Letter From New York October 20, 2009

Or, as it seems to me…

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has issued dire warnings that failure to create an agreement at the Copenhagen Conference in December will result in even more dire consequences to be revealed in weather catastrophes. As I read his dreary statements [and Gordon Browne seems a dreary sort to begin with] I wondered [and here I must admit I was pushed toward this thought by the musings of my friend, the writer/philosopher Howard Bloom], is there no hope in the world? Have we become ostriches with heads in the sand because we hear no one saying there is hope anywhere? It is dire out there, whether climate changes are happening naturally, are being accelerated by human actions or are solely the result of human actions, we are living on a planet that seems to be going through a…change? Menopause? Something. Something is happening and to shrug it off is irresponsible as is ignoring it, as it is acting as if we are as doomed as the passengers on the Titanic after its brush with an iceberg.

While it is true that something significant is happening climate wise, it is untrue that it is completely out of our control. We are a remarkable race that consistently does remarkable things, often when our backs are against the wall [why do our backs have to be against the wall?]. So where in this desert of despair in which we so often seem to be living do we find a voice of hope? Who is going to stand up and say, yes, we can! [Oh wait! Obama said that and for a moment we thought we could and now seem to be slipping back into ennui, a tenebrous state of enervation. In others words: dark, gloomy, exhausted, without much hope.] And while it is more than a tad gloomy out there, we have survived gloomy periods before.

The Great Recession is not infrequently compared with the Great Depression, eighty years ago and there are some striking similarities. Now that was a pretty gloomy time also – and in the end the west pulled itself out from that period’s ennui through the vastly unpleasant shock of World War II, an event that united individuals and nations in a common cause against a frightful enemy. Do we, today, have to be that confrontationally threatened to wake up and react? Perhaps.

We have challenges in front of us [and, in fact, more challenges than we might actually need (certainly more than I personally want)] and we need right now a someone [thank you, Howard Bloom] to stir us with the same passion that John F. Kennedy stirred us with when he said: ask not what your country can do for you but what can you do for your country. It has been nearly fifty years since those words were spoken and yet they still have the power to excite and move and stir us in the fiber of our beings, a call to something beyond ourselves.

According to promos I saw on television this week, this is a week of volunteerism, a celebration of getting out and doing for someone else. God knows we have a lot of people who need doing for [I read a report of a 97 year old woman who is living in her car] and we have a lot of people who need to be doing, to stir themselves out of that ennui, the tenebrous state of enervation, out of the dark and gloomy space which really surrounds us but which we do not necessarily need to be victim to…

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