Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Make a Plan



The first hints of autumn's approach are here. The Goldenrods are just beginning to bloom and the Joe Pye Weed. Goldenrods are so common here most people think they are all the same, but actually there are at least sixty species in our area, so the blooming period is extended. Singing insects have begun their chorus too. A friend gave me a stack of zinnia seed packets last Christmas, so I'm enjoying an abundance of blooms in vibrant colors. The zinnias are also very attractive to butterflies.

We've had plenty of rain of late so growth is lush, especially the weeds abounding. My garden is a mess. That's more or less the intention, but every year I try to imagine it not being quite such a mess. I do look at the garden with a forward eye to next year, but making plans always seems easier in the Spring. In the spring I can see where some stone is, even if I can't figure out how to move it. In the summer it's all under a thicket of bramble so getting the stone seems impossible. Yet when I look at the garden now I want stone to play with now. I look out and want less grass to grow, but feel daunted by the challenge of growing anything but weeds. Summer is a lazy time. The signs of autumn's approach shake me from my torpor, if only a little.

The truth is I'm no good at making plans.

Last Friday I had a night out. I visited with a friend in the late afternoon then we met her brother and mutual friends at a restaurant. My friend's brother is a psychiatrist who works with war veterans. I'm a bit prejudiced about psychiatrists. Having gotten to know my friend's brother over the last couple of years I've come to see him as a fine physician, a humane human being and someone I like. He and my friend who's a district attorney in Family Court, have the most high-pressure jobs of the group. We sat at an outside table and I'd brought along a bouquet of zinnias for the table. I would have happily spent another hour drinking and talking, instead we went to a movie.

I rarely go to see films and sometimes I love them. We saw The Hangover which I thought awful. The movie was disturbing to me and it was unsettling to dislike a comedy so much. Am I really humorless? Both the folks with high-pressure jobs thought it funny and just the ticket for the evening.

At the dinner conversation: the subject of politics had come up. I do read about American politics. But the context of my reading about politics is framed by concerns summed up in a blurb from James Howard Kunstler's book The long Emergency:
The global oil predicament, climate change, and other shocks to the system, with implications for how we will live in the decades ahead.
In other words I spend a great deal of my time with my hair on fire.

My friend's brother had never met the couple who joined us for dinner. He was apprehensive at first and a little peeved at his sister for not telling him they'd be coming too. Apparently he's got a similar sort of prejudice about attorneys as my prejudice about pyschiatrists. We all got along well, and the political conversation was polite with no disagreements. I didn't want to come off as a raving lunatic. Still throughout the conversation about politics the question pressed in my mind was "How do we cope knowing the gravity of the crises before us?"

Dave Pollard posted a beautiful post on Monday, We Were Here where he very much captures my unease prompted by the political talk:
They (and perhaps all of us) are afflicted with a new kind of endemic dissociative mental illness. The dissonance between what we 'know', in some primeval way (like the wild animals who sense an impending storm or earthquake or 'hear' noises outside conscious perception), and what we 'think' based on the day's news and on the conversations we have about the needs and events of the moment, is utterly inconsolable, irreconcilable. So we try to ignore that dissonance. We pretend it isn't real.
Posting Pollard's quote might seem as if I'm projecting the disassociation onto my friends, so I want to be clear to own up: the dissonance is mine. I suspect my friends feel it too, but it's awfully hard to talk about. I don't know how to initiate the conversation.

Today on my Twitter stream I got a gentle prod from we20 to actually do something in advance of the G20 Meeting in Pittsburgh during September. we20 is politically neutral. The idea behind the site is quite simple. Use the we20 Web site to announce a meeting of a small group of people, say twenty. Then as a group hammer out a plan to do something around finding solutions to the global economic crisis and post that. A splendid and constructive idea. My plans for a July meeting fizzled, so I better get moving for one in August.

Oddly just prior to seeing the we20 tweet I'd been surfing the Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project group at Facebook which has almost 500 members. The organization's Web site is here. I noticed that Paul Massey of we20 had left a wall post there, so I didn't feel a need to tweet it. Indeed I felt unsure I wanted to join. There's was a twinge of paranoia about it, you know, landing on a no-fly list--not that I plan to fly anywhere. More generally I've never been a good leftist, going way back it being a radical always seem too much work for a lazy guy like me. Quite specifically I have no interest in trying to disrupt the G20 Meeting.

From the looks of the Facebook page most of the participants are younger than I. I'm glad the kids are talking. I'm very interested as to what they have to say too. These days I seem more aware of a generation gap in the way the generations speak. Of course whatever the generation, some ideas seem very wrong, promotion of violence top of my list of wrongness.

In August Congress recesses and it's one of the few times of year representatives hear from their ordinary constituents in person. The issue of the day is structural change to our health care system. Health services are paid for primarily through private insurance schemes. Outside the USA the prominence of the profit motive in medicine here may be hard to fathom. Insurance, Big Pharma, and business groups are investing full force to influence the direction of the changes to the system. Public relations companies have been busy trying to organize for the August recess. On tactic being promoted is the disruption of public meetings with representatives. This irritates me because our elected representatives seem out of touch enough as it is.

I'm tired of argument. It's not that I don't think politics is important, because of course it is. What I long for nonetheless is politics that breaks through the dissonance between what we know and feel. The challenges humanity faces are heartbreaking. There must be a space for conversations enabling enough trust that we can reveal our hearts. we20 seems a great idea to me: Small groups and an intention to make a plan. The idea enforces enough intimacy to be real. I know I can't make a plan alone, perhaps together we can.

In August thoughts of cold winter are not far away, but there's still time. It's a good month, so I'll have to pick a date for a we20 meeting. How does August 22 sound?

2 comments:

DaisyDeadhead said...

Why did you dislike "the Hangover"? You didn't give any review, not even a few sentences!

John Powers said...

Thanks for reading Daisy, it means more to me than you know.

Why didn't I like "The Hangover"? I feel as though the reasons ought to be philosophical, but the reality is different.

I'm pretty rule-bound. I'm thoroughly indoctrinated against the destruction of property. Trashing a place is not my idea of a good time.

It's a road movie about guys. Yes, I know we're rogues, but it's unpleasant to imagine all men as assholes, and the movie rather suggests we'd be right to think that.

The movie isn't about date rape, but the premise they can't remember because of the "date rape" drug made me feel sick. I know the drug in question isn't like an old-fashioned Mickey. Still the notion of sex with an unconscious person is not only horrifying, it's also rather incomprehensible. Awake, willing and guaranteed to forget seems creepy for the same reasons.

On the road and on their forgotten adventure, I suppose the guys in the film "bonded." But for the most part there is little attention to mutuality.

I guess the idea of "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" conveys the idea that what's really fun in life is "getting mine." No way do I think that's what fun is about.