Yearly Archives 2022

What Now? From Empathy To Action

“What shall I do now? What shall I do?”/I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street/”With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?/“What shall we ever do?”

The words are from T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” published exactly one century ago, when they haunted a world shaken by a barbaric, convulsive war that had upended all received notions of a post-Enlightenment humanity embedded firmly in reason and aiming toward limitless progress and the common good.

The fact that a second, even more destructive and demonic war engulfed the world not even two decades later simply added to the tone of desperation and floundering Eliot had noted.

Today, the same questions are being asked by an almost equally shell-shocked American population, hard off the latest mass slaughter of innocents by a malformed 18-year-old youth armed with weapons of war.

And the question haunts: “What shall we do now?”

***

William Blak...

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God, Dog, and the Ties That Bind: A Shenzi Farewell

“No matter when or where you go, I will follow.” Dogs never know, when you open that front door and give them the O.K. to accompany you, whether they’re headed only to the mailbox, a walk around the block, an epic car camp, or a trip to the airport for a flight across the continent.

Not that any of those matter one way or the other. The only true and important thing: They only want to be with you.

And so it was that in the last few minutes of her life, my beloved companion Shenzi, somewhere near 17 (stray rescue dog adopted 2008, birthday unknown), beset by kidney disease and long compromised by bouts of nausea, appetite loss, bad teeth and near deafness, trotted out ahead of me as we left the screen porch the other day, tail wagging, trailed by my partner Mary and a kindly veterinarian armed with the tools in hand to proceed with the somber and necessary task of bringing her life to a conclusion.

…Her not...

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They’re Planting Tulips in Kharkiv

    THEY’RE PLANTING TULIPS IN KHARKIV

           By Andrew Hidas

The news tells us of mass
tulip plantings in Kharkiv,
just one more Ukrainian city
bringing new definition
to the word “beleaguered”
in this long spring of horrors.

I picture those tulips tightly clutched
in fists, shaken and ascending to
the heavens as an ultimate “Fuck you!”
to the bomb-droppers and missile senders
who become blinded by the color explosion
of tulip petals hurled aloft in anger, defiance
and hope—blessed, dubious, inexplicable hope.

In our front garden the other day,
the world’s most purposeful sparrow
hops across the gravel, sweeping
up dead leaves in her beak till they
obscure her entire head, a holy payload
destined to welcome life in a nearby tree.

I marvel at her madness of intention,
the sacred instinct for survival and comfort
guiding her every move like no missile
guidance system ever afforded ...

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A Question From Marilynne Robinson: “What Are We Doing Here?”

So the United States, with plenty of company from around the world, is going through a terrible time. A devastating and wearisome pandemic, renewed inflation, climate change and its associated weather catastrophes, a reinflamed battle over abortion, a fight seemingly unto death over the very nature of how we acquire knowledge, see reality and practice democracy.

It’s hard to find optimists out there, and I wouldn’t claim you’ll discover a raging one in eminent novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson either.

What you will find throughout her work, though, and quite specifically in the title essay of her 2018 collection, “What Are We Doing Here?”, is a meticulously crafted case for the beauty and necessity of the humanities, and a passionate call for realizing the “grandeur” that, right along with our atavistic struggle for survival as high-functioning animals, is part and parcel of our humanity, if we can ...

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Brilliant Songs #28: Mike Batt’s “Market Day in Guernica”

Eighty-five years ago this past week, April 26, 1937, was a market day in Guernica, Spain. It was a Monday, when farmers from the surrounding countryside would bring their crops into the town square to sell to residents and others who flowed in from surrounding towns in the autonomous Basque Country.

The Spanish Civil War was raging at the time, pitting the Republican government against General Francisco Franco’s rebel Nationalist faction and fascist allies Germany and Italy. Guernica, with a population of some 5,000, had not been a center of combat, but it stood some 30 kilometers east of Bilbao, population nearly 200,000, which Franco coveted as a strategically important possession to bring the government to its knees.

Batt was looking back to Guernica when he wrote this song, but nearly 20 years on and still active, the Twitter hashtag he features next to his name @MikeBatt is #StandWithUkraine.

That ma...

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