddled arenas, puzzles that need our solving, messes that need our cleaning … opportunities for growing…
The State of the Species Report :
They promise to love and then divorce. Oh dear… conundrums complications. Consider the meaning of promise… promettere… throwing one’s word into the future. Ah you say, extenuating circumstances, unavoidably delayed, belayed, circumnavigational mishaps, unexpected warps, sidetracks, shoots or ladders… pot holes, sink holes, black holes, wholes…
As I trow, hearkening back to the redwoods of diction,
we are in an era of dislocutions, disconnections, disturbances, disinclinations, the corridor of discomfiture and inconvenience which is part of the dissolution of the old paradigm ( our adolescence) that we may inhabit the four dimensions, which we know through inhabiting our perceptual endowments of senses, emotion, intellect and intuition, that we evolve into a mature phase of our species’ tenure on the planet whereby we respond to the harmonic way of life in synch with our fellow creatures and sentient beings, the bio zoo geo gestalt of which we are a part and whose being and behavior affects the fate of all for good or ill. Who in heart of hearts (all parenthetical objections duly noted) wouldn’t rather embody well being, sustainability, renewable resources, ecological soundness, love sweet love, fellow feeling, kindness, generosity? Clearly a retrenchment is needed so our wilder-world and what’s wounded may heal, what’s broken, mend…by our lights, by our fully occupying the places we are in ( or mainly…. no one’s poifect) every here and now. Present and accountable as often as possible day by day and one at a time (Who’s counting? OCD OCD You for me, me for you. All for one, one for all er, With me it’s all or nothing. Nothing for you and all for me….sung by Ethel Merman as Annie Oakley, if you can believe. I played her (Oakley not Merman, for I would have been then a mermaid) with perfect teeth and bangs, a red and white felt cowgirl frock with gun slingin hips the year I was fourteen at summer camp and it’s true, you can’t get a man with a gum) (not a typo, she jawed with a toothy grun) (Where was I?) ( The fatuous aside, aside)…
Exhausted, we need fallow time, what they usta call the rest cure. Oh Hans Castorp. Let us go then, you and I to the Magic Mountain, sans Red Courtesy Phone, knowing nada zip zilch for certain, entertaining ideas as guests who come and go or stay as case may be rather than commodities to be bought and sold and once an opinion is purchased, it takes up lodging, it perches…. comma splice be damned and full speed ahead. Ahoy!
Do consider the need ( not ornament ) for us to digest experience, to absorb and assimilate, to be nourished by our knowledge and understanding. Of this we have been deprived with the forward rush of too much…to be, to have, to do. We used to do three things in ten minutes and now do twenty three…seem to need to? Too much of a good thing is still too much, though I usta say too much of a good thing is almost enough which il va sans dire, keeps us in the acquisitive and hence, disproportionate too- muchness and not enoughness and all the compensatory maneuvers we stumble on and blunder through until one day, aha! The light goes on and there’s someone home to read the signs and wonder. That will be then and now or meanwhile back at the ranch ….
We are at a loss, faced with all the dissolution of life on the planet, World without End or so we thought. But meanwhile, back at the ranch, if i may so adopt my refrain, the ice caps, the polar bears, spring blooming acacia budding in September.
Wordsworth and Blake took note during the Industrial Revolution when the urbanized clockwork life began and the diurnal annual round was lost to all but those who noted the angle of the sun, the cycle of the seasons and the wheeling stars at night…the fortunate agricolae who tilled and toiled. How can we know our place in nature if we know neither nature nor ourselves?
This is beyond Tums. Restoration, Renaissance is called for. Out of downward tug and weight of the second dark age …into the levity of light.
I swear by the falling cherry blossoms in a late April afternoon breeze, the chiming of the wind, all that is, we must reclaim restore revise, refrain, restrain, remain. By all the beauty of being, for all the beauty of being ,with all the beauty of being…. may we begin the beguine…….Vive Omnes!
a bit heavy on the schmaltz, she opined in sober reflection…. but and …the beat goes on…
No one said growing up would be easy but/and the option is Nowheresville, and the small vehicle is heading toward the stone wall. Turn the wheel ! Another direction, a new chapter. Tempus Fugit. This now as soon as each we can.
Restraint Reciprocity Respect…
and love, peace and love,
On August 7, 1974, Philippe Petit walked the wire between the Twin Towers. This abides in my mind as an act of great bravery, artistry and extraordinary beauty. His dance on the wire stands equally with and tonic to the toxic devastation of the towers and all the ensuing fallout. In the pairing of 9/11 and 8/7, consider the symmetry of all that homo sapiens is capable of: acts of destruction and acts of creation, horror and the sublime. It is important to hold both as part of our human story. Many who have been discouraged and saddened by all the iniquities and inequities of an era so egregiously like the dystopic visions of Huxley and Orwell, are, for the first time in a long while, hopeful, thanks to brave resistance of those who are Occupying Wall Street in the interest of the many whose needs and well being have been sacrificed to the pleasures and privileges of the few.
My real hope for humanity is this, that we are educable. As toddlers, we who pooped at will, any where or when, took the first step in being civilized when we stopped pooping in our pants. We learned self control with less stink and mess for those who picked up after us. Unaware, we were learning to consider the rights and well being of others along side our own. Now we must stop “pooping” in our world.
Ilya Prigogine, a contributor to Chaos Theory, states: Things fall apart and reconstitute at a higher level. In nature, winter dormancy follows harvest. All that has flourished dies back and the earth rests before spring quickening. Hence farmers rotate crops and let some fields lie fallow to reinvigorate. Artists stop after a period of productivity to refill the cup of being and knowing before entering a new period of making. Our work will be deeper and wiser because we have had a chance learn and grow. There is an old saying : The child dies to the man. The old skin or system is shed and in its place a more capable and effective state of being emerges.
Of course any archeological dig reveals the layers and strata of being. The child doesn’t really die. Sometimes we are lucky enough to encounter and embody our playful child selves again and this seems central to our future. Children are quick to forgive if they are loved and cared for and have an innate and acute sense of what’s right. Give any two kids a cookie to share and at least one of them knows that an equal division is what’s wanted, needed and fair. We can and we must revitalize our perceptions if we are to continue our tenure on the planet. We must be as little children and willingly adapt to the prevailing conditions and circumstances and evolve, to leave our self centered adolescence behind, to embrace the difficult and good work of maturation and generativity, with equity, justice and compassion for all. Of course there are no guarantees. There never are.
I think what we are seeing today is a kind of devolution. Things are falling apart. This is a requisite stage of an evolutionary process, the transformation of consciousness and behavior. I am first to say of these thoughts, well actually in the words of Salman Rushdie, that they are an “interim report from the consciousness I now possess.” Having emerged from the paralysis of misery over the state of the world and being, I am hopeful. Whether or not I am deluded remains to be seen. But I mean to put my shoulder full tilt to the wheel or whatever it is we are turning in the direction of more heart and soul, equity and justice, human kindness overflowing, much as we envisioned in the formative Be Here Now years… and I think it’s going to rain today .