Just exactly how much is the world supposed to bear? Libya, pirates off the coast of Somalia, protesters shot or jailed in numerous countries, baby dolphins dying in scores in the aftermath of the BP oil spill, Afghanistan's "traditional fighting season," an endless war in the Congo, Oklahoma burning and no word on the news, the Northeast flooding in icy snow melt & rain, and now Sendai and Fukushima. I'm sure I've missed something here.
I confess, Dear Reader, this post may be grim and disjointed.
I turned on the news today, oh my (to paraphrase the Beatles). On one channel, coverage of Japan and the imminent threat of nuclear meltdown. On the other major news channel, talk of the NFL breakdown in contract negotiations. On the one channel, news of 1,000 bodies washing ashore. On the other channel, news of how a group of men should divide $9,000,000,000 for throwing a ball and hitting each other. Yes, NINE BILLION DOLLARS. Obscene.
I confess, Dear Reader, I am a Cubs fan and love MLB. I do not love the amount of money we devote to our hobbies, our enjoyments, not when teachers are getting the shaft everywhere, and the top 2% continue to outstrip the remaining 98% of us.
There is a heaviness in the air and in my body. So much pressure at large. And yet, I am determined not to sink into despair. I am determined to justify my life on this planet by attempting to leave it a better place than it was when I was born. When I was an undergrad, I was obsessed with Native American literature, and yet, I suffered from a severe case of white guilt. Once, we had a visit from a Chippewa man who was a writer, an environmentalist, and a philosopher. He addressed the audience's white guilt (for we were an ocean of white in front of him). He said, "we don't want your guilt. We don't need it." In essence he said, we have to move past that binary system and come together to heal the world, to do better for our children. I'm not sure why, but I'm reminded of his statement today, as I struggle with the guilt of living a good & safe life while others around the world, both far & near, suffer. I struggle with leading the life of a writer, when the world seems to need so much more than poems.
I confess, Dear Reader, in times like these I do turn to poetry, and that may seem a contradiction. I almost always turn to the closing of Mary Oliver's poem "In Blackwater Woods" from her book American Primitive (Little, Brown 1983).
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
you own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.