Adapt Or Not [on Merely A Thought Monday]

One of Kerri’s 2020 photo series is of discarded masks. I thought it odd the very first time we saw a mask tangled in the weeds on the side of the trail. I also thought it odd that Kerri jumped to take a picture of it. “Things you never thought you’d see!” she proclaimed after capturing her image.

Over these past several months her collection of images has grown exponentially. She adds to it almost daily. Masks in gutters. Masks on sidewalks. Masks in parking lots. Trail side masks left dangling from branches. Masks in aisle 9 near the peanut butter. What was peculiar a few months ago has become normalized. “Another mask!” she says and kneels to take a snap. I barely notice.

A new normal.

I’ve read that homo sapiens are a successful species because of our ability to adapt to changing environments. I’ve also read that entire cultures have vanished off the face of the planet because of their (our) ability to habituate the extreme – that is, adapt – to behaviors that collapse their (our) environment. Frogs in a pot. Just watch what happens to a cohesive community when the well runs dry or the fuel source is exhausted. Just watch what happens as the planet warms and weather-weirding becomes more dire. Fire season never ends. Hurricane season stretches on and on – we adapt our system for counting them because there are too many for the old system to contain.

We are not the first homo sapiens to deny what is right in front of our eyes. Denial, after all, is a cousin to adaptation.

Pandemics rage. People travel en masse for the holidays with no regard to the appeals of healthcare workers or the pleas of the CDC. Individual rights exercised at the expense of neighbors lives. Homo sapiens are capable of denying that they are a social animal. It’s romantic, this illusion of cowboys going it alone. An intentional snub of greater responsibility. Peeing in the pool.

It-is what-it-is. A new normal.

Each day we pass people on the trail. There are two distinct groups. Those with masks who pull them up when they encounter others. And, those without. “People who don’t give a sh*t,” Kerri whispers. The dividing line couldn’t be more apparent.

“Things I never thought I’d see,” I say. After a moment, I add, “You should take out your camera and start a new series. People incapable of adaptation!”

“We’d have to get releases, we’d have to get their permission” she says, always the practical one. Then, cutting to the heart of the matter, she said, “Besides, they’re not that interesting. People who don’t care are sooooo much less interesting than people who do care.”

Adapting to new circumstances – wearing a mask – is an act of caring. “Yes,” I sigh, suddenly understanding her mask photo series. Lost or discarded caring. It’s ubiquitous. It’s normalized.

Somehow, I manage to find her mask series hopeful. Some truths, like kindness – like caring, are universal. The lost masks are evidence. The litter of caring is everywhere.

The ancient norms eventually float to the top. The heat of the fire always – eventually – wakes us up or brings us together. Or we boil. We collapse. We persevere. We divide. We unite. We take a new form. We evolve.

Everything is different now. Nothing new.

read Kerri’s blog post about BECAUSE

Ask A Simple Question [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Here’s a very sexy beginning to a blog post: this morning I read that sales of durable goods in these United States are up .06%. Stoves. Washing machines. Dryers. It is a dubious statistic. The week before our wedding, our washing machine AND dryer died. The nice salesman at the appliance store, an older man, began his sales pitch with reminiscence. “I remember when we actually made good products built to last. Now we make crap built to fall apart.” The next 45 minutes was a lesson in what’s built to break in 5 years or less. He steered us away from more appliances than he tried to sell. It was eye opening.

“Durable” goods, these days, are built to be less than durable. They are built to be replaced. They are built to be thrown away. They are built to produce nice looking economic statistics. [note: Kerri and I have and still cook on a stove that is at least 40 years old. It looks like hell but works like a dream. It was built in the era before planned obsolescence was considered a consumer best-buy]. The seedy dark side of our consumer culture is 1) the mountains of refuse we leave behind and 2) how rarely we turn and look at the consequences of our consumption.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch , one of five garbage patches gyrating around our oceans, is at least twice the size of Texas and growing. When I was in graduate school I took a class about my city and the environment. Like me, none of my classmates knew what happened to our trash. None of us knew our watershed. None of us knew how our trash impacted our water.  We take our refuse to the curb. It goes away. Magic!

Where does it go? The latest National Geographic Magazine (12.2019) has an eye-opening article on our addiction to plastics and the pollution/environmental devastation it creates. One of the chief denials of the modern era is that humans are somehow separate from the environment in which we exist. We can do whatever we want to do to “it” and “it” will have no impact on “us” at all. According to the story, we are above it all. And, as is true of all denial tales, we either wake up and reorient or we hold fast to our delusion and drown as the unsinkable ship goes down.

Speaking into steadfast denial often requires a new, courageous, and unlikely voice. Enter Pattie Gonia, an environmental advocate drag queen. A modern berdache.  A powerful presence, an artist, standing in the trash, wearing the trash, asking (and answering) a very simple question: what do we have to lose?

 

 

Watch this short documentary to learn more about EVERYTHING TO LOSE and PATTIE GONIA:

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERYTHING TO LOSE

 

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