First thing this morning I thought we had smoke again, but it was nothing more than heavy mist.
A report from the fires in Maui quoted a couple whose house had unaccountably been spared. They said they felt guilty about their good fortune.
Guilt is the wrong emotion, but I do know what they meant.
When your home remains standing untouched amid the total destruction of your entire neighbourhood, what precisely should you feel?
Confused, I imagine. They still have the structure of their home but surely a whole lot of smoke damage.
How do you go back to live in that so poignantly isolated house, assuming water and electricity have been re-connected?
A very strange and unsettling situation, I would think.
My feeling is that those people are also deserving of sympathy.
Guilt has no place in such a situation, but I know the feeling. I think there needs to be a different term for it.
For a lot of my life I was very unhappy, caught in a situation that I could see no way of escaping.
I was often berated:
“You are sorry for yourself!”
There was no denying it. I was sorry for myself. And yet: I had a roof over my head, I had adequate food, I had a job. By comparison to many millions across the globe I was extremely fortunate.
On vacation I travelled to interesting places. And witnessed again what it was like to be less fortunate.
So I felt guilt about my lack of gratitude.
As a child in Cambodia, I often wondered how it was that I had been born into such comparative luxury.
It was something I felt uncomfortable about and always have, ever since.
Once, someone told me that I am very empathetic and it is true that I am aware.
What I ask myself though, is whether what I feel is empathy or merely fear. Fear that I could one day find myself in such terrible circumstances.
Is that really what empathy is?
From my observation of human beings, it seems to me that we are a very selfish species. To an extent, we need to be in order to protect ourselves.
If I help someone, is it out of genuine kindness, or is it to assuage the unease that their situation makes me feel?
Is there such a thing as a truly good human being? Don’t good people get trodden on?
These are questions I entertain when not otherwise distracted.
Perhaps I am a tad cynical.
Maybe I should stop reading novels about the rise and fall of great civilisations.
My anthropology professor told me once it would be philosophers that saved the world. I was pursuing the wrong discipline.
But all those ancient philosophers didn’t do so well either.
One of the entitlements of age is to be cynical, unless you’ve lived in an alternate reality.
But I am not totally negative.
Currently we find ourselves, as a species in one of our darker cycles, but isn’t it exactly that, a cycle?
The Yin and the Yang.
Darkness and light, neither one exactly perfect, ever.
WW2 was deeply dark but there was sufficient light to tip the balance. I always felt, considering that war, that good defeats evil. I challenge anyone to persuade me that Hitler was not evil.
But most conflicts are not as clear cut.
Anne Frank believed that all people were truly good at heart. Her story affected me when I was a kid.
It seemed to me that as survivors of the evil that took her, we owed it to all those who gave their lives, to do better. I have always felt that way.
But the pendulum swings regardless.
In an interview the other day, I heard someone say that people in the USA do not hate each other.
It is our leaders who tell us we do and this is exactly right.
What we must never do is give in to bullies and fear-mongerers.
Love is stronger than hate.
This I believe.
Ultimately, hate is self destructive.
There are so much better things to do.
Watching this year’s sparrows disporting themselves in a water bath, a hummingbird at the buddleia, a groundhog with a carrot.
Simple things with no monetary worth but invaluable to the soul.
As we drove yesterday, I briefly noticed an interesting development in the sky, whereupon:
“There it is!”
The Universe was teasing…
“See? See what I mean?”
A lovely avenue of trees?
Finally we broke free.
Now I am teasing.
Do you see what I was looking at?
Just a squiggle?
Here’s a better look…
A face? But that is not the point.
To me it looked as if “whoever” is in charge of skies had been doing long, gentle strokes with its brush then suddenly had a capricious moment and stuck a finger in to mess it all up, but remembering itself went back to those gentle, even strokes….
Maybe it just wanted to see if I was paying attention.