These two-word titles seem to capture how little I feel I have to say at the moment. “Oh shit.” “Now What?” I’m hoping that something more profound will bop me on the head, but I’m not holding my breath.
I haven’t written anything in three weeks, which is approximately how long it’s taken me to get over the election. Now, rather than a surge of horror and nausea when I read the news, I get a slight sense of dissociation, vague anxiety, mild vertigo, and my mind quickly wanders to myriad possibilities none of which seems more likely than any other.
And here I should insert a note. What do they call those alerts that commentators, lecturers, film-makers, professors and so forth are now being asked to put forth before they get into the nitty-gritty of what they have to say? Those warnings that “this material may be disturbing.” If you are particularly sensitive to anti-Trump verbiage, then you may wish to skip the rest of this post. I’m trying to make this light. I received one or two comments following my last post, criticizing me for expressing strong “political” views in an addiction blog. And I respect the commenters for saying what they felt. I really do. But I won’t hide the fact that I really hate that guy. It’s not exactly political. I just can’t stand him.
I’ll spare you all the usual listing of what’s wrong in the world, from Brexit, to the right-wing populist movements sweeping Europe, to Trump. Well I guess I didn’t spare you. But for me what it comes down to with Trump is pretty simple. He’s a liar and a cheat. Almost everything he says is a lie. He replaces it the following week or the following day — usually with another lie. And most of his campaign promises were mere strategic gambits to win votes. He’s not going to build a wall, or prosecute Hillary. Who ever imagined that he would? He’s even talking about taking a serious look at climate change and maybe endorsing the Paris Accord, which is of course good news. It’s just a shame that he got voted in on his promise to ignore the environment because climate change is a fantasy promoted by the Chinese.
I’m not quite depressed. I think I’m suffering from anhedonia or dysthymia or something… those are clinical terms for (let’s see if I can remember) not feeling particularly good but not particularly terrible either. I just looked up “dysthymia” — it’s actually defined as “persistent mild depression.” Well, that’s close.
If there’s anything useful I can say at the moment, it’s to suggest we look at the present glut of bad news as waves rather than particles. Sounds spiffy to use quantum terms. Waves seem like tendencies, currents, gusts…in a universe that is constantly in flux. Whereas particles…give the sense of matter, substance, stuff that collects in corners until there’s so much of it you really have to rent heavy machinery to get rid of it. So when the Buddha talked about impermanence as the main act, maybe he was thinking more in terms of waves than particles. Impermanence actually seems like good news at the moment.
I sometimes wonder what’s at the core of all these right-wing leanings. Let’s preserve what we’ve got. Let’s keep America American. Let’s maintain our way of life because it’s being threatened. Damn right your way of life is being threatened because….get ready…you’re going to die! What could be more threatening to anyone’s way of life?
But when I walk around in the crisp sunshine and notice how incredibly vivid and beautiful the leaves are, in their fall fashions, and when I watch one of my twins stuff missing homework into the other’s knapsack, both already mounted on their bikes, breathing steam, I think: this is just fine. This is a great moment. This wish to preserve things the way they’ve always been (as if that were a good thing)… What’s the point of that?
I once read a book by a Buddhist/cognitive scientist type scholar (Francisco Varela) who said something like this: Don’t even try to fill up your experience (viz consciousness) with yourself, with the sense of being a self, i.e., yourself. Because if you were successful, if your experience was full of yourself, then there wouldn’t be room for anything else. Nothing else coming in, or going out, no novelty, no change, no nothing. The illusion of being a distinct, essential self (yeah, you and the other 7 billion) is not only impossible to achieve but also a really bad idea. Experience is pretty amazing, so let’s not fuck it up by trying to make it stick to how we wanted it to be.
(Or as Matt so succinctly put it in a comment to the last post: “Why whine and worry about the way you want it to be, when it’s right there in front of you being what it is.”)
I guess, to follow my own advice, Trumpism is just a current of change in a world that’s already changing beyond our imagination. It won’t last either. Might as well watch it and be fascinated.