Friday, June 18, 2010

How To Weather A Storm

First, you have to live on a farm. Then you have to notice that it has gotten really dark in the middle of the day or that the sky is kinda a funny color and that the tops of the trees in the shelter belt are bent over about ninety degrees. Someone should say loudly "We should probably go to the basement." Someone should root around the junk drawer for candles and matches while someone else roots around the tool drawer for flashlights and spare batteries. Someone should go to the shop to get the men and someone should go to Grandma's to get her and hold her elbow while they rush across the lawn to the house. They should stop with her to comment on the trees. Everyone should convene in the basement. Discussion should ensue as to which corner they are supposed to be in. Someone should attempt to figure it out scientifically based on which direction weather patterns generally travel and someone should counter that with how it comes from every direction at some point when the tornado spiral is passing over. There should be discussion of the strongest part of the basement structure and dangerous things like the fuel oil tank and the gas water heater. One of the men should get curious and go upstairs to take a look-see. The other men should join after he doesn't come down after a bit. One of the women should dash upstairs for the camera and go out and stand behind the men and ask if they can see anything yet. The other women should get curious and go up. This leaves the kids and Grandma, who is just as curious and powerless to stop the kids from joining the rest in the front yard. She should make one kid stay back to help her get up the steps so she can see. When everyone is in the front yard watching, if there is or has been hail, someone should find a couple of the biggest pieces to put in the freezer. After it dies down, everyone should get in the car and drive around to look for crop damage and watch the water rushing through the ditches along the highways. The final stop should be that one place where the slope of the highway is misleading and it looks like the water is flowing uphill in the ditch. Then everyone should go home and have snacks. Remember to offer that Grandma should come in for snacks too and remember to help her back home afterwards. Go check on the hail stones in the freezer in the morning.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Missing Martha

"I couldn't save you."

First we didn't know each other. We were miles apart in every way. When we met, we didn't think we liked each other much. We thought we knew each others' "type" and thought we didn't like people like that. We got to know each other and found common ground in kids and a certain irreverent joy in life. We grew closer when we joined forces against a shared adversity. We learned to depend on each other for certain kinds of support, the kind you turn to when things seem out of control and all crisis-ey, when you need someone to feel sorry for you while at the same time spinning the thing into proper perspective so that you know what you knew all along and that is that you will survive this too. She needed so much after the accident and I had only so much to give without damaging myself. But I wanted to save her. I wanted to make her whole again. Once, I asked about her at the nurses station and I thought from the look she gave me from behind her computer screen, the nurse knew what I didn't what to admit yet: She would never be whole after this. I did what I could. But in the end, I lost her to the damage. I miss her. Sometimes not for days or weeks and then, sometimes, really hard. You do what you can but sometimes, even your best isn't enough.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Are Humans Warlike?

It has been suggested that humans are inherently warlike and that our future as a species will always include war. Some agree with me by saying "Yes, there will always be evil in the world that we will need to fight." But is war ever an answer to any evil? Or is it just a counter-evil? Are there other options? Are there always other options? Do we seek hard enough for options?

I listen to popular music and look around at society and what we do with our time and what we value and how we motivate ourselves and what we care about, and I am left agreeing that yes, humans have an insatiable desire for conflict that will always lead to war somewhere and at some time. I don't like that answer, but I can find nothing to justify any other opinion.

We love to rally ourselves together into a larger force and that rallying usually, in order to be FOR something, needs to be AGAINST something else. We are not just FOR a cleaner environment, we are AGAINST big oil and cancer causing chemicals and litter and suburban sprawl. We are not just FOR better health, we are AGAINST cancer and influenza and mental illness. We cheer on sports teams even more energetically if they are battling a long time rival that we can be clearly against. The more succinctly we can put a label and a cause on the thing we are against, the happier we are and the more 'good' we think we have done against it ant its 'evil'.

We love to have heroes and heroes have to have a foe and that foe has to come from within an enemy camp. Sure we can have a teacher as a hero, but often even that hero is most known for fighting AGAINST something like gangs in the school or a certain learning disability as opposed to just teaching more and better.

We tried team building in corporations but if the team was FOR a better product, the concept did little to motivate. If the team was placed in opposition to come competitor outside company, or if internal teams could be challenged to excel in come metric against internal teams, the concept lead to harder work and better quality. The 'enemy' had to be in place for the team to rally!

We love to insist that there is a 'force' of 'evil', but often the things we describe as evil are just the same things we do or reward in others. The Muslim terror bomber is giving their life for their God that wants them to act out against what they perceive is an evil of a world gone too materialistic, i.e. US, and yet, we see THEM as evil. At the same time, we revere the 'good' saints who give their lives literally as martyrs for their god or give their lives over to the service to their god. Maybe there is not evil at all, but just an exaggeration and perversion of normal human desires to accumulate goods, to accumulate territory, to protect turf, to protect family. The desire for power in the business world or in a service organization is called ambition and drive and is regarded as a good thing, but the desire for power in some sort of anti-government group is given other labels. But when the same mechanism is at work for something we do not agree with, how can it be called evil when it is admired in another context?

It is easy to think of a world divided by good and evil, but it is more difficult to accept that maybe the person we label evil is doing the same things we are but due to different motivations. It is easy to bomb and shoot, but it is more difficult to find ways that we can peacefully coexist over mutually desired outcomes. Can we find ways to convince the 'enemy' to disengage in behaviors we don't like by finding motivations for other behaviors?

When you get right down to it, most forces we call 'evil' are doing what they are doing for reasons that look and sound a lot like ours, to improve a situation for their people, their families, to glorify or defend their god. In fact, sometimes, they see us as the force of 'evil'. It hardly seems like violence is the answer in that case and it hardly seems like there will or even should be a clear 'winner'. Perhaps tolerance and conversation and more tolerance and more conversation would lead to a discovery of more in common with each other and less judging and labelling?

We somehow think our bombing and shooting is 'good' but can it ever really be?

Peace is hard work and I am frankly not sure we as humans really want it. We love a cause, we love our heroes, we love to have an enemy, we love to have things we can label 'evil' in contrast to the 'good' that we believe we possess and which possesses us.

Maybe if we ADMIT we love our war, then we can work harder to not use it? If we keep insisting we hate war, will we just keep allowing ourselves to justify using it in yet another 'exceptional' case, this one last time.

Do we indeed love war, and at what cost? Young lives lost, young bodies mutilated, young minds scarred. What will it take to make our love of the cause, the hero, the glory of victory, be outweighed by the love of our own individual people? What will make us give up our warring human ways?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You Never Forget Your First Love

A blue VW convertible passed me the other day and I was reminded once again of my very first love. I am not in general a fan of blue, except in my babies' eyes or maybe a blue Hawaiian shirt on a salt and pepper haired man of a certain age, but your first love never stops triggering a certain feeling. My license to drive was just fresh in my wallet and we were on a family boondoggle to Watertown, South Dakota, when we stopped in to kill time at the Dodge dealership. It was my first inkling that my parents had been entertaining privately the idea of getting me a car, and I was too naive in the ways of car dealing to know that we were unlikely to actually walk, er, drive, out of the showroom with anything new that day, so I allowed myself to fall in love. It was a little sporty thing, and those more wise in the popular models of the time would know exactly what it was, but it was baby blue with navy blue accent trim and an ivory interior. They had me get in and try out the fit. Yeah! I could SEE myself cruising main street in that baby, I could SEE myself pulling into the school parking lot in that baby. I could SEE me in MY new car! And so, even though baby blue is far down on my list of favorite colors, always forevermore, a certain size car of a certain sweet pale blue will always make my heart flutter, just a little.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May the earth hold you safely in the hollow of her hand.