Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Does #phenology apply to social storms?

As I drove home from an errand earlier today, I saw the dynamic sky shown below. Dark, stormy-looking clouds mixed with bright cumulous roiling around openings where the sun was forcing its way through. It made me think about what's going on in our national capital and places of entry throughout the country. If you look carefully, though, you might notice that the storm clouds emphasize the bright places.

without dark clouds, would we see the light?
without dark clouds, would we see the light?
Photo by J. Harrington

Much of the turmoil that shows up on "social media" isn't reported on local or national news. That may be just as well for most people, including me. It's like pounding your head on a brick wall, it feels so good when you stop. Obviously, I haven't been saying The Serenity Prayer as often as I should. I realized that again this morning when I read an article in The Atlantic (A Clarifying Moment in American History) that contained this passage:
Some Americans can fight abuses of power and disastrous policies directly—in courts, in congressional offices, in the press. But all can dedicate themselves to restoring the qualities upon which this republic, like all republics depends: on reverence for the truth; on a sober patriotism grounded in duty, moderation, respect for law, commitment to tradition, knowledge of our history, and open-mindedness.
 When was the last time you heard yourself, or a neighbor talk, about truth, duty, moderation, history or open-mindedness? Last night was the first time in a long while, if ever, that I heard a lawyer refer to "...always seek justice and stand for what is right..." I'm afraid that somewhere along the line, we've become a-ME-rica, and are now dealing with the consequences.

There are outstanding examples of better ways to improve both our lives and our values. One includes community leaders and members working with local school districts to fit state standards into a curriculum reflecting local values of truth, open-mindedness etc., in such realms as Environment, Community, Historical and the Individual, so that our children can learn how these realms affect each other as well as community members. Orion magazine has a story that describes how one Arctic community prepares its young people for the future using such an approach. Instead of fighting as much about "who controls" our schools, would our community, children and country be better served if we found ways to agree on what should be taught? I think so.

It becomes clearer to me every day that John Muir was correct when he wrote "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." That's another value we'd be wise to give more credence. America is not just a country of laws, it's a country of values that are reflected in our laws. We've drifted from our basic values and need to correct our course.

On Reading Crowds and Power


1

Cloven, we are incorporate, our wounds
simple but mysterious. We have
some wherewithal to bide our time on earth.
Endurance is fantastic; ambulances
battling at intersections, the city
intolerably en fête. My reflexes
are words themselves rather than standard
flexures of civil power. In all of this
Cassiopeia's a blessing
as is steady Orion beloved of poets.
Quotidian natures ours for the time being
I do not know
how we should be absolved or what is fate.

2

Fame is not fastidious about the lips
which spread it. So long as there are mouths
to reiterate the one name it does not
matter whose they are.
The fact that to the seeker after fame
they are indistinguishable from each other
and are all counted as equal shows that this
passion has its origin in the experience
of crowd manipulation. Names collect
their own crowds. They are greedy, live their own
separate lives, hardly at all connected
with the real natures of the men who bear them.

3

But hear this: that which is difficult
preserves democracy; you pay respect
to the intelligence of the citizen.
Basics are not condescension. Some
tyrants make great patrons. Let us observe
this and pass on. Certain directives
parody at your own risk. Tread lightly
with personal dignity and public image.
Safeguard the image of the common man.


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