Thursday, October 29, 2015

Changing everything?

I'm fascinated by how cold 45°F feels in late October compared to how warm it feels in early March. We have officially been snowed on, the local snow has melted and warmer weather is in the forecast. This weekend is Halloween and the end of daylight savings time (for this year).

quiet place, St. Croix River
quiet place, St. Croix River
Photo by J. Harrington

Recently I've been messing with my head thinking about how much of what we see as linear is actually a small part of a larger cycle. For example, I normally think of a river as flowing downstream to the sea, but we all know that the beginning of a river comes from clouds that arise from the sea, float inland and fall as rain or snow, then, eventually, flow back to sea. The seasons, as Joni Mitchell has written, "go 'round and 'round," although we often, usually?, think of time as linear, seasons are clearly cyclical or circular. Leaves that grew from buds fall to become humus or compost and, eventually, nutrients that end up in tree roots to help grow new leaves.

bare branches will bear foliage again
Photo by J. Harrington

Some folks are now getting concerned that China's population will age too quickly to keep the economy growing. I keep fretting about why so many of us confuse growth with development. They aren't the same, although it may simply being a case of mistaken identity, like thinking a river is only linear. At first I thought that the only alternative to our foolish fixation on growth was a "steady-state economy" [see sidebar]. Recently, I've been coming across more and more references to a circular economy (plus a growing number of mentions of "stranded assets").

I'm not sure whether steady-state and circular work together but I am sure we new a new and better economic story of how it's all supposed to work. There are growing numbers of us on a finite planet. That's not sustainable. I've seen just enough of a description of "one planet living" to be glad I'm not the marketing or product manager for that idea. The best news, from my perspective, is that I keep coming across a growing number of writers and thinkers who I respect who provide reasons for optimism. In case you need a pick-me-up from the current state of the world, try any of these:
I've come across several other less obvious reasons to be optimistic in the last few years. Mary Oliver has just published a new book of poetry, "Felicity". She's 80. Lawrence Ferlinghetti published "Time of Useful Consciousness" when he was 93. Donald Hall's recent book, "Essays After Eighty," was published when he was 86. That all represents, at least to me, a number of reasons and examples to keep trying. That's what optimism is all about, isn't it? Before we close for the day, please follow this link to an independent financial analysis of the proposed PolyMet project. The fact that those folks saw fit to do this much needed work makes me as optimistic as did the formation of the Downstream Business Coalition and the study on the Value of the St. Louis River. I'm thinking it's getting to be time to put less emphasis in my life on analysis and more on poetry, especially if I can stay optimistic.

Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti 

Constantly risking absurdity
                                             and death
            whenever he performs
                                        above the heads
                                                            of his audience
   the poet like an acrobat
                                 climbs on rime
                                          to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
                                     above a sea of faces
             paces his way
                               to the other side of day
    performing entrechats
                               and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
                               and all without mistaking
                     any thing
                               for what it may not be

       For he's the super realist
                                     who must perforce perceive
                   taut truth
                                 before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
                                  toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
                                     with gravity
                                                to start her death-defying leap

      And he
             a little charleychaplin man
                                           who may or may not catch
               her fair eternal form
                                     spreadeagled in the empty air
                  of existence

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