Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thoughts on a December 31

This morning I donned black rubber gloves and performed a delicate operation. The manual typewriter I have been using daily has been producing quite light type upon the page; and I needed to address some envelopes. So I changed the nylon ribbon.

This operation would seem ordinary to more people had a formal philosophy arisen, in response to Modern and Age of the Masses excesses, dedicated to understanding concepts of sufficiency and adequacy.

I say this because while changing the typewriter ribbon my mind filled with thoughts relating to some reading I did yesterday evening about catastrophic climate change, and the possibility of its occurrence soon. Our Mass Age already ranks as a geologic moment of mass extinction. With methane eruptions from the sea floor on the increase, a percentage of scientists see no reason to think humankind can avoid attending this particular party.

That old exhortation hits home: "Party till you drop."

I regard the typewriter as a sufficient and adequate tool for part of my daily work. Likewise the pencil—in my hand as I write these words. Later I will use the computer to edit and then post this entry, assuming I deem it worthy. In other words, I am still contributing to the energy-use landslide that has led us, in the end, to methane eruptions. All the same, in this process I have clung to methods that have served me my entire life, as they did prior generations.

My thoughts this morning led me simply to this: that if more people had clung to old tools that are sufficient and adequate, we might have delayed this outcome—by minutes, hours, days, years ...

Corporations, of course, could not allow any such clinging. Small businesses could, back when sufficiency and adequacy registered more readily upon our ethical, moral and pragmatic senses, or outlooks.

At this point anything we can do may be too little. Those of us who have lived small lives—who have ranked among the poor, from the view of greater society—wonder sometimes what more we can do. We already have led lives guided, in part, by principles formed around the notion that society has taken a decided turn toward waste, toward the synthetic, toward the exploitive—toward corporate, not public, health at the expense of the individual, and at the expense of our world. We have felt ourselves surrounded at nearly all times by others who have bought into a way of life created and promoted by corporations.

What we can do to decrease carbon emissions, in terms of changing personal practices, seems trivial compared to what these others might do—if they, for instance, suddenly as a mass rejected feedlot beef. Would they do such a thing, though? No. For too many, the time when it is verifiably too late will arrive as an inconvenience they will feel sure someone will fix.

I write these thoughts (beginning thoughts, late thoughts—take your choice) at a time traditionally observed by the making of resolutions. Happy New Year! A calendar disappears from the wall.

Yet around this time, too, falls the ancient Saturnalia when the poor and powerless symbolically acquire all they lack.

In Van Wyck Brooks's writings I encountered the notion of Pelagian optimism. It sticks in my mind, lately.

Said Pelagius: "If I ought, I can."

I leave it at that.

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