Is this all fiddling while Rome burns? It's a tired old image, a tired old question. Yes, of course it is. Here I am in my quietist seclusion on top of a hill in Brittany - a bit windy, we often say, but it'll be handy when global warming really kicks in - writing pretty and sensitive prose, snipping pleasant quotes and pasting on nice pictures, to who knows what end, ruminating on the spiritual but unwilling to commit myself to any active body of religion ( "I would prefer not to..."), of course this is effete, pointless nonsense while the world crumbles in fire, violence, fear and pain. Nero, it might be said, was in a position of rather more practical influence than I am, but he also lacked the goodwill.
Cutivate your garden, said Voltaire, somewhat disingenuously I gather, (and also my mother, who put it more literally into practice; my horticultural contribution here is mostly cutting the grass, which I do with a more or less good grace...) On the other hand, for evil to triumph... etc. When does cultivating one's garden become good people doing nothing?
I don't do politics here. That doesn't mean I haven't any political views, or that I don't feel strongly about world events, or try to educate myself about them, or even sometimes try to do something useful. But if I tried writing on the subject, it would read as lame, naive, probably ill-informed, hand-wringing. Also, in typical codependent fashion, I don't want to risk pissing anybody off too much. We half fell out, by e-mail, with my American first cousin, the eldest, British-born son of my much-loved aunt, my mum's GI bride sister, not so much I think because we couldn't accommodate differing political views, but because we couldn't stomach each other's modes of expressing them, something to do with attitude rather than opinion. We resolved to stick with what he calls the "warm and fuzzy", ( I suppose what my frizzy friend would file under 'little fluffy white clouds'!) but somehow when you've ventured onto cold and thorny ground, the warm and fuzzy doesn't feel so safe any more. Perhaps I'm just being too British, perhaps that's the problem.
There are intelligent, brave, nobly-motivated people in this and every other sphere of the media who address political issues far better than I can. I am deeply admiring of and grateful to them. What they can't do and only I can, is attempt to relate my experience, to make something from the melding of my inner life with my perceptions of the outer world. Naturally, this will not bring about world peace, or accomplish any single practical thing of any significance, but it still seems to have been an important human thing to do, in one form or another, for a very long time.
Who was the most important writer to emerge from the American Civil War? Emily Dickinson. (Where did that come from, was it Salinger?). OK, I'll say it before someone else does: I knew Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson was a friend of mine, Senator, you are no Emily Dickinson!
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