finally

though I cannot do whatever I like, I will tell you about it. I wish to live in a quiet little village where everyone walks and I never have to be without my dogs. there I wish to husband plants & animals to our mutual benefit and live as simply as one can in this world. I would like a partner in this who also likes to fool around with a smile whenever the chance arises (for this desire is terribly strong in me unfortunately). in my free time I should like to romp & play and especially work at the arts, for they are the truest expression of what lies within the soul. if I could see both the sea and the mountains, that would be best, but I will take one or the other if I must. I wish there to be no cars, no disparity of wealth, and, most importantly, no dishonesty. here I will live solely to the advantage of others, and, by their doing likewise, we shall all prosper. my neighbor will police me, as I him, such that there will be no need for citizens on patrol or laws of any kind, and no doors will be closed to me behind which the evilest of action may be hidden. in all, I should like to reside in God’s dream during the day and rest my mind nightly, rather than be plagued, both awake and asleep, by nightmare.

Tragedy of American Culture

Rain keeps falling, the very heavens weeping as our community mourns the loss of a child, taken too soon by a culture that values presumed convenience and a romanticized notion of personal liberty over a young person’s life.

Is the individual who caused this at fault? Of course. We must all be accountable to our actions. But there is something deeper going on here as well. Why is a man driving intoxicated through an area where people live and play in the middle of the day? Is this due entirely to his personal failing? It is easy to say it is, to escape our own complicity in this tragedy. But it would not be true.

Like those caused by guns, which similarly account for 12 deaths per 100,000 people in this country each year, this death was caused not only by an individual but also by an instrument, one glorified and perpetuated in our society. This instrument, the automobile, is the leading cause of death in the first three decades of life, followed immediately by self-inflicted gunshot wound.

By contrast, the country of France has 2.83 firearm- and 5.5 traffic-related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Why the disparity? Sheer numbers, brought about by cultural orientation. In other words, an obsessive infatuation with the car and gun. The United States has by far the highest concentration of firearms, a world leading 120 per 100 inhabitants, compared to 15 per 100 for France. And we travel double the road miles, 13000 vehicle kilometers per capita versus 6200 for the French.

It is important to note here that the French have one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the world, at 12 litres per capita per year. In comparison, the rate in the United States is 9. It should also be said that the ratio of urban to rural population in the two countries is essentially the same, at approximately 80% urban. This by way of dispelling the notion that alcohol is to blame for this tragedy or that automobiles are a necessity here more than France.

No, we in this country simply prefer owning guns and driving cars to protecting its youth.

Reflections

The thing about our time is that these constructs we interact with online are not real but virtual, so they are merely reflections of ourselves. We don’t like a YouTuber; we like what that YouTuber says about us. There is something about ourselves that we see in them. That is what we like. A reflection that we identify with.

Getting Back to Normal is the Last Thing We Need

When I think about the coronavirus pandemic, my mind often wanders to what I would be doing did it not exist. Going about my business. Continuing to be a cog in the machine. Perpetuating the status quo.

Is that what we want?

In our rush to get back to “normal”, are we perhaps overlooking the possibility that normal is precisely the problem?

Personally, I don’t want normal. I never have. And I certainly don’t want to get back to it.

Have you ever considered the impetus behind the massive appeal of the troves of aspirational media on the internet – photo blogs, Tumblr, Instagram? These microcosms of alternative reality – cosplay, virtual reality, van life, nostalgia. Could the source of their allure be because we find the real world, the one we have literally constructed around us, completely unfulfilling?

Ever since we ceased having to constantly struggle to merely survive, there has existed the opportunity to create, with intention, a built environment that doesn’t only meet our basest needs, but actually serves to evoke within us positive emotions – inspiration, creativity, courage, joy.

I have long considered what might result from the following experiment: ask everyone to render, in whatever medium they chose, their ideal landscape. The image they see when they look out their window, gaze upon their home or neighborhood, walk out their front door.

I suspect the vast majority of them would appear strikingly similar.

In my mind, there exists an image of a perfect world. I often think about what keeps me from realizing it.

When I watch scenes on the news or video clips captured on smartphones on the internet, I am struck by how unnatural and uninspiring the settings I see featured in them appear to me. Gray. Monochrome. Uniform. Concrete.

Contrast this with the image that we imagined above. Or any image from your favorite influencer or visual artist on Instagram. 

Do the two images evoke similar emotions in you? I doubt it. 

So why not? And, more importantly, what can we do about it?

The coronavirus has brought the “all stop” to the economic juggernaut that my wife and climate scientist Dr. Steven Running told me was utterly impossible and potentially disastrous. With that achieved, getting “back to normal” is the very last thing I want to do.