Friday, April 19, 2013

Return to Basics

“No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” Almost as if to convey to us just that message from the famous poem, “Desiderata,” yesterday a quite young Black Swallowtail butterfly appeared. It landed on our flowering pussy willow tree and stayed a while to feed on the nectar  it found there. Then, briskly, it flew away again.

The times now are unusually turbulent. The Boston Marathon disaster consumes our media. Even the weak attempt to curb our gun-use failed in the Senate. Almost as if it were a vast collective “meaningful coincidence,” a fertilizer plant blew up in tiny West, Texas and killed ten times as many people (and still counting) as died in the marathon bombing. Once more we hear about the cowardice of our attackers and the heroism of our police and fire-fighters. And quite undeserved and cloying flattery comes from the mouths of our leaders suggesting our own unique exceptionalism—attempting to pump up our morale and trying to show that the center is still holding. But quite another smell rises with the smoke. These very attempts to manage the collective emotion suggest something else. President Obama’s focus on children—and the horror of their death in terrorist attacks—causes us to wonder how many equally innocent children died in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen thanks to the deployment of our own sleek drones.

Relativism, pragmatism, materialism left to storm unchecked eventually produce a state in which madness comes to be the norm—and it seems that only the steadying of egotism and of our self-regard will permit us to “finish the race.”

Contemplating all of this with involuntary shudders made me think: Valuable books repay rereading. So, last night, I picked up once more E.F. Schumacher’s book, A Guide for the Perplexed, to remind myself how things really are—and where the path begins back from the chaos to an ordered life. The more the chaos mounts, the more people will set foot on that path and begin the pilgrimage we sorely need.


  1. Well put, I'm afraid.

    I am finding the sunshine helpful in keeping my thoughts on the hear and now. This was especially crucial last week, as the media went completely insane and lost all perspective. What won't they do for ratings?

    Anyway, I am happy to report that we, too, saw butterflies in the yard for the first time this year. It was yesterday and they were, I think, Checkered Whites. Soothing, indeed.

    For further re balancing, perhaps I will pull out my copy of A Guide for the Perplexed this evening.


    1. The book is quite amazing, perhaps more so after quite a long time: because so much has changed. You won't be sorry for the time you invest in a re-read. Delighted to hear about the butterflies in your "colder" climate!

  2. Thanks for the intro to Schumacher's book. It looks to be very interesting.

    SPIEGEL Online has a pictorial on neo-fascist politics in Greece and the boost it gets from austerity...

    As chaos mounts, it will be a race between the two divergent points of view to whatever obscure finish line there may be.

    1. Those images, Montag, certainly remind us that certain patterns of behavior are never erased in humanity. They emerge when the stimuli are right. Fascism is overcome in the individual, never in the collective--one of Schumacher's themes in that book of his.


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