Friday, November 25, 2016

Celebrate Everything!?

If you're reading this, I assume it means you've survived Thanksgiving dinner. (If you're reading this and you didn't survive, please do not direct message me.)  We, as you no doubt know, are in the midst of Black Friday today, but it's known by some as Buy Absolutely Nothing Day and by others as #OptOut Day. Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday and Monday is Cyber Monday. I was getting dejected about how commerce and politics have come to dominate our lives and calendars. Then I noticed that November, and all the other months and days of the year are national days celebrating something or other not always commercial or political. I can get behind National Bavarian Creme Pie Day and Craft Jerky Day, both of which are on Sunday.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area diversity
Boundary Waters Canoe Area diversity
Photo by J. Harrington

The thing I like about the #CelebrateEverythingDay calendar is that it seems to be for almost everything and against very little or nothing. Would that we were more like that ourselves. Remember how hard it was in preschool and kindergarten learning to take turns and play well with others? Do they still do that on the back of report cards? Do they still do report cards? (Can you tell the kids have been adult for some time now?)

As we were getting ready for and then enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, I noticed something disconcerting about my perspective. I'm sharing it because I suspect I may not be the only person with this flaw. I was looking at things, decorations, food, conversation, etc. not though the lens of whether they were pretty or tasted good or were enlightening or intelligent, but based on whether or not they were what I would have chosen if I were doing it all myself. Of course, if I were doing it all myself, the odds are pretty high I'd be celebrating and eating all by myself instead of with family or friends. Zen has a useful approach to these kinds of problems. Fritz Perls offers us the Gestalt prayer in a similar vein:
"I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped."
Neither of these approaches offers much in the way of a solution once we have reached a level of difference as severe as that experienced in situations like Standing Rock in 2016, or the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. But, as I alluded to above, disengagement isn't an answer either. Have you considered that living in a world where everyone was just like you would be boring as hell? (That may be part of what Sartre meant when he wrote that hell is other people.) Have you also noticed that few guerrilla actions undertaken by indigenous peoples ever completely fail? Long ago I noticed that the Sierra Club was supporting and promoting forms of sustainable development. (The best way to protect the wilderness is to have great cities.) I've been a more active supporter since I learned that. Some folks, in some places, are trying to make even mining sustainable.

which is longer lasting, rock or water?
which is longer lasting, rock or water?
Photo by J. Harrington

Life on this earth keeps becoming more complex. We're fighting billion of years of evolution when we try to simplify things to satisfy just our own wants. If you're anything like me, much of the time you're more sure of what you don't want than what you do. The only way I know of to learn what I really want is to try lots of different things. That means I need lots of differences available. I don't want pizza, or vanilla ice cream, or even just coffee all the time, do you? What are we going to do about that? How are we going to do it, by working together or not?

Kosmos


By Walt Whitman


Who includes diversity and is Nature,
Who is the amplitude of the earth, and the coarseness and sexuality of the earth, and the great charity of the earth and the equilibrium also,
Who has not look’d forth from the windows the eyes for nothing, or whose brain held audience with messengers for nothing,
Who contains believers and disbelievers, who is the most majestic lover,
Who holds duly his or her triune proportion of realism, spiritualism, and of the æsthetic or intellectual,
Who having consider’d the body finds all its organs and parts good,
Who, out of the theory of the earth and of his or her body understands by subtle analogies all other theories,
The theory of a city, a poem, and of the large politics of these States;
Who believes not only in our globe with its sun and moon, but in other globes with their suns and moons,
Who, constructing the house of himself or herself, not for a day but for all time, sees races, eras, dates, generations,
The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable together.


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