The Big Picture in Slow Motion

Expanded from the 1-2-2005 Daily Sparks Tribune
1-7-2005 Comstock Chronicle

"there's a helluva good universe next door. let's go." e.e. cummings

Where there's life, there's hope and both seem to be losing propositions right now.

The past year brought all manner of disasters wrought by the hands of men or the mythological maker of men.

Our agonies and ecstasies do so confuse and define us. Quizzical Christian Emily Dickinson quite properly questioned the pain extracted as the price of living: "Was it not He who suffered?"

Her question begs all the clichéd answers: Jesus suffered for our sins but we need to learn from our mistakes, so sharing in divinity means bleeding and dying.

That particular holy of holies seems overpriced.

Alas, apparently not even the execution of an incarnated god can balance the cosmic scales. Fills me with questions about the thumb thereon.

Our local butcher shop is majestically egalitarian. You may amass all the wealth and power which your motivated little mind can imagine, but you'll enjoy it all for less than an eyelash-bat of time before the house rules force you to cash in your chips.

So (back to clichés) if we're here to learn, if the journey matters, not the destination, what's the big picture? Herewith the attempt of one small mind from a small planet to widen the perspective.

GOD IS A COMEDIAN PLAYING TO AN AUDIENCE TOO AFRAID TO LAUGH. Voltaire said it and we still won't learn from it. The ability to laugh at irony and absurdity is the most powerful defense mechanism in our mental arsenals. How else will we be able to take four more years of Dubya and his dunces?

SUFFERING IS TOLERABLE BECAUSE IT ACTUALLY LASTS AN EXTREMELY SHORT TIME. (Hope this helps, Emily.) We hurtle through space at tremendous speeds. The earth rotates around the sun at about 67,000 miles per hour while spinning on its axis at more than 1,000 mph. You thus arguably live your very brief life in extremely slow motion. (The few who can slow perception down a bit further have the ability to hit a fastball and make lots of money.) When viewed at proper speed, the drama of our existence becomes blindingly brief.

REJOICE AT THE UNIVERSAL COMPULSION TOWARD SELF-EXPRESSION. Web logs or blogs are only the most modern manifestation of the manic need of "this monster mannunkind" (cummings' term) to shout its existence from the desktop to the rooftop and the mountaintop. Nowadays, we even litter other planets with expensive little monuments to ourselves.

PAY THE GREATEST ATTENTION TO YOUR ARTISTS. They will speak truth to power, where warriors are slaves to power. People look to artists and philosophers when sweeping change or reform are needed, then fire them and hire technicians and accountants to run things back into the ground. The former Czechoslovakia produced playwright Vaclav Havel to lead the velvet revolution to democracy. Such a man could never win election in these parts, not even if he wrote screenplays about cowboy stock car drivers.

ONENESS WITH THE FATHER MEETS DARK MATTER. An open mind sees no conflict between religion and science. Small mentalities refuse to accept Darwinian evolution because it conflicts with their personal code of superstition. Modern physics has raised the specter of a resolution called Dark Matter. It appears that the composition of the known universe is about 90 percent such. Dark Matter aka Dark Energy crosscuts and interlards all that we are. It is all-powerful and unknowable. Does that description fit any subject you may have been taught in church? Didn’t some famous philosophers say that the kingdom of God is within you — and end up executed for saying so?

CONSIDER THE GROUNDHOG DAY CONUNDRUM. Abandon cosmic considerations of an ever-expanding universe and think of this small planet as a closed feedback loop. Have we destroyed ourselves before? Have we all been sentenced to keep re-living the same slo-mo movie until we get it right? Which judge sentenced us? The same one with a thumb on the scale in the cosmic butcher shop, perhaps?

MURDER AND MAYHEM CAN PRECEDE GENIUS AND BEAUTY. But it's gonna hurt like hell. Sometime in Y2K, a historian wrote that the 19th Century was the time of imperialism, the 20th Century brought an era of totalitarianism and this century will go down as the age of nationalism.

All may yet turn out well if we heed the Cassandras sent to warn us. An enlightened nationalism may be all that saves us from destroying ourselves again. In 1984, urban futurist Jane Jacobs asserted that empires sow the seeds of their own decline. As economies mature, importation of goods and services accelerates. (Sound familiar?) [1]

Her solution: break down into smaller and smaller sovereign entities, each with its own management feedback mechanism, better known as a national currency. [2] The Eurodollar experiment will soon test her theory, as will our increasing trade deficit and warmongering.

THE PROMISE OF THE AGE OF AQUARIUS. Enlightenment was supposedly at hand when we finally started to focus on the life of Christ rather than the death of Christ. Mel Gibson made the wrong movie and we're still waiting for the right one.

THE NEW YEAR'S PUNCH LINE. No one should be surprised at another catatonic disaster response by His Accidency the President. It's his style. Before Dubya reacts to clear and present danger, he stops cold to consult the good book that helped him through previous trying times: "My Pet Goat."

Hide your second-graders.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns...

1. Jacobs, Jane; "Cities and the Wealth of Nations"; The Atlantic, March, 1984; and "The Dynamic of Decline"; The Atlantic, April, 1984. "Cities and the Wealth of Nations" was also published in book form by Random House of Canada in 1984 and as a Vintage trade paperback in 1985.

2. Jacobs, Jane; "The Dynamic of Decline"; The Atlantic, April, 1984; page 110.

...and more ammo

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Copyright © 1982, 1984, 2003, 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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