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, September 20, 2020

A difficult year behind and ahead

Squalicum Harbor

Yesterday morning my friend Melanie and I walked from the Farmer's Market to Squalicum Harbor and beyond to get our steps for the day. We enjoyed the clean air, which cleared up Friday evening, and gave us a chance to breathe normally once again. We both picked a few flowers from the beautiful plants that surround the area and gently dropped them into the water. We said a few words to honor our Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who died on Friday. We needed some way to give our bereaved spirits a lift. Life goes on, but we are much poorer today without her presence in the world. It is one more thing that marks the year 2020 as being a trial to the soul. She was my heroine in so many ways; the documentary about her taught me that just being old doesn't mean you stop striving for excellence. In her bouts with cancer, she never missed a day on the court as she recovered, until this past year when she missed a few days, at the age of 87. I will always be glad I lived during this time when she was alive.

It is just the latest trial to my soul. We started this year with the impeachment of the President and the hardening of battle lines in Congress. I watched the proceedings with dismay. Little did I know in January that it would be the beginning of a year filled with difficulty for the entire world. In February, we learned of a new virus that was spreading around the world, and by March we, along with most of the rest of the world, went into lockdown, with the only way to fight the virus being by physical distancing (also known as social distancing), wearing a mask, and washing our hands frequently. World economies plummeted. We spent a spring and summer without being able to gather in groups larger than five, and we remain there today, in my state anyway.

Yesterday the death count from the coronavirus surpassed 200,000 in the United States. Although we have only five percent of the world's population, we have twenty percent of the deaths from the virus. According to the Coronavirus Update page, you can check it out for yourself to see how we are doing. Not well, it seems, but then again, no country is doing perfectly: it's very contagious and there is no vaccine for it yet. Unfortunately for us in the US, it's not very well contained because the only treatment for it has become politicized. Many will not wear masks or social distance because they believe the virus is a hoax.

And on top of all that, the entire west coast has been burning with unprecedented fires, both in quantity and quality. And hurricanes and floods are devastating the southeast of the country. What else could possibly happen, I ask myself, in the rest of this awful year? Plenty. For one, the US has a very consequential election in a few weeks, and people are planning to vote like never before, on both sides of the political spectrum. Our postal service is under attack, and because of the virus, many people are not willing to expose themselves to vote in person. And I have a very bad feeling about it all. It could be that I am hyper-sensitive because of all that is going on, but I really wonder if we are heading for a civil war before the end of the year. 

What else could conceivably make things worse? Well, we could have the earthquake we're overdue to have here in the Pacific Northwest, and that would probably be the end for me. I can almost feel the tectonic plates shifting. The Cascadia subduction zone is a convergent plate boundary that stretches from northern Vancouver Island in Canada to Northern California.

While I was at the acupuncture treatment office last week, Warren (my acupuncturist) asked me if I had heard about a new documentary that has just been released on Netflix, The Social Dilemma. I said I had not, but that I would check it out. It is completely scary, because it shows to me how many of the people who are in charge of what we see and learn from our addiction to social media is manipulated by people whose only concern is making money. I am glad that I don't use Twitter or visit Facebook all that often, because I didn't realize how much my societal viewpoints are shaped by them. And one thing pointed out in the documentary is that there are already two generations of Americans who have never known a world without social media.

If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference. —R. Buckminster Fuller

The positive thing I learned from it, though, is that there are indeed people aware of all this and are actually working to make things more ethical. In the documentary, I was introduced to a very interesting person, Tristan Harris, president and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. Earlier, he worked as a design ethicist at Google. He received his degrees from Stanford, where he studied ethics of human persuasion. According to his website, he is the "closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience." He, and others like him, make me hopeful for the future, instead of leading me to fall into despair.

I've thought about all this in the past few days, as I look around at my wonderful life, all that I have going for me gives me real joy in the present moment. And really, truly, that is all we have.

Always say 'yes' to the present moment... Surrender to what is. Say 'yes' to life and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you. —Eckhart Tolle

I'm so ready to let the world and all its wonders and challenges come into fruition. After all, it's the only thing I can do, isn't it? All any of us can do. But I am also haunted by the phrase in that Buckminster Fuller quote, that "each one of us could make the difference." What does that even mean? The only thing I am sure of is that I am willing to be that person and put myself out there, on the line. 

And I know that I am not alone. I have you, my dear virtual friends, I have my dear partner who is beginning to stir from sleep as he listens subliminally to the clacking of the keys as I write, and my friends and family who love me, and whom I love. And on that note, I will say goodbye for today, and I ask that each one of us take to heart what we can do today, for ourselves, for the world, for the planet. Until we meet again next week, I truly hope you will find a happy corner to sit in and enjoy your wonderful life. Just as it is. Be well, dear friends.


ApacheDug said...

As always, an excellent Sunday column DJan; you summed up much of 2020 quite well. I’ve been filled with a real melancholy since Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing, and some guilt too, as I’m sadder her absence is a real tipping power to Conservatives than the heroic figure she was. Like you said, it seems like the bad stuff just keeps... coming. We’re long overdue for some real good news, and I’m hoping we get a glimmer of it Nov 3. BTW, thank you for the review of ‘The Social Dilemma’, I JUST saw that pop up on my Netflix account an hour or so ago and wondered what it was; now I have something I want to watch today.

I hope SG continues to improve, and that your week ahead is a promising one, and no tectonic plates shift your way anytime soon.

gigi-hawaii said...

Will we ever find our way out of this horrible mess? Yes, take the time to smell the roses.

Linda Reeder said...

Yes, all of that and more. We watched "The social Dilemma" this week. It is disturbing and has made me more aware of how social media reinforces what we already think and believe, to the point that there is no alternative point of view at all. We believe what we want to believe and that is reinforced.
When I said all of that and more. it's because 2020 is turning out to be the end of my physical life as I knew it. Lack of mobility is increasing daily and I am fighting more pain. I am fighting my best fight to maintain who I am, but I feel myself losing. Eventually I will have to find a new me that I can be content with, but I have battles to wage yet. Peace is hard to come by, but I try.

Gigi said...

Another wonderful Sunday post. Yes, it is easy to feel hopeless with all that is currently going on - but I just finished reading What Unites Us by Dan Rather. It's actually gives me a glimmer of hope. You would enjoy it, I think.

Our governor has been very cautious regarding the Coronavirus...until now. I think he is caving to the pressure prior to the election and that concerns me. But we are continuing to be safe and cautious because that's all we can do at the moment.

Terra said...

You found a pretty place to walk with your friends. Sailboats always take me to a good place, sail away, sail away, sail away, as the song says. My hubby and I owned a sailboat called Ariel for several years. This is a rough year! I packed a suitcase in case I needed to evacuate, but the firefighters and prayer saved my town. Thank you my heroes. Today I am having a treat because my sons are going to outdoor church with me. We sit six feet apart and wear masks. This social isolation is rough on me, I am a widow and live alone. Be well.

Rian said...

What's next, DJan? Alien invasion? I do plan to watch "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix.

Elephant's Child said...

Like many of the 'regulars' here I am grateful for this post. And a hundred per cent (conservatively speaking' your thoughts.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am certain the next supreme court nominee will cause an uproar. Who ever she/he is.
I am ready for the election to be over...I have sent for an absentee ballot.
2020 is not a great year but I think it could be worse...our economy is on the rebound which surprises me...there are jobs in town with signs out all over...I personally do not know anyone out of a job that wants one. There are some that just don't want a job...but they will head south of here when the weather turns colder.
We stay home and stay safe for now that has to be enough:)

Betsy said...

This was an excellent synopsis of the year to this point. The elections really worry me. In the past, when our choice of candidate didn't win, we pulled up our big girl panties and got on with life and voted again next time, hoping our candidate would win. We didn't threaten each other, we didn't burn things. What is happening to society? The life we're creating for our grandchildren terrifies me until I remember that ultimately God is in charge just as He always has been.
A blessing today is that we finally got some rain during the night. Not a lot, but enough to scour the skies clear of smoke at least for today. That gives me hope. I can breathe again. At least for today.
Our daughter told me about the Netflix documentary, "A Social Dilemma". We don't have Netflix at the moment because of living in the RV but she is going to watch it and give us a review. Most I have heard have been similar with many people saying they're deleting Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Somedays that doesn't sound too bad to me.

Margaret said...

You've struck the ideal balance between being realistic, and hopeful. I'm not there yet. I'm better after getting rid of the smoke, thus freeing me to run and walk outside. I'm definitely in a funk about RBG and the upcoming election though. Terrified as well. I'm also not ready to watch "The Social Dilemma" because I live alone, so Facebook and Instagram are important ways for me to connect with others. However, the amount of misinformation, offensive memes and conspiracy theories (on Facebook) are bringing me ever closer to dumping it.

The Furry Gnome said...

I don't think Canadian citizens have ever known so much about American politics nor cared as much as now.

Marie Smith said...

It has been a difficult year. We adapt to conditions and follow suggestions as to how to live in the pandemic. We isolate ourselves but create a world of activity around us so we can cope as best we can. Still the blows keep coming and we adapt again and continue on. What choice do we have? Blogging, writing, reading, walking, hiking, cycling all help. The best is the love and support of a great partner and the rest of our family.

Take care. Stay safe.

Red said...

I like your last paragraph. First you lay a heavy on us about our world responsibilities and the tell us to find a place to crash. We do have some things to be very worried about. We need many heads to be given a good shake.

Anvilcloud said...

The next six months will be telling, both politically and pandemically.

Arkansas Patti said...

Per usual you have found the dark corners of our minds, shown a light on them and made us want to do and be better. The loss of RBG was gut punching. Somehow I kept thinking she would just keep hanging on and fighting through as she had done so many times. I will miss her so for she was a constant we could all believe in and lean on. I love your flower toss--a fitting tribute.

Rita said...

Losing RBG was such a blow. Your flower tribute was nice.
I just watched The Social Dilemma yesterday because Dagan told me about it. Explained a lot of the division here that has baffled me...information bubbles. Made me glad that I dropped everything but Blogger a few years ago.

Glenda Beall said...

I want to send this post to all my friends. You write what so many of us feel at this time. I want to do something to help, but can do so little. RBG leaving us what the last straw. I admired her so much and am reading all I can about her at this time and learning more and more. She was a role model that I hope young generations will follow. I fear what is going to happen if Trump can replace her on the Supreme Court.

Galen Pearl said...

The day after Justice Ginsburg died, I just stayed offline. I already knew everything that was going to be in the news. I didn't want to read it. It was a beautiful day after days of smoky air too dangerous to be outside in. So that day, I was outside almost all day. I'm glad I have cut back on a lot of the news. (I wasn't watching that much of it anyway.) Gosh, what a year. What can we do but find those small joys each day and count our (still) many blessings.