If I had to do it over again, I would be less obedient, less trusting and less credulous. I would keep up my piano lessons for the duration, do a lot more photography throughout, and travel more while still young – for my own interests, not for work. I would have worked on my passions much harder, even with abandon; I would not have wasted time on many inconsequential distractions; and I would have paid much less attention to many people. A very few people I would have paid more and better attention to. I would be much less afraid of dying, though I did come pretty close. I would have read Balzac and Flaubert in my teens, and then I would have had a much clearer idea of what men want from women, and what women want from men. I would have read Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene in 1976 when it was first published, and then I would have understood what family is really about. Balzac, Flaubert and Dawkins are the best preparation a young man can have before engaging in the battle of the sexes. C. G. Jung, though his ideas are rather elaborate, was very helpful for understanding the failures of human nature. While Jungian thought is too cumbersome to be absorbed in your teens, it is wise to do so in your twenties so you can understand the psychological catastrophes others will try to suck you into, as well as your own mid-life crisis in your thirties, or forties or fifties. I don’t have too many regrets about the many compromises I made in order to support my family, because I am happy my children are who they are today. I made my mistakes as a parent, but overall I am happy with how I performed as a father. Even so, had I to do it over again I would be much more adventuresome about my career in my younger half of life.
Useless Words of Sorrow, Early July 2016
Very sad about the world today. Two innocent American Black men killed by White police officers the last two days, and videos of the killings posted on the internet and seen by many millions. Great rage and sadness, and fear. People try to vent their rage in mass protests, just milling in the streets and screaming out their agony, anything to deal with the pain, ages of pain fresh again. And it’s frustrating because it seems so pointless, we cycle and cycle endlessly in the same inhuman and idiotic pattern, wasting more innocent lives, damaging more fragile psyches of loved ones and children.
It’s so heartbreakingly obvious and so incredibly overdue for fixing that even our elegant president, Obama, feels compelled to address the nation at length: words of sympathy, even empathy, but so carefully crafted to soothe rather than incite, or call out explicitly for resolute action. Sometimes the best salve for a raw wound are words of raw truth. The political people always have their agendas, their legacies, and their prospects foremost in mind, and words from the heart must be filtered and second-guessed. But this is not the time for equivocation from a leader. It is time for a revolution.
And today, our collective societal dysfunction unravelled further into urban warfare, the toxic mix of belligerent ignorance, racial bias, assault rifles, and lost hope among the powerless for the liberating and protective implementation of justice. In Dallas, two snipers perched in elevated parking structures opened triangulated fire on police officers assembled at street level to manage the crowd scene of a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, after the march ended as the people were dispersing. The reports at this moment list 11 police officers shot with 5 fatalities; one sniper is cornered and police are negotiating a surrender, the second sniper is unaccounted for.
To me this is all pure tragedy, pure waste, pure injustice. Whoever you are, whatever your afflictions and excuses, the only positive response to unjust deaths is the prevention of more unjust deaths. Just stop, people: new pain does not erase old pain. I could accept that America is just unable to do any better than to be a country of stupidity, guns, impatience and selfishness, if it could at least keep its brutish insensitivity within the bounds of un-bigoted non-violence. I would so much rather the knuckleheads of this country would wake up to the essential goodness of a just society as Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein envision and champion it. But, I’m a dreamer, and I’ve been that way since I listened to John Kennedy’s inaugural address (he, too, was shot in Dallas).
The events of these last three days have given me just the tiniest bit of a visceral twinge of what life and sorrow are like in places like Syria and Iraq. On July 3rd, 292 (latest count) people were killed by an ISIS truck bombing attack at a shopping center in a Shiite area of Baghdad. In subsequent days Shia, Sunni and Christian Iraqis gathered at the site to protest the outrage, and the attempt to incite civil war.
It all just goes on and on. Today’s cruelties will do nothing to assuage the legacies of yesterday’s cruelties, just as past cruelties have never had any tangible effect beyond creating more enduring sorrows, and quickly evaporate as justifiable excuses for inflicting future cruelties. It’s all so hideously wrong. Whoever you are and whatever your excuse, just stop whatever you are doing that even remotely feeds this beast. Forget about winning, forget about getting, forget about compelling, just remember to be human, that means to be part of humanity. It’s so obvious every child understands it. It’s about keeping your soul. What is your soul beyond how you relate to other people? Our individual sadnesses over the tragedies of these days is an upwelling of humanity’s soul reaching out seeking comforting reassurance of being whole, of being interconnected with itself in its multitude of human individuals.
The only real message here is: stay human. Stay human.