Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Grumpy Old Man Replies to "Wake Me Up," Part II

Okay, I don't know why but it is taken me a little while to get my grump back on again.

As I wrote in part one of this post (link), I love the lyrics to this song. I also really like the song itself. I started getting grumpy when I watched the two music videos.

I must admit that if I had seen these 50 years ago I would've had a very different reaction. I would've focused solely on the beauty and the joy. But now I am disturbed by the narrative, particularly the narrative of the first video which is the official one. It supports ageism, lookism, and classism. It basically excludes all but the young and beautiful.

The other thing that disturbs me in both videos is that there is no evidence of a search for wisdom, only a search for joy. And joy, like hope, is quite suspect when we are in the process of making the planet uninhabitable.

No, I am not so grumpy as to want to banish hope and joy. I just want them to be mixed with grief and reflection. Our hope and joy will be deeper and richer once they have passed through the cauldron of anger and sadness.

So I say, wake me up now. I am sure to fall asleep again and cannot depend upon a single awakening to give me the wisdom to find true joy.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Grumpy Old Man Replies to "Wake Me Up," Part I

I love the lyrics to this song:
Wake Me Up
Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can't tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

They tell me I'm too young to understand
They say I'm caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes
Well that's fine by me

I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
I hope I get the chance to travel the world
But I don't have any plans

I wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
Life's a game made for everyone
And love is the prize

So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn't know I was lost

Now that does sound very grumpy does it? Well, grumpy comes in Part II. First I wish to express my appreciation for these lyrics.

The songwriter, Tim Bergling, AKA Avicii or Î›VICII, was born in 1989. As I was listening to the song, as I have done several times, I was blown away by the maturity of the lyrics and their applicability to me, a man more than twice his age.

I have recently had an awakening. Coming out of the period of fear and despair from knowing how terrible a planetary crisis we're and the likelihood that environmental degradation will continue to accelerate, I was feeling pretty hopeless. I was also feeling impotent because despite best efforts of many of us Earth becomes increasingly inhospitable to life, and there is good reason to believe that we are either past, at, or will soon reach the point of no return.

Thinking about the song and my depression reminded me of Parsifal, a version of The Legend of the Holy Grail. Parsifal while still a young man sees the Grail, but fails on his quest for it because he does not ask the question, "Who does the Grail serve?" He is still wearing his homespun under his armor, and he fails to ask the question because he was taught it was impolite ask questions

When he wakes up in the morning, the Grail Castle has disappeared, and he is forced to wander and face many challenges for decades before he develops the maturity in the confidence to be able to see the castle again.

Regardless of gender, many of us see a spark of divinity in our youth, but are too timid or too conforming to reach for it. We slog through midlife sometimes remembering and regretting our failure.

Old age is no easy journey either, but if we are very lucky, it may provide freedom for reflection and from the conformity into which we were raised. We reach point when we realize that it may be all over soon, so it's past time to wake up.

Waking up is not easy for most of us. Of course, even when we get a glimpse, a moment of insight, the temptation to go back to sleep is usually irresistible. Yet, over time, if we are blessed, our understanding of awakening and resting evolve.

Well, I've gone on long enough. I will save the grumpy for Part II. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Lions and Tigers and Sunflowers oh my

Believe it or not, the Wizard of Oz - both the book and the movie - predate me. (In fact, the book even predates my father's birth.)  The first time I saw the movie, it was on a very small screen black-and-white TV. I was young enough to wonder whether an "oh my" was something I should fear.

The Sunflower Alliance is of much more recent vintage.  It was formed to organize a protest on the first anniversary of the 2002 fire and explosion at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California. We chose the sunflower because we are told that sunflowers remove toxins from the soil.

One of my readers wrote a lovely note about expanding my concern with human extinction to nonhuman extinction. We are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction. My friends at the Center for Biological Diversity Convinced me that without biological diversity humanity was doomed to extinction. So my reader's comment was right on track.

Here's where things get a little sticky. while I am concerned about the extinction of other species, I am not as concerned as I am about the extinction of my own.

When I made the mistake of getting involved in climate and environmental justice, I was overwhelmed by the injustices I discovered. I also met many people who were very passionate about the justice issues in which they were engaged.

For a while, I was nervous as a longtailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Everywhere I turned there was another injustice calling my name. For a while, I made the stupid move of arguing that the issues that most concerned me were more important than the issues that concerned others. Now I am grateful for their passions, and I ask what will happen to their issue as the planet becomes increasingly uninhabitable. I also ask them how their issue relates to other issues so that we and others might work in solidarity. 

As someone once said, the ship is sinking and the poor and the underserved are on the lower decks. If we don't find a way to work in solidarity, we will all drown in the same ocean.