Monday, January 16, 2006

War, Warped, and Wrapped

If you have guessed that I'm the dark and brooding half of the Dharma Bums, you have definitely been paying attention. It's true. While the pirate and I are both rather bristly types, he's way more even and easy-going than I am, although that's not to say he doesn't have an explosive side. I don't have good boundaries, and I take on the world. The pirate moves greenhouses, but I push against mountains. Often, I mediate my compulsion through the sweet intervention of music and comedy, gardening and baking. The other day we were listening to the iPod, while we were in the sauna. Yes, we are as slothful as you imagine. We had the speakers turned up when this fine tune by James Taylor came on:

There are rifles buried in the countryside
By the rising of the moon
May they lie there long forgotten
Till they rust away into the ground

Who will bend this ancient hatred
Will the killing to an end
Who will swallow long injustice
Take the devil for a countryman

Who will say, "This far no further, O Lord
If I die today."

Send no weapons, no more money
Send no vengeance across these seas
Just the blessing of forgiveness
For my new countryman and me

Missing brothers, martyred fellows
Silent children in the ground
Could we but hear them would they not tell us
"Time to lay God's rifle down."

The song is called Belfast to Boston, but it could easily have had many other city names. It has a plaintive quality, the kind that you know was written from a deep welling of sorrow, and the cry of the simplest answer.

In the book I am reading for my reading group I came upon this Mahatma Gandhi quote about stopping war, and how we need to begin with ourselves:

I have only three enemies. My favorite enemy, the one most easily influenced for the better, is the British Empire. My second enemy, the Indian people, is far more difficult. But my most formidable opponent is a man named Mohandas K. Gandhi. With him I seem to have very little influence.
When I hear this music or read this quote I try to find in myself some sense of what it means to be part of how the world changes. It seems like the work I have been doing all of my life. Sometimes, I just try to balance the horror of what is happening in the world in my name, by watching Jon Stewart's Daily Show and now the Stephen Colbert's Colbert Report. I am looking for a little light-hearted sanity. Something to make me laugh about our plight. But I've noticed that during the Colbert show there is one and sometimes two commercials for videos called "Girls Gone Wild."

Yikes folks, isn't this a bit of a warped view of sexuality? Young women bouncing their breasts up and down or sticking their thonged butt-cheeks up into the camera. Wow, that and Viagra ought to really solve the rampant erectile dysfunction that has apparently taken over our country. I am a staunch defender of the First Amendment, and I certainly would never argue about anyone's right to view this crap. But I do argue with the twisted perception of sexuality, the objectification of women's bodies. What is the message? I ask with all sincerity. What is the message about sex in our country? Does it seem as warped to you as it does to me?

Fortunately, there are always things that brighten my otherwise dim outlook. My brother sent me an email the other day about a humpback whale off the Farralone Islands by San Francisco. It had been inadvertently wrapped and wrapped with crab pots and lines. Here's the story:

If you read the front page story of the San Francisco Chronicle on Thusday, 15 Dec 2005, you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by 100s of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She had 100s of yards of line (rope) wrapped around her body - her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth. A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her - a very dangerous proposition; One slap of the tail could kill a few rescuers. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around - she thanked them... some say it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.
The story reminded me of the one day the whales came into Monterey Bay while the pirate and I were still living in the family beach house. We had the windows open and could hear an unusual sound coming from the water. We went to look, and out on the bay was this amazing spray coming from the blow hole. We ran out to the yard and watched and listened. Their huge whale bodies stayed submerged just beneath the surface, but were still visible. They were right there, like they always are in the seas, even when we don't see them-- breathing. Breathing.
It was a sound that made us wish the world were a healthier and safer haven for all of us.

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