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Archive for August, 2006

I am currently reading Defending Middle Earth: Tolkien, Myth, and Modernity by Patrick Curry.  It is an astonishing book, and has changed my whole life.  At least, I hope it changes my life.  It has certainly changed my outlook.

The book’s central thesis is that, contrary to popular belief which would dismiss it as escapist fantasy, J.R.R.Tolkien’s very long and very anorak-ey three volume novel, The Lord of the Rings, is not only a prescient critique on modernity but increasingly relevant to the deepest problems facing us today as humans.  Consider the following quote:

"More than ever, we need reminding of the courage that lies buried deep
in the hearts of unsung ‘small,’ ordinary people; of the wonder of what
we have too long taken for granted: living water, fresh air, clean
earth; of something as basic as good food cooked with care and eaten
with appreciation in convivial company…of our souls’ hunger for such
‘useless’ activities as (say) walking in woods under starlight; and of
the value, loyalty, honour, and friendship which, like all things,
cannot be measured….in dollars and cents.  And these days, we need
reminding of the truth…that military force is, at best, a stop-gap
measure to buy time.  The real work, slow and unglamorous, grows out of
compassion..and co-creating a better world."

I’ve always been kind of a quiet environmentalist.  I have these deep, inherent, but little exhibited beliefs that we should all do what we can to reduce our footprint on the planet, save the air and the water for the people coming after us, clean and renew the soul of the earth, live with less and live better.  But I never really identified with the whole hippie-tree-hugging-non-armpit-shaving-birkenstock-wearing- stripey-wool-socks-vegetarian stereotypes (though I have actually known people like this) that our culture pedals as the sole option for anyone wanting to be more green-minded.  I mean, these kind of people work for peanuts in struggling non-profits and have bad fashion sense and continual and overwhelming bouts of crippling anxiety, right?

Well, since I’ve known a few people like this in DC, I’m here to tell you that some of them do.  But I don’t.  I might, if I really sat down and thought about how we are running this planet like a business in liquidation, using up resources as fast as we can and killing off marvelous plant and bird-life at a brisk clip.  (Well, I might experience overwhelming bouts of crippling anxiety is what I mean.  But I will never exhibit bad fashion sense.  Please.  I am Chanelbaby.)  But I don’t have enough emotional bandwidth for that.  I can’t afford any more anxiety, stress, or paralysing fear in my life.

I am a new kind of environmentalist.  Or perhaps I should say, I am a unique kind of environmentalist, and probably one of a growing trend.  Or perhaps even more accurately, I should say, I have recently discovered that I AM an environmentalist, or at least a conservationist.  I am outraged enough by how badly we are poisoning this beautiful home of ours that I want to make CHANGES.  I want to live as green as I can without making my own clothes out of hemp and brushing my teeth with baking soda.  I don’t care if this means I still might seem a hypocrite in the eyes of extremists for refusing to live without air-conditioning in DC in August, or for continuing to eat lovely lovely steak and sausage.  But I intend to do what I can, and stay the course, and get greener over time.

I shall leave you with the following:

"What must be conserved before anything else is the desire in ourselves for Home—for harmony, peace, and love, for growth in nature and in our imaginative powers—because unless we keep this alive, we shall lose everything."

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Cruel Summer

This has been a most miserable summer.  I’ve had six job interviews and no job offers.  Its all I seem to think, talk, or write about these days and I’m heartily sick of it.  The Professor is fractious and cross, and lately flies into a rage whenever politics are discussed.  I’m not sure what is going on with him but I wonder and am puzzled.  Bartender Dude is struggling to find work, and our finances are drained.  We’ve had no money to do fun things, and it is SO HOT.  The whole of the country, it seems, is sweltering under an intense fog of shimmering heat.

I look at photographs of friends far away, and wonder if their lives are faring any better.  One thing that I have to remind myself when I’m miserable and thinking only of myself is that everyone has their struggles.  It is easy to feel as if everyone else has it together when your own plans seem to be disintegrating before your eyes.  But we could all use a little help, a little compassion, no matter how rosy things might look to outside eyes.

And life goes on.  We live in relative comfort, compared to the rest of the world.  We have enough to eat, and beds to lie in, and houses that are not being bombed to smithereens around us.  Bartender Dude brings home fresh flowers every Wednesday from the farmer’s market near his restaurant, despite the extravagance of the expense.  As I sit in the cool dark of our sitting room, the scent of lilies is all around me.

I’m ready for a break — a break from work, a break from worrying, a break from thinking about grappling chance into stability.  I’m ready to cast off my cares and sleep in and regroup.  August is upon us, and Lughnasa is in full swing.  A change is coming.  But before it does, Bartender Dude and I will pack up our swim trunks and sunblock and head to Myrtle Beach for a week — a WHOLE WEEK — to enjoy the last days of summer.

We’ll keep wrestling with this angel, and not let it go, till it bless us.

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