Find The Outrage [on DR Thursday]

Sometimes a pertinent question crosses paths with an unrelated conversation and an insight-door opens. Dials spin and blurry confusion becomes clear. Simple.

The pertinent question comes from Don Lemon: “Where’s the outrage?” 150,000 people dead in a span of five months. The number is climbing. The rate of infection is staggering. We remain the most advanced nation on earth and the least capable of slowing the spread of a virus because of intentional campaigns of misinformation, inaction, and failure of national leadership. Where is the outrage? It’s a great question.

At first, I thought our outrage was possibly plummeting into the crevasse created by our national schizophrenia and, therefore, missing. For instance, as a nation, we both heavily rely on science and also, somehow, manage to deny it outright. The science and vetting procedures that bring us blood pressure medicine, treatments for diabetes, depression, cancer, etc., is the same science that tells us the only way to contain this pandemic is 1) wearing a mask, 2) practice social distancing, 3) washing hands, 4) implementing effective testing and contact tracing so we can isolate the outbreaks. It’s simple science. It lives on the same level of science as knowing that vinegar and baking soda will make your school-volcano-project erupt every time. It’s not complex and it’s reliable. It’s also the only way to control the virus until science – yes, science – brings us a vaccine.

In the face of this simplicity we’ve somehow politicized and resisted mask-wearing, we gather in bars and gyms, attend concerts and rallies, travel with abandon, we’ve declared the pandemic a hoax [yea, a conspiracy theory, no less], touted a medication that has been proven and proven again by science – yes, science – to be ineffective. We ignore the science. We attack the science and the scientists when it doesn’t support the fox-fueled-fantasy-tale. Schizophrenic. Outrage is in icy silence at the bottom of the crevasse.

That seems plausible to me. Sad, consistent, and plausible. But not quite complete. How did we get so lost, so complicit with stupidity?

This morning Kerri said, “It’s entitlement.” How many times over the past several months have we heard, “I didn’t get to do what I planned so I deserve to….” or “It’s my right!” How many sunny vacation photos accompany a phrase like, “A well deserved getaway!” I’d be my brother’s/sister’s keeper except that would impinge on my rights.

People I love crisscross the country, eat in bars, refuse to wear masks, swim in motel pools, hold church services and sing in closed spaces, go to hot-spots for some time at the beach because they think they deserve it. It is their right…and they tell me they are being safe. It is not possible to have it both ways. People I love are lost in easily debunked conspiracy theories and can’t be bothered to take a few minutes to check their sources. They don’t care. It is their right to believe what they want to believe with no regard to evidence or data or fact.

Every mouth has two sides. And, as a storytelling animal, people can justify anything and believe wholeheartedly the story they tell, no matter how wacky or untethered. A healthy sense of entitlement can explain away all manner of misdeed.

The dials turned. The picture cleared. The outrage, I would tell Don Lemon, will come when people care more for their neighbors than their imagined entitlements.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ENTITLEMENTS

 

 

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weeping man ©️ 2015 david robinson

Be Mortal

a detail from my painting, John's Secret

It was after 2am and, at first, I thought the screams were human. I was writing at the kitchen table and the screams brought me to the front door. My neighbor’s light came on. Faces peeked out of the window. They thought the screams were human, too. Kerri was suddenly standing behind me. “It’s a rabbit,” she whispered. “They scream like that when they are being killed.” She was quiet for a moment and added, “It’s awful. It’s the sound they make when they are trying to hold onto life.” The screams stopped. The neighbor’s light flicked off. They recognized the sound, too, and went back to sleep.

Kerri returned to her call. She was on the phone with a friend in distress. I remained at the door and stared into the dark night. It was silent. It was as if all of nature had stopped to listen to the screaming. Even the wind was still.

The fox pranced from the darkness into the center of the street. It was vibrant, sated. It stopped and was immediately still when it realized it was being watched. It stared at me and I stared at it. I’ve rarely looked for so long into the eyes of something so wild. Neither of us moved for several seconds. And then, as quickly as it had emerged from the darkness, it bolted and vanished.

My only thought came like a mantra: it knows that it is mortal and I do not.

Earlier in the day I’d read a passage from Tales of Power by Carlos Castaneda. I’m completing my once-a-decade rereading of his first three books. I’m reading them very slowly this time, bit-by-bit, and sitting with what I read. The passage that rang my bell this day was this [I’m made some cuts for brevity]:

“Your reason is telling you again that you are immortal,” he said.

“What do you mean by that, Don Juan?”

“An immortal being has all the time in the world for doubts and bewilderments and fears. A warrior…knows for a fact that the totality of himself has but a little time on this earth.”

…”But, Don Juan, my point is that I’m always under the impression that I’m doing my best, and obviously I’m not.”

“It’s not as complicated as you make it appear. The key to all these matters of impeccability is the sense of having or not having time. As a rule of thumb, when you feel and act like an immortal being that has all the time in the world you are not impeccable; at those times you should turn, look around, and then you will realize that your feeling of having time is an idiocy. There are no survivors on this earth!”

Staring into the eyes of the fox I was shocked out of my immortality. Acting like an immortal being, having all the time in the world to indulge my doubts and fears or dream of greener pastures knocks me out of presence. Staring into the eyes of the fox I, for a brief moment, understood that being fully present in my life had nothing to do with achievement. Presence is not something to strive for and attain like a new car. It is not a study and the path to it cannot be found in a book. Presence is what we are. It is something we forget when we think we have all the time in the world.

The fox does not know time. The fox does not know judgment or indulge in doubt or entitlement. It literally has no time for that. It does not need to story its actions. It lives with what is, not with what it imagines.