How to Survive in a Perfect Mess
When we talk about
settling the world’s problems,
we’re barking up the wrong tree.
The world is perfect. It’s a mess.
It has always been a mess.
We are not going to change it.
Our job is to straighten out
our own lives.
- Joseph Campbell
I just returned from visiting friends in Maine, a place famous as an August getaway for refugees from the east coast rat-race. Historically, those who got away to Maine were called “rusticators,” since they went to Maine to experience fresh air and the rustic life.
The Institute for Economics & Peace lists Maine number one in its United States Peace Index. They say Maine is the safest state in the union, and they suggest “peacefulness” is good for all economies and would save us hundreds of billions of dollars.
My friends live on the finger of a hand that extends into the sea. Their tidy house is surrounded by forest, and they are a short drive to several picturesque villages with lobster boats moored in their small harbors. While I was there my cell phone didn’t work, I didn’t check my emails and I didn’t read or watch any news for five days.
Then we drove home to our Philadelphia suburb and five days worth of New York Times, plus emails from several hundred people anguishing over one horror or another. Here’s just a partial list of the mess:
After making an effort to cut our addiction, the US is now relying on Saudi Arabian oil more than ever; the Egyptian president fired his armed forces chief and replaced him with a guy who publicly called for the removal of US military power from the Middle East and who said al Qaeda was an “international insurgency movement” motivated by grievances with US policy; young American Jews are flocking to join the Israeli Defense Force as right-wing Israeli leaders threaten to attack Iran before the US election; Syria is in flat-out civil war now spreading into Lebanon with both the US and al Qaeda supporting the same insurgent elements; in Afghanistan, 40 US soldiers are killed when two helicopters fall out of the sky (the Taliban say they shot the copters down, while the Pentagon tells us it was “mechanical difficulties.”)
Meanwhile, at home disgruntled Americans are shooting each other at alarming rates; “liberal” President Obama continues to pare down the Constitution by further restricting lawyers in Guantanamo as he continues to crack down on whistleblowers; all this as the Presidential campaign reaches a level of unprecedented absurdity and corruption.
We need to laugh at this stuff, lest we cry, or, heaven forbid, arm ourselves and join the ranks of the weapon-worshipping crazies in this country -- be they loners with a grudge or government operatives protecting their power bases. That is, those on either side of the law who feel the use of weaponry and physical force is a solution to anything rather than just another provocation adding to the mess.