Thursday, May 16, 2013


All is Vanity - Charles Allan Gilbert - 1892

Lately I have noticed that I'm at my most creative when I'm thinking up excuses not to write. This may be lamentable, but, if you think about it, at least I'm being creative.
My excuses are legion. They run the gamut from 'I'm still recovering from cancer and the disabling effects of all its attendant therapies' to 'the world is a mess, and nothing I have to say is going to change that so why bother?' The first is true enough, but less so each day. The latter is reminiscent at least of the opening verses of Ecclesiastes from whence we get the memorable phrase, 'all is vanity.'

...yet when I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly, I learned that this also is a chase after wind.
For in much wisdom there is much sorrow,
and he who stores up knowledge stores up grief. Eccl. 1 17:18
The world has become a scary place. Even when we lived under the constant threat of thermonuclear war and our teachers were explaining to us how to get under the desks in our classroom, we at least felt that there was some overarching good sense operating at the pinnacles of power that would prevent a final conflagration. The threat of global devastation and mutually assured self-destruction may have lessened somewhat in the intervening years, but the underlying assumption of logical decision-making has fled the scene.
There is no operative wisdom or knowledge at the pinnacles of power anymore, nor anywhere else either it would seem. I offer the following as anecdotal evidence:
  • In an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Monday, former Vice President, Dick Cheney, called last year's attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi “one of the worst incidences, frankly, that I can recall in my career.” I'd say that Cheney's recall is pretty bad. If he is talking about terrorist attacks, he has conveniently forgotten the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 which I submit were decidedly worse. If he is talking about lying to cover up alleged high crimes and misdemeanors, then he has conveniently forgotten Saddam Hussein's illusory weapons of mass destruction and the deliberate outing of CIA operative, Valerie Plame, for political vengeance and the following cover-up.
  • On April 19, 2013 twenty or so police officers in Watertown, MA fired several hundred rounds of ammunition into a boat containing Boston Bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev was subsequently found to be unarmed and already grievously wounded from a shootout the night before, where he was also either unarmed or armed only with a pellet gun. The police, in a rather dramatic display of incompetent marksmanship failed to kill the boy. They were subsequently lauded as heroes. Sean Hannity, yes the same Hannity who failed to call Dick Cheney out for his memory lapses in my preceding point, remarked that he was convinced that the unarmed Tsarnaev had shot himself in the throat in order to avoid having to incriminate himself in a police interrogation.
  • The National Rifle Association held its annual convention in Houston May 3-5, 2013. The meeting was largely self-congratulatory in its celebration of the defeat of a Senate bill to expand background checks into people seeking to purchase firearms in the wake of the most recent gun violence tragedies. In spite of the NRA's repeated and vociferous insistence that 'guns don't kill people, people kill people,' they are nevertheless quite proud of their ability to squash any attempt to determine whether or not people who want to own guns are in fact mentally stable and law abiding enough to qualify. Apparently they feel that the best way to demonstrate an individual's lack of responsibility with respect to gun ownership is after they have killed a slew of innocents. Trying to do it beforehand would be unconstitutional. Shoring up the organization's claim to intellectual clarity and philosophical integrity, key addresses were given by Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Glenn Beck. Nugent's comments were evidently so stimulating that they had to be given in a closed session. No media allowed. Glen Beck's keynote address lasted 2 hours, and yet no one took advantage of the extended opportunity to pull the plug on his microphone.
  • Of 10,000 scientists who have expressed a view, 98.4 percent agree with the consensus that global warming is real and is caused by humans. In spite of this overwhelming scientific support for the concept of anthropogenic global warming, however, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas felt compelled by his Tea Party ethos to have a reference to 'climate change' stricken from an otherwise innocuous Senate resolution commemorating International Women's Day. Cruz believes that even if there were such a thing as global warming, which there most likely is not, its author is God rather than man. Presumably he also believes that God has visited climate change upon us in some sort of divine retribution for having elected a Kenyan Islamic Socialist as president, and shame on us. Interestingly, the stricken reference made no mention of the cause of climate change, but only said that the women of impoverished nations were generally the first to feel its effects. This would be true even if global warming were widely held to be a cyclical phenomenon, which, clearly, the scientific community no longer believes. Cruz, a Harvard graduate, must be causing conniptions in the halls of academia for his singular lack of reading comprehension skills.
  • In the wake of Angelina Jolie's announcement about her double mastectomy a surprising number of people, many of them women, feel sorry for Brad Pitt. Really?! This is all garnered from Twitter feed, and surely most of these comments come from the shallow end of the gene pool, but, again, really?! Do people honestly believe that the only thing Angelina Jolie has to offer Brad Pitt is her breasts? Is it any wonder that, this being for so many people apparently the best and highest expression of a romance, over half of marriages end in divorce? Is this the real reason that so many people are against gay marriage—not enough or too many breasts to sustain a meaningful relationship? I don't know.
          I'd like to weigh in on these issues, but frankly I'm baffled by it all. To think that I could change this level of ignorance, that I could somehow lift these dolts out of the morass would be the ultimate vanity. I know at the end of the day that I'm not going to change anything. Still I feel burdened to try. I say in my profile that one ought to leave the world a better place than one found it and that it's okay to fail at this, but it's not okay not to try. This is a good way to live, but it's not a path to euphoria.
          Perhaps this is why Qoheleth opines in Ecclesiastes, 'in much wisdom is much sorrow.' Perhaps this is why he says, 'A thankless task has God appointed for men to be busied about.' Let's be honest. This probably requires more thought and less writing, don't you agree?

1 comment:

  1. True, but rather somber. When I begin to fret over all those things I can do nothing about, and feel puny about those I can, I grab a history book. While as a species, we may not survive this group of global idiots, I take comfort in the fact that we have survived many others along the way.
    However, I am in favor of whatever topic gets your keys clacking.


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