I spend a good bit of time looking for the right word. It is not easy, finding the right word. It is hard work. But, if you watched me, you’d say I wasn’t doing anything. “Hell, Jim,” you’d say. “You aren’t working! You are just sitting there, drinking coffee! I could build an entire Habitat house, by myself, in the time it takes you to write a book.” Which would make it harder work for me to continue sitting, drinking coffee, looking for the right word. And, it would not be made easier by the fact that sometimes I walk, looking for the right word. I’ve been known to walk for several miles before finding one that would do. But, it still doesn’t look like work.
The hardest thing about finding the right word is giving myself permission to look. And, to go on looking. Even though it doesn’t look like I’m doing anything. Even though what I have when I find it doesn’t look as though I’ve done anything. Particularly when there are Habitat houses to be built, and food to be served to the poor and hungry (Why don’t they ever serve themselves? What are we doing to instill dependency and helplessness in the poor and hungry when we traipse down to the soup kitchen, prepare the meal, serve the meal, and clean up after the meal? Why don’t we buy the food and have them divide into teams to prepare, serve, and clean up? Surely, it’s done like that somewhere. But, lest you accuse me of smoke screening to hide my shiftless, lazy ways, I’ll ease back into the point), or just my desk to be organized and cleaned up. There is much opposition, resistance, internal and external, to overcome, if I am to sit successfully and search for words. And there are no words, I know because I have looked, that will suffice when you accuse me of being a slacker and a layabout because I’m not hauling concrete blocks and hammering away at Habitat. I cannot adequately defend, explain, justify, or excuse myself for sitting while you are out there doing something. And, I cannot not do it.
It is what I do. And, when I am not doing it, I am likely to be taking photographs (You can check them out at http://www.outlandspress.com/). Which is something else I cannot defend, explain, justify, or excuse. I do not remember how many photos I have exhibited on area walls to this point in the year, probably 60 to 75, up in small quantities from a week to two months. I think three have sold. You can see, I don’t do it for the money. I can see that I really should be doing something more practical and useful in the service of humankind. How much longer will I continue to frame photos that my children will have to dispense with when I am gathered to my ancestors? Probably, not much longer. But, I will continue to take photographs, stupid as it seems, for no other reason that because I must. I don’t know why. It is what I do.
And, it is hard work. There is nothing easy about it. And the hardest thing is justifying it to myself, and continuing to do it anyway, nevertheless, even so, even though it would be easier to say the hell with it and do something that did some good.
What about you? What do you do? What is the work that you must do, even though it is hard? And, the hardest thing about it is the resistance, the opposition, internal and external, to it because it doesn’t look like much, or because it may not be much? What must you do? Are you doing it? Will you do it, crazy as it seems, for no other reason than because you must?
I would love to know what drives evolution. Fear of extinction? I wonder if life is driven by the anxiety of death. Even if it doesn’t “know” what its motive is? It seems to have a built in intention. It seems to be not satisfied ever with a particular “state of being.” It’s always toward more and greater complexity, fecundity. Not even consciousness was enough, it seems. We are moving on, who knows where, maybe into consciousness, into awareness, into the peace of “just being.” But, it doesn’t seem that we are built to “just be.” We seem to be built to continue at all costs. To reproduce, and spread out, and cover the earth, so that a catastrophe in one area doesn’t reduce our capacity to continue in all other areas.
And, how does spirituality fit into the evolutionary scheme of things? Is there another dimension? Is there something beyond the physical universe? A “God-realm”? With spirits, and angels, and demons, and the Satan, and the souls of the departed? Is what we call spirituality a function of consciousness? Is consciousness a receptor of the “other realm”? I hate questions we cannot figure some way to answer.
Here’s another: What is the evolutionary advantage to the recognition of and admiration of beauty? Beauty is a “strange attractor” if there ever was one! And, we will probably never get to the bottom of it, of any of it. What helps? What “works”? I can see the practical advantage of telling ourselves what helps and works. And, I can see the practical advantage of living toward the good of the whole. But, I would love to know if evolution is driven by something, toward something, more than the urge to continue. And, I would love to know if life dies, or if it is only the life-form that goes. Mystery abounds. We tell ourselves things that make as much sense as we can imagine, and go on. We tell ourselves whatever it takes to go on. We come from a process that believes it is essential to go on. The least we can do is cooperate.
Ideas are created right out of the air. The Preacher who said there is nothing new under the sun was a sour old cynic. Polio vaccine. How’s that for new? Or the Mars rovers? Or chicory in coffee? I could spend the rest of my life, and beyond, walking around among ideas. Democracy. How’s that? Romantic love? Chocolate chip cookies. Now, that’s an idea for you! How can anyone be sour and cynical with ideas in the mix? Who knows what we are going to think of next? That alone should be enough to keep us going!
My friend Bill Hamilton picked up a “Star Magazine” from the table in the coffee shop yesterday. The cover was covered with enticements for articles within about which starlet was carrying which star’s baby, and how well, or poorly, which starlet was recovering from which star’s betrayal and abandonment, and which star/starlet was on what diet. And, he said, “This is what the world sees about us. This, and George Bush, and David Letterman, and Pat Robertson, and Martha Stewart. It’s no wonder they don’t respect us. They fear our military power. They see what we have done in Afghanistan and Iraq. But they have no respect for us. There is nothing respectful about what they see about us.”
Who are the honorable Americans? The “respectable” Americans? Where are they hiding? Why is our society, our culture, so damn shallow? So cheap? What has become of class, and taste, and style? Where are the statesmen and the female equivalent? Look at the things we laugh at, the ways we spend our time. Who can be proud of these things? Who can hold these things up and say, “This how it ought to be”? Who can think that the American Way of Life is anything worth passing along to the next generation? How can we be anything other than ashamed of who we are, of who we have become, of the fact that there is nothing more to us?