Monday, January 30, 2012

Two Titanics



Analogies often run aground. Two old codgers, like great ships in somewhat laborious progress upon the waters of life, are my dear friends. The one I've known for about five or so years, the other for some thirty. Both are older than me, the one being in his mid 60's, the other in his early 70's. And 'codger', though seemingly a discourteous word for older souls, I see as an honorarium bestowed on one who cogitates, a thinker upon our thinking. Both converse readily. But their thoughts are in stark contrast, despite their physical similarities. Lanky and lean, charming and witty, both are old world gentleman, both are considerate and genteel. Yet the younger becomes bleak and dark of outlook. He wears the wake of his progress as a scourge upon mankind. The older is accepting and integrative, and though physically hobbled by a recent stroke, carries himself with an air that declares the world and its constituents to have a right to be here. Yet the Titanic analogy, inasmuch as one is about the imminent demise of the ship of state, and that the other is about our overcoming that demise, fits. We passengers, caught in the moment of seeing our worldly progress for what it is, have much of a decision to make.

Comfortable with the Titanic comparison, my 60+ year old friend was at pains to point out that we were less likely to strike the proverbial ice-berg than to find ourselves without supplies, without sustenance for all of us, and without a harbor to save ourselves in the gathering storms. Our world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and the carrier is ourselves, mankind, or at least, charted and steered by those in power. We grow too large for ourselves. We are the cancer on the host. We are too late to altar our fate. Yes, mixing metaphors is as much a part of the conversation as are the Malthusian sensibilities. His 'the glass is more than half-empty' pronouncements has mankind much misdirected, mix--aligned, mis-informed, and basically blind. Meanwhile those of us who can dance, dance foolhardily to the band, others promenade the decks or blithely sleep below, and a host of unwitting others do little but serve the doomsday ship. It's unfair!

Tsho! It is difficult to come away from that bleakness in my friend with a sense of enlightenment. The dire predicament of mankind, if not the anger that he feels toward all shipmates, is quite the downer. Yet he is informed, politically astute, has written a book concerning the demise of the forests, is cultured and world travelled and engaging; but at root he feels we are withering up, our resources are too rapidly diminishing for us to replenish them, and though some of us, like Noah, may survive, the masses are awash.

Being with my other friend is like taking a breath of fresh air up on the outer decks while pausing to observe life. Man overcame, overcomes, progresses. Horrendous history is the story of survival. We are what we are, but through all the gloom and doom there is yet again and again renewed opportunity, renewed venture, renewed discovery. Modern man evolved from caveman; space-age man evolves from us. And though we are so rapacious and ravenous and ridiculous as to not yet collectively see our responsibility to the health of the whole, we shall get there, heaven knows how we will get there, but we know we will. Optimism beams from my friend, he who has seen over 70 years of life, he who sees mankind wobbling and wavering and disjointed and even diseased, but loves it for itself, for its potential, for its possibilities, and for its connection to ourselves.

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