I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What is the world coming to?

From KIRO TV, Bellingham marina fire
I remember hearing that phrase, "What is the world coming to?" from my parents when I was growing up.  My father would read something in Time Magazine and then stomp around in the living room complaining about the state of the world. Or my mother would be at the store and a strange new fashion (such as miniskirts) would cause her to utter that exclamation. I wonder what they would think about today's world. I heard that phrase in my mind last week as I followed the news, with the Supreme Court questions about Obamacare, the incredible mania over the Mega Lottery drawing, and several of the world's leaders continuing to kill their own populace. And then, to top it off, we had an early morning fire at the marina on Friday that caused several luxury boathouses to catch fire. When the roof of the structure where they were moored caught fire, several boats were completely destroyed. Two people who live there full time are missing and the couple's family is grieving, although no bodies have yet been found. It's still too dangerous to search under all the debris in the water.

I watched the pundits on the PBS Newshour discuss the possible fate of Obama's healthcare package and tried to quell the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at the possibility that the Supreme Court might take us back to Square One, or worse. Frankly, I simply had to look at other news, like what is going on in Afghanistan and Syria to put what is happening here into perspective. At least I don't have to worry about being shot in the street here. Oh right: it's not safe here either in many parts of the country, where you could be walking home from the store and lose your life. I finally had to turn off the TV and stop watching.

However, the news I follow on my computer gadgets kept me interested in the lottery drawing, which had reached over $600 million by the weekend, and people were lining up for hours outside stores in order to pour out almost $2 billion in exchange for the possibility of becoming a jackpot winner. On Facebook, I saw that my niece spent $20 on the lottery, which she could afford, but what about those poor people who couldn't afford it and spent every dime they had for the chance to win? I find it interesting that, after weeks with no winner, three winning numbers were drawn (one each in Kansas, Maryland, and Illinois). I think the odds of winning are something like one in 176 million, but still people spent all that time standing in line hoping they might be one of them.

What happens to people who win the lottery? "After they win the jackpot, most of them self-destruct and they end up much more unhappy than they were before," says Dr. Tom Manheim, who offers financial therapy in Solana Beach, Calif. "It's really kind of a sad state of our economy where we think that money, once again, is going to bring us happiness and it doesn't." Yes, having a lot of money, especially suddenly like that, is not all it's cracked up to be. I suspect that my niece would have spread it around and probably would not have been harmed by it, but she's got a very level head on her shoulders.

On Friday, when I went to the coffee shop before heading to the gym, the talk was about the fire that had erupted at the marina. On the way to the bus, I saw helicopters overhead and wondered about them, but I couldn't see any reason for their presence. Once I got to the coffee shop and learned about the fire, my fisherman friend Gene suggested I pull out my iPad and see if there was any news about what was happening, and I found a local news station explaining that the 2-alarm fire was still blazing. After the roof caught, it caused the fire to spread rapidly. Gene told me that most of those kinds of boats have fuel on board that can explode, which seems to have happened. Nobody knows yet why the fire started, maybe they never will know. It had been raining for days and everything was saturated, but still the fire raged uncontrolled. The city of Bellingham had decommissioned their old fire boat last year and had not replaced it because of the cost.

Finally, I gave up and decided to spend my time reading novels. But what did I choose? The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, since the buzz about the movie has me interested in going to see it. The books (three of them) are "young adult" fiction about a dystopian future where teenagers' names are drawn from a lottery and they are sent to the Capitol to fight to the death. What in heaven's name makes these books suitable fare for young adults? I, however, couldn't put the first book down, and of course I wanted to know what happened to the protagonist, Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie), and I'll be heading to the theater sometime this week to see it. And I have to admit that I devoured the second and third books in two days (I do that sometimes), finishing the third one yesterday evening. I read all three books on my iPad, and I was pleased to find how easy it is to use the Kindle for iPad feature.

By the time I closed my iPad and contemplated the ruins of Panem (the Hunger Games world), I was saturated with both real AND fictional worlds, ready for dinner, and curious about what my dreams would tell me last night. I woke this morning after having struggled in my dreams for what seemed like days trying to make the perfect flan. I almost had it ready for the oven when I woke up.

My usual Sunday morning activity is writing in this blog first thing, while the news of the world awaits publication of this post. Before long, I'll know what the world of today, 1 April 2012, is coming to.


Trish said...

Great post. Hunger Games is a grim look at the future, for sure, but compelling reading. What I don't understand about young adults books is that they can be as violent as the author wants, but sex is a taboo.

Rubye Jack said...

Wow. You've said a lot of very important stuff here today, and I agree with everything you say. The Hunger Games sounds like a terrible story for youth and in particular small kids, but I probably will go see it also.

Rita said...

I did not realize what The Hunger Games was about or that it was a youth series! What is the world coming to?!

Honestly, this is why I avoid the news as much as possible. The negatives can be just overwhelming some days. They don't report much at all in the way of good or positive news.

I focus on the fact that you can carry many books around with you on an ipad or kindle or nook. Now that is an amazing thing in this new world. ;)

CiCi said...

So sorry to hear about the marina fire there. Terrible news for the families especially. You are a caring person, DJan, and part of your community. Enjoy your Sunday.

Star said...

I have no interest in reading the Hunger Games. I've heard so much about it,but for some reason, I don't feel the need to read the stories or see the film. Glad you enjoyed it though.
I agree with you when you say 'what is the world coming to?' I wonder that when I see Dylan exploring his world. All I can say is that it 'seemed' to be more simple when I was young. I didn't think that at the time though.

wendyytb said...

I use my bloglist as my news report. It is not that I am burying my head in the sand, however, as the bad news finds a way of filtering through.

I worry about my grandchildren growing up in this toxic atmosphere of brutality and hopelessness. Sometimes it almost seems to be a survival of the fittest.

I cannot read or watch fiction based on an exaggeration of the horrors we face everyday...or something that reeks of the horrors of yesteryear.

I won't be going to see the hunger games.

Linda Myers said...

I used to worry myself nearly sick about what the world was coming to. Forunately for me, that doesn't happen much any more. I see what's happening and then I turn my attention to how I can make a difference in my own little world. Like eat right, exercise, write, maintain my friendships with my communities. Those are things I can do something about.

Anonymous said...

Today is APRIL FOOL'S DAY. Does that help? Lol. Maybe all this bad news is just a joke.

Enough bad news in my personal life, but today is a brand new day and I feel so good and happy.

I hope the children in Bellingham, Syria, and elsewhere in the world are doing okay despite what their parents or other adults are wreaking havoc on. Why is it always the adults?

I don't read fiction nor do I watch movies, so not to interested in The Hunger Games. David loved the movie, though, and couldn't stop talking about it.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

You touched on a whole lot of nasty and frightening things this morning! The pending Supreme Court decision has the potential to create chaos and suffering in this country for a long time to come. And there's nothing like a local tragedy to make us realize that our community is vulnerable to the same awful stuff going on elsewhere. I rarely watch MSNBC any more; I take my news in short spurts because deeper immersion makes me feel like I'm drowning. Another great thought-provoking post!

Sandi said...

What is this world coming to??? Aren't you glad, in a way, that we don't really know? We can think we do, we can see what's happening, and fret over it, but in the end, who knows what tomorrow will bring? The marina fire is a case in point. I read about it in our newspaper, and was saddened.
There is so much to worry about, and the worrying doesn't change much. As someone said earlier, we just put one foot in front of the other, and make a difference in our own world surrounding us.
Despite the fact that I hate the idea of The Hunger Games, I've read it twice and couldn't put it down either time. I bought the next two in the series, but Jessica has them up your way! My husband is now insisting that I purchase them. I was surprised when he read the first one and wants to read the rest! We'll go see the movie this week.
Great thought provoking post, as always, DJan!

June said...

The Hunger Games, book or movie, does not draw me, but I gather that I am among precious few who feel that way.

When I feel like crying out, "What is the world coming to!" I remember that it's a question that people have been asking for thousands of years.

I have no television (we bought the box to make the old tv work, and then a year or so ago, the box stopped working and we felt freed) and so, no tv news . . . and so I am shamefully ignorant of what goes on in the wider world. I am, as well, lots happier without that knowledge.

Mel said...

Another great post, full of many things to think about.

The marina fire is horrifying. So sad.

The lottery mania was phenomenal. My coworkers had a pool going, over $30 in tickets bought, I think their winnings were $11. That's sad too. I'd be willing to risk the misery of extreme wealth to see if I could beat that curse. I don't think I'd change much in my life, just live simply and debt free. Maybe travel a bit.

I loved the Hunger Games too, and thought the movie did a pretty good job, but it was too condensed, and you don't get to know the tributes or the relationships very well. Hope you enjoy the movie too, Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful as Katniss.

I worked in the middle school library for quite a few years and there is much that raised my eyebrows in the YA novels. I talked to my kids about some of the content and they laughed at me - Mom, we go to public school, the stuff in those books is mild compared to what we hear on the bus.... yikes.

I've become a convert to YA literature, as they are usually quick, engaging and relevant reads. (Except Twilight - I could not buy into that one!)

Thanks for your post, I always enjoy stopping by on Sundays to see what you've been thinking lately.

Gigi said...

You must have read the same article about the lottery as I did this morning....did you also see how the poorest counties were the ones who spent the most on the lottery? Very sad state of affairs.

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed The Hunger Games, as I'm looking forward to reading it. The movie has caused so much buzz that Man-Child has been pestering me to buy the book - to see if the movie is worth watching. I bought the book this weekend but will wait and add it to his Easter basket (not so appropriate? Well, he isn't a small one anymore, is he?).

Here's hoping the news in the coming week isn't nearly as depressing.

Red said...

I like how you start your post with what's the world coming to? I find the health care proposal and the opposition to it unbelievable. some of the other thing you mention lo show a lack of reality on the part of people. I like the heavy Sunday morning posts.

Kathryn said...

Hi DJan,
I get overwhelmed by all the bad news and sometimes givie it a rest. I really don't think we were meant to know about all the bad stuff int eh world - it's hard enough to know the bad stuff from one's own community. But, we have the mixed blessing of communicating with the entire world now, so I guess we just have to learn to filter. I haven't read or seen the Hunger Games. Heck, I just got through the 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' trilogy. So many books, so little time, eh?

Tiff said...

Great post. I heard that you were more likely to be killed by a vending machine than to win the Mega Millions, but my husband bought a ticket anyway. I was relieved when we didn't win anything, I don't think I would want that much money and all the attention that comes with it.

I still haven't read the Hunger Games, and I'm not sure I want to. I know I will start reading these things when my kids become interested in them, but the idea scares me a little. Truly, what is this world coming to?

Bragger said...

I'm glad to hear you liked the Hunger Games books. I have just started book two, and I intend to see the movie, even if I have to go alone (which I probably will). The first book was already going to be the topic of tonight's blog post. :)

Linda Reeder said...

Yes, I heard about all that bad news too. I was especially unhappy to hear that the Supremes might undo the Affordable Care Act. Grrr. But then, like that other Linda, I move on, exercising, sewing, keeping up the house and yard. I guess instead of carrying on here, I should just post a blog, since it has been several days, and I do seem to have done thome things. Anyway, as you said later in your other blog, a walk in the great out of doors helps put things back into an orderly mind. We do what we can in our own little corners of the world.
Oh, and I plan to skip the whole "Hunger Games" thing. I think I know enough about it to decide that I probably have other things to do instead.

Arkansas Patti said...

I tend to scan the news like a bad book. There is so much I have no control over and is just heartbreaking. I learn enough to keep me knowledgeable in the voting booth and skip the rest.
One good thing about dystopian novels is they make our current situation look a bit better.

Dianne said...

the thing about the Hunger Games movie that is pissing me off is that it got a PG-13 rating yet a documentary about real teens trying to stop bullying got an R rating due to bad language
these kids couldn't go see their own story!!

I will confess to looking the other way these days when the news is on - I'm having a bit of a bad spell and need to regroup myself

so sorry about that fire
I have a friend who lives in CO near the wildfires and I was so relieved to hear from her

karena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
karena said...

Sorry I had second thoughts about my last comment....too grim.
What is the world coming to? good question. Great post.

Allistew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Allistew said...

[deleted previous comment to correct typing erros]

As the niece you mention in the post, I can assure you that, if I won the lottery, I would stay in the Army (it's a calling) and use the money to do good in the world...with a little bit of traveling thrown in. ;-) Realistically, though, I play for the entertainment value. Workplace conversations about what you would do with the money just aren't the same unless you bought a ticket -- that's worth a couple of bucks. But I think it's sad how many people throw away hard-earned money with a real feeling of hope they could win when they barely have enough money to feed their children.

As to the state of world affairs, I often remind myself that almost every generation, as it gets older, thinks the world is descending into chaos. The fact that we are bombarded with overwhelming information about events in the world...and events in small towns...exacerbates our negative view of the world, especially since positive stories rarely generate ratings.

I don't know if the world is getting worse or if it's just the effect of a lifetime of bombardment by negative news. But all I can do is keep living and maintain a positive outlook. What's my alternative? Wring my hands and worry constantly? No thank you. I'd rather spend my energy setting the example for Lexie to be an realistic optimist, as they often are the ones who change the world. :-)

Far Side of Fifty said...

I have the first Hunger Games book on my desk, I wanted to read it because my grandson who is 12 almost 13 really enjoyed that series of books.
Try not to take the world and local news too seriously..and Obamacare..well who really knows what is written in all those pages besides lawyers.
Sometimes I go into news blackouts..when I just cannot handle the world and what it is coming to.
I wish there was a good news channel..:)

Grandmother said...

Thanks for the Hunger Games review as I want to read it ahead of my grandson. As for the state of the world- I get overwhelmed at the tragically bad news and focus instead on what I can do in my own life to foster kindness, compassion and peace. What else can we do?

Friko said...

What is the world coming to? That question has been put my countless generations throughout the ages. In every country in the world, no doubt. It's always the good old days and never 'the good now days'.

I think our world is not too bad, when you think back. The good old days were the bad current days for the people who lived through them, just as we now shake out heads in despair over the news today.

In Europe there were dreadful wars, there was hunger and total destruction and the wholesale slaughter of people; as it was in the 20th century, it has been throughout the ages, and, God help us, so it will remain.

Mankind seems to need to destroy; all we can do is live the best we can, be as kind as we can and do no harm to anyone individually.

You and I aren't going to save the world, we can only make sure that our part of it is bearable.

Robert the Skeptic said...

In recent months I have begun to limit my attention to the national news. For the most part I think what is covered is quite superficial and actually obfuscates what is "really" going on.

I liken it to the scene in the "Wizard of Oz" where Toto pulls the curtain aside to reveal the reality behind the all powerful wizard... an illusion. The nightly news likes to titillate us, the candidates distract us, but few reveal what is REALLY happening.