On the very night that my beloved daughter was taking a red eye flight into New York City to attend a wedding this weekend, residents of that city were drowning in their basement apartments, being evacuated from flooded subways, and getting rescued from car rooftops by emergency responders boating through the streets.
All a result of yet more unprecedented extreme weather activity that was dumping more than 3 inches of rain per hour over the city at the storm’s peak.
The New York Times reports these additional
(Fortunately, my daughter was fine and enjoyed sunny, welcoming weather by the time she crossed the Brooklyn Bridge en route to her hotel.)
In Texas, a recently approved law essentially outlawed abortion by restricting it to only the first six weeks of pregnancy, before some 85% of women even know they’re pregnant. And in a pair of absolutely diabolical add-ons, legislators there made no exceptions for rape and incest, and then levied this coup de grace:
Here we are, thrown into a world not of our making—is it our oyster or our abyss?
Anyone else, living anywhere in the country, can file a civil lawsuit against anyone in Texas suspected of providing an abortion, or who assists in obtaining one, whether that person is a doctor, nurse, intake clerk or taxi driver who provided transportation to a clinic. If the case proves successful, the bounty hunter, er, “whistleblower,” stands to gain a $10,000 cash award.
Also, defendants may be required to pay all a petitioner’s attorney fees (in addition to their own). Notably, the writers of this law, in their strategic cunning, completely absolve the abortion-seeking woman of any legal liability.
In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court let the law stand, despite even the majority justices’ acknowledged doubts about its constitutionality.
While flooding from Hurricane Ida menaced a swath of the United States from New Orleans up through New England, the National Interagency Fire Center reported that 85 “large” fires are currently burning across 12 states in the U.S. as of this writing, involving 25,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel.
Covid case trends in the U.S.A. over the past 14 days, through Thursday, as reported by the New York Times:
Cases: 164,326 (+14%)
Hospitalized: 101,572 (+16%)
Deaths: 1,521 (+67%)
Total Deaths (since the pandemic began): 645,383.
As reported by Healthline.com last week:
The rate of hospitalization among fully vaccinated people with COVID-19 was effectively zero in recent weeks in California, Delaware, D.C., Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia. It was 0.06 percent in Arkansas, meaning over 99 percent of hospitalizations were unvaccinated. Over 95 percent of those hospitalized in Alaska and 99.93 percent in New Jersey were not yet fully vaccinated either.
The percentage of now willfully unvaccinated Americans as the pandemic rages anew and the vaccines that could halt it are readily available to anyone who wants it: 47%.
Of those, according to a report in Voa News, 45% say they will “definitely not” get the vaccine. Among them are multiple members of my own extended family, who cite reasons ranging from simple fear of the vaccine’s effects, resistance to government overreach, suspicion of the CDC, and the faith that their healthy immune systems will protect them.
The chaos of America’s make-haste exit from Afghanistan, as a stunned world watches.
“Hurricane Larry…predicted to reach Category 4 strength over the open waters of the central Atlantic Ocean this holiday weekend.”
And even with 25,000 firefighters already long entrenched, the traditional fire season is just getting underway as autumn winds grow restless in the west.
I am, probably via some mixture of natural disposition, aspiration, and considered rational judgment, a cheerful person. I’ve never seen much point in stewing to the point of disconsolation about matters I ultimately have little or no control over, and it rarely escapes my attention how much sheer beauty and wonder and fabulousness reside in the natural world and all of its creatures, very much including the better part of most human beings.
Here we are, thrown into a world not of our making—is it our oyster or our abyss?
While I have taken more than a few turns staring into the latter, world-as-oyster more often prevails. Turning sour about our plight has never struck me as having much going for it.
But jeez, there are days lately…
Two storytellings recently presenting themselves: Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s “Autumn Sonata” and the NBC television series, “This Is Us.” The Bergman from 1978, which I saw in the early ’80s and stumbled across again a few nights ago on “Turner Classic Movies.”
“This Is Us” debuting in 2016 and set to premiere its sixth season next month. Just discovered it a couple weeks ago and should be through the first season in a few days.
“Autumn Sonata” puts in front of us an internationally acclaimed concert pianist mother visiting her daughter, the wife of a country parson, for the first time in years. The mother is narcissistic and fake, the daughter brooding and lonely and plain, the parson remote and ineffectual.
On the surface, all pleasant chatter—“It’s been too long!” Barely beneath it and soon to erupt between mother and daughter: convulsive anger and pain in a torrent of recrimination, defensiveness and guilt. A kind of rhetorical death spiral that leaves the protagonists exhausted but none the better or more conciliatory for their spleen-ventings.
And then they start in again.
I’d remembered it as deep but dark. Upon second viewing: unbearably, unwatchably the latter. Life as a relentless march across dry steppes of bad faith and repression, and then death comes for us (which it does in “The Seventh Seal,” another Bergman that is actually worthy of exploration another time…).
Is that really all there is?
There is also “This Is Us,” whose protagonists suffer aplenty, too, but whose struggles take place in contexts of striving and fidelity to at least an ideal: that their persistence may yet add up to some better understanding, experience and expression of love.
Imperfect, sometimes tempestuous, rife with error and self-delusion, failing each other hither and yon, but all the more worth it for the tender, halting, hard-won, though still far-from-perfect understanding it can finally coax forth from a still open, albeit wounded heart.
Fear for the future seems built right into the package of our DNA. Our cave dwelling ancestors surely thought the apocalypse was nigh as tempests bore down on them, the fury of the gods unleashed.
The world has likely always seemed on the brink of collapse by those tasked with watching it.
Is it a peculiar conceit of this and every age that collapse seems more imminent or possible than ever, or do we actually know more about how much worse things are now than in the past? Or are they worse at all?
Luckily, our DNA package is also where hope abides, where the procreative urge serves as its own tsunami, gathering into itself the life force with its infinite expressions of creativity and intelligence, compassion and care. There, it carves deep channels toward a future we cannot know but into which we will nevertheless advance (and sometimes merely tumble), alternately losing and finding and losing our way, paroxysms of evil and avarice spurting as they will, there to do battle with the ever-birthing seeds and sprouts of desire to be and do and make and multiply love as we can, all of it nothing more and nothing less than the making of a world worthy of handing on to those awaiting us.
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Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.
Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.
Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: email@example.com
Gnarled oak and pokeweed photos by Andrew Hidas https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/
Storm by Gillian Everett, Gloucester Shire, NSW, Australia https://www.flickr.com/photos/gilleverett/
Wildfire by Caleb Cook, Boulder, Colorado https://unsplash.com/@venturecreative
It all sits heavy on one’s shoulders lately, doesn’t it? We grew up with the specter of the Nuclear Clock ticking away at 11:59, leaving us ready to dive under the desk at any moment. Seems quaint compared to today. I think my general outlook is a lot like yours. I wake up each day and think to myself, “I’m going to try to do better today,” and do what I can where I can.
Things are definitely more complicated today, Dennis. Diving under one’s desk might work fine during an earthquake or even fire, but would be rather counterproductive during a flood, and since any of those might occur at any time in our former state of California, it’s hard to know what to prep for…
Gallows humor aside, I quite understand those young people today who, with stricken looks, wonder just what kind of world we are leaving for them to contend with. Sobering discussion, that!
This apocalypse has taken its toll on all of us. But, as you wrote, one can always find a rainbow after a hurricane. Living here in Texas tends to blind us to the beauty of this ROYGBIV arched lightshow. However, if one really stares into a prism long enough, strands of light clearly exist. It’s not all black. This state’s newly enacted definitely insane abortion law, particularly the “snitch on your neighbor” section, does have a silver lining. Texas’ Right to Life organization’s website extols anonymous tipsters to report anyone, even those with the most remote connection, for money. This “pay to fink” strategy has hilariously backfired. A web of TikTokers have inundated this anti-abortion group with thousands of phone calls, which have effectively overloaded its website into submission. Texas’ Right to Life group didn’t expect bags of mail with “U-OWE-ME $10,000” bills for work well done to be delivered to its corporate office. Some got quite creative. They sent in “overdue” or “final notice” letters. Humor with a conscience can be a bitch. It’s an upbeat way for us, the more sensible and compassionate beings, to enjoy our dissension with a grin.
My favorite response to the Right-to-Life org was here, Robert: “One user sarcastically reported that he wanted to retroactively abort his 30-year-old son who apparently wouldn’t leave the house.”
Humor definitely helps this and other aches engendered by our contemporary politics, and I think the only other thing that makes me feel better about this unprecedented, cynical bill is that it may finally have gone too far and result in a furious and sustained backlash.
“a furious and sustained backlash” indeed! The courts respond to the law; the Congress responds to the people. I think the Mississippi case will be overturned by the Supremes, and the Congress will codify Roe!
Well, you’ve always been more an optimist that I am, Gerry, so I had better keep you close, for my own good! We will see what the supes do with Mississippi, but I am not encouraged that they didn’t even stay the Texas case pending review of its constitutionality. They seemed to leave that question open, but if so, then why let the law remain when so much immediate and irrevocable harm can come to so many parties while it is in place? This was the source of Roberts’s dissent, and I am as befuddled as he appears to be.
For sure, the outrage on this is high, and there will be enormous pressure now brought to bear for a legislative remedy. Pelosi & Schumer had better hurry, though, and you know what also looms: the filibuster. Complicated politics; I would not want to be in their shoes!
In any case: sure hope you’re right!
Andrew, I agree with your closing remark. We can choose our emphasis into the future. I am influenced by attending UU Coastal’s service yesterday. It was recorded so you could hear the message. We can be people that choose to say “yes, but” or “yes, and”. In the latter positivity, I make my camp.
Hi Ruth, thanks for joining the conversation, and for the tip on UU Coastal; I will track that down. I don’t any longer remember the original source of this, it might have been the sex-positive Bay Area poet Lenore Kandel who wrote it in her own context many years ago, but many others have adapted it since then, and I think it’s a generally healthy tack in approaching life whatever the sphere: “My favorite word is ‘Yes!'”
My favorite phrase here: “(and sometimes merely tumble)” It embraces so much of what you are saying, and then forgives us all for “just” getting by. Right now just merely tumbling sounds mighty good to me.
Your readers echo your commitment to hope and optimism. It was great to read it all.
Thanks, Jeanette, it always makes me happy when people grasp not only the gist of any given message (or also make of the message something I hadn’t even thought about), but also cite particular lines that spoke to them. The message, after all, is more or less the sum of its parts, and constructing the parts that reflect (or reveal) the message is a good deal of the pleasure inherent to writing, as you know from your own work. A reader sharing in that pleasure, if I may dare end with a rhyme here, is a treasure unto itself.