Thursday, September 23, 2004

Wow. It's been a long time. Way too long.

So many news items, so much going on. So I'll skip them all.

The beauty of music is hard to describe. It's there, you know? It makes you want to dance, sometimes. Even a 5 year old who "doesn't like music" (like mine) can want to dance. Sometimes. If it's the right song, you know? Anyway, the world seems like a more beautiful place than usual lately. It seems like the world is huge. And it seems like I'm small and unimportant and going to die. And that that is scary but at the same time sort of OK.

I read an interview in the Onion with Stephen Fry, who is someone I admire a lot: a novelist, playwright, actor, and now the writer and director of a movie. He's really very good as an actor, and I have very much liked the novels of his I've read, too. They definitely cross lines that are not supposed to be crossed, and they do so joyfully. Whether they're brilliant literature, well, whatever, maybe not. Anyway, in the interview he said that Darwinism is the biggest change to thinking, one of them, in the history of the world. And I had heard that before, and I knew that, but it made me think of it afresh. Darwin really made people think about the world as being potentially a really mean, nasty awful place. All progress comes via death. What does Fry say? He says,

what was shocking about it was that it said "all life is struggle." It's necessary for our survival that someone is going to suffer at our expense. With most animals, there are runts who are discarded, and nature just tries again in its merciless, relentless, remorseless way. The discovery of that was profoundly shattering....

Not much of a paragraph, actually just a few sentences, to have sparked so much in my head. Maybe it wasn't that much in my head. It sure seemed like it was, though. I'm just out of practice in the deep thoughts department, what with being in real estate now and all that.

We're just people, you know? We're not masters of all we survey. We have a hard time even being "masters of our domain," let alone the world. The people who think they can rule everything and have everything figured out -- whether they call themselves "political realists" or "neocons" or "Wilsonian democrats" or "Islamic jihadists" -- mostly what they manage to do is get a lot of people killed for their ideas. Not that there aren't ideas worth dying for. And not that ideas aren't important. What was I saying?

I was saying this, I think: chutzpah kills. That's a bumper sticker for you. Sometimes chutzpah kills the chutzpah-er, but mostly it gets other people killed. A little modesty about one's ability to understand and control the world is a damned good idea.

Maybe political realists would agree with what I'm saying. But I think I'm saying it almost from a more John Howard Yoder type of viewpoint. Yoder was a Christian pacifist. He had a lot of arguments against war. His book "Nevertheless" addresses pretty much every pro-war a person can make, and tries to show how all of them are problematic or false in their own way. I don't know if Yoder says this, but this is my "Nevertheless" to the save-the-worlders: We do not know enough, and we do not control enough, to make things come out right with war. War only gets people killed. And most of the people who get killed didn't have anything to say about whether the war was a good idea or not. Almost all of the people who had anything to say about whether the war was a good idea or not -- those people are still alive. They won't get within a zillion miles of risking their lives.

I want to post more about this, and link it to something I wrote a while back about animal testing. I'll do that soon, and link in the thing that I wrote then. But right now I have to go to a movie.

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