Thinking, writing, reading don’t go so well when there’s not enough heat, which is my situation. With an abundance of caution, the gas heater installation is going slowly. Maybe it would have been faster if I’d accepted the LIEAP’s handyman installer, but probably also more dangerous. It becomes abundantly clear that the stability and safety of gas depends on close supervision. Even if it doesn’t explode, there are factors like fumes that affect your thinking. Last winter I was warmer, but sometimes my thinking was a bit bonky.
Even with an alert mind and so on, these are surreal times, guided by an insane old man who demands unreal and impossible things. Today it was ordering Puerto Rico to vote for him, though it’s not a state and has no vote — which is why he has stiffed them all along. And yet people in the voting United States still tell the polls that they are going to vote for him, even as he does a bear dance down a cat walk in Florida, even though he’s inflated and fragile as a soap bubble, high on drugs. If he was elected because of hatred of Hilary, it begins to seem as though he’s still President because of distrust of Pence.
In other words, we’re being defined by things that aren’t there, negatives that can’t be pinned down and addressed. At least I made a little headway on the laundry that couldn’t be done for lack of quarters and from lack of courage to go to the laundromat because it is a hotspot for Covid-19. The lack of a washing machine is almost irrelevant.
Perhaps the disappearance that affects me most is the vanishing of so many assumptions about what is right, good, dependable, and permanent. Knocking down the big bronze monuments that have become the targets of those who disagree are supposed to insult the dead people they portray or at least offend those who make them heroes. But one of the first things one realizes when dealing with famous bronze monuments is that they are like the “swords/plowshares” pendulum in which statues are melted down to make cannons and cannons are melted down to make memorials to war heroes. Sometimes the cannons are as famous as the people in the statues.
Technology does not lend itself to this pattern since silicon (which is melted sand) is only meaningful if it is etched with human logic patterns. But the logic itself can be melted, shifted, reframed, transformed. Something like that seems to be happening right now. Maybe. They say there’s too much info to get onto a chip.
More obviously, the population has gotten so big that it’s unmanageable. In fact, the country of the United States may be too big to manage. People are reflecting on whether we ought to disunite the States. They are not at all logical — too large, too small, too balky, too free. There is no unity except money from Washington, D.C. which isn’t even a state.
But while one thing disappears, something else forms, often invisibly. When I was trying to understand why Valier, a small town in size and area, is always short of funds while being situated in the middle of a place full of rich grain farms, cattle herds and oil wells, I finally came upon the idea of service districts which are the real source of infrastructure: electricity, gas, sewage, roads, telephone, cell towers for internet, schools, churches; distribution patterns for gas, groceries, mail and appliances. These have different shapes and boundaries.
Each has its own governance and relationships with end points. This is what has become irrational, capricious, and troublesome — and yet it works somehow. In fact, it responds to change. Browning invented its own “white town” police force to meet the disorder after WWII, and now the town itself is dissolved after decades of fighting the county white people and the distant federal forces on grounds that they are the tribes business. It’s not the same place at all.
Nor is this the same planet. Everyone is feeling it, everyone trying to hang onto the familiar and innovate at the same time. We’re standing athwart our own toes, frozen because of fear of taking steps that might have worse consequences.
In Portland two statues came down last night, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Whether that’s an atrocity or a triumph depends on how you look at it. The men themselves are one thing and it would be interesting to analyze why they are admired. One could take Roosevelt’s horse’s point of view, which would be interesting. (What was its name?) Or reflect on the phenomenon of heroic-sized bronzes in parks, which is a major feature of the Boston Commons, one of the examples that Portland tries to follow.
The city came close to being named Boston. From this point of view, why should a port city in Oregon be so influenced by an old city on the East Coast? (Money.) Why is there no statue of Dr. John McLoughlin, who did so much to shape the region? Why has no one pulled down the statue of Sacajawea? (I shouldn’t say that — it’ll give those woman-haters ideas.) Why is it easier to make statues to faraway people?
Ten years in the ministry trying to understand congregations, esp small ones, has been informative. When I began, Russ Lockwood — the district exec — told the people that the success of the effort depending on everyone participating. Looking at the fates of the fellowship, some snuffing out and some expanding, this could be what made the difference. It’s the key to democracy. The groups who depended on a few conscientious people to plan gradually found that they lost interest, no longer felt the group was theirs.
City people who come to small rural towns often complain that there is nothing to do. They mean there is nothing that is presented to them: no spectacles, nothing to watch, no museums or opera or even movie houses. Of course, technology has made it possible to sit passively on couches or computer chairs and let the world happen to them. But then you don’t get to choose what the world will be like.
I’m looking forward to reading Steve Benen’s book, “Imposters”, about how the Republicans so easily shut down the USA by doing nothing and preventing everyone else from doing anything. But what do I read that explains how we get them out of the way and go into the future? How do we kindle? What is the fuel?