My thoughts on Dottie's Michaelmas essay are not quite well formed enough to
put down yet... Perhaps later this evening or even later this week. In the
meantime, I'd like to share a thought from Tony Kushner, American playwright
and author of "Angels in America." It's a pretty simple thought, but
nonetheless appropriate for this dark time of ours. It is this:
"Despair Is a Lie We Tell Ourselves."
A hard truth, perhaps -- especially for seasoned melancholics such as myself.
<G> I find it difficult to hope in times like these... it's ever so much
easier to sink into the soft darkness of despair. And yet...
Earlier today I ducked out of work and headed back to the waldorf school my
youngest daughter still attends, for today is Michaelmas and I wanted to
immerse myself in the sights and sounds and movements of the festival once
more. And so I heard the story (this year of Perseus) and watched the children
form the dragon and witnessed the living embodiment of the Saint as he slew the
dragon and freed the children once more. And with the entire community, I sang
the old songs and danced the spiral dance once more. And one of the songs we
sang would remind us all:
We are Saint Michael's warriors with strong heart and mind;
We forge our way through darkness Saint Michael to find.
And there he stands in glory; Saint Michael we pray,
Lead us on to battle and show us thy way.
This year, for the first time since she began high school, my oldest daughter
did not skip school to attend Michaelmas. It was her intention to do so, but
instead she skipped school to attend Michael Moore's GOTV (get out the vote)
extravaganza down at the local university, working the voter registration
tables before and after the rally to make sure her peers are not only inspired
but able to vote.
I believe the saint would be proud of her.
There is no time for lies. There is no time for despair. There is work to be
done, and we needs must be about it.
Musing on the inner landscape of Michaelmas,
[Here is Tony Kushner's essay.]
Despair Is a Lie We Tell Ourselves
By Tony Kushner, AlterNet
Posted on September 14, 2004,
A Chicago cab driver recently told me, "If there's a supernova 60 light years
away from here, the world will be totally wiped out. We don't stand a chance."
He gave me something to think about, namely the fact that life, each individual
life and our collective life on the planet, is a teleological game. It is not
infinite, like Bush's justice. It has an ending, and so the future you put your
faith in is not, in fact, limitless.
Given the catastrophic failure here and abroad of the Kyoto global warming
accords, given our newfound post 9-11 imperialist exuberance, given the sagging
of the world's economy and the IMF-directed refusal to see any solutions beyond
making poor people suffer even more than they always do in the hopes of
reviving a market that only ever revives long enough to make the rich even
richer, given the eagerness in Washington to explore new and tinier kinds of
nuclear bombs, well, it's sort of optimistic to believe it's a supernova that's
going to get us. It's clear that what's much more likely to get us, if we are
got, is our present condition of living in a world run by miscreants while the
people of the world either have no access to power or have access but have
forgotten how to get it and why it is important to have it.
Since I was a little kid I've been told I have choices, the right to make a
choice. Though I've never been dumb enough to believe that was literally true,
I've also never been dumb enough to be literal. I have always believed I could
choose to believe, or not believe, that the arc of the moral universe is long
but it bends toward justice.
I do not believe the wicked always win. I believe our despair is a lie we are
telling ourselves. In many other periods of history, people, ordinary citizens,
routinely set aside hours, days, time in their lives for doing the work of
politics, some of which is glam and revolutionary and some of which is dull and
electoral and tedious and not especially pure � and the world changed because
of the work they did. That's what we're starting now. It requires setting aside
the time to do it, and then doing it. Not any single one of us has to or
possibly can save the world, but together in some sort of concert, in even
not-especially-coordinated concert, with all of us working where we see work to
be done, the world will change. And we have to do it by showing up places, our
bodies in places, turn off the fucking computers, leave the Web and the Net �
and show up, our bodies at meetings and demos and rallies and leafletting
Because this is a moment in history that needs us to begin, each of us every
day at her or his own pace, slowly and surely rediscovering how to be
politically active, how to organize our disparate energies into effective group
action � and I choose to believe we will do what is required. Act. Organize.
Assemble. Oppose. Resist. Find a place a cause a group a friend and start,
today, now now now, continue continue continue. Being politically active is for
the citizens of a democracy maybe the best way of speaking to God and hearing
Her answer: You exist. If we are active, if we are activist, She replies to us:
You specifically exist. Mazel tov. Now get busy, She replies. Maintain the
world by changing the world.
So when the supernova comes to get us we don't want to be disappointed in
ourselves. We should hope to be able to say proudly to the supernova, that
angel of death, "Hello supernova, we have been expecting you, we know all about
you, because in our schools we teach science and not creationism, and so we
have been expecting you, everywhere everyone has been expecting you, except
Texas. And we would like to say, supernova, in the moment before we are
returned by your protean fire to our previous inchoate state, clouds of
incandescent atomic vapor, we'd like to declare that we have tried our best and
worked hard to make a good and just and free and peaceful world, a world that
is better for our having been here, at least we believe it is."
� 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/19867/
This essay appears in 'The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's
Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books),' by 'Soul of a Citizen' author
Paul Rogat Loeb.