May 10, 2010
We had a pleasant Mothers’ Day, without duty or guilt, since both our mothers are no longer physical. The weather, brilliantly sunny, was also cool and windy—definitely not inviting me to the beach—so I stayed out front of the house to go over my lines thoroughly, then around 2:30 we went to the spa where I finally got back to a mile-long swim. I hadn’t done one of those since before my hernia operation and was hoping to get up to a mile again before I switch to bay swimming entirely, though who knows how the summer will go? If the oil spill reaches here or the jelly fish are bad or the weather is against me I may end up swimming more at the pool. In any case, as I swam I realized I was feeling strong and could do 3/4 of a mile, and after I got to that goal I decided to see if I could make a mile. I almost bogged down around 60 but kept slogging anyway, and soon I was up to 66 then 68 and by that time I knew I’d make it to 72, plus I did an extra “victory lap” for good measure. Ah! I was tired but content. A diminutive Hispanic man in the locker room complimented me on my exertion. So I got some audience approval as well. What else does a Leo need?
We watched some TV news, including 60 Minutes, then I read some of Ammon’s Autobiography before we tuned into Masterpiece and Brothers and Sisters. Decadent! But very pleasant. I ended the day by going through my lines another time. I hope to run through them twice again today. They’re getting pretty well established but I still have these places where the exact words won’t yet stick. It’s exasperating but also, as I know, just a matter of time before I know them so well I won’t be able to understand why they ever gave me a hard time. We have this week to solidify the acting before attention turns entirely to tech. Still, that we open next week is a scary thought at this point.
In reading Ammon last night it crossed my mind that, while his civil disobedience is admirable, it is also laced quite liberally with hot-headed criticism against all who don’t go as far as he does. This is an interesting human dimension which can’t be overlooked as I think about presenting him onstage. By coincidence last night I tuned into The Old Time Radio Music Hour on NPR, a show I like, and instead of music they had a play on about Thoreau, who was one of Ammon's models. I think I heard it was written by the host, but I know I heard it was produced by the show itself. Anyway, the part I heard consisted of a philosophic debate, at times amusing, at times pithy, on whether Thoreau was something of a hypocrite or at least not totally clean, since he destroyed or at least changed Nature to build his cabin and plant his garden and benefited from the destruction of trees to make the pencils with which he wrote his ideas of purity and simplicity. His rebuttal was that there’s a big difference between a cabin in the woods and a city—in other words, it’s a matter of degree.
But the truth is obvious. Human life leaves a footprint. To survive here, it seems, we must change Nature to some extent to accommodate our needs, which go beyond mere survival to include emotional and creative impulses. What’s to be made of that? Ammon did farm labor and defends the small farmer over the corporate agri-giants who were taking over Arizona, where he was then, but small farmers drove the Indians before them off the land (as he would admit), and while his sympathies go toward the traditional Hopis most of all there really is no place in the whole mix where you can say human life should settle in and be fixed for all time.
Then in my morning meditation I got to contemplating the oil spill—its causes and its possible ramifications, which include vast toxic destruction of life and livelihood over huge areas of land and sea. What caused that? The oil companies and American material greed is the easy answer, but what if it’s a more intangible thing? What if it’s the poison in the energetic field, making the anger of the environmentalists just as potent as the hubris of the technologists or the greed of the capitalists? What if we’re all responsible because of our lack of love—for each other, for the environment, for the creation?
I find a certain lack of love in Ammon’s writing. It’s amusing but sort of off-putting, too, when he challenges his readers about whether they’re going to stand up and be men or sink back and be “pipsqueaks.” (Like the old cliché, “are you a man or a mouse?”) He gets pretty militant against those who say they believe in peace but don’t picket, fast, and refuse to pay taxes, as he does. He lashes out at the government, the military, the corporations, the white race. It’s all quite rousing, of course, and ignites fire in the soul. But is it entirely fair? Many people take care of him because they have the means, but they only have the means because they are more socially established than he. I think, in short, that his position, while philosophically justifiable in the abstract, can’t be for everyone. It’s a necessary example, but it’s not absolute truth. It can only truly work for him. The rest of us must find what works for us. This takes much deliberate and careful introspection, in my view. But I have to admit that this instrospective approach is only what works for me. Or so I hope. It is at least the one I am trying.
I agree that war is wrong. I am just about totally disgusted with American national and international policy priorities. The state has become a huge institution of insult to the teachings of Jesus. It has in fact repealed them. To say we are a Christian nation is a joke. Why not forget that? We may as well admit we are a military empire and go forward accordingly. At least it would be honest.
But is my view the real view? That’s where my appeal to introspection comes in. I have to find my own way through this junkyard of modernity. Simplicity is a good idea. Pacifism is another. Kindness to all creatures is a must. Cultivating Love above all may be the thing that will do the job. I find in my lines as Morrie Schwartz many guides.
“Love is the only rational act.”
“Forgive everyone everything.”
“When you get to where I am—and you will—you won’t care who is right or wrong.” (I know this is true from my own experience as a heart patient!)
“This is how we say goodbye—love you.”
Calling others out as “pipsqueaks” makes me smile, but I don’t think it works as the best approach to creating a peaceful world. Even if it needs to be said, which I think it does.