Saturday, March 29, 2014

will the wealthy take down the titanic?


okay, i admit it, i keep whistling as i pass the graveyard, telling myself, don't project your own decay on the world. i've experienced many a retired professor doing it. it's natural to assume the world can't exist without me. alas, i'm pretty sure this is true! doggone it, i try to be more humble. after all, i'd like to help other people, especially the young, survive to enjoy tubing on the river and petting under the apple trees. it's not right for me to drag down the world with me, but what can i do?

we (I) have lived through the most affluent civilization the human world has ever seen. today, picking up soap and fruit-juice at a wholesale warehouse, i watched all the loaded carts lumbering toward the exit, parents, children, the old, tagging along behind. and the expensive cars being loaded up in the parking-lot! yes, one of those days of clarity when my eyes opened. the earth is being mined for all this stuff. and an amazing amount of it will go into storage.

or on the trash heap. i'm chagrined by how much garbage i discard every day. even with recycling a bit of it, my conscience isn't clean. and yet, and yet, i remember belgrade in the sixties and st. petersberg and moscow in january of 1992. the bleakness of streets without billboards, the somber dress of the ladies without fashion, listening to my hosts whispering about smuggling razor-blades out of the west. the alternative offered disheartening, to say the least. 

along with this incredible abundance, i can feel, here in the middle of the ship, the top deck getting heavy, a little bit of listing already occurring. no, it's not a surplus of people, rather diamonds and gold cigar-lighters, a glass of whiskey costing a hundred dollars and downed without a thought. the staterooms filling up with the smug. 

oddly, i don't see this as a political issue, rather one of science, and i regret the loss of all the gains in learning, craft, the arts. a character in chekhov's 'cherry orchard' says, i'm in mourning for my life. in my case i have to say, i'm in mourning for the young. no wonder they clutch their cell phones like worry-beads, like rosaries, like pieces of the true cross. in 'the wasteland' eliot writes, i will show you fear in a handful of dust. 

as i say, i'm trying not to relish the thought the world we know may go down with me, as exciting a consolation as that is. and i have to remember, all prophesies for the future have proved wrong. the black swans keep flying and none of us know when they will choose to land.