October 25, 2006

Other People

Jean-Paul Sartre's famous observation that "hell is other people" has as its corollary that heaven, also, can be other people. We can offer each other charity, grace, mercy and justice enough to make up for the outrages and the disappointments. We can offer each other comfort, we can sometimes even redress a hell we might have helped perpetuate or create.

This extends, for me, from the personal to the political. Because people can choose to do either, to make heavens or hells for each other, but heaven takes a little more work. It takes the ability to admit when we've been wrong and adjust accordingly. It takes a willingness to give up some of what we might have for ourselves, even if only a little. It takes faith; from the willingness to open our hearts again after we've been hurt to the hope that a better world could be possible if we could shrug off enough cynicism to try for it. And that's all hard, sometimes difficult to follow through on, impossible to get right every time.

In short, we're a bunch of screw-ups and in moments of honesty we can admit this. At other times, it can be easier not to try than to face that possibility. But I think, perhaps, that I'm at least likelier to be on the right track if I can put aside the sentiment of Rhett Butler's classic one-liner and decide to just give a damn.

It's a good question: Do I give a damn? There are only so many things I can bother to care about, so if I'm wasting my time then I'm taking on stress for no good reason. It's a good political question, maybe the best. Should we care about minority rights, the poor, kids, soldiers, the environment or the uninsured? Should we care about the people affected, or should we decide that it's just too much skin off our nose to extend the net of mercy and equality a little farther, that there isn't enough to go around.

Which is really the problem at the heart of racism, homophobia and misogyny: They're all fears of scarcity. People fear other races because they don't think there are enough resources to go around, so they try to band together and hope they can share in the spoils of their affinity group. People fear the GLBT community and feminists because they're worried that if the pool of life options is expanded, if the compulsion is removed from gender roles, they'll get left out of the search for companionship and respect.

So of course I've loved Buckminster Fuller, who never claimed to be particularly special and certainly never claimed any sort of spiritual role, since first reading about him. Because his message was simple, and it was this: There is enough.

Fuller meant that there were enough material resources that, if we learned to use them intelligently, we could provide comfortably for every human being and have plenty to spare. Though perhaps if we could become cozy with the idea that there were enough resources, we could finally believe that there was enough love, enough respect, enough friendship, mercy and justice. Plenty, at any rate, to go around. We might stop hoarding them. We might come to feel that there was enough damn to give.

And so my thanks to L & H, who remind me often now that all this is true, even if I do believe it. For you, the past week's much delayed musical accompaniment ...

1. Come Talk To Me - Peter Gabriel
2. Like A Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
3. The Way - Fastball
4. Around The World - Red Hot Chili Peppers
5. Stranger - The Presidents of the United States of America
6. Closer To Fine - Indigo Girls
7. Let's Dance - David Bowie
8. We Make Great Pets - Porno For Pyros
9. Yellow Submarine - The Beatles
10. Democracy - Leonard Cohen

"They drank up the wine and they got to talking; they now had more important things to say. And when the car broke down they started walking, but where were they going without ever knowing the way?" - The Way by Fastball

Posted by natasha at October 25, 2006 09:23 PM | Random Mumblings | Technorati links |
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Posted by: dsfsfds at November 6, 2006 04:59 AM