I’m on vacation. I’ve been on vacation for almost three months. And I’m stressed out. Basically, I’m ruminating too much.
Most of the respectable people I know have home projects. They never have enough free time to do all those projects – remodeling, painting, gardening, putting things in color-coded plastic bins. My domestic ambitions are minimal. I make the bed every morning. I vacuum occasionally; I dust if guests are coming. I clean the bathroom. It’s a small house. Most of it has the same paint job it had when I moved in 14 years ago. I have planted one tree; the rest were either there when I moved in or popped up in my yard because they wanted to.
Cooking bores me – my own cooking. I love other people’s cooking. I don’t sew, knit – okay, enough of all that.
I suppose if I did any of those things I would have some worthwhile distractions from the stress that fills the vacation vacuum and from the inevitable suffering that is the result of being human.
Here’s how the external world could help me out.
First, my society could give up capitalism as a failed ideal that fosters greed, violence and gross inequity.
Capitalism creates a world in which health care is run by people who want to make money and suffered by patients who cannot pay for medical help. Capitalism is brutal; unregulated capitalism has given us a corrupt and bankrupt system run by corporations who somehow get protected by patriotic propaganda while taking jobs to others countries so they can exploit workers there and put more money in their own, not their country’s, coffers.
Second, my world would give up religion as a failed ideal that fosters stupidity and blind obedience to lunatics.
Religion – any religion – taken literally, whether it preaches about a paradise with horny virgins, an angel promoting polygamy, or a devil who causes a holy man to buy crack-cocaine from a gay prostitute, is popularized psychotic delusion. It creates a world in which people can be convinced to blow themselves and others up, mutilate their daughters’ genitals, write 1500 page manifestos before killing children at a summer camp, and on and on and on.
When put together – capitalism and religion – these failed ideals have created a stressful hell on earth. Capitalists sedate or whip up the masses with religious propaganda that miraculously supports the system in which they thrive and most of the world struggles. In order to do this, capitalists promote belief rather than thinking, temples and churches rather than schools. Education encourages logical thinking, which does not go with a literal belief in some holy book or a a belief that it’s okay for a few guys to make billions of dollars while there’s a growing category of people called the working poor.
There are pockets of peace and sanity – some of them personal, some of them global. My cat, for example, is amusing and neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Music – no need to explain. Friends and family when politics and religion aren’t discussed. That person — a doctor, a clerk at Walgreen’s – who helps you out and is both smart and kind and not thinking about how much money he or she can get out of you. And it’s comforting to imagine that even if human beings destroy their own species as a result of greed and ignorance, there will still be the Grand Canyon and the Himalayas and the Amazon River, and they’ll thrive without those names we’ve given them and without human pollution. We may take a few other species down with us, but the Earth will survive.
But how sad to think that all this – the cat, the friends, the clerk at Walgreen’s and the Amazon River =– have been here all along to be cherished by us, and instead we go for imaginary gods and a brutal continuation of primate lust for the most ass and the most bananas.
We can do better. I’m sure of it. And that’s why I keep writing and will be glad to get back in the classroom where I’ll ask my students not what they want out of the world, but what kind of world they want. I’ll just ask, because I am hopeful that one or two of them will look for an answer.
And I think that in a moment of wisdom, most people would say they want a world that is intelligent and compassionate, and logic dictates that religion and unregulated capitalism do not make such a world.