Life in “interesting times:” Startling encounters on a morning walk; Julian Rose in the airport.


A few days ago, on my morning walk with the dogs, I was gifted with three encounters, each so divergrnt from the last as to constitute another world. I’ve been chewing over these encounters, and their sequence, ever since. Here goes:

First encounter: Hank, Shadow, and I have just walked through the underpass on St Rt 45 and are heading up the sidewalk on the other side. All of a sudden I hear a large engine, plus the throttled sound of someone frantically calling me. Huh? I turn to see a school bus, coming alongside, with little hands waving out of two windows, one in front of the bus and one in back:  “Ann! Ann! Hi Ann!” Ah! It’s Asiri and Juakim, neighbor Mariella’s kids, and what a joy they are! This vociferous greeting from a school bus was a first for me. When I told about it at Thursday night Community Dinner, podmate Andreas mused, “Hmmm . . . most kids would be embarrassed to do that in front of other kids.” I bet he’s right! So I feel doubly blessed by their greeting.

Second encounter: Not even 100 yards later, I begin to hear the thrilling screech of a hawk. Look up. There he(?) is, a large hawk with white belly (what kind?), sitting majestically near the top of a tree with tiny scared(?) birds twittering around him. Was he after their nests? But isn’t it the wrong season for baby birds? Meanwhile, another hawk, his mate(?), is swooping around above, playing with all of them. I think this might be a first also, to have two dynamically relating hawks in view at once in Bloomington.

Third encounter: A few miles later, while walking through a beautiful old neighborhood with large, older homes set far back on manicured lawns and many many wonderful old hardwood trees gracing the entire atmosphere, a glistening black limousine sidles up quietly next to us: “Hello!” I look over, surprised. An old man and well known attorney in town (his name is on the vehicle, as it is plastered in lots of places), one who is also well known as a groper of waitresses in restaurants, sits in the driver’s seat. I shudder; say a perfunctory hello, and turn my head away.

So, three encounters, each of them illustrating a strong fact about these times.

First, the sudden thrilling, excited, waving hello from two neighborhood children whom I’ve been watching and loving in their growing pains for a number of years now. To me, this first encounter illustrates the strong bonds between humans, and especially, between young ones and familiar elders, that can blossom over time and feel utterly wonderful.

Second, privileged witness to a strong drama played out by two hawks and tiny twittering birds that I felt grateful to watch, but didn’t understand at all. This put me in mind of just how much nature’s mystery surrounds and embeds our human world, even in the midst of bustling civilization. How many cars drove by during that encounter, its drivers preoccupied with what comes next or what just happened rather than attending to what is around them?

And third, again witness, but this time to my own startled encounter with a predatory old man of high social stature with who knows what intention in greeting hello. To me, this encounter illustrates the enormous amount of predation, corruption, greed, pedophilia, trafficking, cannibalism, and so on that has been surfacing in especially the alternative media over the last few years, some of it twisted, weaponized, for political ends. For example, the Kavanagh/Blasey-Ford imbroglio, which felt both forced and fake, and generated the usual “me too” calls from politically correct, sanctimonious women who assume that all women are to be “believed,” no matter what. That entire drama, frankly, made me want to puke.

So here I am, harboring three divergent states of mind, all strong: one, the wondrous communion I feel with other humans with which I share a rich history; next, the utter majesty and mystery I attune to when I pause long enough to remember my communion with wild nature; and finally third, the gawd-awful gunk that is surfacing so strongly within the culture now, and crying out for revenge, accountability, forgiveness or release. How to make space within myself to hold all three “states of awareness” in mind at once? This does seem to be what is required if we are to continue to slog through the slowly unfolding disintegration of the false culture that we have been conditioned into since way before I was born.

With all this in mind, I resonate strongly with the following essay by Julian Rose, which so well gives the disembodied, digitized flavor of traveling through airport environments that seem to contain nothing but material, mechanical unreality except for the other humans, who however, only very seldom look up from tiny screens to meet the eye. Thousands of solitaries, buzzing internally with what’s next and what’s behind, pretending each other doesn’t exist, or is not important, all jostling for position in vast airport malls and tiny airplane seats, trying to maintain . . . what? Sanity? What they’ve always known? But what have they known? What have any of us always known in this climactic historical period of full-on cultural detonation.

As the Chinese say, as a curse, but disguised as blessing: “May you live in interesting times.”

Julian Rose: The Normalization of Madness


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